Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Towers, Temples and Sex Stores - Our First Day in Tokyo!

So, after about 20 hours of flying over North America and the Pacific Ocean, Angela and I arrived two nights ago in Tokyo, exhausted but excited for the start of our Asian journey. We're currently holed up in a cramped but homely hostel, having spent our first full day doing some sightseeing and errand-running.

It's a strange feeling being here. The fact that we've started our big backpacking trip hasn't quite sunk in yet. In fact, because this country is so similar to Korea, it feels like we're back in our usual environment, just doing some local sightseeing like we used to do on the weekends. I'm not sure it will really hit us that we're on a "grand adventure" until we get to the more exotic places like Thailand.

It's very early to start giving impressions of Japan, but at the moment my strongest thoughts are: 1) So far, it hasn't been anywhere near as expensive as we were expecting, at least as far as eating and transport and basic daily costs go; things are pricy, sure, but it doesn't seem much worse than New York, London and those kinds of places. 2) Tokyo's train system is one of the most complicated and confusing I've come across on my travels, particularly when heading out of the city centre. 3) People seem somewhat less conservative than those in Korea (as an example, it's clear that it's much more acceptable for women to smoke here; another example: the sex shops!). 4) they're also less concerned with wearing stylish, fashionable clothes (they still dress well, just a little more simply than Koreans). 5) Despite being from England, it's taking me some time to get used to left-hand traffic again. 6) I must stop saying "Kamsahamnida" and other Korean phrases to Japanese people.

I guess I'll have more thoughts in my future posts. For now, here's a rundown of what we did on our first evening and first full day here.

After touching down at Narita Airport and going through customs and immigration, we took a train to Asakusa, a golden-hued district in central Tokyo. Feeling a mixture of tiredness and curiosity for our new surroundings, we made our way to our first hostel.

Our first view of Tokyo Sky Tree, the second-tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. We would be going to its viewing deck the following day.
After settling into our hostel, we took a walk around the local area to find some food. On the way, we found this entrance to Senso-Ji Temple, another place we would visit the next day.

My first meal in Japan: a simple but tasty bowl of ramen.
The next morning, we left Asakusa to find our next hostel, as we'd booked a different one for the remainder of our time in Tokyo.
Our current home is located outside the city centre, in the area of Kawaguchi. Called JGH, it's one of the most cramped hostels we've ever been to, but it has a nice, cosy atmosphere, and the people are very friendly.
After checking into the hostel, we headed to Tokyo Station, to book our bullet train tickets for Kyoto.
Then we went back to Asakusa, to see Senso-Ji in the daytime.
This pretty thoroughfare of shops has apparently attracted tourists for several centuries.
The main complex of Senso-Ji Temple.
Embrace the incense!

If there's one thing the Japanese do right, it's gardens.

We soon went to the nearby Sky Tree, and after queueing in line for way too long, we got tickets to go to the top.

The view from the top revealed an infinite sprawl of concrete buildings. Because of the smog, it was easy to imagine Tokyo going on forever.

In the evening we explored the neon streets of Ueno, where tiny, brightly-lit shops and restaurants were clustered around a busy train track.

Our objective was to find a restaurant for dinner, but we got distracted by a different kind of establishment...

Packaged, pre-worn panties.

After the amusements of the sex shop, we went into the amusement arcade.
This game looked like a peculiarly Japanese spin-off of Roulette.

For some reason, this security guard had a worm stuck to his back.
Eventually, we managed to get away from the distractions of the night and settle down for some supper. And some sake.
Delicious pork cutlet, egg and rice.

That's all for now. In the next post will be some further explorations of Tokyo!

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