Pilgrim’s progress

I’ve just spent the most magical, unforgettable evening at the New York bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo (that’s the hotel where they filmed Lost in Translation, fact fans). The dim lighting, live band and superb cocktails contributed to an extraordinary atmosphere, and all the while the blinking red lights of the Nishi-Shinjuku skyscrapers were just about visible through the frosted windows. However, as with every dream, the time comes to wake up; as the band made its way from the stage, I made my way back down to earth and returned to the more modest surroundings of Shiba Park. I suppose the visit to that bar was something of a pilgrimage for me; I only hope that it’s not going to be the only time I set foot in it.

To rewind slightly – the day started with a tour of Tokyo, although it was really more of a flying visit to a few places of interest. This would have been fine, except we had the catastrophic misfortune to be accompanied by a tour guide who was repetitive to the point of excruciating aural distress. The good news was that the tour finished at 1, so I never reached the stage of clawing at the coach windows in order to be set free.

We were dropped off in Ginza, the main shopping district of Tokyo. It’s an interesting place, but doesn’t really house anything exclusive to Japan, so after a stroll up the main street I hopped on the subway and got off at Shibuya. All of a sudden, the Tokyo from my wildest dreams sprang into life. There are no words to do the place justice – the sights, the people, the clothes; imagine what Camden was like before it became a chav-infested flea pit, clean it up, improve the music and merchandise tenfold, and turn the insanity up to 11. Got all that? Ladies and gentleman, you are halfway towards picturing Shibuya. I managed to curtail most of my spending urges, as I have yet to visit Harajuku.

Tomorrow, Nikko – a small town about an hour from Tokyo, and the site of the original ‘Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil’ monkeys.

Tokyo story

Yes, I’m finally in Japan, consummating my long-standing love affair with this country.

I had the fortune to arrive in Tokyo after sunset, meaning that my first glimpses of the city matched the romantic image of it I’ve had in my mind all this time – namely, columns of bright and flashing lights streaking into the night sky. It feels incredibly strange to be here at last, but it’s sinking in bit by bit. I’ve been here 5 hours and it’s already living up to expectations.

I ventured out to Roppongi (one of the more popular districts for nightlife in Tokyo) for supper, and spent the first 10 minutes after I exited the subway station staggering around gawping at the multi-coloured madness around me. Typical gaijin.* Much to my delight, both Roppongi and Shinjuku (like Roppongi but times 10) are on the same subway line as my hotel, only a few stops away.

The people here, as to be expected, are polite, helpful and respectful. It’s very refreshing after the stifling lack of etiquette and personal space in Beijing. I haven’t had much chance to practise my Japanese yet, as everyone I’ve come across speaks English, but my time will undoubtedly come.

Tomorrow I have a city tour, which finishes at 1pm in Ginza (shopping district), at which point I plan to run around frenetically throwing yen everywhere in a fit of consumerist ecstasy.

*A small language lesson – ‘gaijin’ is the Japanese word for foreigner, but when written in kanji it actually means ‘outside (gai) person (jin)’. However, this is a very literal translation, and what it really means is ‘barbarian’. Telling, no?

Eva (monkeyface): Don’t fret, I am currently still planning to return to England, if only to swat away the monkeys from your shoulder!