Tokyo (9th May to 16th May)

Sunday, 16th May, 2004

Last day in Tokyo. Sad.

Check out of hotel, and leave my bags in storage at the Yaesu South side of the Tokyo station. I wrote that down because the station is that large.

Head off to Shinjuku to find the Park Hyatt Tokyo. This hotel is central to “Lost in Translation” Go to the 41st floor, take photos. Being gaijin (european) in Japan means people think you belong in the hotel! Cool.

Refind the Yodobashi store near the Shinjuku station (use the Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal exit) and work hard on not spending more money.

Return to the Tokyo station, and find a Starbucks in the largest underground mall I have ever seen – Yaesu – cool.

Grab bags, and using the Y1280 ticket I purchased earlier using the automatic machines, grab the 12 stop “rapid” train to Narita terminal 2. Not the Narita Express (NEX) as this costs way more, and not the Limosine bus: also way expensive. On this train to the airport, I am the only gaijin. 1hr40mins (not too bad) — this is to remember as an inexpensive way to get to the airport next time.

Fill in the special form to convert the last of the yen I have into Australia.

Qantas night flight, good sleep, and home.

I have the measure of Tokyo now; and this is one of the most enthralling cities/countries I have visited. Definitely on the family visit list.

Saturday, 15th May, 2004

Up early, subway to Ginza: the department store centre of Tokyo. I am a little early (shops open at 10am) – but find somewhere to eat and run across the Apple Store Ginza. Call into see what is going on here.

Find my way to the Tokyo railway station and attempt not to get lost. Not easy. To Shibuya exit by the famous Haichiko Special Exit (West) for the full view;on to eat at Starbucks (Lost in Translation moment), then off to Akihabara to start some shopping for the family.

Heading back to the hotel, I decide to take the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Kyoto in a rush of blood to the brain. It’s a little expensive, and sometimes difficult to decipher where and when to go — but some friendly locals assist and I am on my way. Past Mount Fuji, 2 hours later in I am in Kyoto.

The Shinkansen makes inter-city travel as quick and easy as intra-city travel in Tokyo.

Sadly, I’ve left a little late, so the old/historic sights in Kyoto are closed – but at least I can quickly shop for some family items, get a feel for the place. Jump back on the next Shinkansen (Express) to Tokyo.

I am back in my hotel by 9.30pm.

Friday, 14th May, 2004

Conference over, its midday and time to relax. Sort of.

My equivilent in Japan and his team take us to Akihabara and Shinjuku to experience retail in IT, Japan style.

In Shinjuku, I spend some cash at the Yodobashi Camera store. This is 8 floors chockers full of electronics. I want one of everything!

Everything in Japan has a “little tune”: lifts, railway stations (with their own individual signature tune) — at Yodobashi, they’ve taken the Civil war classic “John Brown’s Body” and made it their tune. More Japanese strangeness.

Leaving the Adobe people at around 5pm, I start my two day personal Japanese adventure.

The train at 6pm to Roppongi via Ebisu is packed: Tokyo packed. It’s a strange feeling being very very warm from the neck down from the body heat, and cold in the head with the airconditioning blasting down. Its like being in bed, so sleepy.

I have a hand drawn “mud map” to my next hotel in Roppongi, The Mansions. Thanks to some pre-work reading (thanks Kevin San from the Honda Car Club) I find the hotel easily, and at least have a bed for the night. Now to explore Roppongi.

Roppongi has a new complex known as “Roppongi Hills” — the most up-to-date and upmarket shopping/restaurant/office experience. Accidently find the Roppongi MINI store and call in quickly.

Wander the streets to find the Hard Rock Cafe, Tokyo. Eat in “The Beatles” section, looking at picture around Abbey Road. I was there just a few weeks ago. Strange small world, this.

I am finding that in Japan, if you find a Macdonalds, there will be a Starbucks nearby – sometimes exactly opposite.

Roppongi at night gets a little sleazy: I think this is shown in “Lost in Translation”

Bed, sleep, ready for the next day

Monday, 10th May, 2004

After paying for other’s train tickets last night, the cash is a little low. Thanks to “Lonely Planet”, read that Post Offices in Japan are connected to Maestro/Plus networks – and there is a Post Office about 2 minutes from where our meeting is being held. Cash up.

The Drug Store/Chemist/Pharmacy is an interesting place. What I think is deodorant could be hair removal cream; I am not sure. Best not risk it.

Night off, so some of us head to Roppongi via Shibuya. The train is packed, and it’s more humid in Tokyo than I expect.

Shibuya is pretty at night. Many lights, very very large TV screens, music and young people. Certainly all us 30+ year olds feel, well, old and out of place. Pass on the “meat dog” – whatever that is.

Sunday, 09th May, 2004

So begins the adventure to Tokyo, Japan. The flight is 9+ hours, Sydney to Narita. Along with other people from the Adobe Sydney office, we are attending a regional conference. For most of us it the first time in Japan.

After seeing “Lost in Translation” at the beginning of these world travels, this is an interesting closure.

On D-Day in WW2, the engineers were first on the beach to clear the mines and other obstacles. We’ve sent in our local engineer to recce the ground a day early: so its a mad scramble to get the right adaptors for the stay in Japan. Thanks, Mark.

Arrive at 7.10pm, and its raining. Our plane takes 20 minutes to find Gate 84 at Terminal 2. Narita is sure big!

It’s a live “leadership course” as we navigate our way from the plane to the train (with connection at Nippori) to Shinagawa via the JR Yamanote line. Off the train, and then walk through the rain in a very “Blade Runner” experience to the hotel. Hotel at 10.20pm, and we’ve got a bed for the night.

The first thing I notice is that Tokyo is big, the trains are safe and there are Vending machines everywhere. Jumping at the chance to try one out, I grab a “Boss Coffee” from Suntory (Lost in Translation: “Suntory Time”) — its the best “Iced Coffee” I’ve tasted outside South Australia.

TV is interesting. Channel 6 in the hotel like a 24 hour university where you can learn statistics and production scheduling in an Open University-like course.

The DSL/Ethernet thing isn’t working for my laptop, and the Triband GSM phone doesn’t work so essentially I feel cut off in one of the most wired countries in the world. Plus the language barrier, and its like being a fish out of water. That will pass.