Thursday, 6 January 2011

Louise & Rob: Day One

We wake up after barely sleeping at all, Rob is anxious and excited as this is his first flight, and Louise is really nervous and excited because, well just because we’re finally going to Japan!

We checked in online yesterday (after a slight mistake of thinking we were flying a day earlier than we actually were!). Rob’s dad arrives to take us to the airport and we’re so excited we can’t stop jabbering on in the car. As we’re flying from a small airport we can’t fly direct to Narita, we have to fly via Amsterdam, We arrive on time for our flight, don’t have to wait long and we’re on our way. Rob is thrilled to like flying, enjoying clouds, sky and more clouds. Before long we’re in Amsterdam and Louise feels sick to her stomach, so Rob buys her a Happy Meal to settle her nerves, but she’s completely distraught to discover she has no toy!! Bah. So Rob buys her a penguin purse to keep her yen in.

Soon we’re on our giant plane and ready to go, we spend the long, long, long journey watching Friends, The Simpsons and Dexter’s Laboratory and listening to Goldfrapp and the Travelling Wilburys during ‘enforced sleepy times’. We also spend a lot of the time watching the flight map...and then, eventually, we’re there!

We speed through customs with no issues, despite Rob’s beard. We then find a stand for the limousine bus, and hand over 3,000 yen each and are told the bus will be outside within 5 minutes, and sure enough it is. We love the efficiency of the Japanese already.

On the bus we’re warned by a very friendly motherly sounding announcement that we should not use our mobiles, because it may annoy our neighbours, and spend the rest of the journey marvelling at the beautiful scenery that is our first glance of Japan.

As we watch the paddy fields and rustic streets turn into skyscrapers and giant zebra crossings, we realise we’re in Tokyo! After a little while we’re dropped off and given directions to our hotel, which we follow, get lost, ask for more directions, follow them, get lost...this went on for a while until someone very kindly pointed out our hotel to us.

The Shinjuku Prince is a business hotel in the heart of Shinjuku, it is surrounded by Kabukicho – a pleasure district full of peep shows, brothels, konbinis and amusement arcades and the streets are full of teenagers on dates, drunk businessmen and gaijin pimps. It’s awesome.

The hotel reception is beautiful, cream coloured marble and ikebana arrangements. After some confusion, and a slight language barrier we’re given a pair of key cards and directed to the 20th floor.

We’re tired and jetlagged, so decided just to hang around the hotel for now. The first thing Louise does is run to examine the famously high-tech toilet. She bashes the buttons and is upset when they don’t do anything, however Rob suggests that this may be due to weight sensor and presses on the seat, causing a stream of water to shoot Louise in the eye. Brilliant!

We then draw back the heavy window blind and are confronted with the hugest, sprawlingest, beautifulist view we have ever seen. Tokyo spreads as far as the eyes can see, and the skyscrapers really do scrape the sky. It’s amazing.

We’re both hungry after the arduous flight, so Rob heads down to the hotel patisserie/glass counter. Here, Rob selects a rather delicious-looking box of something called Leaf Pie, and discovers at this point that you don’t try to tip in Japan... Having hastily worked out a good 15-20%% (it’s the start of the holiday and he’s feeling generous) and leaving it in a very deliberate fashion in the money tray, he’s accosted on his way back to the lifts by the cashier, who informed him he’d left some of his change behind... silly Rob!

We nap for a while curled up like cats in each others’ arms sans covers, We wake up a little while later, as dusk is falling over the city. We watch red lights blink on the top of skyscrapers, the Epson sign outside of our room on a constant light loop, and the multi-coloured Human sign dancing in dark. We watch the office lights flick off one-by-one, leaving a few unlucky workers behind.

We freshen up and head for Kabukicho, we slip down side alleys and through pachinko parlours and past a man selling turtles by the roadside, before buying konbini snacks. We’re slightly sidetracked by the UFO catchers in the arcades, but eventually make it back to the hotel, where we eat our snacks, fill up on Pocky and fall asleep with views of the glittering city.


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