So, this April, my life long dream of visiting Japan came true.
This trip was a birthday present from Harry – for my 30th birthday he surprised me by handing me a card. Out of which, two tickets to Tokyo fell out, and I cried for well over an hour.
That was nine months ago in July. Since then, we’ve been planning, saving, losing weight and practicing our Japanese. I tried my absolute hardest and lost a stone and a half in weight, and took a 6 month course of Level 1 Japanese. We planned the whole trip ourselves, down to the trains we were going to take. We made sure we could get as much out of this trip as possible.
The trip was absolutely incredible! I have never been so happy in my life; this is something i’ve wanted since I was eight years old and I’d watched Cardcaptors, Pokémon and Final Fantasy VII for the first time.
It would take me hours to describe in detail what it was like, but i’ll try to write a little bit about what we did.
Okay, so, before I get onto the amazingness that was Tokyo, I need to make a point.
Flying to Japan is HORRIBLE.
We got up early on the Tuesday morning to get to Heathrow Airport nice and early for our flight. There were no problems really, going through security and passport control and everything, so we grabbed some breakfast in the airport, lulling ourselves into a false sense of how easy this journey was going to be.
The flight to Zurich was also fine. It was about two hours long, and included croissants, drinks on-tap and chocolates. Lovely!
Then came the flight to Narita from Zurich. Dear god, I have never felt so uncomfortable and tired in my life. I sat there for 13 hours, neck stiff, legs cramped, hating with a passion the people who were happily sleeping around us. The food was abysmal, the tea not nearly strong enough and my eyes felt as though they’d retreated back into my skull.
I’ll admit, I cried when we touched down into Narita, though whether this was an emotional reaction to finally being in Japan, or whether it was immense relief at being able to actually be the length that I am again, I’m not sure. Either way, it was an emotional experience.
By this time, we were exhausted. Our plan of exploring Meiji Jingu Shrine and Shinjuku was just not going to happen. However, at that point I just didn’t care. I was completely in awe of my surroundings, even just on the way to our hotel. When you’ve lived your whole life in a tiny, sleepy place like Cornwall, Tokyo is a complete culture shock, albeit a very pleasant one. We were amused by everything, from the jingles on the subway trains when the doors were shutting, to the vending machines and the bird song they played as you crossed the road. Hundreds of people wore masks, which of course I’d seen before on screen, but seeing it in person somehow looked strange.
Our hotel was the Shibuya Granbell Hotel, and we avoided the main Shibuya crossing until the next day, so we could see it in it’s full glory. As it was raining and quickly getting dark, we thought the best thing for us to do would be to find some food, check into our hotel and catch a couple of hours sleep so that we could enjoy our first night in Tokyo.
The hotel was great, and we had a great time experimenting with the Japanese ‘mod-cons’; a toilet that was warm, flushed by itself and left you feeling fresh as a daisy?!
After a couple of hours of much needed sleep, we headed straight to Tokyo Tower.
Even against the rain, it was beautiful. I had grown up reading about Tokyo Tower in all my favourite manga; I remember that ever since I saw it in Cardcaptor Sakura, X, Tokyo Babylon. Tenchi Muyo!, Death Note and other manga that it was somewhere I had to go.
The Foot Town at the bottom was good; they have little shops and stalls where you can buy souvenirs. I bought my first souvenir from here and we had our first bowl of ramen. We also bought a squashed penny from the machine to commemorate the occasion.
After that, we went in groups of people up to the main deck. It was stunning. The rain did nothing to lessen the beauty of not just the view, but the building itself. As it was cherry blossom season, the decor included a full size indoor sakura tree, and projected images of colours and petals all over the floors and walls. A pretty soundtrack played in the background, which really made me think of Japan, Studio Ghibli and the creativity and quality that I was used to seeing coming out of Japan and onto my screen, but never would have imagined that it carried over into daily life here.
We spent 20 minutes admiring the view of the lights from the city below, despite the rain, then lined up ready for our Top Deck Tour. We were asked to wait in a room with more projections on the walls, showcasing Tokyo and the Tower with beautiful bird animations and clouds. After a little while, we were led to the elevator, where there were portraits on the walls of Tachū Naitō and Hisekichi Maeda, who were the architect and the founder of the company Nippon Denpatō, who commissioned the tower. They started talking to each other, telling the story of the tower.
We rode the elevator all the way to the top deck, which is 249.6 metres tall. Apparently, on a clear day, you can see Mt Fuji from here, but the mist and rain coupled with the time of day made it hard to see very far while we were there. It was still magical though – the top deck is filled with mirrors, making it look bigger than it is. We were given a drink and had our photos taken, and were allowed to admire Tokyo from the top deck for as long as we liked.
When we’d finished, we headed away from the bowing staff to the elevator, where a little robot was waiting to say hello! We were treated to a little robot dance as we waited for the elevator, and greeted with another bow from the staff as we got in.
It was a lovely start to our holiday, and I would definitely recommend it for visitors to Tokyo, especially as a first night in the city.
That’s it for our first night; I’ll try not to waffle on too much on each activity we did, but I think its for the best if I dedicated one entry to each.
Check out my next blog to read about the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Golden Gai and Shinjuku’s crazy Robot Restaurant!