Japan


Paul and I drew into Tokyo station, weary and laden down with heavy rucksacks full of omiage – gifts – for relatives and family friends. On our journey, the shinkansen had gradually passed from mountain valleys, rice valleys and isolated farms to villages, then towns spread about factories – then the buildings grew higher and higher until suddenly, there we were, in the middle of the huge, sprawling megatropolis of Tokyo. People were everywere and the basement shopping areas of Tokyo station stretched far out in every direction, as far as the eye could see. It took half an hour just to get out of the station and onto the correct undergound line to get to the office of our apartment rental company.

By the time we got there, we were exhausted. It has started to pour with rain again and too tired to negotiate rush hour trains with our heavy rucksacks and bags, we decided to grab a taxi. We arrived in Roppongi, our home for the next few weeks, huddling under our umbrellas from sheets of rain. The apartment was small, compact, immaculate, modern. Perfect. It was the most welcome sight. Although we loved the myriad experiences of our two week trip, now that we were ‘home’ we realised just how tired we were. We got in, unpacked, filled the Japanese bath full of hot water, had a soak. With a cold beer and our feet up, we felt ready to begin the next chapter of our adventures. Or chapters – these were going to be our Tokyo Stories.

For now, though, given that I am writing this by the poolside of our hotel in Siem Reap in Cambodia, I’ll be interweaving our Tokyo Stories with my tales of Indochine. It’s time to get to real time and tell you all what we’re up to right now, here in Cambodia, two days away from our flight to Vietnam.

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Here we are, sitting in a beautiful ryokan in the countryside not far from Kagoshima on the morning of the 12th April.  Since Kyoto we’ve already been to Miyajima, Nagasaki and now Kagoshima.  But because I’ve been too busy eating, soaking in hot baths, travelling and enjoying the sights and because there hasn’t always been internet access when I needed it I’m about four days behind on my blog postings.  However.  It will all go up there sooner or later.

In the meantime, I’m making use of this lull while I sit here in gorgeous surroundings to say some heartfelt thank yous from Paul and from me.

When we were in Nagasaki, the receptionist put a phone call through announcing the caller as “Daddo-san”.  Well, that was my father, seeing how we were getting on.

So, Daddo-san – from the both of us, an enormous thank you for making this unforgettable trip in Japan possible.  We’ve seen so much in just the twelve days of travelling so far, and look forward to the rest.  Paul is just blown away and says he never thought he would have the opportunity to see so many varied and stunning places in just one little portion of Japan.  He says now that he wants to live here!

Heartfelt thanks are also due to some Japanese friends.

Michiko san, we met by chance at Great Queen’s Street restaurant, and how lucky I was!  It was just a short time we spent in London, but our friendship will go on – and you have introduced all these possibilities for us in Japan, for our trip, through your marvellous recommendations (Myoken Ishiharaso, where we are now, is just an extraordinary place, the food exquisite – more on a blog post later) and through your introductions to your friends.

At that lunch in Yauatcha, you and your friends – Asako san, Kondo san, Yuriko san and Akiko san were all so helpful and enthusiastic in your contributions to our itinerary.  Now everything is coming to fruition and we have been eating our way through your recommendatins!  Thank you for your two Kyoto restaurant recommendations Asako san – both incredible.

Last but not least, Okuda san from JNTO, who so very kindly stepped in and arranged accommodation for us for our final five days of travelling around Japan, thank you so very much for your time and enthusiasm – and for coming to our leaving party armed with pages of food recommendations!  We are looking forward to visiting your home city of Kagoshima later this afternoon and will be visiting all the places you suggest.  From this evening we will be staying in the first of the accommodations arranged by you and Ms Kubota from KNT in Tokyo.  We are really looking forward to it.

Daddo-san, Michiko san, Okuda san, Kubota san, Asako san, Akiko san, Kondo san, Yuriko san, kokoro kara arigato gozaimasu!