I’m a big fan of Japan so far. As I suppose I had expected, everything seems to just work. On the metro earlier I was watching the screen above the door. On the move it shows where you are on the line, the display updating as you move between stations. At the station it shows the carriage you are on, and which way each exit from the station is, in map form. Information everywhere, and I’ve yet to see the “windows is rebooting” or similar type messages. Cars buzz by, a great number noiselessly, presumably running on electricity. Neon lights light up buildings, while people busy around. It’s fabulous. Tomorrow in Nikko should be different – or at least, by the time I get out to Zen hostel it should, the promised river and beach are waiting, as is a home made pizza with fresh vegetables. Really you ought to be able to sell that as just vegetables, on the grounds that off veg doesn’t make a pizza so much as waste, but I’ll accept it.
After a Chinese lunch I caught the boat out to Odaiba. First it stops at gardens, where the confused (like me) either get out or sit there thinking “this doesn’t look like a place to change boats, surely I stay here”, then after 10 minutes more it stops at Hanedo pier, and almost everyone leaves. Fifteen or so of us changed for Odaiba, though the place itself was busy. Out on an island in Tokyo bay, it’s billed as a beach resort but really is a shopping Mecca with large areas of sculpted parkland to wander round. The first thing you come to, turning right off the boat, is a small(er) Statue of Liberty, with Tokyo’s skyscrapers away in the distance making a great backdrop. The trip is worth it for that view alone, and plenty of people were there, arriving by car or by train presumably. I wandered through the malls, through the park and into the ‘garage museum’, wondering what amusing bit of Japlish this would be, but actually that’s a reasonable name for a museum of cars, all revamped by their team of ageing experts. Age is respected here, and the team photos showed that. Perhaps I ought to learn Japanese and move here in my 60s, extend my working life a bit. The museum is free, I don’t know whether as an add-on to the mall to bring people in, or sponsored by some eccentric. As ever, it’s great, but I don’t quite know what’s going on. Just like dinner – picked up two lots of sushi, prepared to pay my 800 yen, only to find one was 50% off, the other 20. That’s great, but if I only knew why, I might be able to repeat the experience. Downstairs in the garage was an unloved f1 section – given that Toyota have given up the sport, and the car there was from 2003, perhaps it’s not promoted as much. Or people couldn’t be bothered to walk downstairs. Most of the exhibits were small models here, but outside were more old cars, a Renault 4, Porsche etc, guarded by about five staff who kept people from going hands on, but were quick to welcome us and beckon us nearer than a respectful distance. It seems a lot of employment for a free museum.
From the museum garage to another mall and then out to a expo. That was being renovated, but it looked as though part of the attraction there was a kids’ go karting course that went up an overpass and back outside. Very cool. The track ran under the big Ferris wheel outside, which I considered hopping on, till I reminded myself how high it was and exactly how good I am with heights. It would have been an idiot alone in a gondola.
Eventually I hopped on the train, an overground DLR style one which has a loop in the middle of the water – horizontal rather than vertical, it follows the course of the road and allows the track to gain/lose altitude gently. Ginza is a shopping Mecca, I found the Apple store almost by accident. Prices are that much cheaper here – the £850 MacBook Air basic is £600, for instance – though seeing as that is because the yen is low, I realise how expensive Tokyo must normally be. Prices for food and so on are reasonable, but if you’d normally add 25% plus, it would be much heavier on the wallet.
Once back at the hostel I ate in the cool Japanese style common room, all low tables and cushions. Exploring the roof terrace I bumped into the Canadian I had talked to last night. We’d said we’d go for a beer, then I flaked out after eating, but tonight we made it to “where the nightlife is”, Rappongi. “If approached, ignore them”, he said, and boy were we approached. Two white westerners together, “can I hook you up?” “Beer and tits” etc. “I’m American” was the most individual line, which got an immediate “no” from Dominic but he stuck with us anyway, gently putting his own country down to begin the sales. According to him, if we just wanted a drink Rappongi was not the place, it’s all undercover things here, but that’s not quite true. Dominic was armed with pub names, though to celebrate running the gauntlet, we had an overpriced drink in a Hard Rock Cafe. From there we’d spotted the Mori Tower, our landmark for the first pub, so made our way there by an alternate route that was much quieter and didn’t involve telling anyone to **** off, which was the state we were probably at. Beer for 500¥, luxury. And it was the bar’s own beer, which I like a lot.
All the wandering around on top of a late start – de rigeur in Rappongi – meant that two beers at Heartland took us beyond midnight and I skedaddled, leaving Dominic to make his own fun/way home later. I’d missed the metro, though, and after realising I could get my aborted journey cancelled I came out of a different exit, realising I’d crossed the road again and was right by the bar. Oh, the temptation.
I walked. And walked and walked. By now, my mapping had picked up where I was-whether I’d have managed without it, I don’t know – so walked through Tokyo district, past the national gardens of the imperial palace and on into the night. Tokyo is still buzzing late on, not so many pubs once you’re out of Rappongi, but people about walking dogs, eating in restaurants and lots of 24 hour shops. Plus you’re never more than 100m from a vending machine, so getting a drink is no problem. Sometimes you can stand in one spot and see three different vending options, always so far with whatever I’ve wanted in stock and cold. Though they do not tell the truth about the lemons, if you check the photos.
Noticeably cooler today-warm, rather than boiling – it was a great walk back, 25degrees, soaking up the city and checking the map for wc locations. Grand. Reading: Eoin Colfer, Airman