Thought I’d import a piece from my travel diary last year, about my arrival and first day in Japan, since that’s a theme of this blog atm. It’s worth noting that the aussie dollar had just dropped due to Black Friday, and had an awful exchange rate compared with the yen.
I hadn’t got any currency before I left and Dom (my husband) said I should have some, so I got some at Sydney Airport from ANZ, for the crap rate of 59.5 yen to the dollar (hey, Travelex was worse at not much over 58!) I got $500.
Of course, when I arrived at Narita, there was an atm that gave me 66yen to the dollar – doh! Anyways, I rented myself a phone and got the limousine bus to Shinjuku. I was quite nervous during the ride, as I hadn’t printed off the address of the hotel. I had 2 bags @ 20kg (one full, one not – to leave room for clothes!) and a shoulder bag to lug around and didn’t want to trek for miles.
The bus dropped me off in Shinjuku and I couldn’t really make head or tail of the map, so decided to get a cab to Kabukicho. One person stopped to help while I was deciphering the map, (as everyone told me they would). While I was deliberating though, a groovy swing band started up there on the street, so I stayed to listen. They gave me a flyer, but it was on the same night as Alamode (a goth club I’d already planned to visit). Oh well…
So I got the cab – and it was bloody funny – the cab driver had Tourettes! He didn’t swear, but kept making these involuntary guttural sounds. The entire way. Disconcerting and surreal. Gave him the hotel phone number, he called his base and got the street. Man, the neon lights hit me on the way there! Great festive electric canyons sprawling in every direction. And people everywhere.
So Tourettes stops the cab cos we’re in the right street but we don’t have the building number, and I‘m looking around perplexed, knowing this adventure could be far from over. I look across the road from where we are, and between the restaurants and girly bars and convenience stores and people with perfect hair, there’s this plaque in English on a column saying “Best Western” – YEEHAW!
The hotel did its photos proud and the reception/lobby was a glorious modern edifice of dark brown zebrano wood and sleek hanging pendants (see previous post). I was so impressed with my room when I got in, that I immediately started taking pictures of it. Small but perfectly designed. (I’d say, “just like me”, but who am I kidding?”)
By the time I actually got into my room it was after 9, and by the time I got my laptop hooked up it was 9.30 – see my lovely desk area below.
I was too tired to think about hitting the Fashion Ramone party in Shibuya; pity I hadn’t landed the night before. As I looked out of my window at the neon and clubs and young people with perfect hair having fun, I was wistful and wishing I had the energy to explore, on the only Saturday night I‘d be there. But a girl has her limitations.
Negotiating the toilet was a whole nother can o’ worms. I enjoyed the pre-warmed seat immensely and marvelled at the technology. But then there was the, erm, cleansing bit to navigate. I knew there was automated power-showering of your ladybits, but was mightily confused there was a “bidet” and “shower” option, both with diagrams of spurting water, as if from a large mammal’s blow-hole.
I also wondered which of the two was the flushing mechanism. Well, 50% odds of success, right? So I pushed one, hoping for the best. Oh dear. It sprayed into the air, wet my hair, spilled over the seat and wet the floor. It was then I noticed the primitive lever on the side of the cistern. Note to self.
(BTW, I have since been informed that one is for the bumhole, and one for the ladybits. Oh, right.)
Afterwards I had a fabulous bath (well, I was already wet, right?), feeling very pleased with myself for once that I‘m so short. God, the bath was perfect for me. If you’re a basket-baller, not so much.
Owing to the smallness of the room, I left my purple suitcase near the front door and bathroom the first night. Of course, when I got up in the darkness to go to the loo that night, I tripped on it, hurtled into the wall opposite, copped my elbow a nice bruise and fell on my ass. Twice.
Brekkie was OK. So the bread was white; at least there was a toaster. The scrambled eggs were a bit strange (what did they use in the damn things to make em so gluggy – glue?), but the bacon was yum, and coffee hit the spot.
