Just got back from my whirlwind trip to Tokyo. Four days and three nights certainly wasn’t enough to discover the beauty of wonderful Japan. I am sure there were lots of gazillion things I missed, giving me more reason to go back there again in the future. In the meantime, I had fun absorbing the country, the food, and the culture in the shortest time possible. Tokyo was oh-so-cosmopolitan. I fell in love with it the way I fell in love with New York seven years ago. In the train station and everywhere, people seemed to be rushing rushing rushing. Somebody in our group observed that there didn’t seem to be a single pregnant woman around, making us wonder if these people still had sex lives…bwehehe. The clothes everyone wore were far from ordinary, making Pinoys look like cloistered creatures in a nunnery. The food was quite expensive, but boy, I could eat it everyday. But the most elating fact was that most of the Japanese people I met were warm, polite and friendly..eager to help anytime. A woman dressed in kimono in the train gamely posed for my camera, something which would have been impossible in America. Needless to say, the level of their technological advancement is amazing. One looks at the skyscrapers of Tokyo and wonder how this country mustered the will to rebuild itself from the devastation of the Second World War. Of course, the atrocities they committed in my country could not be forgotten but experiencing Japan first-hand in the heat of its summer, I only have the finest memories.
It was certainly great experiencing Japan by land, sea and air. Some of my notes from this trip:
The Japanese toilet. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist writing about this one. Some establishments still offer the traditional latrine-type toilets (the one attached to the ground) but the modern ones are your standard toilets with function buttons to the left. You can choose whether you want the “bidet,” spray” or turn the “powerful deodorizer” on. Heck, you can even select what kind of “flushing sounds” you like. Neat, no?
The bullet train (shinkansen) is one living proof of the efficiency of the Japanese transport system. It’s immaculately clean, and is equipped with telephones, Japanese- and Western-style toilets, as well as plugs for electronic devices like laptops. It also doesn’t come cheap. Our two-hour train ride from Tokyo to Nagoya cost approximately $100. But at least the ride gives one a good view of the suburbs, industrial towns and the countryside.
LCD screens everywhere! From giant electronic billboards to TVs in private cars and on the public trains, not once will you forget that this is one country where the gods of technology are found.
Sony Style Store. I wasn’t able to visit the huge Apple Store in Ginza but we did go to the Sony Style Store in Odaiba where I ogled at the gadgets on display (specifically the ultra-thin Vaio notebooks), played with the robot dog AIBO and literally tried my hand with the PS2 Eye Toy. In Odaiba, we shopped at the Venus Fort, an Italian-style mall and took a close look at Palette Town which reportedly has the world’s biggest Ferris Wheel and the Fuji Television headquarters. And oh…I also got on the wheels of an MR-5 at the Toyota Mega Web, a giant showroom of the famous brand’s vehicle line-up – from hybrids to upcoming models to those dating back to the 50’s. You can even test-drive the cars provided you reserve beforehand.
Cruising down Tokyo Bay. I had the impression that people in Tokyo walk fast, really fast – one thing which I can very well relate to. But ’twas a totally different experience when you board a traditional Japanese houseboat and just let the wind blow your hair while enjoying the scenery of bright neon lights and glimmering buildings which dot Tokyo’s skyline. The houseboat we boarded looked small from afar but was very spacious inside, seating 120 guests. Here, we feasted on all kinds of tempura and sashimi. I also drank my first bottle of Kirin beer and had six shots of sake which was so sweet I thought it was… juice. Thankfully, I wasn’t inebriated at all.
100 Yen Shops – Yes, Tokyo is such an expensive city. I did the math and realized that my teriyaki burger value meal at McDonalds was P250, coffee at Starbucks was P200 and an average bento meal would cost me between P500 to P1,000. However, thank God for the 100 yen shops where everything was 50 pesos! I bought here loads of school supplies for the kiddies, kitchen/baking tools, omiyagi rice crackers as well as some Jap souvenirs for my pasalubong. Expectedly, most of the stuff was Made in China but then… good enough.
Le Meridien Pacific was our residence in Tokyo. I liked the fact that it was walking distance to the Shinagawa train station, restos and malls. It also had a TGI Friday’s and had a nice view of a lush garden from our room. And don’t forget the Shiseido toiletries in the bathroom. They smelled so good we simply had to stuff them home (hehe).
Ueno – Back in Palawan, I asked a Pinay married to a Japanese what she would recommend for affordable shopping in Tokyo and she pointed me to Ueno which is like the equivalent of their Divisoria. Going to Ueno by my lonesome on our last day, I was particularly fascinated by Ameyokocho which had rows of wholesale/discount shops as well as stalls selling fresh and dried produce. I also dropped by Takeya, a violet-colored building where Pinoys buy the requisite Nissin cup noodles in a box of 20s. Among promenaders, Ueno is noted for its sprawling park which hosts a museum, zoo and a number of temples. I dropped by there too.
Other things I associate with Tokyo – clamshell phones. Transparent umbrellas. Artsy nails. Even artsier food presentation. Accessories galore. Free tissues. School girls in mini-skirts. The fashion statement: definitely not boring.
As in previous trips, I overdid “travelling light.” To my horror, I found out too late that I forgot to stuff in my suitcase my two pairs of shoes and only had with me my high-heeled one. This proved to be unbearable during our walking expeditions and so walked the rest of the way in my hotel slippers. Bummer!
Now that I am back in Manila, I must say I left my heart in Tokyo. I really did. *sigh* I can eat soba, sashimi and tempura every day of my life.