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20191201 – Last Few Days In Tokyo; Goodbye Japan We’ll Be Back


Sunday

Senso-ji temple.

Breakfast on 40th floor. Great views but an expensive breakfast.

Set off to the Senso-ji temple. An interesting combination of the cultural, holy and spiritual complete with about 100+ stalls selling all sorts of tat that you’ve neither need nor hopefully want. It’s as busy as hell, all the world are here. But combining the cultural with the shopping cravings that Wendy has meets both our expectations.

Then it’s down to the Akihabara district for the Kanda Myojin shrine and the hustle and bustle of electric town, the centre of maid cafes and anime and manga culture. Wendy is reluctant to go to one of the maid cafés, exploits women she says – so it’s not PC, all the more reason to do it, hopefully it may offend some snowflakes. Mind you at 500 yen each for a 30 minute visit to a cafe it is a tad expensive. For that price I’d be expecting Pole dancing.

Empty barbecue.

No this isn’t a joke, Maids in the café’s will also kneel by the table to stir cream and sugar into a customer’s coffee, and some cafés even offer spoon-feeding services to customers. Recently maid cafés also offer other services such as dance performances, singing karaoke together or taking photos together on a nostalgic polaroid photo. Customers can also sometimes play rock-paper-scissors, card games, board games, and video games with maids as well as prepare arts, crafts and many more fun activities. You even can request your favorite maid to perform for you some type of fun and cute activity (P.S.: Anime character acting is very popular)!

They close the main road off so you can stroll down the road. It’s humming.

Senso-ji.

Catch the train to Tokyo station for a visit to the palace gardens. Unbelievable how many people are being herded in. We take a short cut to avoid the well behaved conforming crowds and get away with it. Then we’re in and realise how futile this really is so we try and get out of this rat trap. Really makes you realise what it must be like living in these high rise rat cages. How anyone can put up with these crowds is beyond me. I suppose the whole of Tokyo must come out at weekend to escape and supposedly enjoy the open spaces. Sadly they’re not open as they’re full of people trying to escape. It really must do something to their psyche, living like rats in a cage. I’d be demented.

Having a rest on a zebra.

Finally escape and head back to Tokyo station. Another hell hole, signposted by a lost blind man. It rightly has the accolades of the busiest and most confusing complicated station in the world.

Decide we’ll eat in tonight so go to try some bento boxes, so very Japanese. The shop is busier than a public stoning in Tehran, I think all the crowds from the palace gardens have decided to buy bento boxes.

Finally escape, search for our platform and for some reason our pasmo card has been invalidated. It’s probably as confused as I am.

Crowds the the Emperor’s palace.

Back to the hotel for sanity, peace and luxury. I take a stroll around the hotels amazing Japanese gardens to calm my frayed nerves. Have afternoon tea in our club lounge along with free chocolate cake.

Then it’s back to our suite for our bento feast, along with a well deserved bottle of Hofbrau original – how civilised is that – and more of The Crown. Very disappointing this season.

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Not really a laughing matter.


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Tea tonight.

Why do we not see the word Islam in this or any other Times article dealing with Islamic terrorist’s. Why are there no comments on any of the pieces covering the Islamic Troy attack on London Bridge. What are we not talking about the problem. Hiding it will not make the problem go away. I’m sure there are many Muslims who are disgusted with this and would like to provide their moderate views.


Monday

Wait time to get into the Nintendo store. These people must be insane I’d be terrified of joining a queue with them.

Breakfast on the 40th floor this morning, would be great views but it’s raining.

Then we set off to Shibuya for Wendy’s shopping trip. She’s obsessed with going to the Nintendo store. Get there and there’s a 180 minute queue, yes that’s not a mistake, Monday and a 180 minute wait. To top out all the store looks pretty crap, not really that much in it. What is wrong with these people. Living in rat cages must addle their brains.

Sushi on a conveyor.

As it’s pouring down we decide to have our conveyor belt sushi for lunch. Wendy’s clever idea. Really smart, order on an iPad and it’s all in English. Interesting watching the Japanese eat sushi. Unbelievable as they take a 4” long piece of sushi in their mouths all at one go. Whereas I’m struggling to cut it into a few pieces with my chopsticks. No wonder chopsticks work for them but you need a big gob.

Carols back at the hotel.

Must have RFID in the plates as all they do is scan the empty plates. £26 for 14 plates and beer, no wonder people were queuing.