I would have loved more of a sleep in, and to have a walk around Shinjuku to get acquainted, but that’d have to wait, as Sunday is THE day to go to Harajuku and Yoyogi Park. Again with the nervousness as I had to tackle the ticket situation, get myself on the right train to Harajuku, head over to Yoyogi as well, get myself back home, get changed and fed, and get myself on another train to go to a club halfway round the line. Jeebers.
Time (and my sense of direction) was against me. Just to throw another hurdle in my own way, I dressed goth Lolita stylee – you know, just to throw off ordinary Japanese who may otherwise be tempted to help me. Hedged my bets, deciding NOT to wear the spooky contact lenses and wig. Semi-freak, not fully sick.
I took me 45 minutes to walk to the JR line at Shinjuku. Um, it now takes about 5-10, just to get a sense of scale here. I got lost overground, so then I followed the labyrinthine underground passageways, to get to Takeshimaya Times Square, only to climb up a bunch of stairs and double-back on myself when I saw where the station was. Dumbass.
Getting the ticket was actually pain-free. I asked the information dude the amount, he said 130 and pointed to the ticket machines to his left, I walked over and looked for a bit, fished out some change, he scared the shit out of me by popping his head out from a secret lil window between the machines, (what is this, “Laugh-In”?) and voila! Un ticket.
Following the signs for the lime green Yamanote line was child’s play. Oh, the sense of achievement and smugness when I boarded the train! It was a cold and rainy day, and so everyone at Harajuku had umbrellas – transparent ones that are smaller than ours. This is so they can see where they’re going when it’s rainy and they’re riding bicycles. Naturally.
My first pic of Takeshita Dori showed a sea of what looked like slowly-moving jellyfish. Now, had I but known, I should have tackled the street then. Later on, I would learn the only way to get down the street at any speed would be to crowd-surf. However, I had Harajuku kids to see, so after going the wrong way for a bit, I double-backed on myself to get to the cosplay bridge. (Do you see a pattern forming here?)
Ah. There was sweet FA to be seen. I actually thought I was in the wrong place, except there were a few kids with moderately coloured hair that I thought might *possibly* be a bit alternative. One cute chicky came running over to me and we had a broken conversation . So that’s that, I thought, and flounced off to the Meiji Shrine near Yoyogi Park to see the sights.
I marvelled at how, despite the density of population, you can wander off and be totally alone with towering trees. It was gorgeous, the temples lovely, the many cawing crows gothic. But where were the rockabilly dudes with their quiffs; the bands playing next to each other? The rain kept them away. Another note to self – don’t go in bloody autumn/winter. (I also later discovered they were to the right of the bridge, not in the park where the shrine was).
I took pics of a few little gals dressed in kimonos. A number of people asked if they could take pictures of ME – too funny. Some others just snapped surreptitiously, cheeky fucks. Ah, so this is how it feels.
It was beautiful, and damp and cold, and soon I got blisters. I returned the way I came, (for doubling-back is my middle name), over the bridge and – miracle of miracles – there were FREAKS there!! Met the gorgeous blonde Erica who is now a Kera magazine model, and others.
Went back to Takeshita Street but it was bloody dangerous by this time. No exaggerating. By 4pm, things had got ugly and the crowd was surging in both directions. It was like the mosh pit in a punk gig. I am not joking. People surging, people falling, girls passing out, small children crying, (what are they doing in a punk gig?)
After a short while I abandoned the attempt, and went back to the station. Holidays are not worth risking your life for. I might have gone shopping in Suva, Fiji on the day of the coup, but Takeshita on a Sunday arvo is in a different class of danger altogether.”
To round off, here’s a little snippet of video from my visit to Harajuku in March this year, including a visit to Takuya Angel, and chatting with DJ Sisen, Aki (from the Gothic & Lolita book) and U-tarou from the rock band Baal. Harajuku Video by trashtastika – MySpace Video
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