So... a few of these items are going to be brief as I was working from a list of things that I've done.
Ooh, Flickr link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fractos/sets/72157623679598379/
Transit from Manchester to London
All packed up and made my way down to London, in a footwell. Thanks Branson! Much as I'd love to spunk more money on a 1st class upgrade, how about you get some decent trains that don't smell of poo?
Thanks to Nick and Liz for putting me up on Monday night, really appreciated the launch pad! Got to Heathrow with no problems. Cheers!
Transit from Heathrow to Helsinki
Into the madness of international departures... so busy, so many people, so little point buying anything duty free... I think this was the more nerve wracking flight as I hadn't medicated myself with any alcohol to make things easier. I had to tell myself that it was ok, as I was only going to Finland. That's not like the other side of the world or anything...
Departure lounge, Helsinki Airport
Helsinki looks, from the window of the airport at least, like a grey, cold, miserable place. Apparently the suicide rate dropped when they made people change to more environmentally friendly car fuels, so it was damn near impossible to gas yourself in the garage any more. Medicated myself with beer, that seemed to help.
Transit from Helsinki to Tokyo
Ok, firstly, FinnAir are a wicked airline. I've never had better service or food than when flying abroad. Full marks. I just wish I could've slept on the trip in economy from Helsinki to Tokyo... 8 hours of staring at the inside of my own eyelids was, frankly, horrible. But, highlights included the fact that the entertainment system was booting Linux, watching dawn over the mountains of Kamchatka (see pic), and realising that I was so, so far away...
Transit from Narita to Asakusa
Oh my God. Remind me never to do this again without a night's sleep. I was such a mess. Getting out of Narita was easy enough, but once I had to change at Tokyo station, it was just fail Fail FAIL. Thanks to some lovely people who helped point me in the right direction. I eventually got to Asakusa via the metro, and ran my heavy suitcase along its streets...
Sakura Hostel is good. A little bit expensive, but good. Nice people, good beds, great location, ramen available at the desk! I should have crashed out as soon as I got here. However...
Wandering around like a space cadet in Asakusa
This happened instead. There's nothing quite like arriving in a place, and it's slightly raining, and you're completely screwed due to the time difference, and it's totally abstract anyway as it's A) a bit like Oxford Street when you notice a bunch of Japanese tourists, and B) a bit like Starbucks or Burger King when they've synched up the whole staff to be one particular race. This place is strange, let me make no bones about it. If there's anything they could have done differently from the outset, they've done it.
Mercifully crashed out in the evening, after making a solemn request to fellow dorm-dwellers about visiting...
Tsukiji fish market
Wow. Absolutely chaotic. Not content with getting up at 3.30am, or travelling on the first metros that we could, but then we had to enter into the weirdest place I have ever, ever been to. The area and building that Tsukiji exists within is just huge. HUGE. 3 football fields I heard, and I'm inclined to believe it. (cue: lots of photos) You are worked around. You are worked around and you are made to feel that way, utterly. But that's ok, because it's worth it to observe what this slice of the population are doing, which is amazing. The sheer amount of things going on here, the bustle, the business, the rampant chance of being run over at Every Single Junction, are just fantastic. Words can't really express it. Have a look at the flickr feed. After the market we (the Austrians and I) had a completely amazing sushi breakfast in a nearby place. I remember distinctly hating raw tuna when I had it in England, but what I had this morning was a totally different world. Love it.
This was followed by crashing out till about 1.30pm back at the hostel. And a good thing too, if I'd stayed up - I'd be in a real pickle.
Asakusa Senso-ji temple and market on a sunny afternoon
And awaking to a sunny, beautiful, if a bit chilly afternoon. The area around the temple is amazing. Filled with people and things to look at. It was good to wander through it and see what needed to be seen. The temple itself is under wraps and I'll check it out properly tomorrow maybe. Good forecast :)
Akihabara, total disappointment with Tokyo Anime madness of electronic shops
The target this afternoon was supposed to be Akihabara, and I eventually got there about 3pm. To be honest, it's a bit like being at a PC parts fest, with a little bit of Forbidden Planet thrown in there for a mix. I really hope that I've got this wrong, because I've heard so much about it and it really didn't live up to all that I've heard. The "Tokyo Anime Centre", a frequent posting on tourist maps, is nothing more than a medium sized room who happen to sell some phone charms and t-shirts. Absolutely nothing special. Don't go there. It'll just annoy you. So, after seeing that and a few other places of no particular import, I decided to walk along to Ueno Park along the train tracks.
Walking through Ueno markets
So many market stalls, so many people. I loved it so much. It reminded me a bit of Camden Stable Market, except there was so much more of it. I followed it along as far as Ueno Park station.
[Edit: It's actually called Okachimachi, not Ueno Markets, they've been there since the old black market days]
Ueno Park, sakura, festival people, food, Buddhist temple
And the park was amazing. So many people, so much blossom in the trees and in the wind, I loved it so much. Everyone was in a festival mood. Lots of picnics going on to either side of the paths. Young people, sariri-men, all folk. I wandered through it and took pictures and thought. I'd love to be a part of this. I'd love to make this my home away from home. The park was alive with people just enjoying the place. I walked down to the part by the lake and zoo, got confused by the food, the temples, the views. It's too much to put into words. After a couple of hours, I said goodbye to it and got back on the metro and to Asakusa again.
100 yen shop
Amazing place. Better fun than a one pound shop by far. Bought a towel, I'm sure my room mates will be thankful.
Finally tonight I wandered around Asakusa, taking in all the little bars and food places, slot machine halls, shrines, people on their way back home from work.
When back at the hostel, I got a little annoyed with the Flickr Uploadr (sic) as it seemed to want to store images in the reverse order of when they were created. Thankfully, it turns out that it was only trying to express how things would be as if it was my Photo stream, hence, reverse order. The pictures were added and now I'm thinking that I'll have to upgrade my account. Grr.
Loud, obnoxious Amerika-jin, co-conspiratorial hippies
So, there's this American. And he's spouting shit in only the way that loud, obnoxious Americans can. Something about "being in the business" and about nuclear energy and how that "I'm on the same page, man. I don't need to see that shit" when it came to how, in Hiroshima, they are, oddly enough, a bit touchy, a bit keen to express how they got fucked during World War II. Fuck you, sir. Fuck you. They do this for a reason. They do this to show that, in the war, they did get fucked. They got fucked because their country was a warring empire and want to show the world that peace is a completely valid alternative to causing so much pain. It was getting so bad that I wanted to stand up and say "OK, kill me now. I can't believe that you have surived that long and been able to spout that much crap without getting the shit kicked out of you by someone." What a massive, massive cock. I don't know what'll happen on this particular guy's trip through Nippon, but I really hope that it doesn't enhance his world view. Cockwasher.
As it is, two hostel guests were totally not in to what he was saying, although keeping their own counsel at the table that I was checking my email at while simultaneously trying to filter out what this complete dickhead was saying. They understood, we laughed, we mocked, we struck up a really cool conversation afterwards over a few sakis and a couple of beers. Stuart and Anna, from Dublin, who have been in Thailand and New Zealand for the best part of a year. Really lovely people. Hope to bump into them again. Hope also to bump into aforementioned American except when I have a pair of nunchuku to hand.
Right, time to sign off. I'm blatantly the last person up in the hostel.
Take care all, more soon.