Monday, April 03, 2006

Tokyo 3

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This is one of the seminal pictures of the entire Tokyo mash up that ended with my arrival home yesterday evening. Fuji San dominating the highland areas on the out skirts of the Tokyo region on a perfectly clear spring morning and myself, gazing wistfully into the distance, pondering my overall importance in the scheme of things and finding it to be good.

Lets back up slightly though.

I was gazing down at Japan from on high. Stacked up all around us was other commercial air traffic. I’ve never been in an aircraft and had the sky around the plane so busy. There were many other jetliners around us, stacked up within the safety margins of the air corridors, above and below, to the left and the right. Have you ever been sitting on a bus, stuck in traffic, slightly bored, just waiting for the trip to be over and then seen somebody on a skateboard fly through the traffic and pedestrians having a great time and felt envious?

That’s what it feels like when you see two of these,

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flying below your plane, sweeping in arcs through the clouds. Damn was I jealous, these two pilots were playing around as they traveled somewhere, crossing each others paths and generally messing about en-route. Lucky bastards in JSDF 15's. I Showed the Australian sitting next to me. Both of us well impressed. And hells no I did not take that photo, that’s an in house JSDF stock photo, just to give credit where credit is due.

I landed and maneuvered my way easily, successfully and with relative grace even, through the labyrinthine Tokyo rail and metro system. These maps controlled our movements over the course of our extended partying weekend and it’s relatively user friendly once you get into it. The red spot is the area I was headed.

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And arrived here

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The Sakura sat in Jimbỡchỡ and was stocked with a fresh supply of world traveling back packer types, all of whom were discovering the joys of Japanese pricing. The Sakura was however, reasonably cheap and well appointed for its style. I procured a top bunk, which was in retrospect a mistake, as there is nothing more difficult than maneuvering your way down a ladder with a bladder full and a hangover. The act needs to be performed with the appropriate balance and strength, most of which is lacking after imbibing copious quantities of various alcohol (except JD) the night before.

I sat in the café outside the hotel, sipping on a mango juice and awaiting the arrival of

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TIM!

Who is a familiar face in particular from last years Thailand adventure series. Refreshed we adventured towards Akihabara, The centre of the world consumer electronics industry, to experience the best of contemporary geek culture. As always, Akihabara was draped in its glittering neon cloak and seemingly all male clientele. Our main goal, aside from finding beer and food, was to experience the latest in bizarre trends, the Maid Café. Maid Café’s are a new kind of eating establishment that has become popular recently, especially among the teaming male throngs, the Akibake, where you are served by attractive young ladies in costume play style maid, or nurse, or whatever, outfits, who call you master when they serve you and act very cute.

A man stops me on the street and trys to sell me a new internet service available for people living locally in the area which boasts a 100mb per second download rate. I am sold, unfortunately I live in Saga. He is our age and we strike up a conversation, he lived in London for a year and tells us the directions to a maid café. We struggle though seven floors of electrics, toys, costume stores (?), pharmacies, more toy stores, more electronics and eventually find the café at the top.

With a huge cue of men waiting in line to be seated. We see the cute girls, and figure our mission is partially complete, and trawl Tokyo for a few hours going from small bar to small bar in the Shinjuku area, taking it easy, except for a smashed glass of wine, saving ourselves for the next few days. We retire and spend the night filling our room full of noxious gasses. This pattern continues over the next few days of fine dining.

The next morning we walk up Yasukuni Dori to a large park which is displaying the number one reason for hangovers in Japan this week. Sakura!

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It’s cherry blossom season. Thousands of people fill the park, spreading out tarpaulin and picnicking. Our wanderings take us back to the hotel, where we meet

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KAMIL

We decide, by virtue of the wisdom handed down to us through the ages, to find lunch. Our man on the front desk recommends a restaurant where we can sample some local ‘weird’ cuisine. We jump into a taxi and totally fail to find it. What we do find is Tokyo Dome City.

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We ate at, of all places, Denny’s, and went in search of deep and meaningful cultural experiences that will serve to give us insight into our developing lives…


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I hadn’t been on any kind of rollercoaster in years. So after a beer I decide to get on this machine that pushes you to 130kph, outdoors, diving onto crowded four lane city streets and through the architecture of a major shopping mall. Dive bombing onto taxi’s and busses at 130kph, pulling three G’s while drunk. Tokyo man, Tokyo. The feeling of the first drop was unbelievable. I’d forgotten the force that you build up going that fast. Sudden acceleration slamming into the senses ripping your lips from your teeth, this one only had a lap bar, and thus felt much more precarious because of it. I ducked when we passed through the circle, as it was a tight, tight fit.

We also rode another machine that pushed its carriages forward and back, your feet suspended inches above the ground in higher and higher curves. Weightlessness achieved. Ate Mexican, drank pitchers of margarita with an old buddy of Kamil’s and retired semi-early (1 or 2 maybe). For the next day we had planned to visit,

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Fujikyu Highlands is a large amusement park, located near the base of Mt. Fuji. Fuji san looms over all, a godlike, dominating peak, higher than Mt. Cook.

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Did we meditate for hours on the merits and values of nationalism, explore the local towns and explore for ancient relics of ineffable value while meeting new and exciting people?

We went on more rides!

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This thing spun you upside down and held you there, inverted and looking out over the plateau, arms held out and trusting totally in the restraints, in the power of modern engineering, to stop you impacting in a bloody heap 30 meters below you

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This thing dropped you, and it was spectacular because we were facing the mountain when we fell. It simulates the process of jumping from a high place for those considering the option. The wait at the top is agonizing. Oh, it bounces too, you go up and down a few times.

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We didn’t go on the wheel because, well, three guys in a rainbow wheel would be quite simply, well, gay. But I took a picture because it looked great against the blue sky.

