So I’m sat on the bullet train to Hiroshima having spent the last few days in Tokyo. Luckily once again I’ve been fortunate enough to stay with Rhodri a Welsh friend from home who’s been teaching in Tokyo for the last year. If it’s your first time in Tokyo the transport can be pretty intimidating so I needed all the help I could get… Our first night we met up with a couple of Rhodri’s friends and went to a local place where they had all sorts of types of meat, as in nothing goes to waste, the meal included stomach, fish scales and intestines. But it was actually delicious and just tasted like teriyaki infused great Asian food.
The next day I started exploring proper and headed out solo on the transport network, once you get used to it it’s actually not too bad and it’s so efficient you can find your way around quite easily. I explored around Asakusa checking out the temple there and also some of the temples around the park by Ueno station. On the way back I stopped by at the world’s largest electronics store with everything you could think of! So some cool bits and pieces I noticed about Tokyo I wanted I share, firstly every station has their own jingle when you come on and off the train, my favourite of which was the beginning of ‘under the sea’ from the little mermaid. Some other things I noticed are there are vending machines with drinks everywhere! And I mean everywhere. Which is good because my first day it was 32 degrees with 85% humidity, so being the pale Brit that I am it was pretty intense… The tactic of drinking loads and stopping by convenience stores I passed for their air conditioning seemed to do the trick. Also in case you didn’t realise already some Japanese adverts are hilarious, and everyone looks so damn happy, I mean I’d buy that shampoo…
To finish off the day we went to another traditional restaurant in Shibuya, you may have seen before but this is where they have the biggest crossing in the world. Super exciting right, a road junction where people cross the road, however it’s actually pretty damn cool and like the Japanese Time Square. The food we had was once again delicious and more regular (as in chicken and dumplings etc) than the previous night, the place was super traditional and we had to take off our shoes as we went in and sat on sunken tables etc. Then we went for some Karaoke (when in Rome) and had a couple of beers to finish off.
My second day I went over to Odaiba which is an island to the east of Tokyo, they have the Miraikan science museum which absolutely blew my mind. They have Asimo who is the world’s most advanced humanoid robot, he comes out every hour and puts on a show, running, hopping kicking a ball and even singing whilst doing sign language… Also a couple of slightly creepy looking humanoid robots that you can talk to, a robot pet that reacts when you stroke it, a great immersive 3D theatre, an exhibit that turns your movement and speech into information then makes a song out of it, and loads of other interactive exhibits everywhere. Safe to say if you’re in Tokyo check it out.
Now in the evening we did a lot, first off we went around Akihabara which is the electronics hub of Tokyo, where I went in the store the day before. Had a little explore around there and then had probably the most surreal experience of my trip to far. So in Japan they have these places called ‘maid cafes’, we were handed a leaflet and Rhodri hadn’t been so we thought we’d check it out. So you go in and all the staff are women dressed as maids, they also act super Japanese and nice to you. If it’s sounding seedy at this point it really isn’t as that’s it, it’s just very different and there were couples and families so not just guys in there. So we went in and had the drink and a picture package, I got to request a Pikachu on my coffee and Rhodri had a penguin. Unfortunately you’re only allowed to take pictures of your food but to describe it the room was all pink with bows etc everywhere and all these maids running around with contact lenses to make their eyes look bigger and blue. Next, one of them went to the stage and said something to one of the men sitting down, he very excitedly got up from his chair then put his bunny ears on (he’s brought from home I assume…), went to the stage in front of everyone and grabbed a furry bear paw from the basket for his picture with the maid, they did a bear growling pose and that was that… Firstly this was a fully grown man in his forties, secondly I realised what I assumed were a Pokemon card collection booklet was a booklet of all the Polaroids from all his previous visits so he was definitely a regular, and thirdly no one seemed to bat an eyelid. Well apart from the two of us sat there taking this surreal experience in. So then naturally me and Rhodri got to do the same, slightly nervously went on stage grabbed some bunny ears and had a picture with our maid. We even were so well behaved we got a certificate afterwards inviting us to come back. We then explored a bit more of the area before heading around to Shinjuku.
This area has the civic building where you can go up 45 stories for free and get great views of city, so we did that then headed to see Godzilla. Unfortunately he was up a building and quite dark, then grabbed some food before wandering around some of the tiny pub/bars that are littered around the streets in the area. Now by tiny I mean it, there is a bar with six stools usually, and that’s it would be unusual to find more than ten people in there.