It’s been a while since we have done a trip blog so this might be a little rusty! I’m writing this sitting on a TGV from Paris to Marseilles watching French countryside whiz by at 300km/h. Back to the start though.
The first stop on this journey was a three night stay in Tokyo, it was our fist time there. Our hotel was nice but, I guess as is typical for Tokyo, the “larger than usual double room” (as described on Booking.com) was tiny. By the time my suitcase had exploded, the travel guitar I bought with me had found a home, and I had devices plugged in and paper spread everywhere there wasn’t a lot of room for Linda. She got the last laugh though because my side of the bed was jammed up against the wall.
Oddly there didn’t seem to be a lot of tourists in Tokyo. Not many signs either of preparation for this years RWC or next years olympics except for Tokyo 2020 signs everywhere. Given how slick the process of deplaning, getting through immigration and customs and finding the express train into the city from the airport was I cant imagine there are going to be any hiccups when it comes to organising these events. The hotel was about a 10 minute walk from Tokyo station along Ginza which was great although the station itself is so massive and somewhat chaotic that it took us 15 minutes to find our way out to the street!
One purpose for being in Japan was, of course, foodie oriented. And we weren’t disappointed. But gardens and outstanding architecture both ancient and modern, also ticked all the boxes. First day was gardens and the imperial palace. The Hama-rikyu gardens were a serene oasis with the modern Tokyo skyline as a backdrop. The palace gardens likewise but with the added bonus of the beautiful buildings associated with hundreds of years of shoguns, local lords and the imperial family all making the area home in between pillaging their way around the rest of Japan and large chunks of the rest of Asia and the Pacific. It also turned out to be a national holiday in Japan so not a lot happening.
Noodles and a beer for lunch (yeah really) and a Yakitori place near the hotel for dinner. That was entertaining as although the menu was partly in English it was still somewhat..opaque. We seemed to end up eating an odd mixture of what we thought we wanted and what they thought we wanted. Good surprises though. And the wine was…yes you guessed it; red or white but the Saki list was extensive.
There was a boutique grocery store across the street from the hotel with a large wine selection including some from Japanese wineries. That was a surprise that we didn’t follow up on. That evening we walked along to the big Ginza intersection to get the obligatory photo of all the neon signs and be impressed by some of the modern architecture on display.
Second day was the Tsukiji fish market and a wander around the wider Ginza district. It also pissed down and we had to purchase umbrellas to joust with as much as to keep the rain off us.
The wholesale market has been relocated to a new facility but all the street vendors, resellers and sashimi restaurants are still there in the “outer market”. Needless to say this was my favourite part of Tokyo. We had street food snacks, found a random wine bar, and had lunch at a sushi restaurant where the chefs all wore ties and white coats and wielded evil looking knives with surgical precision. Well executed sushi at home is pretty good but this was something else and not a “California roll” in sight.
Fabulous. Linda and I have different approaches to raw stuff from the sea so I left feeling quite full while she left feeling a little hungry still.
That evening we tried our luck at a tiny, Michelin recommended, family run tempura restaurant. We got the last two seats and had some of the best food you could hope to eat over multiple courses. Again the chefs had ties and coats on the the kitchen was open to the restaurant. Tempura has taken on a whole new meaning for me…
Next day we were off to the Excelsior coffee shop across the street for cappuccino and a croissant! (still the best coffee we have had on the trip so far) and back through the railway station with our return tickets to get seat assignments and try to figure out how to do it in reverse. More complex than we thought and a close call with the train. Then Narita and onto our BA flight for Heathrow. It’s a daytime flight unfortunately and BA’s brand new 787 although it flew just fine had a major software glitch that made the automatic shades go different colours, prevented movies from showing, and kept turning the cabin lights on and off. Ground based engineers in London took control of it and by several hours in it all seemed to be back to normal.
The T5 experience at Heathrow has become quite un-Heathrow like. In fact to be fair there aren’t really any vestiges of the old Heathrow left. With e-gates for Kiwis we didn’t even have to queue and have to have someone asking us the same questions over and over again about why we wanted to be in Britain, how long we were staying, whether we were going to work there and generally just making us feel like overstayers before we set foot in country. We were on the express into Paddington, then spat out of the tube at Kings Cross into our hotel fast enough to make even the most cynical travellers head spin.
The next episode is the train trip to Edinburgh and the road trip around the far north coast of Scotland.