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This is not the best photo, but it was the best ride we went on. It’s pretty self explanatory, you get strapped in, it pushes you backwards and forwards and the wheel you are sitting on spins. But because of the spin it feels like you are always about to fly off the wheel into the sky, at each apex you get a moment of gut soaring zero G, often upside down facing Fuji San, before gravity kicks in and whips you down again, only to repeat the process over and over again. Much better for extreme changes in state than a roller coaster. We were also filmed riding this by a Nihon Terebi film crew, a famous comedian was filming a segment for his show, and we were looking right into the camera lens on each pass of the machine. It airs later this month and we will try to get a recording.

The cues for the large roller coasters were three hours long, so instead of spending all day lined up like lemmings; we went to the smaller rides with the smaller cues. We also went to a haunted hospital, but the cue was too long to waste the day in, and a haunted theatre, where you stood in a (too small) coffin and actors moved around screaming, spraying you with ‘blood’ and other such un-pleasantries.

Slept like a log, with a random 15 year old girl asleep on my shoulder, behind a Ganguro family on the bus back. Ganguro? Just google the term, this is a long post and I’ve gotta save space somehow.

Sayaka, a friend I made on my last trip to Tokyo, met up with us and used her influence to get us half priced entry to Club Air later on in the evening. This pleased us considerably. Lost in Translation blah blah blah, Lost In Translation blah blah. Yeah I’ve been there, it was like this…

I hadn’t been to a decent club in a long time, had a good catch up with Sayaka, whose jewelry designing is becoming more and more successful, she is now regularly traveling to Spain, Melbourne and L.A. next week, promoting her designs. H

Hurrah! Air is in a residential district and set quite some way back from the main streets, when you leave there exist large signs that say, in English, please be quiet, and the doormen also remind you as well. Also a good aspect, beer vending machines inside the club which allow the bar staff to concentrate on making drinks as opposed to pouring beers, keeps bar turnover high, expensive but high

The following morning, we checked out of Sakura and headed to Ueno in search of a capsule hotel in which to spend out last night. We booked into one, dropped the bags. Kamil embarked on a quest to buy an Ipod. Me and Tim journeyed across Tokyo after exploring the markets in Ueno, which didn’t remind me of Hong Kong because I haven’t been there, but Tim equated his feelings as such to me.

We fought our way up into Harajuku, where the last posting here was made from. Kamil, Ipod in tow, ventured out to join us. Harajuku was absolutely packed with people. We had to cue outside a convenience store to even get in and then the cue stretched out through the store. As the cue progressed you picked up your needs from the shelf as you passed. We of course, bought some Chu-Hi, as we all couldn’t face any more beer, and walked to Yoyogi park.

In Yoyogi park there was at the time, probably the biggest Hanami party taking place in Japan. Upwards of 20,000 people at least were spread out under the cherry blossom trees on a perfect spring afternoon. Diesel generators cranked out electricity for turntables, children played with rabbits and miniature dogs, all manner of sporting equipment was in use. The young of Tokyo, of all nationalities, met and merged in a party that covered an area nearly the size of the Wellington CBD. This picture doesn’t even begin to cover the scale of it…I just couldn’t get up high enough or had a wide enough lens to do it justice. Imagine this times ten.

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Just before the seas rose, just before the pandemics and the wars, it seemed that we had reached the highpoint. The worlds political institutions in the hands of corrupt fools, determined to destroy it and seemingly far beyond our control for the time being, at that moment, in this great gathering at the top of world, there was nothing else to do about it for the day, but enjoy the party that was Tokyo.

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And enjoy we did. Returned to capsule, spent some time relaxing in the bath house, washing the city dust away and sweating out some of the poisons in the sauna. Last year I was taken to Christon Café in Shibuya, I did a little bit of digging on the internet and found the address. We made a booking and later on in the day dined on fine cuisine and bottles of wine. The photo’s are blurry, but so are the memories. It’s emotive, or expressionist, or something.

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Oh the ethical arguments that could spark from a discussion of the iconography used in this café, as Tim put it, it’s not the kind of thing you’d see in Ireland.

Club Yellow was next on the agenda, and my first night out in Ropongi, Tokyo’s infamous club district. Yellow was crowded and my impressions mostly range from spinning mirror balls and grinding house music to curling spiral staircases and ooking down on a 500 + person dance floor.

We went back to Ueno, by this time the sun was coming up, we ate in a ramen shop with no chairs, swaying over our meals while we stood at the counter.

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Had another bath and crawled into my hole in the wall. It’s exactly like this, although I didn’t take the photo, the diagram is exactly what I spent the night in.

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It was really rather hot inside the capsule, but its not too small of a space to sleep in. Just enough for one, but I did need another shower when we woke up, three hours later, to get out of Tokyo.

The rest of the last day was another blur of trains and subway, although this one blurred by a class 2b hangover, as this was the only night I didn’t drink a liter of water before bed, which mitigated the effects down to around the lowest categories of 3b or at the worst 3a. I got to ride a monorail. Kamil and myself arrived with significant time to spare, which we spent shopping in the large shopping centre attached to Haneda airport, which is the older international air terminal, as the city grew large enough to require two international airports on opposite sides of the city to deal with its air traffic demands. This is me, exhausted, standing in the middle of the mall.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those photos really are quite something. The cherry trees are in blossom here at the moment too. I can see at least one out my bedroom window. It's lovely. sss

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ppp-post more pictures of Mr Tim, more is necessary to make happy universe and relaxing times, he soo handsome, he soooo smart and sooo-ah handsome - and him doing Ian Curtis impersonation. From Tim PS you know what you are? you're a cnut! Mail me sometime.

2:39 AM  

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