Day 78. Tokyo is different. Really different. We felt like we’d landed on a different planet. In fact, we felt like how Japanese tourists look like when you see them in London!
Embarrasingly, even though we think we’re seasoned travellers, we managed to get on the airport train going in the wrong direction. We’d planned to meet a bicycle tour in central Tokyo but missed it by 40 minutes.
Our next task was to navigate the Tokyo Metro to get to our hotel. The Metro is incredibly efficient, but not very intuitive to the non-Japanese Speaker. The tube map looks like an alien star chart from the far reaches of the galaxy.
An excerpt of the Tokyo Metro map
Everyone is so helpful. As soon as we looked bemused someone came to help us, even if they couldn’t speak English. One friendly commuter asked us where we were going but still needed to use an iPhone app to plot our course and calculate the fare and ticket type. (The major Metro lines belong to no less than three different private companies).
At last we made it to the Asakusa district where our hotel was, however we had a little trouble finding the hotel even though we’d walked up the correct street. We made the incorrect presumption that the hotel name would appear in English somewhere on the building as advertised on the internet booking site. By following the street numbers, we discovered we’d been standing outside the hotel for some time.
Having dropped off our bags, we explored the area. We decided that the best landmark to help guide us back to our hotel was to follow the direction of the “golden poo building”.
This way to the hotel
We went for lunch at one of the oldest restaurants in the area, the Komagata Dojo, which specialises in Dozeu, broiled baby eels. We were instructed to take our shoes off and were guided to our seats on the floor. Each customer is given their own mini barbeque so your eels can be freshly broiled in front of you. Our neighbours were very helpful and friendly and instructed us in the art of Japanese eel cooking. They even generously insisted that we try some of their pickles.
Maitre D' at the Komagata Dojo
Our table at the Komagata Dojo
After lunch we walked the streets and headed for the nearby Senso-ji shrine. We were overwhelmed with the sheer variety and quality of the sweets and savouries on offer. Thankfully, many shops provide plastinated replicas of the food on offer allowing the uninitiated to point hungrily while nodding. The ubiquitous street vending machines are also worth mentioning as phenomena in their own right serving the tastiest selection of hot and cold beverages from a can or a bottle. The hot sweet milky “Royal Milk Tea” cannot be beaten.
Plastinated ice creams. Choose from rose, jasmine, green tea, chestnut, sesame and many more ...
Safe gracefully eats a red bean ice cream
We followed the crowds towards the temple being careful to avoid the pigeons. (We can’t read the Japanese on the pigeon sign, but we think this sign is discouraging people from feeding the birds).
A picture speaks a thousand words
We returned to our hotel later in the afternoon to be shown to our room and found a whole new concept in the bathroom. No longer is using the toilet merely a bodily function, it is a whole new technological pleasure experience. The toilet seat is heated and there is a control panel with more buttons than a calculator. When you sit on it, water begins to trickle down the back of the loo automatically. We are speculating that this might be to encourage you to wee. Or perhaps it is cleaning the toilet for you before you do your business. Another possibility is that it might be impolite to inflict the embarrassing sound of going to the toilet on others and so the trickle is there to mask this, especially since one of the buttons on the panel is there just to provide the sound of a flushing toilet via loudspeaker without using any water!
Once your business is finished, you can choose to be squirted with water of any temperature and any pressure or angle, then choose to be gently blow-dried.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a toilet!
The default settings were adequate for our needs.