1 mars 2012

Two Muppets in Tokyo

Yesterday afternoon we got the chance to check out a tiny bit of downtown Tokyo. The city is bigger than one can imagine and even though we have been travelling the world, visiting different countries and cities we were overwhelmed and blown away by Japan’s capital.
After checking into our fantastic hotel, we hopped onto the Metro, the fastest way to get around town, and managed to get to Harajuku in Omotesando. This area is full of young fashion designers, vintage shops, art galleries and street vendors. We strolled through the tiny back streets, peeking into one little shop after another. You almost feel like looking into some one’s living room! Once you step in, Japanese pop music is blasting out of every single shop corner and the sound is a mixture of video game sounds and a screeching cat. On top of all this, you will find about 100.000 tiny Japanese ladies in there, scanning the aisles for bargains, some of them looking like Anime characters, some like Geishas.
I was a true giant in this environment and all I did was trying to duck these super low ceilings. Trying on clothes was impossible as every single garment was too small and there were no suitable sizes for me.
After walking around all afternoon and evening, we got back to the hotel, had a shower and while discussing our plans for this night (Sushi and Karaoke singing were a given) both Babsi and I totally passed out…

When we woke up this morning, neither one of us could quite understand what had happened to us last night and why the heck the sun was already up or where we actually were?!
So we packed our bags and off we went on a mission to see the “real” Tokyo, Imperial Palace and some more sights by foot. I was in charge of navigation and thought I had everything totally under control after checking our maps. We both thoroughly enjoyed the walk through beautiful parks and clean streets. After a while, we walked up to this big white gate with some sort of palace in the background, took photos, joked around. Both of us quite happy about getting a great shot of the Imperial Palace and gosh, how close we were able to get to it! There were NO other tourists around, just us, unbelievably lucky!?!
Babsi asked me how to get to our next stop – Ginza – and that is when we both realised that we were COMPLETELY lost! North, south, east, west – who knows???
So we pulled out our maps and guidebooks while standing in front of another huge map and believe it or not, we were not able to figure out where the heck we actually were! Me, trying to navigate with maps, i-phone and Suunto watch, Babsi just looking around with that guide book in her hand, trying to catch some one’s eye hoping that person would speak English and help us.
In order to get our heads sorted we needed breakfast and we ended up walking into a real Japanese restaurant: there was no English what so ever, so pictures of the food or English menu. The owner/waiter could not really speak English either so breakfast ended up being a true surprise: we had lovely tea and two bowls of rice and tempura (deep fried vegetables and shrimp) with Japanese pickles and miso soup with mussels! Yum! There were about 15 different credit card stickers on the door and I thought, I would treat the lady this morning but of course they did not accept cards and we both had NO cash… So, I ran up and down the streets of Tokyo trying one ATM machine after another, walking into banks trying to communicate that I need money and where to get it! Finally, I found a cash machine in the post office and I was able to square the bill. That alone, took a good half hour. So much for VISA being a card that is accepted around the globe, obviously Japan is different. They are cash-only people here and they don’t trust cards!
The rest of the day, we spent in Ginza, after finding the “real” Imperial Palace. Ginza is a wonderful and very lively area with lots of high-class shops and galleries.
Our overall impression of Tokyo is: do not attempt to walk anywhere – use the Metro, only use cash as credit cards and not accepted anywhere, the city is so clean, it puts places like Singapore or Switzerland to shame and it is dead quiet! There is almost no noise pollution, the cars are silent, people are silent, even the police cars have silent sirens! And on top of that, Japanese are the most disciplined humans we have ever seen – they obey to every single rule and very much respect personal space and others.

Finally, when on our way to Tokyo Narita Airport, we thought we had it all figured out, we thought we understood a little more of the Japanese culture and they way you travel in this country. So, we rock up at our luggage storage counter get our bags and were hellbound on changing terminals! While on the bus we realised that we are just on our way to the wrong terminal and our flight was leaving in 1 hour. Both of us started to sweat a little as Babsi had to be back in the US on time!
After doing a loop on the bus from one Terminal to the other, we ran to the check-in counters, taking out millions of little Japanese people on the way cause we had such huge bags. When we finally found the Continental check in desks, both of us were dripping with sweat and dead! Of course, the desks were closed but I found a couple of lovely ladies who made it their mission to get us on the flight! While one checked us in, the other one took all our bags personally to the drop off so we could make it. With the boarding passes and passport in our hands we ran to the security check, taking the staff line and Singapore Airline flight attendants, who let us pass, were helping us unpacking our bags and laptops! That was probably the fastest security check of our lives! Then quick passport scan and off we ran to our gate – we only had to go from No 10 to No 47! Babsi hanging on the white Kenyan sprinter in front of her! By the time we got to the gate, both of us were about to throw up but we made it!
We can not thank those two ladies at the check-in counter enough for their effort, we definitely would not have been able to get onto the plane without their kindness and help!
So now we are on the plane heading to Aspen, where I will be competing on March 3rd with my dear friend Himay!
Japan was surreal and so much fun! I would love to come back, catch up with new and old friends, especially the mighty Macca, and explore more of this unique country!

View from our hotel room. 

Big square in front of the real palace.

A part of the real imperial palace.

Everything is perfect set up.

One of my favorit pictures on the whole trip, love the shadows.

We were in Hello Kitty land.

Local Japanese street food.

We both loved this, the two bottles to the right you buy hot, so you get hot tea in a can.


Great picture Babsi, I'm here taking a night picture of Tokyo. 

Our fejk palace with where the National Graden.

Had to snap this, we manage to find a trash bin. Can understand how the keep this city soooo clean but there are no trash bins around....?

Lot's of people covering up their mouths, even when skiing.

One of Babsis and mien favorits, right here through this geat we saw so many runner so I got a little inspierd. I  caught up and passed a few. =)

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