Last week I had a series of national holidays, known collectively in Japan as Golden Week. I used the time to chill and relax by Mount Fuji, and have a karaoke-tastic time in Tokyo! Tokyo was wonderful, and I definately want to move there at some point, even if its just for a few months. I have far too many photos to share, and was accompanied at various points during the week by a series of amigos- Phil Ford from Notts Uni, Dan “Better Than Nothing” Luton, Georgina and Claire from South Africa, and a Mr. Stephen Harris who is currently on a world tour.
First I feel I should introduce my primary companion to the blog. Dan, Dan the Sunshine Man has been a good friend for many many years, and over said years has collected such catchphrases as “Better Than Nothing”, “If Only It Wasn’t True”, and most recently the slogan “He Says It Best When He Says Nothing At All”. He is a true hero, who helped me greatly during the week, particularly when I injured my foot in a “karaoke incident” and couldn’t walk for the next few days (more of which later). Both the highs and lows of the week revolve around several karaoke incidents- the proudest of which was me belting out the Japanese classic “Kore ga watashi no ikiru michi” with newfound Japanese friends (all in Japanese).
There were many exciting places to visit in Tokyo, and so I visited many of them. They included a pub showing live football called The Footnik, in Ebisu. I managed to see Man Utd virutally clinch the title with a magnificent 4-2 victory over Everton- its been a while since I’ve supported United in a game! I also saw the impressive Senso-Ji in Asakusa, which was incredibly busy, packed with Golden Week crowds. Ueno Park was another nice spot, as was Ginza– shiny upmarket department stores, and very tasty (and expensive) sushi. My favourite areas in Tokyo are in the west though; Shibuya and Shinjuku. I had two good nights out in Shinjuku, one all-nighter celebrating the Blues’ promotion with Georgina, Claire and Dan. It started with a return to the Park Hyatt, where me and Pete in Hokkaido were sipping (or downing) expensive gin and tonics in August 2006. From there it progressed to more bars before karaoke, where we were eventually chucked out at 5am (we would have stayed longer otherwise). Afer that me and Dan fell asleep on the Yamanote line, spending far too long then having to find our way back to our accomodation and beds. The other night out in Shinjuku also included karaoke, and an obligatory drunken walk home. Shibuya was the scene of my third big Tokyo night out, with Pip Ford and Dan. We went for the good-old two hour nomihodie to “warm up” for more drinking in cheap stand-up bars. We also crashed a karaoke room where we made new Japanese friends and I sang (yet again) Puffy and Bob Dylan. I also managed to seriously injure my foot, which meant I needed to go to the hospital the next day and get an expensive X-ray. It also meant Dan was lumbered with my big backpack, but I feel I helped keep moral up in a difficult situation.
Other exciting places in Tokyo included Harajuku, home of Tokyo’s dress-up kids and some really chilled out shopping areas, restaurants and bars. It also had Meiji Jingu, which to be honest was slightly disappointing. Roppongi was briefly visited at night but was too seedy for myself and Daniel. During the day we explored the huge shopping/eating/living areas of Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Mid Town. Of final note in this whistle-stop tour of my time in Tokyo is Yasakuni shrine, the controversial war shrine which causes diplomatic incidents every time a Japanese PM visits it. Outside sat the right-wing “sound trucks” with their nationalist slogans. The atmosphere was very strange, but it was a fascinating place to visit. Even more interesting was the war museum, a well-funded and excellantly presented overview of modern Japanese history. Its “take” on certain incidents was certainly interesting, if slightly wrong. I would have loved to have a good argument with someone over certain points; the Nanking Incident was totally glossed over, the creation of Manchukuo was presented as a natural evolution of Manchurian history, whilst at several points exhibits presented Japan’s wartime quest as inherently linked with third-world efforts for self-determination- all rather bizarre. If the tone and content of the museum was decidedly right-wing, I doubt there is a better (or more interesting) museum covering modern Japanese history in Japan. I’d have loved to have been able to read the Japanese in the comment books at the museum. After spending time at the Shrine I went to the Imperial Palace Gardens, to get a glimpse at the Imperial Palace (the museum also presented the 1868 Restoration as a true restoration to direct Imperial Rule, which is clearly incorrect).
Fuji-san has been revered for hundreds if not thousands of years as a spiritual symbol for Japan, and it’s easy to see why. Its incredibly beautiful, and our time on the lake-side at Kawaguchi-ko was a nice respite from the madness and mayhem of Tokyo. We headed there with an injured foot and terrible hangovers, but left full of local udon and souvenir postcards.
Back To Kyoto Again
Several things went wrong on our way to Kyoto from Fuji, but we eventually arrived at 10pm where we luckily managed to run into Steve Harris at the station. After catching up over drinks we headed back to our ryokan, where we posed in our free kimonos for a photo which as yet is not on the blog…probably for the best to be honest.