Day 5: Tokyo – Asakasa, Shibakoen & Roppongi

I would say that I can’t believe how behind I am on this blog series, but the truth is, I can believe it. The scrapbook/photo album that I have all the prints and bits and bobs for is now a full year out of date. I used a valuable amount of weight in my suitcase bringing it all with me to this end of China, and I’ve done maybe 8 pages in the 8 months I’ve been here. Each Sunday I say to myself that I’ll stick on one of my go to movies (Lost Boys, Bill & Ted, Rocky Horror, Pulp Fiction, The Boat that Rocked, Waynes World etc.) and I’ll smash it out… I never do.

So, anyways, let’s get back on track and head back in time to Tokyo, Tuesday 23rd January 2017.

Oh would you look at that, lazy morning is the first thing I had written down in my notes for this day! We were out of the hostel after 12, and we’d done a little research into somewhere we could find ourselves a cooked full breakfast (British style, it’s been waayy too long since either of us had a sausage or some proper bacon), so onto the metro we went heading for Asakasa, via a change of lines. We made our way to the Hobgoblin (yes like the beer), just to find out it was closed… by this point, we were both starving, and just ready for some food. We looked at the menu of a few other places close by (including an Indian), and settled on a place called CoCo Curry House, which is a Japanese curry restaurant and I’d actually had before in Suzhou. It wasn’t quite the full breakfast we’d hoped for, but it was pretty good! It’s like a variation of chip-shop-curry sauce, but better, with rice/potatoes, and some form of meat, depending what you fancied. It was a good meal and it set us up for the day.

Back onto the metro we went to Shibakoen, which, from what we’d read, was a stop mainly for a park and Tokyo Tower.

The park was a little bare as it was still winter, but we could tell that it would be beautiful come spring time with all the blossom that Japan is so well known for. We came across a very small temple/shrine which was guarded by some animal statues [which gave me a major flashback to the BBC series of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe]. It was nice to be able to just wander around and stumble upon things, not desperately trying to follow a map or directions for once!

We popped out at a different end of the park and were greeted by a huge building, and I mean huge. We had no idea what it was, how old it was, what its purpose was, or even how to get in. We took a few photos using Kyle for scale, and walked around the outside. There were massive doors opening up into what seemed to be a ceremony hall with incense burning and a few people dotted around. It was incredibly gold, red, and intricate.

After a few more photos outside the front of the building (after waiting for some other tourists to move on), we found the other, smaller temple. We picked ourselves up another good fortune charm each and went in to have a look. There was a full on ceremony taking place with about 6 old people and a few monks performing a service of some kind. There was a lot of chanting, praying, and incense burning amongst other things. It was really interesting, but also kind of scary at the same time. Maybe scary isn’t the right word… intense perhaps. Especially the fact that we had no idea what was actually going on, what was being chanted or who they were… it was definitely an interesting thing to witness and I’m glad we accidentally came across it! [Neither of us took any photos of this as we didn’t quite feel comfortable getting our phones out to snap away at the ceremony.]

Outside this little temple there were hundreds of little stone statues that were sporting very fetching little crochet red hats. In one area they were all fronted with a windmill thing, and others had full on coats and t-shirts etc. Each were showing various levels of age, some looked brand new, others had a thick layer of moss… it was all really strange, but pretty cool. Until, that is, we realised they were actually shrines for the dead, and then it just felt a bit creepy. The way they all looked and were dressed as little children was really unsettling… We never did find out much else about them which was a shame!

After walking down a long path lined either side with the little statues, we found ourselves on the road and heading towards the big red and white Tokyo Tower. It wasn’t as big as I expected at all, especially as we’d already been up the Sky Tree. It was also a pretty unusual building, in fact, I don’t think I’d call it a building at all; it definitely is just a tower. Kind of like a giant pylon crossed with a mini Eiffel Tower. We paid our ticket fee and headed on up. It was a nice view but definitely not as good as the Sky Tree. We ended up sitting there with a cuppa and an ice-cream (cuppa for me, ice-cream for Kyle) and watched as the sun set over Mt. Fuji, which, was absolutely gorgeous. Very surreal to sit there, in Tokyo, watching the sun set over one of the most famous mountains in the world, knowing that in the next 24 hours we’ll be heading to the airport to leave Japan behind…

We left at about 6pm and made a mad dash to Harajuku station for Kyle to finally meet a friend who he’s had for years, face to face for the first (and maybe only) time. She was in a rush to catch another train so we only spoke for about 5 minutes, but she was really sweet and at least they got to meet in the flesh after years of online friendship!

