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Japan 24th Feb - 8th March

Narita, Japan

And so onto Japan…but first I must tell of my departure from Sri Lanka….

So I turn up at the airport in time and queue up…I tried to get the remaining Rupees changed so I could get something to munch on but everyone keeps changing their money before I get the chance to ask..!

Anyway…I’m next in line at the check in and have become pretty used to the procedure by now…a Sri Lankan girl calls for me and I present my passport after a while she stops fumbling through and looks at me unsure and say’s:

‘and your Visa for Japan…’
I say: Em…?! I’ll pick one up when I get there…?! (first thing I could think of…?!)

She looked at me with the same blank expression and then back to her computer…
Meanwhile I’m thankful Sri Lanka hadn’t given me the farewell runs as I would have had no hope in hell of stopping them…! you know that feeling when, when you’ve been caught red-handed doing something you shouldn’t or missing some event that is too important…! It feels like your organs have turned to lead and you could easily be pulled down to the floor with the weight…!

Half a minute passes and I think I even began to sweat a little thinking what the hell am I gonna do in Sri Lanka for god knows how long…?!

And then she brings out the stamper…! Ha ha…boy was I relieved…!

My arrival at Narita airport (Tokyo) was the most effortless I had on the trip…most of the staff were wearing those little face masks to prevent the spread of flu and reduce the effects of hay fever from the cherry blossom (maybe). It does not mean that Japan has highest number of Doctors (as I was later told…!)

So as always I look at the prices of the vending machine and a Mac d’s coffee to gauge if the countries gonna to take a huge bite out of my wallet…turns out I was going to get eaten alive by Japan…(I was told by some brits in the Narita area where I was that the cheapest place they could find to stay was 60 pounds…!)

So I get my bearings…everything’s well labeled, tidy, clean and I don’t have much problem finding where I need to go…I head to the subway as it’s about lunchtime and I have until about 5pm before I meet up with my host.

As I’m getting my ticket for Narita Temple on the (subway) where I planned to do a spot of sightseeing…a Japanese man in his 40’s asks me if I need some help with the ticket…turns out we were heading the same way and we chatted for a while before boarding the train together…His name was Nobu and he was in the area visiting his parents (who didn’t speak any English). It must have been about 15 minutes before I got off…I thanked him for his help and went on my way…

The streets were spotless…the air was cooler…the prices off the chart…and all this alien food…strange smells…it couldn’t of been further from Indian life… It really was a joy just being there walking around and although I couldn’t understand the symbols and conversations…it didn’t matter I was in JAPAN…! YES…!

Narita-san Shinshō-ji (Narita-san = ‘Narita mountain,' Shinshō-ji = 'New victory temple') was quite simply out of this world. It is a Shingon Buddhist temple located in central Narita, the suburbs of Tokyo. It was founded in 940 by Kanchō Daisōjō. It comprises of a large complex of buildings and grounds, and is one of the best-known temples in the Kanto. I was fascinated by the good condition of the temples their colors and appearance…many of them had scripture carved somewhere and the designs were so elegant and impressed me no end. I later found out that it would be the surrounding gardens or grounds that were the marvel I'd come to see…just a perfect balance wherever I looked. Simple. Beauty.

On my way out of the temple I’m walking back up the road (around 4pm) when I hear this cry of “ha I found you…!” I turn around and see a very out of breath Nobu who looked like he'd just run a marathon…! My first though I have to admit was get the hell out of there…a crazy Japanese man wants to eat me…!!!(or something similar!)

Nobu finally caught his breath back and told me that because I was new to Japan he should take care of me (his Mother and Father had asked him to). What can you say to that…I’d met him briefly at the airport and now he’d probably been running around the temple grounds for a good hour or so trying to find me so that he could welcome me to his Country…
I could feel my eyes welling up and was blown away by his generous offer…of course I said yes….

Not sure if this is a worldly view other countries have of foreigners from Britain but Nobu thought we should go have Dinner in an Irish Pub…I told him I was up for sampling the Japanese culture and wasn’t into that ‘Britain away from Britain’ idea. However within half an hour we were sat with a Guinness (6 pounds!) and a plate of fish and chips…it was memorable…!

We chatted all evening and I soon came to be very found of Nobu he was a great man and I couldn’t wait to meet his parents again and thank them for their kind offer…They were quite simply the loveliest people and went above board to make me feel at home…

Ok a bit of Japanese culture shocks I found…

Toilet seats are furry and heated…and I’m sure if you tried hard enough you could have a conversation with the toilet while sitting there.
The ‘TV Times’…yep its part porno mag.
Coffee in a can from vending machines is WARM. Not cold as it is everywhere else.
You feel like a total outsider if you cross the road without the green man showing.
There are people with white gloves that ‘Push’ people onto the trains when they are nearly full.
Everything is on time…trains quite literally TO THE SECOND…!
Everything’s packaged…!