Have a stroll around including yet another BicCamera. Pick up some cake and sandwiches for tea. Can you believe it they even provide a small freezer pack to keep your food cool. How cool is that.

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Our Bento boxes for tea, note the quality beer.

Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Neil Basu said the suspect appeared to be wearing a bomb vest but it turned out to be ‘a hoax explosive device.’

Basu said officers were keeping ‘an open mind as to any motive.’ Obviously this guy will never make the grade as a detective. Go read the quran and then perhaps you’ll get it.

For allahs sake he was a convicted terrorist who had served time in prison and was wearing an electronic tag at the time of the attack. 


Tuesday

My snack of grilled eel on a stick being prepared.

Yet another average but expensive breakfast however the Japanese garden view makes it worth every penny. Then as we approach the lift one of the staff of 5,000 presses the button for the lift for us, escort us to right lift shaft and then scrapes, bows and smiles as we enter. Perhaps she thinks we’re too old and frail to push a button and to senile to decide which door to use. I could really get used to the service level in this hotel.

Catch the subway to Tokyo station to reconnoiter the way to the Narita express. Essential with this maze the station from hell – must have been laid out by a blind woman with an etch a sketch.

Tucking in.

Then it’s onto the giant BicCamera store to see if we can get a Nintendo figure for Jasper. All this way and we spend more time shopping than seeing any thing Tokyo has to offer. No luck on the Nintendo toy.

Set off to the old fish market. A crowded maze of stalls selling every fish you can imagine, some are cooked, some are raw and some are still alive. Most are served on sticks ready to eat. Not seen any live ones on sticks though. I try some smoked eel.

Wander back to Tokyo station in the hope of finding somewhere to have a coffee and something to eat. Fat chance. Finally find some where. Then find we have to pay 140 yen to leave the central part of the station – because it has shops. How crazy is that.

Passed on this.

Head towards the palace in the hope that we can finally have a stroll around the gardens. We’ll just like yesterday we can, along with half of Tokyo and all the school children in Japan – forget it.

Head back to the hotel for Otani club lounge and afternoon tea. A sanctuary of sanity, with free tea, coffee and cake.

Wendy then does the packing. I offered to do my own but she won’t let me. Seems to think I’m irresponsible.

Quality infrastructure.

Tonight’s we treat ourselves to tea at a ninja themed restaurant. Getting like me mother, always finishing a holiday with a meal treat and bingo. Fortunately I don’t think they do bingo in Japan. Meal starts off by being greeted by a ninja jumping out of the wall. Not recommended for anyone with a weak heart. Haven’t a clue what we eat, but it was 9 courses of most of the sea creatures known to man and some unknown.

Yamato Spirit Course
1. Shuriken star-blades grissini
2. Appetizer of the season
3. Turban shell bombs with garlic butter
4. Special stone-boiled soup (Japanese bouillabaisse)
5. Seafood specialty of the day
6. Sherbet candy in flavors of the season
7. Meat specialty of the day
8. Special Sushi & Sushi Roll
9. Today’s dessert

Ninja food.

Did they bother cooking them? Who knows. I can at least confirm that none of the fish were still alive – count your blessings. It was good and entertaining, including amazing ninja magic at the table.
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Top tips to survive Japan

Wear slip on shoes, you’ll be constantly taking them on and off.

If it’s the colour of green tea, then leave it be. Avoid anything green, it’s probably made with green tea – not my cup of tea.

Walk on the left apart from some train stations.

Use google maps.

Buy a pasmo card, great on the trains and subway.

Have plenty of cash

Avoid popular places in Tokyo on a Sunday.

If it’s raining and you don’t wear glasses then invest in some welding goggles to save your eyeballs from the umbrellas.

If you’re thinking of getting perfect photos with no strangers in them, forget it. Download off the internet. There’s always a cast of 5,000 extras lurking in your view finder.

Avoid Tokyo station at all costs The station from hell, laid out by a blind woman with an etch a sketch.


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You really can’t believe that these two Communist, terrorist sympathiser might be in Downing street. If so time to seek asylum in Tehran.


Wednesday

More Ninja food. Yes, I’m still alive.

Early hurried breakfast and then the subway to our nemesis, Tokyo station, to board the Narita express to Narita airport. Just over an hour to the airport, all very comfortable. Glad we reconnoitred the platform but as luck would have it it was so easy to locate.

