Our accommodation in Ikebukuro was located 7 subway stops from Tokyo’s central railway station and within walking distance of the Shinto shrine in Zoshigaya dedicated to the goddess Kishimojin, protector of safe deliveries. Capricorns are naturally sceptical and as one I don’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo but sceptical shmeptical, I like to hedge an each way bet, so I said a silent prayer for the safe delivery of our granddaughter due in June, ב”ה , inshallah, G-d willing, touch wood, ptew ptew ptew!!!
Perhaps I should have prayed for my own safe delivery back to our hotel because an hour later I was spread eagle on the footpath having stumbled over a tiny step of less than 10cm, spraining my left ankle and skinning my right knee; talk about a klutz .
The next day we had arrange a guide through Tokyo Free Guides
It was free; was I going to let a sprained ankle stop me from taking advantage of a free offer? You gotta be kidding!
Our charming guide, Hiroshi, met us in the lobby of our hotel at 10am and then we proceeded to the Ikebukuro train station, just a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel, or in my case, a hobble, a hobble and a hobble. There we had a crash course in navigating the Tokyo metro. At first glance it appears daunting, but upon closer inspection it is quite logical. Each rail line is colour coordinated and numbered and has its own dedicated platform, so as long as you know which colour line runs to you destination and the number of the station it’s simple. Just remember to stand in queue and keep to the left. The Japanese have out done the British in making queuing an art form.
Taking into consideration the rain and a sprained ankle, the day was a success. We bought a 24hr pass ($10 AUD) for the metro and covered most of Tokyo’s highlights and iconic landmarks; Ginza, the Sensoji Temple, the Meiji shrine, the crazy scramble crossing at the 5 way intersection and the statue of Hachi the dog. The view from the Tokyo Government building was the only disappointment, the cloud cover was as low as the 45th floor lookout. It was like looking through cotton wool. But on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji, or so we’re told.
We stopped for an exceptionally delicious sushi lunch in Ginza, though hubby might beg to differ, not being a fan of raw fish.
The next day we thought we would give my ankle a rest and decided to spend the day on the Sky hop bus. So once again, braved the labyrinth that is the Tokyo metro, unfortunately during peak hour; we joined the queue at the appropriate platform before being packed into the carriage like sardines. It eventually spat us out at the right destination, and after a few false starts, we finally found the correct exit and it was only a short walk from there to the Sky bus terminal where a bus awaited. We spent the whole day traversing Tokyo via the three routes available.
One can’t travel to Japan and not mention their whimsical toilets, where upon sitting on the pleasantly warmed seat, a tune or sound of running water is played, I presumed to mask the sounds of bodily tunes and running water, then there are a plethora buttons that emit jets of water to every orifice, the only thing it doesn’t do is tie your shoe laces. But, give them time and I’m sure that they will come up with that option too.
Something I found here that we should adopt worldwide is a bottle with a lid that stays attached once opened. Now that would have been every handy on my last flight where I spent a good portion of it rummaging under the seat in front searching for my bottle cap.
So, after a few days in Tokyo my first impression are that it is a well old machine, public transport is cheap and very efficient, we never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train, the people are extremely polite and well mannered, and the food is cheap and good, the public toilets are plentiful and spotless and whimsical, but with a population 10 times that of Brisbane, spread over a similar area, it is crowded but the city is clean and free of graffiti.
Today we depart Tokyo and board our cruise ship, sailing around the islands of Japan then arriving in Alaska 16 days later.