It was an uneventful flight across the roof of Asia to Japan with British Airways. We struck it lucky and had three seats for the two of us so were able to spread out and sleep comparatively well. The temperature was a surprise when we got off the plane. It was hot. We were expecting autumnal temperatures a bit like England and Ireland, in the mid to high teens but it was 25 degrees – back into shorts and sun dresses.
The Narita Express gives a really good service into Tokyo proper. Narita is about 70 kilometres from Tokyo city and another 20kms to where we were staying so the Express is probably the best way to get into town, fast and direct. Getting off at Shibuya Station was an exercise in orienteering skills. There were so many exits in this vast station and we had no idea in which direction we needed to go. Lugging big cases through crowds of Japanese all intent on going somewhere is interesting. But the taxis came to the rescue and took us to our hotel which was actually quite close to the station, less than 2 Kms. Unable to check us in until 3.00pm which was the first time in any hotel we had struck that but as we discovered the Japanese hotel staff stuck to the rules.
Ron had three appointments with agents beginning the next day and fortunately they turned out to be reasonably close to where we were staying. The metro system is great for ease of access to all areas of Tokyo and being colour coded as well as letter coded it’s a breeze to find your way around. Her appointments went well, although you can never tell if they will turn into actual students arriving until they fill in the forms and arrive at the school. Still, building relationships is what it’s all about and from that point of view it was successful.
On the Saturday a guide arranged to meet us and show us around. Her name was Yoko and she came to the hotel to pick us up. We walked to the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a huge park in memory of the Emperor Meiji and his wife who died in 1912/1914 respectively. The park was filled with tourists and Japanese worshippers at the Shinto Temple. We made our donations, bowed twice, clapped twice and bowed once again to finish off while making a wish. Hundreds were doing the same thing. In the mature tree park away from the sounds of the city, in front of the massive shrine it was a peaceful thing to do and who knows, I may win Lotto this week.
Yoko then took us to lunch at La Boheme which doesn’t sound very Japanese and wasn’t. She told us that eating spaghetti is very popular, in Tokyo at least, and there are dozens of Italian restaurants serving many spaghetti based meals. La Boheme was one of the popular ones but we were early so didn’t have to queue for our spaghetti. Bolognese in fact. They wouldn’t hear of us paying for anything. And then on the metro to Asakusa to see the Senoji Temple and historic streets. Crowds of people. We made our devotions, bowing, clapping, waving smoke from the sacred smoke thingy over ourselves and making a wish again. We left Yoko a few stops in on the train journey back as we continued on back to Shibuya.
A couple of hours later we met up with her again as they took us out to a Japanese restaurant, Nana, for dinner with some of her work colleagues. Kaipo was a Hawaiin Japanese who had married a Japanese woman and they now had a baby. His mother also came to dinner so we had a good time swapping stories about education and babies and living in Japan. It was a good night with the food, I’m sure, chosen so as not to be too unusual for us westerners. The food was great.
The next day was our last full day on Tokyo. We went to Ueno Zoo to see the pandas among other things. The place was packed with Sunday outing families and tourists like us. Panda viewing was very easy and as it was close to feeding time we saw them prowling rather than just sitting as they always seem to be doing in photos. Polar bears, tigers, lions, it was an excellent way to spend the afternoon. More shopping to pick up some last minute stuff then back in the hotel after dinner packing for the flight home the next day.