Ok, you are in for a real treat….a very short blog entry.
So our time in Tokyo is all but over, and I have to say I have been a little bit disappointed with it. I guess it is all about expectations. I had expected the place to be exotic, a sort of Japan full on. But it hasn’t been, though I have to be honest and also tell you that I haven’t really done the place justice. Too quickly we have been overcome by the masses of people, the constant vibe. The place is heaving, full of young trendy people that make us look exactly like what we really are, scruffy herberts. It is all a far cry from the countryside where old ladies walk the streets bent up double over a trolley or tend the fields, it’s hard to believe that they are both the same country. Yet Tokyo hasn’t really been the hi-tech place that I had expected either, in reality is has just been another big ordinary city. There are plenty of sights to see, well spread out, but nothing that we have seen has been really wow, it has all been a bit low key. I don’t dislike the place, but I haven’t fallen in love with it either.
Getting into the place by bike was easy, very easy. Getting around has also been easy on the subway, but getting out of the stations….well, that is another matter. We thought the massive station in Kyoto was badly designed and confusing, now we just realise that it was just a normal Japanese station, they are all like that. Two times we had the misfortune of passing through Shinjuku station. It a big station. The main line passes through as do 4 underground lines. The place has 60 exits and apparently 2 million people a day pass through it every day. I dispute that figure though, I believe it should be nearer 500 thousand, it’s just that it takes about 4 attempts on average for each person to find a way out. We had the pleasure of crossing from the east side to the west side of the station. It is impossible to just walk straight through, probably due to all the train lines. There is no straight passage through, you end up in a warren of little passages passing through stores and markets. To make matters worse you can’t get through on just one level, you have to go up and down stairs too. It is all rather like a giant 3D puzzle. There are maps on the walls at various points, but they are put there just to piss you off, they even show a direct way through from where you are standing, but it doesn’t exist, at least not on the level that the map is on. It takes ages to get through, you get completely disoriented and by the time you get to see daylight again you have no clue where you are or what direction you are heading in. For us it was the worst of the stations, but so many of them are totally confusing.
Now the whole time we have been in Japan we have seen yellow tiles on the walkways. They are everywhere, some even carry on into building and lead up to reception desks. At times walkways double as cycle paths, but these yellow tiles have 4 ridges on them making them horrible to cycle on. It was only the other day that we discovered what they are for. It’s obvious really, they are for the blind. They were even there in the photographic museum, though I am not sure why a blind person would want to pay good money to go there.
Today we visited the Imperial Palace, another place that you have to book yourself onto a tour via the internet. The tour was pretty dull, but it was worth it just to see they way security handled the people. We were all made to walk 2 abreast the whole time and talked to through megaphones. Anybody stepping out of line was soon put right. We didn’t even get to see inside and to make matters worse it was pouring with rain, though thankfully they had provided us with umbrellas, but we were still soaked by the end of it.
So tomorrow we move on to pastures new. We have enjoyed our stay, but neither of us will be sorry to leave, we are both yearning for the countryside and a bit of solitude, peace and quiet.