Time to update again! Been a busy couple of days since I last managed to get on and we've been very busy exploring Tokyo and travelling to Kyoto.
The evening of the last blog we went down to a Japanese restaurant in the same building as our hotel and had a small meal (tiredness was winning). We shared 12 pork gyoza, special fried rice, soup and two pork meatball things - all very cheap too. Was more or less straight to bed after though for a loooong and much needed sleep. Asleep by 930 Japanese time and eventually woke up at 940am! Had a quick breakfast (yoghurt for edd and fruit cup thing for Hel) and headed out into Tokyo after planning what we needed to see.
So, headed to Shinjuku Station (busiest in Japan over 3 million people pass through per day!) and easily enough navigated our way to Harajuku and explored the nearby Meiji-Jingu Shrine. Completed in 1920 but authentic and built from Japanese cypress it was very impressive amid a peaceful park. Then through Harajuku and walked along a main shopping road over to Shibuya. Much more mainstream area with big brand shops. Our decision to walk this road to Shibuya paid off when we walked past a Sbarro! A quick stop for a ham stromboli was essential and we headed over to the famous Shibuya Crossing with huge great zebra crossings on a busy intersection. We explored some of the side roads and popped into a puppy shop before jumping back onto the train to Ginza, an upmarket area of Tokyo that has the Sony Building. A giant block of offices and a Sony Showroom with all the latest and forthcoming electronic devices. We queued for 20mins or so to be able to experience a personal 3D viewer...a slightly bigger version of what Geordie Laforge wears over his eyes in Star Trek! Anyway complete with headphones you look directly into this and we watched a 3D advert for the new spiderman film. Very cool and futuristic.
From there we walked up toward Tokyo station and then underground to a mall of shops and restaurants (like PATH in Toronto) where we found a noodle and tempura restaurant. We managed to point at what we wanted and got there eventually despite a much too big portion! Very full we walked up to the Imperial Palace, you can't go inside or that close but a good view of it built into the hillside. Quickly back on the train and over to Akihabara (electric town) to see all the bright lights of the electronic stores. No robots but we did manage to get a Mountain Dew from a vending machine! Back over to Shinjuku and a quick look around the red light district Kabukicho which wasn't all that bad/offensive really! A long day of walking and back to the hotel for a quick shower.
Then we headed back to the Park Hyatt and proceeded up to the 52nd floor to have a drink at New York Bar (the bar featured a fair amount in Lost in Translation). Got an awesome window seat looking out over the flickering lights of night time Tokyo. Incredible hotel and bar, had couple glasses of Reisling (Hel!) and an Asahi beer (edd). Back to our own hotel for 8pm to eat at the Manhattan Grill restaurant where we each ate from a set menu. A couple of drinks included by which time Hel was determined that we try Big Echo, a karaoke bar we'd walked past earlier (more box ticking!...fair enough). Got a little private room for 30mins and went through some tracks (having spent ages using the wrong control in japanese and having to call for help...to give us another japanese control but he showed us the buttons to press at least!).
This morning we were up bright and early, checked out of the hotel by 8 and braved Shinjuku rush hour....it really is pretty busy! Crammed onto a train to get over to Tokyo so we could board our Shinkansen (bullet) train. We had a 30min stop in Shin-Fuji so we could see Mt Fuji and take a few pictures before back onto the next train for a 2 hour journey to Kyoto. A confusing journey through their metro system which we managed with a bit of help and got to our hostel the Khaosan Kyoto Guest House. In a good location and has a good feel to the place. Many sights to see so headed straight back out and followed a Lonely Planet guide for a walking tour to see many of the famous sights in Kyoto. The Tokyo grey had been replaced by bright sun however and the 4 hours of walking this afternoon was therefore even tougher! But we did manage it, taking in Chawan-zaka (teapot lane), Kiyomizu-dera (ancient temple first built 798 and reconstructed 1633. Pretty incredible with a gate looking out over the whole of Kyoto from its position on top of a hill. The picture for this blog) We were then ambushed by loads of school children all needing same answers from tourists. In english (spoken well for 8 year olds) we answered that we were from London (each looking down at notes and replying "wow, great") as well as our favourite Japanese foods and fav sport. We were then caught by even more who needed us to sign our name next to our nationality...took ages signing about 20 books....glimpse into fame!Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka followed, both charming little streets with an incredibly old feel with tea houses, restaurants and gift shops. Mopre temples followed; Kodai-ji, Chion-in and Shoren-in as the sun set. We then had a tiring 40min walk back but at least it was through Gion an old district famed for Geisha. We saw many Geisha driven past in expensive taxi's, undoubtedly on the way to appointments hosting an expensive dinner and performing their music somewhere. Eventually, aching and tired back to the hostel to chill and write this. Now to summon the energy for some dinner...!