Saturday, 9 January 2010

day #13 in Japan

We've just checked into an internet cafe in Shibuya, Tokyo. We paid ¥1,700 (~£11.90) for the ナイト。パク (Night Pack), which aside from being awesome value accommodation in Tokyo, entitles us to unlimited internet use, access to the manga, DVD and magazine libraries, and most importantly FREE DRINKS AND ICE CREAM. Currently, 18 minutes in, I have a "creatively acquired" マクドナルド (McDonalds) cup full of ice cream (chocolate and vanilla) and a complementary Coke. I plan to try at least 8 different drinks from the machine during my time here - hopefully the subsequent caffeine boost will help me wake up on time and avoid the ¥100 (~70p) per15 minute late fee that will take effect at

Our time in Japan so far has been awesome in many respects, but I'll save elaborating for the posts I plan to post later detailing each day. For now all you need to know is that we spent the first 12.5 days in the Kansai region, and are now in the Kanto region.

The .5 of today that was spent in Kansai was fairly uneventful - we woke up, washed, packed, ate (I cycled to 7/11 for food on a bike that felt as if it were going to disintegrate beneath me at any moment - luckily it didn't!), said goodbye to Alex, and left. We left in a bit of a rush because our unofficial landlady invited herself round to talk to Alex shortly before, and she didn't know about us so we had to flee as not to get anyone in trouble.


We planned to walk to Kyoto station, but failed to take into account the necessary stops, delays and setbacks, and so ended up getting a bus. The bus timetables here have little indicators as to how far away each bus is, but unfortunately we couldn't read what they were saying in any detail so the effect was lost.

Upon arrival at Kyoto station, Aaron and I each parted with ¥12,710 (~£89) for a 新幹線 (Shinkansen) ticket to Tokyo. For those of you who don't know, Shinkansen is a series of high speed trains that run across Japan. We got the のそみ (Nozomi) service, the fastest of the 3, and it made the journey between Kyoto and Toyko (around 500 miles) in just under 3 hours. It was like a plane inside too, the seats were super comfortable, there was more than enough legroom, and they even had a snack cart (although the prices were a bit steep).

Unfortunately, however, the shaking of the train made it a bit nauseating to walk around on it. I tried and thought I was drunk, then went to the toilet out of curiosity and saw it was a Japanese style "squatter". I wonder if anyone thinks that attempting a squatting crap at 300 miles per hour on a shaky train is a good idea? Luckily JR (the operator) had thought ahead and installed handlebars, which users were advised to hold.

Just over halfway between Kyoto and Tokyo, 富士山 (Mt. Fuji) appeared on the horizon. In Japan, mountains occupy the horizon ~95% of the time, so I wasn't really sure what to expect, but in "person" (they refer to the mountain as Fuji San after all), it was spectacular. I tried to take pictures but the speed didn't make it too easy. I'll upload some later anywho.

After seeing Mt. Fuji I decided to nap for the remainder of the journey, and so awoke in Tokyo shortly after. As soon as we alighted the train we could see the difference between Kansai and Kanto: everything is so much more "hustly bustly" here (if that term even exists), which is an interesting change, although slightly hard to adapt to after the relative peacefulness of our trip so far.

We asked around Tokyo station for directions to HSBC and information on the Narita Airport Express so we could get everything in order for the next couple of days (MONEY!), then got a train to Shibuya to find the famed internet cafe that Alex and Chris had told us about previously.

The view from Shibuya station was intense: one of (or maybe the?) Japan's biggest pedestrian crossings is just outside the station, and as soon as the lights change, around 2,000 people at a time scramble into the roads and shoot off in every direction. It's overwhelming to watch! Luckily for us, we got to participate in the chaos shortly after, as McDonalds (my intended destination) was over the road.

It feels weird having to watch your pockets so much after the aforementioned relative peacefulness of Kyoto, but you realise why you have to here. Everyone is in such a hurry, and it seems like the perfect environment for people to take advantage of that fact. Lugging around 2 weeks worth of bags doesn't help any, either.

After a brief stop off at McDonalds, and a browse through a couple of hugely overpriced shops (£2100 Hello Kitty merchandise, anyone?), we headed down the road to Gran Cyber Cafe.

Now at first I was expecting a total sleazefest. I envisioned the DVD, manga and magazine library as a massive porn stash, and that each booth would be filled by a pervert taking advantage of the free access. Luckily however, I was pleasently surprised to find a series of booths of varying sizes, each comfortably containing a chair and a computer, as well as vending machines full of free ice cream and drinks (I know I've said this already, but it deserves to be said again!), and an impressive (and unsmutty) collection of DVDs, manga and magazines. The guy in the booth next to Aaron is looking at AV Idol pictures, though.

Logistically, the next couple of days are going to be intense. It's 21:46, January 9th 2010 at the moment, at we're flying back at 11:05 on the 11th. We have to be at the airport at 8 LATEST, and the train we need to be there safely leaves at 6am. This means we have to get up at 5, and luckily if we check into the internet cafe at 21:00 tomorrow as well we'll have to be up and out in order to avoid any fines. But 8 hours maximum each night for sleep, which considering the distractions (noise, free ice cream, etc) is an unlikely amount, leads me to think we'll be underslept, irritable, and hugely jetlagged when we get home.

Ah well, best not to think about it I guess.

I'll just enjoy the free ice cream.


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