I never got around to updating this. I’ve now been in Japan for three weeks, 2.5 in Tokyo and most recently three nights in Hakuba (where I am at the moment, with three more nights here).
I sort of decided to just film everything with my Sony HD action camera (video below) thinking I wouldn’t write anything, but now with a bit of downtime in Hakuba here I am.
I stayed in Space Hostel for the first few nights, which is a pretty nice place located in the suburb of Asakusa. The first few days were fairly quiet and I just explored the city on foot and on the subway. Tokyo’s train network is amazingly efficient and extensive. The Tokyo Metro (mostly underground) reaches every corner of the city, but on top of that, there is a similarly extensive JR network which also reaches every corner of the city. It is so comprehensive that it cant be covered on the one map, each system is on its own map, so I generally found myself just reading the Tokyo Metro map rather than the JR map.
In space hostel I ran into a couple of guys (Tom and Tim) who were keen to go out and experience Tokyo’s nightlife for the first time. So the three of us went to one of the british themed pubs (HUB – these things are everywhere in Shibuya/Shinjuku) in Shibuya. One thing led to another and eventually we found ourselves at one of Tokyo’s more well known nightclubs ‘Womb’. I’m pretty sure it was a Monday night, and it wasn’t that busy, but we had a pretty big night there judging by the videos on my camera and it wasn’t that busy but the Japanese people that were there were pretty welcoming!
We ended up getting home at about 6am (had to wait until 5am for the trains to resume!) which pretty much wrote me off for the next day and night. The next day, I caught up with Tim again and we actually arranged to go out to another club near Roppongi with some of his Japanese friends. The place was called ELE Tokyo, and that was a fun night! His Japanese friends friends were awesome and though it was expensive to get in (4,000 yen) we got some free drinks and made the most of the generous long island ice tea’s until the trains resumed, again getting home at about 6am, and again writing off the next day (!).
My days at Space Hostel were coming to an end by this time, the only place I could find accommodation for the New Years Eve period was a place in Asakusa with a 6/10 rating on Hostelworld, though it wasn’t a horrible time it felt a bit dirty with smoking permitted inside and not the best bathrooms, I really didn’t want to be there and used it only as a place to sleep.
I met up with two of my workmates from Melbourne, Joe and Adam, and their friends for New Years, and we went out to dinner in Shinjuku and then for those who lasted, we kicked on to Karaoke. It was stangely quiet in Tokyo (later found out New Years in Japan is like Christmas in Australia – more of a family occasion – Japans new years runs to around the 3rd of Jan with a lot of shops closed until this time), not as many people on the street as I was expecting, but a few of us kicked on at a few bars in Golden Gai , finishing up at Champion Bar until the trains kicked in at 5am.
The next day was a bit of a write-off, but on the 2nd, some dutch guys in the hostel asked me if I wanted to go check out the Aquarium in Ikebukuro. The aquarium was ok, pretty typical of an aquarium, bu on the way there we walked past this little shop called ‘Inventor Shop’. Stuck our heads in the door and an old Japanese guy gestured for us to come in, sit down and join him. He explained to us that he was an inventor and pulled out some of the games he had invented. The first one was a rubiks cube type game, where you had to arrange a flat fold-able triangle in various ways to make the little triangles (which the bigger one was made of) line up in different arrangements. I couldn’t get past the primary school level ones, it was hard!
His other game was a rock paper scissors version of chess, which was actually pretty awesome, and then he flipped it over to show a version of chess where the pieces allowable moves were marked on the top, that one was pretty good as well.
Later that day I met up with Joe and Jen and we got dinner in Shinjuku and then kicked on to Champion Bar again, unfortunately I left it a little last minute to get the final train and hd to get a cab which cost me about 3,500 Yen for a 30 minute trip that only got me 10km.
The next day, being a Sunday, we read was the day to go see the ‘Harajuku Girls’, who dress up in weird clothing and hang out on the bridge there, but as it was right near the shrine (and super busy being new years and prime shrine visiting season for the locals) there were no weirdo’s to be seen, so we walked around for a bit and then got the train to the Park Hyatt, home to the film ‘Lost in Translation’ (I still haven’t seen it).
I moved to a hostel in Shinjuku that same day called Imano Hostel, which was pretty nice. It was at this point that I realised the laptop I brought with me to Japan couldn’t even process the videos from my Sony action cam, so I went on a mission to Akihabara (Tokyo’s electronics district) to find an english laptop (keyboard) with English operating system. After the 4th or 5th shop (and a good amount of time on google translate with the staff) I found this dodgy looking place that sold new and used laptops, run by some Indian guys. It seemed a little dodgy, he wanted me to pay for the new one I liked before showing me it worked, etc, etc. But I got him to start it up so i could check it out first. It all worked out, so I took it back to the hostel only to realise it wouldn’t hold any charge and needed to be plugged in to work!
I was really annoyed, because my shop warranty didn’t cover the battery, so I thought I’d been ripped off. After a morning of trying to get it to work, I took it back and explained the issue. Luckily, they were pretty reasonable and swapped it for the same model of one that worked to my relief.
A few days later Tim and Matt arrived back in Tokyo, so we went to check out National History Museum, Imperial Palace (couldn’t get in) and for some reason went to Hooters in Tokyo. About this time I got a call from my friends from home (Dan and Sam) who I expected to arrive in Tokyo on the 7th with some of the others (Tmac, Joe, Olly, Sean, Ooee) but they arrived a day early because they were leaving a day early back to Melbourne, so I went past there hotel on the way back from wherever I was, we went to my hostel to meet Tim and Matt and then went out to a BYO shisha bar with Tim’s friend from Tokyo. After that place Sam, Dan and I kicked on to Champion Bar in Golden Gai again and from there its a little hazy……
The rest of the guys arrived from Tokyo the next day and over the course of the next few days/nights we went to a few of the HUB’s, Golden Gai – where the old lady serving drinks to four of us was completely blind, and on their last night a baseball practice net.
Joe, Sean, Ooee, Tmac and I checked out the Tsukiji fish market (the biggest fish market in the world) and Harajuku (where there was a rockabilly dance-off going on) and Tmac, Joe and I also went to the Tokyo Skytree.
On my last night in Tokyo, a couple of guys from the hostel and I went to HUB in Shibuya, where we met some Japanese girls and all went to Karaoke together, that was a fun way to finish off.