Posted by: Bert and Tania | January 8, 2010


So, Tokyo was where we touched down in Japan and a HUGE contrast to Varanasi and India… possibly the biggest culture shock on planet Earth. I (Tania) felt immediately at ease and fairly comfortable, despite not being able to read or understand anything. I think it was because I’m used to large developed cities… and the Japanese are very very polite so they don’t stare or try and take photos of you (as in India). So, all of a sudden we felt like we blended in… My first impressions of Japan:
– Hardworking (finishing at 1am is normal for some it seems!)
– Super polite (even the train refreshment trolley attendants bow when entering and leaving your carriage)
– Tidy (you rarely see any litter and there is alot of sweeping around)
– Trendy (in Tokyo particularly everyone is achingly fashionable, although for the most in a relatively predictable way)
– Animal rights aren’t very high on the agenda (judging by what people eat and wear)
– Cuboid (cars, houses, food packaging, even the baths are square shaped… it all fits together marvellously)
– Expensive (very)

We have to say a huge ‘THANK YOU’ to both Ian and Alex, both of whom live in Tokyo and provided us with accomodation for most of our stay. It’s been 5 years since Bert last visited Ian (Bert and Ian lived together at Cambridge) and Ian was every bit as ace as last time in showing us round, putting us up, teaching us to snowboard, getting us drunk and generally showing us lots of aspects of Japanese culture that we wouldn’t stand a chance of seeing if we were just visiting as tourists (which, of course, we’re not). Alex entrusted us with the keys to his flat (and with turning the pilot light off on his boiler) which gave us our own space in Tokyo for three weeks – amazing!

On Boxing day, Ian hosted a party at his house and we all ate home-cooked Nabe (fish, meat, vegetables and noodles cooked in a soup) and Christmas pudding and swung a four foot long carrot around. That’s also when I met Ian’s friend Ryo and she planned my haircut.

A special hello to Manehiro/Munierhyron-chan (sorry, I should be able to spell your name by now) and to Sako-chan for being lovely and being around to share our Japanese experiences.

New year was amazing – we went to Kamakura to visit a big temple and ate more than is imaginable. We also adventured into a dark forest and Tania mounted a shrine. We also need to thank Eric and Chika for putting up with us turning up at their house drunk late on New Year’s eve. And despite having just got back from their holiday in Thailand they let us stay in their awesome house with sea-and-Mount-Fuji-views and fed us lots.

We also…
-Visited a ‘girls bar’ where you can press a button which illuminates the bar staff’s posteriors (an awkward experience).
-Played ‘pachinko’, a craze of machines with little balls, that has gripped Japan for years.
-Ate raw horse sushi, an eel’s liver, every type of raw fish, pig’s intestines, raw horse tendons, gelatinous rice with seaweed, full English Breakfast cabbage pancake and fish guts sausage. We managed to escape eating crunchy womb…

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