We are in luck, the day dawns bright and sunny, and dear hubby stumbles downstairs to get me a morning coffee from the cafe in the lobby. Considerably refreshed and no sign of the wobbles, we set off into the jungle of Tokyo; a jungle of neon, shopping, trains, restaurants and bewilderment. Having picked up a map of Shinjuku, we brave the elements and wander about quite clueless. I just can’t get my head around the geography – every direction I turn my head is another department store, complete with neon. The main roads are wide and bounded by skyscrapers – think Sydney CBD on steroids. And this is only ONE of the precincts of Tokyo.
Pedestrian crossings at intersections are wide and the green light lasts long enough for even a snail to get across. I realise why when I see the crowd trying to cross the road later on – truly it’s one of the great migration stories, worthy of Attenborough. A gazillion people all trying to cross a major intersection, about half of them looking at a mobile device rather than where they are going – gobsmacking. Makes a mockery of my phobia of Sydney’s crowds – take that number and times 1,000 and you have some idea. Well, population Tokyo is 13 million.
Just off the main drag with the highrise boutiques, is a maze of small alleyways with equally small houses. Every third one boasts a restaurant complete with either garish photos or shiny plastic replicas of the dishes in the more up market ones. Fortunate, since I wouldn’t know what I was ordering otherwise. Lucky for me, most of the places have an English translation of the menu, so I am safe ordering and not at risk of eating insects or smething equally unspeakable.
By accident we take a turn down a winding narrow path flanked by trees on either side, and stumble across a large Shinto shrine. Just when you are at risk of being overwhelmed by consumerism, the Japanese seem to be able to create these little oases of sanity. There are several people who come to pray; the ritual consists of rattling a rope, clapping a couple of times, and then bowing to the shrine. The trees around the shrine are just starting to bloom – portends well for cherry blossoms on the way back.
On the way back we’re looking for local food and find a nice little restaurant serving a selection of tempura – must be good – there’s lots of Japanese people eating here! Ha ha, Andrea.
We wander on back to the sanctuary of the hotel for a bit of a lie-down – visually and physically overwhelmed after pounding the pavements for hours.
Right – off again; this time to visit the Tokyo Government buildings, on the 45th floor of which they have a lookout across the city. What’s more, it is entirely free! The view lives up to it – but OMG, how BIG is Tokyo. It reminds me a little of the view from Sears Tower in Chicago – the entire city spreads out as far as the eye can see, peppered liberally with skyscrapers. One of the indications of just how complex this mega-city is, is the metro system: I don’t think I’ve ever come across such a vast network of lines. I think I’d need a degree in quantum physics to untangle the lines.
The brown bit that looks like the ‘blob’ overtaking part of the city is in fact one of the many huge parks that are spread throughout the city. Currently brown because it’s still the end of winter, rather than the fact it’s some nasty disease state.
After that we wander the streets again at night; everything lit up, and Tokyites out in force. We stumble across a tiny bar just wide enough for two people side-to-side and drink sake from a small square container while those around us sing karaoke. Great fun. We continue on until the lights hurt my eyes, and then repair back to our Inn.