Of course British airways check in haven’t bothered to open yet.

Go to the IASS, priority pass lounge, what a dump. Would be better sat on a bench outsides local doss house. Is anybody stupid enough to pay for this, the cafes outside are more welcoming and comfortable, ah but you don’t get the one free drink. Oh and there’s no food.

Colourful ninja dessert.

To top it all the lounge is land side rather than Airside. Stupidity abounds.

Like a young lager lout on a booze trip to Amsterdam it’s 09:00 and I’m drinking beer already. Forgive me oh Flying Spaghetti Monster for I have egregiously sinned.

Wendy’s done the smart thing and gone shopping. She did ask me if I wanted to go. Such an enticing offer but I declined.

And they even say goodbye in style. No tips needed.

Flight was very comfortable despite the food screw up. Seats are very roomy and comfortable, but choice of films is dire. Give me Virgin Atlantic anytime.

Bretts at the airport to pick us up Thankfully tea tonight does not include fish but good old Shepards Pie. Proper food. And tomorrow night we’ll be celbrating with baked beans on toast. Enjoyed trying all the different foods, sadly missed Udon Noodles, but will be glad to get back to my junk food diet.

Go home with an overdose of omega 3 in me and like most Brits abroad still not knowing a word of the language, apart from the word for thank you – Arigatōgozaimashita, try remembering or saying that after a few beers, better stick with origami! Mind you I can recognise the Japanese symbol for Yen.
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Final thoughts on Japan

Waiting for the Narita Express.

Would I come again? Yes, absolutely but would not bother so much with Tokyo, apart from the new otani garden hotel which is amazing. Instead would explore Kyoto and other older towns with the benefit of a Japanese Rail, the trains are so convenient.

Would Wendy come again. Nah not now we’ve been.


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Narita Express.

I realise I might as well chalk pentagrams and stroke my toad as expect British airways not to screw up, again. On the way out they ran out of our chosen meal even though we’d ordered it online in advance. Yet again they’ve run out of our choice of meals despite there being only 9 people served before us. I have a major meltdown. We pay extra for premium economy and they can’t even get the meal right, so we end up eating a cattle class meal. I feel a serious complaint coming on. They log a complaint on their system and give us a bottle of champagne.

20191127 – Kyoto, Castles, Shrines, Temples and Adventurous Food


Wednesday

Golden Pavilion

There’s a queue for one of the two breakfast buffets in the hotel – no way. So go down to the gold room, it was worse than St Thomas primary school canteen, complete with greasy table clothes and non existent service. Go to complain and ask for a reserved table in the other breakfast room for the next 3 mornings. Manager has not arrived yet, still abed no doubt so they summon the restaurant manager. He has about as much English as I have Japanese. No he can’t reserve us a table to avoid queuing. No way is this 5 star service more like a Spanish 2 star. So we check out and cut short out 4 night stay. No way I am paying these prices for such service.

Hotels zen garden – not quite up to New Otani size.

Our new hotel seems a lot better. Rooms not quite as big but very tasteful and well equipped, you also get a feeling of quality, well staffed, good English and plenty of respectful bowing and scraping. Amazing it takes two to take us to our room. One shows the way and opens doors for us, the other carries the luggage.

Then we set off for a gruelling day of tourist attractions.

Hotel room

Start with a train towards Kinkaku-ji (golden pavilion) and rather than risk a bus we have some good exercise with a 30 minute walk. The Golden Pavilion is amazing, so many awesome vistas, just a pity there are so many tourists. We spoil everything.

Then we take a walk down to the Ryoan-ji, Buddhist temple for their World class Zen garden, on the way we pick up some lunch for Wendy and a coffee.

The Temple is pretty good but the Zen garden is a bit of a disappointment. Not really impressed with the master raker (not to be confused with a masterbator), it’s supposed t take 10 years to train but his patterns and depth were not what I expected. Could do better – please try harder.

Top world famous zen garden.

After over 9 miles walking we head back to the hotel. Tired and wary.

It’s amazing how many people are asleep on the trains. Must be working them to hard. Many iPhones dropped while nodding off.

Emperor of Japan passing by along with a Shinkansen.

More of the zen garden.

Still battling on with chopsticks. Think I’ve got the hang of it, can even pick up single grains of rice – good for the diet. Still struggle with how to cut large pieces. There is a market for razor sharp edged chopsticks.

