Taxi with doily. Wandering for 6 hours. Sanitation fixtures and making oneself be understood.
02.04.2013 16 °C
I can't sleep on planes. My joints lock into place and my neck becomes stiff. So I am sleep deprived.
We landed in thick white cloud and a continuous drizzle. There's no wind so it's ok, not too cold. It was a bumpy last half but no scary air pockets.
All airports start to alike when you travel a fair bit. The outside of Narita reminded me of Brisbane airport, but without the tropical touch. We were met by a neatly dressed chauffeur complete with his white gloves and cap. We were the only passengers so no Green Tomato coach for us! No, we were driven in an immaculate old Toyota, huge windows with neat little wind protectors. The inside was festooned with pure white doilies over every horizontal surface..... All smooth surfaces gleamed. Welcome to Japan.
Welcome weary sleep deprived, headcold fighting traveller.... Try to stay awake as we travel along the motorway with a noise barrier that curves over to contain traffic noise. At 9am traffic was flowing well until it approached the metropolis. The motorway stays 2 lanes and clogs up but it is still moving and like the El train in Chicago is raised above ground level. Quite a few storeys as it happens, enabling me to look into windows of large office blocks and see many people working in their cubicles. High density living and working is what you do here.
The B Ikebukuro Hotel is an unglamorous place but nice and clean and quiet. It's not too cramped either. However they were not ready for us until check in at 3pm.... 5 hours to wander about in a bit of a daze. It's quite good, you really don't need to go far at all to see anything. The local train station is the second largest in Tokyo, it seemed like rush hour all the time, so I want to avoid it at the peak times if we can. I have a fear of being swept away from Paul and I have no phone. Plus I don't fancy the groping that happens in the crowded trains.
We found a totally monstrous sized department store called TOBU which sells just amount everything. It is a huge place and labyrinthine too. There are two storeys just for restaurants. The lower levels has a food hall to rival Harrods or Lafayettes. PERFECT food. In fact Tokyo EATS Hong Kong and Singapore!
We found a little place to eat tea and buttered toast. Tea was too strong, now that's saying something because I love my strong tea, being half Irish.... Not every day does your honey and toast come with a salad garnish where the number of vegies on each plate is identical.... We both got the same number of olives, cherry tomatoes and pickles. All served on gold trimmed Noritake. This is in an average department store! I'm beginning to think I live in the wrong country.
Fashion not so noteworthy in this district, just salarymen and many women in fawn coloured coats. MANY of them. Stand by for other updates as they come to hand.
I had my first encounter with an automated toilet. Not the German type, which seem to make sense, no these Japanese ones are baffling. In this particular restroom, there was a choice of toilet: disabled, accompanying children, traditional squat style, style with hose but no paper, Western or automated. So with my deed completed I try to find the button to simply flush. How about this button? Oh, this one just makes the flushing noise only and has a volume setting. Obviously for gassy visits or number twos.... No I don't want to spray my cheeks or have a bidet function. Finally I locate the flush. It is a small unobtrusive chrome button behind the lid. Doh!
The lavatory in our hotel has a heated seat which gave me a fright, and the same smorgasbord of flushing and bottom pampering options. The flush button was more conspicuously located I am pleased to report. The shower is something else too, multinozzled with horizontals and various pressures...
I bet you didn't expect to be reading about sanitation fixtures, but this is what I notice and enjoy most about travelling, it's knowing that there are other ways to do routine things. Ordering lunch or trying to buy throat lozenges (not sugar free ones please, I want natural sugar!) means that I now know the word for crab (kani) and sugar (satō). And buying insoles for my shoes, yes I did that today, was a complete success when the lady offered me sampurus to try. That would be samples in Japanese.
Now to attempt continuing the musical theme of the USA trip, I have heard a crow and a duck/goose!? from the hotel room. These are the real Birds of Tokyo.
In a while we will head off into the neon lights of Ikebukuro to find something to eat. Not sushi, that's for breakfast tomorrow!
Day One duly reported.