20191123 – Bye, Bye Cruise, Hello Tokyo


Saturday

First stop the Apple Store.

Goodbye Celebrity; goodbye food; goodbye free drinks. Catch the shuttle bus to Yokohama station into Tokyo and then onto some unpronounceable station near the luxurious 5 star New Otani Hotel. Arrive wet and dishevelled only to be wiped down on arrival. Drop our luggage off and go get a really expensive coffee in the hotel – I suppose we’d better get used to it. All this luxury, bowing and scraping comes at a price.

Then as we’ve a few hour to pass before check in we catch the subway to the Apple store. By now I think we’ve mastered the subway.

Lounge area in our suite.

Apple store is heaving, even more so than in America. Find a red shirt that speaks excellent English and check out the new iPhone 11Pro. I can save nearly £300 on the UK price and to top it all they can deal with the tax refund. Walk out the proud owner of another new toy – us nerds have to keep up with the latest technology. Have to admit if Apple were to come out with a new cardboard box I think I’d be there queuing overnight for it.

Back to the hotel to check in, again much bowing and scraping. It turns out that our deluxe room also gives us Otani Club lounge membership, whatever that is. Luggage is carried up to our room by a tiny tot of a Japanese girl in smart uniform, complete with pillbox hat, very smart. I fear she will collapse under the load, but no she makes it. More bowing and scraping as we’re shown into our lovely suite. The bathroom alone is bigger than some hotel rooms I’ve stayed in.

Bedroom area.

After settling in we venture across the river and down a side street for dinner. Too much choice and most of it we haven’t a clue what it is. Settle on some skewers of under cooked chicken, grilled rice ball, sushi for me and various other offerings too numerous to remember. Will I wake up dead tomorrow?

Back to the hotel to enjoy our suite with a beer and to start watching The Crown. Thankfully no mediocre Celebrity showtime tonight.
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Towel wipe down when you arrive out of the rain into our hotel.

Dinner

Approach information desk and they both stand up to attention and even bow. How neat is that.

Elderly Gentlemen offers his seat to Wendy while two young whipper snappers continue to sit engrossed on their iPhone.

Easy travel with the pasmo card. Just a pity you have to reload with cash only.

Music on on zebra crossings.

The Otani Lounge club is great. We pop in any time and get a choice of tea, coffee or fruit juices and always served with a delicious chocolate cake and daily newspapers. Very relaxing.


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I hope not.


Sunday

View from our breakfast table.

Go down to breakfast in our white slippers from another hotel and we’re accosted by one of the staff of a 1,000 saying that hotel slippers are only for use in the room. Then they realised they were from another hotel, oh so that’s ok, you can pass.

Another important temple.

Start with an expensive breakfast but with an awesome view over the Japanese garden. The view alone was worth it. Then we have a stroll around this awesome Japanese garden in our hotel. It’s amazing.

Catch the metro to Shibuya to visit the Meiji-jingu Shrine. Shibuya station is unbelievable. Never seen so many people in one place. Walk up to the shrine. Impressive. Weddings galore. They seem to be marrying them off at the rate of one every 10 minutes. Each one led by some priest and entourage, they must be minting it. All very interesting with kids dressed in their beautifull kimonos for their 3rd, 5th and 7th inauguration of some sort.

Main temple entrance.

Then we try and visit the Nintendo store. Can you believe they are even queuing to go in the shopping Mall and then when you finally get to the Nintendo store admittance is only via ticket and no more are being issued that day – too busy, too easy money.

Wend our way back through the Sunday crowds to the station and the hotel.

Venture out again in the evening and finally find a buffet all you can eat restaurant. A tad expensive but you get such an amazing selection of different Japanese foods – well worth it.

If the Japanese are so clever how come they didn’t invent the knife and fork?

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Yet another wedding.

I see the pope wants to stop spending on nuclear weapons and spend it on the poor. All very laudable. Yet we have a conclave of about 10 cardinals, red skull cap geezers, staying in this luxury 5 star gin palace of a hotel. Surely if they’re serious about the poor they could stay with local parishioners who would no doubt be delighted to put them up for the night.


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Stupidity (Baka) Today

KIds getting blessed in their Kimonos.

Metro signs – it seems that the subway don’t want to admit that the JR line exists and vice versa. Stuff the poor unsuspecting customer. If you’re in the subway looking for a train line and it happens to be a JR line then there’s no mention of it and vice versa. Moral to that story is either vote with your feet at such poor customer care and walk, or if you can’t see the line in the subway then head for JR lines, while if you can’t see the line in the JR section head for subway or metro.


Monday

Nintendo store.

After a leisurely breakfast overlooking that awesome Japanese garden in our hotel, we set off to Tokyo station to pick up the hop on off bus tour. Not very impressive. Wendy rated it as the most boring bus tour this century.

Have a stroll down to the Bic Camera store, an amazing 7 floors of technology.

Lunch is a sandwich and drink from Starbucks before we catch the blue bus route. Slightly better than the red route.

I think Wendy expected them to drive into each famous land mark. She’s being a bit harsh, miraculously I don’t think either is that bad. Just gave us an overview of a big city, mainly full of high rise buildings. What can you expect.

Can’t believe I walked past an Apple store without noticing it.

Get to Shinjuku station and this Japanese geezer comes up to us and starts rattling away in Japanese and shakes a box under my nose. I ask him “do I look like I speak Japanese”. The clues in my Caucasian looks. Looks like he’s collecting for animals. Not one of my favourite charities.