Not quite ready to head back to the hostel and call it a night on our last day, we decided to give Roppongi another shot. We found the Hobgoblin Pub with very little effort this time, and quickly ordered a drink and some food. It actually felt like a proper pub, it was so good. I mean, it was dead in there, apart from us 2 and a few others at the bar (one of them being a typical old Welsh boy!!!!) but it was still pretty cool. I ordered a Southern Comfort and lemonade [for the first time in GOD knows how long] followed by a pint, and a steak and Guinness pie. Kyle went for the burger. Both were pretty damn good, and we enjoyed them while we just sat back and absorbed the pub.

Our chilled evening was quickly turned around by the entrance of a guy wearing all black; black hat, black longish hair, black lipstick, black sunglasses, black fur coat etc… He was pretty f*cking rude to the guys at the bar (including the Welsh bloke which annoyed me even more), and he then decided to come and join us at our table.

A little apprehensive but keeping an open and calm mind, we welcomed him to our table and got chatting. The conversation went from: where we were all from (he was actually from the Lake District, not that you would ever be able to tell by his put on accent), to where we’ve lived/are living, what we’re all doing with our lives, and then, it took a bit of an unexpected and serious turn… He proceeded to ask us whether we believe that gays should have the right to marry and adopt kids. As he was a gay man in a very long term committed relationship, we both thought we were able to speak freely of our opinions that, yes, damn right they should have the ability to marry and adopt if that is what they wish to do as a couple! Oh how wrong were we… He went on to tell us that he does not see why gays should have to marry, “Why can’t they just be happy with a civil partnership”, and that he does not think that gays should adopt and bring up a child, as it would be “unfair and unnatural to do that to a child. How can two men bring up a child, it’s not right. Plus, you would be the cause to that child’s misery as they would obviously get bullied for it.” He was pretty forceful about his opinions and me and Kyle were just left feeling a bit shell-shocked and uncomfortable. We were actually arguing for the side of “yes, gays should be able to marry and adopt”, and Kyle had some very valid points that “kids get bullied for everything in school”, which is a sad fact, but also true… It was all just a bit weird and left me feeling really awkward. Then, as Kyle went off to the bathroom, leaving me and Mr. Opinionated at the table, he then asked me what me and Kyle are. Now, I get asked this a lot anyways, because yes, we are very close friends, but that’s all. He then told me that “That’s bullsh*t, no male and female can be just close friends.” And when I told him that, yes, they can, he said that one of us must be gay then. Jesus…. I was thankful for Kyle’s return and reaching the end of my pint. The guy asked if we wanted to go dancing with him, we obviously declined, and headed back towards the metro. It was such a shame that things got weird with him because he actually seemed to be quite an interesting bloke, he works in the fashion industry and works at a university and has lived and loved Tokyo for about 20 years, so we would have enjoyed chatting to him about that some more, but hey-ho. Just another one of those interesting and unique folks you meet while travelling.

On the way to the metro Kyle finally had one of those awkward embarrassing moments I was so often having on our trip. There was an attractive (scantily dressed) girl on the street who was handing out business cards and leaflets, Kyle obviously spotted her from a mile off and motioned to her to give him one of the cards… this poor girl got ever so confused and worried, as for some reason, she thought he was gesturing towards her/her skirt, and, we presume, she thought he was asking for her… Kyle got awkward and embarrassed and she just kind of backed off a little not knowing what the hell is going on.

Back to the hostel we went with a bag of snacks and drink ready to stay up a few more hours and get our washing done before packing up and heading to Seoul the following day. The communal area was actually the busiest we’d seen it and we found a couple of random chairs to sit it, have a drink, and chat while we put our washing on. Kyle got chatting to a lovely Korean lady who gave us a few suggestions of where to go when we finally reach Seoul, and an American girl overheard the fact that me and Kyle are currently working and living in China. She came over and we started up a conversation. Turns out she had worked in Dalian for 3 years, Shanghai for 1 and a half, and is now living in New York and was just on a whirlwind trip back to Asia. She mentioned that she had some Chinese RMB left over and didn’t want to take it back to the States with her, so off she ran to her room to collect the cash. Score, we thought, some free rmb! Back down she came with one note. No, it wasn’t a 100rmb note. No, it wasn’t even a 50, 20, or 10. It was a 1rmb note. Roughly the equivalent of 10p… Still, I suppose you can’t turn your nose up at free cash, no matter how big or small, right?! We thanked her, put our wash on for yet another drying cycle, and we were all kicked out at 1am; lights out time at Oak Hostel Fuji. It was finally time for bed, our last night’s sleep in the amazing city of Tokyo…

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