Set off for dinner, Google leads us a merry dance down a load of dark lonesome back streets. Finally find our restaurant hidden in a hotel. Tonight’s tea is another Japanese buffet. Seems to be the best way of experiencing so many different dishes, mainly fish and then mainly raw. Must have tried about 30 different dishes.

Getting back to the hotel without the back streets requires us to cross the ginormous and complicated Kyoto station It’s a feat of daring, desperation and dead ends. Finally make it.
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QuickPath swipe keyboard on the iPhone is amazing, so much easier and quicker that normal typing. Just love it. If you haven’t tried it give it a go and you’ll soon be typing 120 words a minute.


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Grand Prince hotel Kyoto – Review1 star

Good – Royal floor lounge.

Spacious room.

Bad – so bad we voted with our feet

5 star prices but not 5 star, especially after 3 nights in Tokyo New Otani hotel.

Choice of queue for breakfast in one restaurant or the gold room. It was worse than St Thomas primary school canteen, complete with greasy table cloth and non existent service. We gave them the opportunity to put this right by reserving table at 07:30 but not prepared to do that so we cut short our 4 night stay and checked out. Had they put this right we would probably have stayed.

Hardly anyone spoke good English.

Not very well staffed.

Bed was rock hard.

Poor location at the end of a subway line way out. Yet Booking.com think it was a “great location”.

Infested with party of school kids.

Coffee table in the room had multiple cup rings and stains on, should have been a clue to what to expect.

No bottled water or towelling gowns in room.

Thursday

NIjo-Castle

New hotel is lovely but the bed is like sleeping on a concrete pavement. I suppose if you’re Japanese and used to sleeping on the floor with a brick for a pillow it must seem like a feather bed but not for us softie gaijin’s.

Breakfast is ok. But at least well served and pleasant.

More of Nijo-Castle

First trip is by train up to Nijo Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Interesting and worth a visit.

Here we are drowning in culture and what does Wendy want to do she wants to go shopping, oh well each to their own.

Then we catch a train to the Shimogamo jinja shrine, yet another UNESCO site. Very colourful and not too crowded. By now we’re both pie fagged so catch the train down to Gion and end up in a massive food court for lunch and coffee.

Shimogamo Shrine

Then it’s a stroll around Gion and the Nishiki food market. It’s heaving and sells all imaginable delicacies, the majority of them raw or on skewers.

After wandering around Gion markets we go to Liptons tea house and the perverts serve tea with evaporated milk. They tell me that all there is. After kicking off big style we finally get some cold milk. No chance of cold skimmed milk.

Shimigomo shrine

Finally off down the backstreets of Gion to the Gion Tanto restaurant for the Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) which is much thinner in Kyoto and jam-packed with fillings. The place is awesome; shoes off and put them in a quaint wooden locker; only room for about 15; either sit on floor or at the bar with a well for legs; hotplate and see the kitchen. I have the special, which is packed with every sea fish and creature of the deep along with a few meats of course – pretty good. Very cheap.

Head back home tired after another day of cultural excesses.

Dinner in the backstreets of Gion.

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Retired Star Wars fan who never had a light sabre.


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Friday

Guess who is the Geisha.

What what a lovely day we had around here, more temples and shrines than you can shake a stick at, you seem to trip up over one on every corner.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

First stop is a train ride to the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine. With all those amazing gates that form long tunnels through the gardens. Sadly very crowded and spoilt by all us tourists. Well worth the visit and the photos just don’t say it all.

Then it’s off to the Kennin-ji shrine for a World famous zen garden. Sadly we could not really find the Zen garden as there were no signs in English. Turns out what we should really done is go into the temple and they were in the middle of the temple. Anyway included some pictures acquired from the internet so I can see what we missed.

That temple again.

At the Kodai-ji temple we enjoyed the gardens and saw what is reckoned to be one of the top to Zen garden in the world. I was totally devastated with the desecration, vandalism and the perversion that occurred. It seems that somebody has gone into the Zen garden with cans of spray paint and painted multicoloured patterns onto the gravel. How could anybody commit such crass sacrilege.

After trekking for miles amongst the crowds of fake geishas – it seems that all of Japan has come here to rent Kimonos and shuffle round – we have coffee and a quiche at the only cafe that seems to cater for our English taste. Not only thousands of fake geihas posing for pictures but can you believe even muslim geishas – I wonder how that reconciles with their little red book.

Desecration.

