Friday, April 08, 2005

Narita to Shibuya

Day 1

After not travelling on one for a while, it's easy to forget how big a 747-400 is on the inside. It was an overnight flight with a 'quick' 90 minute stop over in Cairns. I'm seated next to an Australian-Japanese lady who is visiting relatives near Tokyo. After chatting for a while and finding out it was my first time to Japan, she offers me her contact details if I should get into trouble. I land in Narita airport, with the cherry trees in full bloom lining the runway. The lady says that extremely lucky to see Japan during this time. I'm grunted through immigration and get my first opportunity to practice my rudimentary Japanese on a true local: a customs inspector. Success. My 'arigatos' and 'domo arigato' get a smile and I'm shooed into the country.

On the advice of the wonderfully helpful Shelley, I take the Narita express to Tokyo. Great journey through rice paddies (patties?), burbs and golf nets. A few rows up from me is another aussie called Dan and it's his first time here too. I get chatting with the guy next to me and he tells me about what he does and the things I need to see while in Japan. Turns out he imports expensive European watches into japan and has just returned from a conference in Geneva. We arrive at Shinjuku I say my goodbyes to Honamichi and his friend and look for something to eat before transferring to Shibuya.

I walk into a noodle joint on the train platform and knowing I don't speak enough Japanese I point at the pictures and then at me to indicate my purpose for entering. The guy behind the counter waves me away and turns his back on me. Not working. Honamichi's friend comes to my rescue and pulls me out of the shop. He points at a vending machine with about 30 different things to choose from and asks me what I want. He then inserts his own money, makes a selection, grabs the ticket that is produced, herds me back into the noodle bar and leaves. It was all over before I could thank him. After eating I find a locker to store my larger bag and go exploring. I walk out into the heart of Shibuya square and I was greeted with the busiest place I've ever seen.

Apparently this is the busiest intersection for pedestrians in the world; about 1.2 million people a day. To know what I saw, watch Lost in Translation as this is the first place Bill Murray walks into when he arrives in Tokyo. Opposite Hachiko square, which is the place just outside of the station is a wall of buildings, with three of them lit up buy massive TV screens. There are people that look like protesters with signs and mega-ma-phones, shouting aggressive stuff I don't understand. The amount of people that were moving about could only be compared with a crowd at the big day out.

I spend the day looking at all the wacky shops and crazy arcades, taking plenty of photos. One thing that sticks out is the homeless people. I decide to have a bit of a rest next to Hachiko; the statue of the dog (good story behind it if you look it up). This dog statue seems to be the Malls Balls of Shibuya with many people sitting around, either searching the endless crowds for their friend or texting them to hurry up. The young guy sitting next to me drops his phone and I pick it up for him. We stumble our way through a conversation and he expresses an interest in showing me around. Wataru and I look around Shibuya for a bit and then meet up with his friend. They suggest going for food and take me to an Izakia (cheap eating and drinking) place just off of the main square. The food was good and we end up spending a few hours there drinking beer and making poor attempts at each other's languages. I stumble out of there and they help me find a capsule hotel to stay at. I get my bag and check into the tiny little capsule. Good deal really. For a place in the heart of the city, with showers and lockers included in the price (3200 yen).

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