Travelling in Tokyo

From Sunday my holiday from work started and I wanted to be adventurous and explore Japan. I decided that I would start with getting to know Tokyo a bit more by staying for a couple of days before I leave for other parts of Japan. I did not really have much of a planned itinerary for Tokyo apart from trying to meet new people. One of whom was actually someone from Brighton and worked in Bill’s, the restaurant next to the pub I used to work in, but she recently moved to Japan to teach English like me. I agreed to meet her in Shibuya outside the Starbucks that overlooks the notoriously busy crossing. However, typically like me I was late and couldn’t see her when I got there and had no way to contact her. After hanging around a bit to see if I could spot her, and failing, I decided to go with my plan B. I had been invited to a Karaoke night at a bar through the website “www.couchsurfing.com” and decided this was worth a shot. This was in Roppongi, an area supposedly catered for a party-goer. When I arrived at this place I was greeted by a mix of people, some of whom had never met before. The bar was bright and friendly, but also very expensive. It was a little awkward at first but after a few beers conversation started to flow. Some fellow couch surfers I met were a french couple that where on holiday from their usually residence in Shangai, and a Chinese guy, Steven, also traveling around Japan. Me and Steven realized that we had similar traveling plans so we exchanged details and agreed to meet up along the way.

I wasn’t that interested in the Karaoke and the people who were friends previously soon separated from newcomers, making it not so much of a party, and not to mention that the beers were far to expensive, so I left to find somewhere else to have some fun. In Roppongi lots of people are flashy and fashionable, everyone is dressed up ready for a night out of fun, and there is an more than enough bars and clubs to satisfy them. Lots of expensive cars drive around, and for some reason there was a Santa standing in a Bently parked on the road who kindly let me get in with him for an interesting photo opportunity. Later I found this club that I had heard about called “Warehouse 702” and decided this would make for an interesting night. It is a pretty decent club. If you aren’t that interested in the music you could be mesmerized by the talented scantly clad dancers. I got talking to a group of Japanese people who instantly took interest in me, especially one girl who became a little giddy. After some dancing and fun in the club they decided to leave but asked if I wanted to join them. I agreed and we jumped in a Taxi that took us to a bar overlooking the streets of Shibuya. It had a swanky private Karaoke room, which is where were stayed to early hours in the morning drinking and singing, me especially very out of tune, probably not just due to the drink. In the early hours I thanked everyone for a good night and promised to come back then left to try find somewhere to sleep. One cafe I asked for some help with my search told me that I could sleep on one of their benches, which I did until customers started to arrive. Then I moved on to a comic book internet cafe where you can also take a few hours sleep, as they are kitted out with booths with bedded floors for manga fans to comfortably search the internet or choose to read any of the hundreds of manga comics on the bookshelves that line every floor of the cafe. I wish I could read Japanese so I could have taken a pick.

After a few more hours sleep I got up and had a walk round Shibuya in the morning. It was quite a contrasting difference to the previous evening as the abundance of people that stroll around at night were mostly not there. I took a chance to go into the big shopping centre there, “Shibuya 109”, which is full of unique shops selling clothes fit for any fashion. Although shopping was not what I wanted to do so I headed to Harajuku, a place renowned for interesting shops and youth culture but also located by a impressive temple. The area where all the shops were was pretty interesting but also very crowded, and again shopping was not on my mind. So I then went to the temple, Meiji-jingu, which was a definite peaceful contrast to the busy streets. It also has the largest shrine gates in the country which was definitely a sight to see. After walking around enough I got a bit tired and decided to find my first couch surfing host who I was going to stay with. I got a little lost on the way because it is really impossible to find an address in Japan as most places do not have street signs. After a couple of phone calls and talking to some Mormon missionaries I managed to find the place. I was greeted by Sephrine, my Malaysian host, and her previous couch surfer, an Italian masseuse. He cooked us Italian spaghetti that was actually black, we all laughed at how disgusting it looked but it tasted much better than it looked. We talked about an ice cream parlor he used to own  in Italy. I have never met anyone that knows so much about ice cream. After the quick dinner we headed out to this party that Sephrine was going to and asked if we wanted to join. We met Steven, the Chinese guy along the way. The party was all a bit strange as it was run by an Argentinian dance group so it was a real multicultural clash. Nonetheless there was food from all over the world to be had, and we counted down the seconds to Christmas (in Chinese, Japanese, English and Spanish) with beer and champagne. Soon Sephrine had to go back as she had work the next day but me and Steven decided to have a night out on the town, so we headed back in to Roppongi as it was really close from the party. We enjoyed some of the many bars and clubs in Roppongi and had and interesting night around the many girls dressed up in Santa outfits out to celebrate Christmas eve Japanese style. I once again tried to impressive people by speaking in Japanese but I seemed to forgot that I can’t speak Japanese, although some people found it hilarious and some even charming.

I made it back to Sephrine’s house early in the morning so I woke up with little sleep on Christmas day when she had to go to work. I thanked her for being so kind to let me stay and I set of on another exploration of Tokyo. Although as I was tired I headed into Shinjuku and booked a few hours in an internet cafe to get a couple more hours sleep, check email and such the like. After my kip I went to Ueno but arrived a bit too late too go to the many museums and interesting things to do there so I just walked around and marveled at some of the architecture. I went to a area in Ueno that has the largest graveyard in Tokyo, meaning also the largest concentration of  temples and shrines. I entertained myself with the lots of cats that started to appear. They seemed to be owned by a crazy cat homeless lady that must wander the street of Ueno at night. It was quite peaceful walking around but it started to get very dark so it began to feel a bit ominous walking around the graveyard, and most of the temples were not lit up so you could not see much. So I then decided to go to Akihabara as it was very near and probably a better place to be in the evening. I had a good look at the crazy electronics market, which is pretty incredible, each cramped stall specializes in a different electrical component, anything from fuses, radio transmitters, light bulbs or capacitors. I enjoyed the bustling streets for a bit but quickly ducked in to an izakaya to get a drink and a quick bite. Although I felt shattered from the previous nights of partying and almost fell asleep there so then thought it was a good idea to relax in another internet cafe. The one I found in Akihabara was a little shabbier than the ones I had used the days before. Walking around to find myself a booth I noticed that probably 90% of people were just watching porn. Nonetheless I made myself comfortable and made my Christmas calls home. This was nice as it brought just that little bit of Christmas feeling to my day. Afterwards I almost considered going out someone to find some more fun as it was Christmas but I was shattered so I booked myself in a cosy capsule hotel for a well needed sleep. I decided to scrimp and not go for the deluxe version and just stick with the 3ft wide version. Honestly the size did not bother me at all, laying down was only important. I was actually very impressed by my nights lodgings at it ended a weird and wonderful Christmas day.

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