Finally find a cafe for afternoon tea. Amazing how you can never find one when you need one. Anyway excellent choice as they even do Assam tea, and with boiling water. Best cuppa we’ve had since arriving in Tokyo.

Dinner Sunday night.

Find the Zauo Fish restaurant hidden away in a hotel.

Issued with a fishing rod and then a rather rotund Japanese young man puts some scrawny bait on my hook and point to the sea bream and away I go. Soon catch one, even if it is a tad on the scrawny side. Decide on having it cooked 50% boiled and 50% fried – not sure if there is really enough of it to do half and half. Then spend a good 10 minutes trying to find someone who speaks a modicum of English – no chance. So no idea what comes with our freshly cooked fish – answer when it turns up is not much. I order a portion of Sushi raw fish, 6 different types, whilst Wendy goes for sea bream kamameshi – get it cheaper because we have to cook it ourselves.

Bic Camera store.

Finally get back to the hotel after a long day and there’s 13 bods, 7 with red light sabres and 6 meeter and greeters on the entrance to the hotel. Bloody hell just sack half of them and Room rates could be slashed. This country really is the ultimate in job creation.

After fishing and scoffing raw fish we get back to our room after another exhausting day. There’s a note from housekeeping apologising for a problem and asking us to ring housekeeping. Ring them and they’re most apologetic but one of the two sinks is blocked and can’t be fixed today. Want to move us to another room. Most apologetic. Tell them we’ll struggle by and manage with just one sink.

Google maps is amazing. Tells you train station, time, platform, least crowded car and map guidance for walking. Only downside is that initial direction orientation can be awkward.
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Catching our tea – Sea Bream.

People walk on the left consistently. Apparently this is because the samurai usually would wear a sword on their left side because it makes drawing it with the right hand easier. It’s said that the streets were way more narrow than they are today, so when the samurai walked on the right side with their swords tied on the inside, they would collide against one another.

Well the one good thing about chop sticks is that you won’t get fat with them. Then of course the raw fish just helps with the starvation.

Amazed how smartly dressed the Japanese tend to be, men in suits, complete with a tie, and women in dresses or skirts. But there really is an opportunity for a tie tying school, they are hopeless at getting a good knot.


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Waiting patiently for her tea to cook.

I really want to buy some of these surgical masks, especially one of the bad ass black ones, and go into the Nat West with one on. Then when challenged I’ll claim I’m a member of a fundamentalist sect of the religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and this is my daily wear.

Catch of the day.


Tuesday

Bullet train to Kyoto.

But the blocked sink saga didn’t end last night. On check out I’m told the housekeeping manager would like to see me. OMG what have we done? Don’t tell me he’s found out we used one of the sinks with our shoes on! He comes up to me, bows not just any old bow, but a deep one and apologised profusely for the problem. I tell you at any moment I think he’s going to bring a sword out and commit hari-kiri.

Another deep bow and away he goes. Then he returns and hovers waiting for me to finish check out, then another deep bow and hands over a carrier bag with a gift wrapped box of cakes in as an apology. How neat is that.

On board bullet train.

Find our Shinkansen (bullet train), with reserved seats in the green car (first class). Immaculate and 6MB Wi-Fi, I don’t think I’ll ever get off.

Two hours to Kyoto. Amazing they seem to run about every 20 minutes and of course they are fastidious in there timeliness.

Check into grand prince hotel in Kyoto. All very nice but not quite up to the new otani standards. We have access to the royal floor lounge, similar to the access we had to the Otani lounge, only this one has free booze and cakes all day and evening.

As the countryside flashes by.

In the evening we check into the royal floor lounge for beer, prosecco and bourbon. Then tonight’s feast is beer and a selection of bento boxes from the local supermarket. Cost us all of £10 and we even got free chopsticks.

Then some more of The Crown. Well the pillows may not be bricks but the bed is rock hard – I suppose if you sleep on a Japanese floor you would find it quite soft.

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Even the toilet on the bullet train requires the skills of a high priest of technology to operate. Just love this sign that tries to stop 7th century rag heads from squatting on the seat.


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Hotel bedroom.

A Populous Poll from 2006 showed that 12 percent of Muslims in Britain believe that suicide attacks against civilians in Britain can be justified and 1 in 4 support suicide attacks against British troops.

In 2007, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll which found that 26 percent of younger Muslims in America believe suicide bombings are justified. 42 percent in France.

Hotel garden.

With these figures it’s hard to settle for the common quip of “Islam is peaceful.”

Looking at just the United States, which has an estimated Muslim population of five to 12 million according to Frontline, that’s still over a million Muslims (even taken from 26 percent of the lower estimate of five million) who statistically believe suicide bombings are justified. Granted, this number is taken from the 2007 percentages and I’m highly skeptical of such a high number, but it’s still quite telling.


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Stupidity (Baka) Today

Free bar.

Slippery trays in the restaurant so your glass and cup slide all over them.

Japanese, English and German QR codes too close together, so it is virtually impossible to select the one you want. If the numpty who positioned them had only tried using them he or she would have realised what a plonker he was.

Bento box feast for dinner.

Delicate chocolate cake sealed in a wrapper you need a chainsaw to open, by which time it’s just mush. Does no one ever try out their creations to realise how stupid they are.

Hotel garden at night.