Ben and Kirsteen's World Trip 2005/6 travel blog

K and the Harajuku girls

K and Lisa in the Imperial Palace Gardens

The Statue of Liberty

Sunset over Tokyo

Mt Fuji over twilight Tokyo

B and some Fuji TV characters

A sumo wrestler and a cardboard cutout

The Dinosaur from "Lost in Translation"

Professional singers at the karaoke

K at the fish market

B: We arrived in Tokyo a day early where we had arranged to meet up with Cat. We arrived into Shinjuku station. We decided that first stop should be the tourist info office so we had to find our way out of the maze of exits (65 in all) of Shinjuku station. We eventually found it - it had proved quite a walk with our heavy backpacks.

That evening we had arranged to meet Cat in Roppongi. For those of you who don't know, Roppongi is a trashy (by night) area of town populated by Western men trying to pull Japanese girls. We ended up in TGI Fridays for dinner which was surprisingly good. K and I decided that we wouldn't stay out too late with Cat who had a friend playing in a club nearby. This turned out to be the right decision as he didn't start his set until 4am and Cat ended up staying until the first train home in the morning.

The next day our hosts, Lisa and Ryan, took us over to the Imperial Palace and gardens. On the way we stopped to get a picture of K with the Harajuku girls (as seen in the Gwen Stefani "What you waiting for" video). The gardens are in the middle of town and surrounded by skyscrapers which gives the feel of New York's Central Park. You are not allowed near the palace so the only photo we have of it is from a distance.

After lunch we headed over the Rainbow bridge to the man-made beach. Here, all the Japanese ladies would walk tiny dogs on the sand while still wearing their high heels. A bit further on we found the Statue of Liberty which was unexpected. We went to the top of the Fuji TV building where we had fabulous views of the sunset over tokyo and the twinkling night-time lights.

The next few days we spent wandering around different parts of Tokyo. There are very few sights to see in Tokyo (compared to Kyoto) due to it not being the capital until a couple of hundred years ago and fire-bombing by the Allies in WWII. The reason to come to Tokyo is to experience the busy-ness and the quirky-ness of Japanese culture. We went to Shiyuba and saw the dinosaur walking across the building (as in Lost in Translation), spent an amusing evening doing karaoke, went to the famous Tsujiki fish market only to find it empty at 10am, went to the Sony building and went to the Sumo musuem which was closed.

To get a bit of culture, we went to the National gallery to see the Hokusai exhibition. We enjoyed this and, to remember it, bought a framed woodblock print of his most famous picture "The Great Wave".

On trying to leave Tokyo, we found it very difficult to persuade the train station employees that we wanted to get the normal train to the airport instead of the twice-as-expensive express. In Japan, you must (it's a law-abiding society) do everything "right" and the right thing for tourists to do was to get the express train. Eventually, we managed to catch the right train and got to the not-very-convenient Narita airport 90 minutes later.

The Japanese need to do things right extends to everything - Ryan told us a story that he went to the beach during summer and was crammed onto the beach with thousands of others which ruined the day. He decided to go again at the beginning of September (summer officially ends at the end of August) and his Japanese colleagues thought he was mad saying that you don't go to the beach in Autumn - it's too cold. When he got there, it was 35 degrees (usual for the time of year) and the beach was deserted.

K: I enjoyed Tokto very much and it was lovely to catch up with Cat again as well as stay with friends rather than a faceless YHA!

My overall impressions are that everything has to be cute and they are very trendy. The girls seem to be so vain here and wear high heels from a stupidly young age, so much so that all their legs appear to bend inwards at the knees from all the years of accumulated pressure. Nice boots and shoes and all that but its not very attractive being unable to walk in them properly!

They also have their whitening solutions too, I couldn't find a moisturizer to buy that didn't promise to make me whiter than my current shade - not a good look!

We went to one of the department stores which rather than having ladies fashion on maybe two floors, like in the UK, the whole store was ladies fashion - equivalent of 12 floors!

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