New Year's Eve
Sorry. I lied. This post isn’t about Christmas in Tokyo, because we all know that was pretty much a non-event for me. Instead, this will be focused on the events following Christmas, which were much more pleasant for everyone involved.
Ok, let’s just backtrack a little. There were some things I forgot to mention about Christmas that turned out to be kinda good. I mentioned in the previous post that there was no mirror in the apartment I’d moved into. Well, sometime on Christmas afternoon, an old Japanese man turns up and proceeds to let himself into the apartment. I think he was more surprised to see me here than I was to discover an intruder. However, he managed to convey (and I managed to understand) that he was here to install a mirror for me! I’d heard some drilling noises about an hour earlier, and thought nothing of it. So it must have just been scheduled for a few of the apartments here. Nevertheless, it definitely lifted my mood :)
So after I recovered from that excitement, I decided to venture up to the next subway stop for acquisition of comfort foods. Another good thing about Christmas in Japan is the fact they don’t recognise it as a holiday. Why is that good? Well, it means that it’s business as usual == shops are all open! And I even discovered a Body Shop store at the station, along with some small clothing stores, and a few cafes. If I’d had more time and energy, I would have gone to a bigger hub (like Shibuya or Shinjuku), but I had to get home in time to catch up with Rich and our friends, Glenn & Sandra, for reality TV night – the Survivor finale was yet to be watched!
Have I mentioned how much I <3 Skype yet? Because I do. So very, very much :)
Reality TV night done, I was overjoyed to say goodbye to Rich as he left for the airport. I know I’d only been in Japan for three weeks, but it seemed like so much longer. And knowing that I’d be seeing my sweetheart in 12 hours was the bestest feeling ever! I couldn’t sleep that night (not surprising), and although I made all effort to get up on time, and get to the train station on time, I couldn’t prevent his flight arriving 30 minutes earlier. Nor could I prevent the second (of four) trains arriving at the station 1 minute late, and me missing the connecting train by all of 10 seconds. I felt ill knowing that he’d arrive and I wouldn’t be there. I started to panic, and faught back tears for a long time, but I knew there was nothing I could do. I also hoped that the excitement of coming here would tide him over until I got to the airport.
And with at least 45 minutes of my journey still to go, I received an email from Rich saying his plane had landed, and he’d be making his way through customs as soon as he could. After explaining the situation, he told me not to worry, and reassured me he would be OK until I arrived. He promptly found a Starbucks to occupy his time (and fill his coffee hole) while he waited for me.
Words cannot express the sheer overwhelming joy and happiness at seeing your lover, in the flesh, for the first time in forever. Your heart races, your breath quickens, a smile appears that doesn’t seem go away for days. It was one of the most magical experiences ever. And that first hug and kiss? So familiar, yet so new, all at the same time. They do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that was definitely true for us.
The next 9 days were entirely wonderful. There’s no doubt Japan is an exciting place to visit, but when you’ve got someone special to share it with, it makes the experience so much better! I took Rich to my favourite places, and we saw a lot of new things too. Our adventures have been documented on his Flickr and mine, and although a picture can tell a thousand words, it’s probably better if I fill you in on the rest.
Shibuya: Quite possibly my favourite place in Japan (so far). Rich and I went there on numerous occasions during his visit, and it was always good. There are a myriad of shops catering to all your needs. From high-end to budget-basement – they have it all. Not to mention the awesome selection of eateries and watering holes. Something for every taste: pizza, pasta, sushi, noodles galore! There’s even an aquarium restaurant where you can be surrounded by fish while you eat… fish, no doubt. Ok, that sounds a little weird, but that’s the essence of Japan! And let’s not forget the Love Hotels. Grab your loved one (or consenting adult), wander through the hills until you find an establishment to your liking, and then decide if you’re there for a “stay” (overnight) or just a “rest” (three hours). Some hotels let you hire costumes, while others are quite basic. But you will need to know a little Japanese to get access to them, or at least pretend you do (nod and say, “hai!” all the time).
Harajuku: Again, another place we went to on multiple occasions. The people-watching here is second to none, and there are streets and streets lined with all sorts of shops. We were extra lucky to experience some holiday street-vendors on New Year’s Night. Managed to sample some traditional, local delicacies, as well as plenty of tasty treats! The shopping district, parallel to the main strip, has quite a few crepe stands, and I highly recommend tryng any one of the cheesecake crepes :) Back on the main street there’s also Kiddy Land (5 floors of all things “toy”), and just around the corner from there is Blister for all your Bearbrick and Kubrick needs!
Disneyland: Was magical. Admittedly, we chose probably one of the most busiest days to go there, so the crowds were insane, and waiting times for rides were atrocious. Nevertheless, it is wonderful being able to relive your childhood again. And I was so happy Rich suggested we stay at the hotel there, because that is an experience I’ll never forget! The service was second to none, the staff were unbelievably friendly and helpful, and the hotel was immaculate! We stayed at the Disney Ambassador Hotel (the original hotel), and were on the 6th floor. Everything is Disney-themed, and they encourage you to take the hotel amenities home with you as souvenirs :D I’m currently using a pair of Mickey Mouse slippers as my inside-the-apartment footwear.
Tsukiji Fish Market: You will have to get up early to make the most of this experience, but it means you’ll beat the crowds if you do. We didn’t manage to catch the auctions, but arrived at some time around 7am I think. Got to see all the different seafood being prepared and sold. So many unusual creatures, and not the slightest bit fishy smelling, so it’s fine for those (like me) who are sensitive to overpowering smells ;) There are a number of sushi restaurants for dining, and we found a lovely little place that only seats about 16 customers at a time, so it’s possible you may have to wait. But, the fish is as fresh as you can get (if you’re so inclined), and although the chef was slightly dismayed to discover I didn’t eat seafood, he still prepared me a lovely tamago nigiri (omelette sushi) and cucumber maki (mini sushi) set. There’s nothing like fresh sushi at 8am for breakfast!
Subway: It may seem odd that I’m mentioning the subway and train system as a highlight of Rich’s trip to Tokyo, but it really can be fun. You get to see all the different sorts of characters that make up this wonderful city, and although we are both guilty of doing so ourselves, it’s hilarious to watch and laugh at the people falling asleep on the train :) Their train system is extremely efficient, and we never had to wait long for the next one to turn up. Even on New Year’s Eve the trains had been extended, so we could get home whenever we wanted. Plus, that’s where all the good vending machines are ;)
Akihabara: ELECTRONIC CITY!!! Yeah, you’d probably guess that Rich was excited about visiting Akihabara and all its electronic splendour, and you’d be right! We spent many hours wandering through the 8 floors of shopping goodness that is Yodobashi Camera. And as well as picking up some new glass for his Canon, Rich also managed to sample several of the tasty treats at Doughnut Plant, New York City ;) But not only do they cater to the technologically minded, they also offer an assortment of stores for those somewhat more on the deviant side. Seriously, every whim and fantasy are catered for. And if you’re not convinced, there was even some weird wheelchair figurine thing that had me totally confused :/
It was a wonderful nine days, albeit a short nine days, and we covered a lot of ground. But there aren’t words to express how unbelievably happy we were having that time together. And I probably don’t need to say that watching Rich walk through the departure gate at the airport was one of the most devastating experiences of my life. My only solace being knowing I’d be seeing him again in a few months. It may seem frivolous to some, but you can’t put a price on happiness, and neither of us would want to forego that experience for anything.
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