Inspired by my friend Andy’s talk on exploring Japan by bullet train, Nikki and I set out to do the same.
Our first stop would be Tokyo, where I’d been previously.
The Dev team at Moneypenny (on the right, is the excellent Reggie who’s done a lot of work on this site) had a live camera feed on their monitor.
When I saw it I instantly recognised it as the district of Shinjuku.
Known locally as the Shibuya, which means “The Scramble”. A 5 way road crossing and not for the faint hearted, which I’d seen on my previous trip to Tokyo.
We arranged that while in Tokyo, I’d go back there and text them, so they could see me on the tv !.
We decided to fly with KLM. I’m consistently impressed with them as an airline.
Unfortunately, the first leg of our trip to Amsterdam was delayed due to a problem with the plane. The cabin wouldn’t pressurise and would have imploded if we hadn’t stayed on the ground !.
I found it ridiculous that other passengers were arguing with the crew.
As far as I’m concerned, if the captain thinks there’s the vaguest chance of a problem he quite rightly takes the plane back to the hangar (anything else, would be life threateningly negligent).
Unfortunately, it would mean we’d miss our connection.
We were given 10 euros for refreshments. One thing I didn’t realise was as soon as a plane is cancelled, the computer system finds the next quickest root and automatically moves your flights.
Literally dozens of people were queuing for ages, when all we had to do was find a machine, put in our details and we were given new boarding cards to Tokyo.
Its also worth mentioning that the system email and texts you with new details of your flight, so if it happens to you, be sure to switch your phone on.
It meant we had to kill about 8 hours in Amsterdam and it would add an extra leg to our trip as we’d arrive in Incheon, Korea and then fly to Tokyo.
So instead of arriving around 10am in the morning, we actually arrive in the late evening.
Utterly shattered, had a drink and something to eat and then got some sleep.
In the morning I get up early and decide to go for an acclimatising walk.
Were staying in Asakusa and our hotel is quite nice.
Not just that, but its a residential hotel, so with its own freezer, microwave and washing machine its more like a flat than a hotel room.
I wander around Asakusa.
Its 6am in the morning and I love it at that time, when the world is waking up.
One of the things I remember from my previous trip, plastic food.
To get around the language barrier, food is made of plastic and put out on display so you can order by pointing.
A few hundred yards from our hotel and I’m at the Seno-Ji temple, an international symbol of Tokyo.
Further inside the temple.
Across the Sumida river, a place I remember from last time.
The gold building with white top, is the headquarters of the Asahi beer company.
To its right is the Golden flame, which many locals call the Golden turd (and you can see why).
Just to the left of the gold building is the Tokyo Sky tree. The tallest building in Tokyo now, it wasn’t even built the last time I was here.
But enough about previous trips, what can I find that’s new.
On the right of this picture, the symbol basically means no urination. Its quite well known for suited salarymen to go out drinking for the evening and literally urinate wherever they like.
Nikki and everyone are awake now, so our itinerary begins.
First stop is the Tsukiji fish market. I thought it was interesting to see the workings of the largest fish market in the world.
That said, two hours was I thought too long to spend in there, considering we now only had 1 day in Tokyo.
Included with our ticket was a sushi breakfast at Sushizanmai Bekkan popular with locals.
Nikki, Lyn & Vic all tried Sushi.
It’s not really my thing, and since it’s lunchtime somewhere in the world, I had a glass or 2 Asahi lager.
We wander back into the centre through the busy streets and sky scrapers.
Another world in Japan.
The actor who plays Nelson Van Alden in boardwalk empire, is here transformed into a fashion model with his face all over the billboards.
Stopping near the Royal Palace we get some coffee.
Nikki, Lyn and Vic want to see the Royal Palace and since the entrance is on the other side of the building, she heads off.
I’ve already been, so we arrange to meet up later and I pursue a project of my own.
According to my guidebook, curry has taken off massively in Tokyo.
But in some cases in quite an obscure way. Above is a sign showing different kinds of curry including pilchard curry and scrambled egg curry 🙂
Inside the Tokyo International Forum.
Its internal architecture some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.
Trotting around on foot is pleasant, but I’ve got a deadline and time is running out.
I jump in a taxi and next thing I’m outside the Honda building (and its only £8, so they aren’t as expensive as everyone says).
Outside small children with their regulation luminous backpacks.
I’ve got 30 mins to spare, so head off up the street to a nice tavern.
11 years earlier I was in Tokyo, determined to see the Azimo robot built by Honda.
I never got too, promised myself that one day I’d come back and do it, and now its actually going to happen.
And I am in the Honda technology theatre as Azimo, the most advanced Biped robot in the world comes on stage.
A series of historical video’s show how the system learned to walk.
And finally, a moment I’ve dreamed off, I get to stand on the stage with Azimo (I had to sign a discliamer, but it was worth it).
With all the excitement over, I wander back to meet Nikki.
In a contemplative mood, I sit here and relax.
And then I’m hit with fatigue and jetlag like I’ve never known it.
I literally struggle to stand up, manage to get back to the hotel and then collapse asleep.
The following morning, were off to the railway station to begin our adventure.
Which unfortunately means I never got to the Shibuya which was disappointing.
Just to give an idea of how big the bullet trains actually are.
Everything about the train experience is perfect. On time, big seats, smoth ride. Our system could learn a lot.
Even down to where the train stops. Next stop Kyoto.