Gion is such a lovely lively area, yes it’s a bit too touristy in places and very crowded, but there is so much going on.

On our way back we pass the Yasaka shrine – really am shrined out by now so it just warrants a picture. Just one of the many.

One we missed.

For dinner we decide to go to a temppanyaki restaurant in the Gion area. It’s a highly recommended mom-and-pop restaurant, just 12 seats, very small very cosy and you can watch the chef preparing your meal. Yet again I have Okonomiyaki. But this time I just have beef and I have to say it was even better than last night’s. Wendy had shrimp and pork noodles which were also good. The chef and his wife were lovely, treated us like royalty and went out of their way to be polite and accommodating. They provided Japanese entertainment from YouTube while we were waiting, were interested in our tours of the temples and even offered us free tickets to the local temple which was lit up and open at night. Sadly we were so tired that we gave it a miss. And to top it all the food was very good and rare that I ever say this but also very cheap.

Dinner again in the backstreets of Gion.

Then it’s back to our hotel for some complimentary drinks in the bar. Pleasant end to yet another 9 mile tiring but awesome day.

Note to ourselves we really must avoid organised tours and make sure we do our own thing, it may be more exhausting but so much more fun.
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Pinchenko parler.

Amazing the subways have banisters at two heights to accommodate children.

There are even dedicated children’s toilets and staff of 1000’s to direct you down the platform.

The place is teaming with old Toyota taxis, but unlike the 20 year furry diced Nissans in Blackburn, they’re all in immaculate condition.

Sadly the majority seem to live like rats in a cage, high rise cramped conditions. Probably conditions are a factor in explaining their conforming psyche. Makes us appreciate Belthorn, but that’s not to say I’ll never complain about it again.

Another garden in To-Ji

Free complimentary drinks tickets each day if we don’t have a room serviceAmazed at the attention to detail. A Japanese worker gets on the train to set up new advertisement’s. Not only does he put up a new one with unerring precision but goes and adjusts an existing one by about 2mm because it’s out of line. Most people would not even notice the Misalignment.


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Saturday

To-ji

Start our last day in Kyoto with breakfast, checkout and then take a stroll to To-ji (at least that was easy to spell). Another UNESCO temple just 20 minutes away. Complete with 5 story pagoda. Really could do with some Brasso on the brass. The steps up to the Pagoda must be about 18″ high, how did they manage these steps with their little legs?

Then we trawl around the stores, including ToyRUs to try and find a model Shinkansen train. No luck.

One from the internet.

Finally pick our luggage up from the hotel and catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Pass on the green car this time to see how the poor people cope. Amazed there really isn’t that much difference and it’s £200 reserved, instead of £270 reserved green car. Trains is full so a reserved seat was a good idea. Just 2 hours of comfortable travel, with Japan whisking by and we arrive in Tokyo.

Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen.

Have really enjoyed our 4 nights in Kyoto, so much to see and do especially enjoyed Gion area. Only two regrets, firstly we gave up on trying to find the zen garden in Kennin-ji (resorted to pictures from the internet) and secondly that we didn’t spend more nights there.

Check back in to the New Otani Garden hotel. Sheer luxury and the standard by which all future accommodation will be measured.

Our room back in the New Otani Garden Tokyo – the new standard by which all future hotels will be measured.

It’s a lazy dinner tonight, we try to find a couple of bento boxes but no luck. Then troll the main restaurant district with an agreement that if we can’t find anything it’l be the Wendy’s at the end of the street. Settle on a Wendy’s triple burger USA style and some spec boll and cheese burger for Wendy – really enjoyed some junk food. Then back to the hotel for a couple of cans of beer whilst we plan our remaining days in Tokyo and try and stay awake through The Crown.
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No litter, no dog muck, no dogs, no begging, no sleeping rough, no drunks, no smell of piss everywhere including the trains, no yobs with feet on seats, no yobs, no graffiti, no chewing gum and no spitting.

Guard bows and smiles every time he leaves the carriage.

Don’t you just love it. Shinkansen (bullet train) guard walks through, smartly dressed, complete with white gloves on, and bows and smiles to everyone as he leaves the carriage.


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View from hotel room at night.

Yet another attack from an Islamic jihadi there’s not a mention of the word Islam or would that be to presumptuous, islamophobic (not that such a word can really exist) or likely to offend some PC snowflakes. It really is about time we started talking about the real threats.

Let’s wake up to the reality and threat from Islam before it is too late.