So the four of us sit at Nobu’s parents house sipping T and watching the Winter Olympics…supporting ‘Mao’ Asada the Japanese entry for the female ice-skating…I was getting well into it…!
Nobu was interested in lots of British music including the Beatles and we chatted about our interests and general stuff…I was lucky enough to hear him play and sing ‘Imagine’ which was enough to move anyone…here it was my first day in Japan what an impression…I was moved to tears and this was day one….!

I woke to a Japanese style breakfast...mmm...Nobu and I headed off to the train station where we met his mother who had cycled there with my backpack..! She was a wonderful women with a great concern for making my short stay as comfortable as possible...I was a bit upset waving her off...

We headed into the centre of Tokyo which I should mention is huge..it's got a population over 13 million and is spread out over a fare distance to Narita...

We walked around and it was pretty much what I imagined and one of the first really 'big' cities I'd seen since I'd left the UK...we saw some interesting naked toys...and visited one of the infamous maid dreaming cafe. It's a popular new trend from 2006 in Tokyo's Akihabara district. It's a manga-stocked cafe where girls dress up in french maid outfits and act more submissive than usual. It's supposed to be a dream world for nerds who live for manga and video games, otakus. The girls say things like "i put extra love in your coffee today" and similar.

We took the elevator up a few floors where we were confronted quite literally with 'human' cartoon everything seemed plastic and superficial...a girl who must of only just of entered her teens...grins wildly at us shows us to our table, talking the whole time. We order a slice a of cake and a coke each...she brings out the coke...just as I'm about to take a sip she stops me and says something in Japanese...Nobu translates this for me...turns out we have to make a wish before we drink or eat anything..this involved making a heart shape with your hands and bobbing them from side to whilst saying a little jingle...! I couldn't make this up if I tried...there was also a do's and don'ts list...you must not touch the girls or take photographs..>?! it was a bizarre experience one I'll never forget...below is the picture they took for us...a very memorable moment and one never forgotten...!!!

We continued to Shibuya crossing...a famous crossing used in such films as 'Babel' and 'Lost in translation'...it was somewhere I really wanted to visit while i was in the city centre...

We chilled out in this area for the rest of the day, before Nobu sent me on my way helping me experience my first Bullet train...Smooth...lightening fast and like no other form of transport I'd experienced...I can't thank Nobu and his family enough...I really hope I can repay the favour one day in the UK...Thank you friend.

My next step was Aino...Shizouka...I had an awesome time with Yoshi and Sergul...excellent food and even better company I saw the local area and made a new friend...

Plum blossoms in Aino...

Kyoto...big thanks to Hitomi...who helped me out with writting my name in Japanese and kaito for being a dude...!

Towards the end of my time in Nagoya (before I moved onto Kyoto) I quite literally ran out of money...(ok I hadn't exactly told my bank I was in Japan using my card, however they did know I was away for at least 3 months...and...they allowed me to withdraw 3 times while I was in Japan...! anyway) I ran out of cash.

This really was an eye opener to how much you pretty much can't do anything without having a little bit $. So there I was about an hour’s walk from the centre of the city, raining (of course) the evening before I was leaving to Kyoto...not a cent...
I tried asking everywhere (for use of a phone), car companies, anyway where I could think...(problems with the dialing code) I ended up stopping a random guy on the street...John C from Kentucky (that's what his name badge said) we spoke for a while...I explained my situation...(I wasn't into begging at that point)... he walked me in the direction of town...and started down some stairs to the subway...I immediately said I couldn't afford a train in...he offered to get me a ticket...and gave me the change for some food...(which ended up being some prawn crackers...the cheapest filling food I could find for around 5 pounds...!)

...it doesn't sound like much but 'John C from Kentucky' was quite literally my life line at a real time of need...!

From here I headed into town with a tear in my eye and some hope of sorting the situation out...! I recreated some scenes from 'Lost in translation' while speaking to locals for directions to ATMS before finally finding my salvation in the form of an 'Irish bar' run by Japanese who gave me a phone card...when I heard the customer representative on the other end say...'well...it's going to take around...ten minutes?!

I knew it was over...

The video below is my withdrawal...a momentous point of the day...I must of walked about 10 kms over the city...and nearly fell asleep into my soup as a result...it was now 2am...I spent that night on the street outside the train station waiting for the bus to Kyoto...leaving at 7am...what a day. (but BIG thanks to 'John C from Kentucky')

slot machines in Kyoto...

And finally to my departure of Japan...I'll let the Video do the talking...

Until my next up date which I hope will be pretty soon...Take care...everyone...!

Rob x

permalink written by  willrob on February 26, 2010 from Narita, Japan
from the travel blog: Rob Williams 'a year in the making'
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Brilliant Rob !! Keep them coming ...........

Julia (Green)

permalink written by  Julia Green on August 5, 2010

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