Archive for July 31st 1996

Ah, back to Tokyo. I expected to be away more than a week, but in those temperatures I really didn’t feel like it. If I’d known I would have bought a rail pass outside the country and saved some money. Not a big deal, and I’ll know in the future!

Changing money in Japan takes an age. You have to fill in a form which then seems to be analysed by at least three people before the money is handed over. The banks are also strange compared to Britain in that they just have people at counters, with no armored glass to hide behind. I guess there are no armed robberies in Japan?

I missed most of the scenery on the way back. Part of that was because I spent a lot of the time asleep, and part because of low clouds and rain on the Eastern part of the route. At least I could tell that I was going fast from the way the raindrops went upwards as they were blown back along the windows. However being unable to see Mt Fuji because of the bad weather was somewhat disconcerting.

I was intending to return to Marui House, where I’d stayed in Tokyo before, but that was full. Instead I spent the first couple of days in ‘Villa Yamanote’ (named after the Yamanote railway line which passes close to it), another gaijin house owned by the same woman. When someone left I was able to move back into my old room and meet up with some of the people who’d been staying there before.

Villa Yamanote was fine except that it was in a fairly sleepy part of town (near Shin-okubo station) and inhabited by a mad Frenchman. I think he was just lonely, but that wasn’t surprising as I never heard him talk about anything except how bad France was, and was dragged into the loud discussions on a couple of occasions. Perhaps I’m just too nice, but I really did feel like telling him that I couldn’t care less about Europe, which was why I was in Japan…

Another guy was visiting from Israel and making a living as a juggler. I met him outside on the street as he practiced with his new batons, the old ones having disappeared in the mail from Hong Kong. He hadn’t yet tried lighting them as the balance was different. Another couple were Australians who had been studying Aikido and Japanese and were taking a tour of the country before returning to Australia.

The first night back I hurried off to the Internet Cafe I’d visited before, only to find the door locked and the signs missing. I guess it closed down in the time I was away! Seems like half the Net Cafes around the world close down when I’m around, in future I shall try to find a worldwide dialup PPP service and use that, or perhaps just wait for cheap sattelite phones.

Instead I visited the Warung I Balinese restaurant on the grounds that I’d never eaten Balinese food before. The food was great, but beer was expensive and service took forever. If I’m ever in Tokyo on an expense account I’ll give it another try.

Shibuya is a pretty busy part of town at night, and full of touts of one sort or another. One guy was trying very hard to persuade me to sign up to some kind of cheap international phone service even though he hardly spoke English and I’m only in Japan for a few more days. One very odd guy came up to me as I was watching the big TV screen on the side of one of the buildings, and asked if he could pray for me. I have no idea what sort of cult he belonged to, but wished I had my ULC ordination card with me. Hopefully being an ordained minister would have got rid of him.

Otherwise I’ve been trying to plan a trip to Mt Fuji and fit in all the places I’d marked in my guidebook to visit. I’ve been told that I should reserve a place in a hut on the mountain rather than just turn up, so that means I’ll be going on Friday instead of tomorrow. John, one of the Americans who’s staying at Marui House, has offered to lend me his wet-weather gear, which will come in handy. He’s another person who’s done this before and had to buy his while half-way up the mountain! After all this I’d better go and climb it now.

I managed to find another Internet Cafe in Harajuku, which was more expensive but pleasant. Persuading them to let me use the floppy drive took a long time though. Harajuku is actually quite a cool place, with lots of weird people wandering around and ‘Condomania’, a store selling any kind of condom that you might desire. Even in mid-week there were a few freaky people hanging around Yoyogi Park when I went back for a longer look. It’s not the most impressive Park in Tokyo but not bad for an afternoon walk – and free.

Oh, another neat little thing about Japan – on some of the pedestrian crossings, as well as the red and green lights they also have a set of red bars alongside which count down to the time when the lights change, so you know how long you’ll have to wait! One strange thing though. The kanji for Tokyo station is two space invaders, and many of the trains have Schwa alien symbols on the windows, but at forty-five degrees. Does this mean that the Tokyo railway system has been taken over by aliens?

Today I moved house and stopped off at the Nezu Fine Art Museum, which was nice but a bit disappointing. They have a large collection there, but the galleries are so small that perhaps only 2-3% of it is on show at any one time. However, the gardens were nice and also free. I did find a nice postcard of a painting of a cat to send to my mother…

I also marked the rest of the route on the world map that I’m carrying. The dotted lines are slowly turning solid as I travel, and my large wad of plane tickets is diminishing. Whew, I’ve been travelling for nearly seven weeks now, and have plenty more to go before I get back to Europe. I feel as though years have passed since I was in Bangkok.

Well, there ends another very short update. My brain is so fried by the heat that I’m not writing much, which is probably a good thing. Tonight I shared a rice dinner that John cooked, and we chatted with a couple of middle-aged women who’d just arrived from England via Rome. They have a slight problem in that they were intending to pay for part of the trip on one’s credit card but her son accidentally cut it up the day before she flew out, thinking it was the old one which had just expired. Ooops… As we talked a couple of people rang offering jobs as buskers or jazz dance teachers, but they didn’t feel like trying either of them to supplement the money they had.