Saturday, July 03, 2010

Japan Day 2. 21/06 Pt 1

I woke earlier than R, as is par for the course. Let me see about the laptop. Plug in the lan cable at the desk and try to set up an internet connection. Why did I not ask about this before we went on holidays? You have to set up an internet connection to connect to the net, or so I thought. At some point I realised the laptop was connected to the www and I was happy. I did not understand how it was connected, but it was. Boxes were popping up all over the place suggesting that I should connect via Three or broadband or small ports or whatever. None mattered. It was already connected and I think it auto happened.

Our first day in Tokyo was to be trip booking and orientation day.

We pulled up the sitting room blinds and saw a brick wall. We pulled up the bedroom blinds and we had a nice view of an overhead motorway. We explored our accommodation, including the bathroom. I lifted the lid of the lav and pushed a button and water went everywhere. What is this switch near the bathroom mirror? How do these fangled taps work?

It was a long time since we had eaten and we needed food. The small hotel lobby doubled as a breakfast room. No cereal, but a toaster for bread or croissants with spreads, fresh juice and coffee and fresh milk. The marge from tiny containers was like nothing but solidified oil, but the jams were good.

Our Friend in Japan had told us about strict rubbish recycling, but when one of our fellow guests ripped off the foil part of the jam sachet and put it into a different bin to the plastic part of the sachet, we were panicking. Care not. We are tourists. We separated our paper plates from the rest and dumped them as we thought fit.

Off to the station to book our Shink train trip north. Everything looked so much clearer in the daylight. At the end of our street was a large intersection with lots of stairs leading up to a plaza. It seemed to be the only way to cross the large intersection, apart from the subway which we used the night before. We climbed the stairs and look, there is the main entrance to Ueno station. We went in and looked around. The train information display boards alternated between Japanese and English, but there was little else in English. There is the Japan rail pass office, for us to collect our passes and nominate the date we wish our pass to begin and there is a separate booking office.

We sorted out our passes and the lass could also make our seat reservations. She used lots of timetable books to look at train times along with her screen. We should have gone to the booking office where it was all done electronically. She tried to book us to Hirosaki via Akita, which was the long way to go, but although it was three days before we were travelling, all reserved seats had been booked. I told her that there is another way to go and with much flicking through books, she found that we could go to Hirosaki via Hachinohe, which was what we wanted to do. Again, all reserved seats were taken on the train we wanted to catch, but the one an hour or so later was ok. Right, we were booked and we just had to remember that we leave from platform 20, or track 20 as they call it. But what paperwork we had generated for Japan Railways to file away. Although everything was done electronically, bits of paper were spat out left right and centre and it all needed stamping, stapling or clipping together. The first paperless office will not be in Japan.

We took a look around the station and then stepped out to see there were lots of narrow streets off the main road with market type stalls. We dived in and wandered. It was hot and humid and my feet were getting sore. We stepped into a cafe for refreshment. We decided iced coffee was the go. I expected a cold milk coffee with a scoop of ice cream and if I was really lucky, a coffee bean or two sitting on the ice cream. Instead we were served cold black coffee with ice in it. I drank it but I was not keen. R added some milk to his and asked the waiter for some sugar. The waiter gestured to the container on our table. It contained liquid sugar, that is sugar syrup. Dorothy was certainly a long way away from Kansas now. Two coffees, $13.

I'll interrupt here to mention money. We bought $500 worth of Yen before we left Oz. The rate was 75. I kind of understand currency exchange, but I can't put it into words. I worked out that if I dropped the last two digits of the Yen and then subtracted 1/4, I would have the dollar figure. We went on like this for a couple of days, wondering why people always talked about how expensive Japan is. Eventually I entered the exchange rate into my phone currency converter for an accurate figure, and damn, I should have been adding a 1/4, not subtracting. Instead of Y1000 being AU$7.50, it was $12.50. Amusing to us, but not important. You just pay what you have to pay. Coins were 1Y, 5Y, 10Y, Y50, Y100 and Y500. Notes, Y1000, Y2000, Y5000, Y10,000. The Y50 coin had a hole in the centre as did another coin which did not have a roman numeral on it. I calculated from change I was given that it was Y5. 1Y coins were like plastic coins and a nuisance to us.

Back to the hotel to refresh ourselves then out to the lovely Ueno Park. As we noticed when we arrived the night before, there were so many homeless men. The lay on park benches, on steps, on footpaths. It was quite sad to see. They were no threat at all though. We spied a KFC and just could not resist buying our lunch there. Very nice it was too and we sat in the park and ate. There are many cultural institutions in the park and we planned to visit some, but we just ran out of time and energy.

We bought some wine on the way back to the hotel. You seem to need to pay over $10 for something drinkable. I should have know that Bon Rouge would not be a good red for $8.

Back at the hotel, I called the tour company to confirm the next day's booking. No, they would not come to our hotel and collect us. We had to make our own way.

We should have tried Japanese food for dinner, but instead we came across the English Pub. We had a fine feed there and watched some football. The pub had a great atmosphere and was quite cheap. We even saw some foreign people in the pub.

Back at the hotel R decided to try some pay tv. There was no English language stations on the tvs. He bought card for $12 and what a waste of money. The card expired at 3am, long after we expired and gave access to atrocious C grade US movies.


These personal stamps have a They are like your own seal.

This cigarette ad I found to be weird. We saw the same guy around on posters everywhere. He looked so gay.

The ubiquitous vending machine. Find them everywhere and we found them very useful. Most drinks between $1.50 and $2.00. They can dispense cans of hot coffee too.

Pretty train. Maybe the first in Ueno.

The confusing flyover. We found we had no need to climb up to the walkway, nor use the subway under the road and through the station. We could just walk along the footpath.

Cars this shape are very common in Japan. The rear seat is well back with plenty of foot and storage space, rather like a London cab.

Looks like the non existent Australasian Drain Cover Appreciation Society needs to expand to Japan. What lovely drains they have.


  1. I think that I could take up smoking for Winston...well at least until we lost interest in each other.


  2. I agree with Victor. The poster makes me want to start smoking.

    And I can't believe you went to an english pub for dinner. Where's that sense of culinary adventure? I hope you tried fugu.

  3. Smoking for Winston Victor, or smoking Winston?

    AR, we just did not like the Japanese food we did try and we don't like sushi etc. More in the next post. And watch your language. No fuguing around on my blog.

  4. wow... that drain cover is quite something indeed.... that would be very hard to better anywhere in the world! (And I will be watching such things now!)

  5. Very pretty. One was in the park and I think a representation of the park.