Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day Four - Around Tokyo some more

Sunday morning and I was checked out of the Capsule Hotel quite early, but I left my bag there with the intention of checking back in again. At about 9am the streets around Tokyo were still pretty much deserted, as shops don't open until 11am. As I wandered around looking for a cafe for breakfast I came across a group of couples who were laughing and taking photos of a drunk passed out dude. I felt sorry for him so went up to see if I could help, and he wasn't Japanese - he was a foreigner. I tried asking him the name of his hotel but he just didn't understand a word I was saying, or if he did he couldn't respond. His face was cut but the blood had dried, he smelt of piss and he his suit was totally covered in mud and what smelt like shit. I couldn't get the name of his hotel out of him or anything so I just left him to sober up.

As I had breakfast I could keep an eye on him from the cafe and when I finished I went over again and gave him a cup of water. By now he was up on his haunches and as I asked him his hotel name again I saw (and smelt) piss trickling out from under his pant leg. Sorry mate, can't help you any further!

Since it was Sunday I headed to Harajuku, to see the hipsters hanging out there. I ended up getting there way to early at like 10am when the shops were still opening so there wasn't much of a scene. So I went to the nearby Emperor Meiji Shine and observed religious services. It was a huge 175 acre forest right in the middle of the city so quite a nice bit of greenery.

Entrance to the Meiji Shrine

Inside the Meiji Shrine
After the Meiji Shrine I headed to nearby Harajuku gardens to again look for some of the odd folks who are supposed to hang out there. But it was only midday so it was still too early for them, so I wandered around the gardens, enjoying the late autumn heat (felt like summer still!), watching the hundreds of cyclists and listening to the crows cawing while killing time.

Cyclists and crows
Finally the Tokyo Rockabilly Club appeared. These guys are pretty cool - a bunch of Elvis-quaffed rock n rollers who skull beers and play rock music from their stereo and dance around in a circle - not busking or anything, they do it just because they like it. Although they dress like they're from the 50s, the Japanese rock music they listened to had more of an 80s blues style, similar to Argentine Rock Nacional.

The Tokyo Rockabilly Club
With no sign of the infamous Harajuku girls, I caught a train over to Shinjuku to go up the Tokyo Metropolitan Building again, to get a decenct view of Tokyo during the day.
In the day the view was awesome. On a clear day you can see Mt Fuji from up there but there was no chance of that with all the smog today. But still, well worth it.

The Meiji Shrine's 175 acre forest from above

In the base of the tower I was surprised to find a great tourist information booth, where they had free Tokyo maps in English. I hadn't been able to find a free tourist info map of Tokyo anywhere, and now that I was almost at the end of my trip it was ironical to finally find one.
Outside the Metro building a kids concert was taking place. Hundreds of schoolkids with little drums were participating in a giant group concert, and I spent about half an hour listening to them. On a full drumkit sat a kid who looked about 9 years old and he did an awesome 3 minute drum solo.
On the train back home I stopped off in Harajuku again to see if the Harajuku girls doing their cosplay thing (fancy dress role-playing, where they dress up as cartoon characters and such). By now it was probably too late, as there was only a small group of teenagers dressed up, who were running around taking photos of each other, and they were followed by at least 40 tourists (mostly Japanese tourists) who were photographing their every move. The whole thing felt like a tourist trap and I didn't bother taking a photo.
Back in Shibuya and after checking back in to the Capsule I headed out for dinner and treated myself to a nice restaurant. I ordered steak and it came out with a little clay oven with hot charcoal inside, so that I could cook the meat at my table.

Cooking dinner

That night I went to Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red light district to check out the scene. It was absolutely pissing down with rain and the Nigerian touts were out in force.
I got talking to one and he was genuinely friendly, since the rain wasn’t helping their business at all. With the 3000 yen in my pocket (NZ$45) I wasn’t going to get much of any action. All I could get was one hour in a strip club and a drink included. But I would have to leave after an hour! So I didn’t bother, and I headed back to my capsule.
The next day was Day 5 and I was planning on heading down to the beachside town of Kamakura for a quick look, before catching my afternoon flight. But the summer weather of the last few days had left, and it was quite cold and wet so I gave up on that idea, and with nothing else to do I headed to the airport 5 hours early and waited for my flight. Bit of a boring way to finish the trip!

So all up it was a great 4 days. To anyone heading to Tokyo, I would highly recommend an early visit to the Tokyo Metro tower to get a good view of Tokyo and to get a free tourist info map. It's a shame I didn't get to see Kamakura but I got to see a good chunk of Tokyo itself.

Here’s a video from my trip – check out the Tokyo Rockabilly club at about 3:00, and the kid doing the wicked drum solo at about 3:30.

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