Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fish, fish and more fish ...

The contrast between Japan and Mongolia couldn't be starker.

Perhaps not more so than in the toilet department. Whereas in Mongolia "where the toilet?" was greeted by no more than an arms wave across the surrounding landscape - in Japan they have surely the most technically advanced toilets on the planet.

Most of the toilets we encountered had at least 3 different bidet functions, heated seats, blow dryer & all with user adjustable digital temperature controls.

Our base for the week was Shiodome - like the Canary Wharf of Tokyo - a futuristic world of skyscrapers, underground plaza's all perfectly connected together by a network of pedestrian walkways and elavators - with bullet trains, monorails, metro's gliding above, below and around you.

Mostly we spent our time just soaking up the atmosphere of this incredible city, and enjoying top-notch food prepared with an enthusiasm and passion I've experienced nowhere else in the world. The seafood in particular was superb and the Japanese have no qualms about serving up raw fish with most meals. Even breakfast.

While the star of the show was undoubtedly the food, other highlights included Tsujki Fish Market (above) - the world's largest where you can see the ingredients for your evening meal being traded at frenetic pace & the Ginza Lion Beer Hall - a genuine 1930's German beer hall in the heart of Tokyo's glitzy shopping district.

We ended the week with a traditional English weekend.

Friday night we hooked up with fellow brit Ed who writes Slow Travel and his pal Joe who lives and works in Tokyo. Joe shared some fascinating insights into Japanese culture, not least the expression "lets persevere together" - words that would come to mean a lot to me and Mel in the coming days ...

Then on Saturday, my first soccer game of the trip, Kawasaki Frontale versus Kashiwa Reysol at the Todoroki stadium. The standard wasn't exactly great, but the atmosphere had all the enthusiasm of a Buenos Aires derby match so I had a really enjoyable afternoon.

Finally on Sunday we left Tokyo, planning for a nice walk en route to Kyoto ...

Japan is reputed to be one of the most expensive tourist destinations in the world. What we found in Tokyo was a city considerably cheaper than New York or Paris, with better food, better transport & surely the most polite and helpful people you could wish to meet anywhere. Against my expectations of an overcrowed, overpriced urban jungle - I think we've discovered a new favourite.

Just a brief footnote for those of you expecting to see all my photos from Tokyo. I hadn't managed to name and organise them before leaving Japan - now sat here in China I find that flickr images are censored (as is my blog ... clearly I am a dangerous subversive).

It will probably be 2/3 weeks before I can rectify the problem and bring you all the photos from Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. The photos from Kyoto onward will be fine, as I can work around it if the images are still on my camera ... I just need to catch up with the writing first.

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