When we arrived in Tokyo it immediately became clear that it is every bit as disorientating as it is made out to be. After wandering around the airport like lost children for a while we somehow stumbled upon a ticket office with English speaking staff and eventually caught a train to one of the many city centres. After this, through some miracle of haphazard button pressing and guesswork we successfully purchased metro tickets from their unnecessarily complicated looking machines and from then on were flying. Until, that is, we arrived at Ikebukuro and had to hit the streets in search of our hotel. After many frustrating to-ings and fro-ings we found it down a back street and were delighted to dump our bags in the small airing cupboard masquerading as a bedroom that we had been provided with. Our crowning glory on that first day was our response to stupidly wandering into a Japanese restaurant-type-pub-thing and trying to order food, only to be served portions which wouldn't have satisfied the appetite of a borrower: we went to KFC, and it was gooood.
The next day started just as promisingly. We'd planned to visit the early morning fish market after hearing that it was a Tokyo highlight, only we didn't get there until gone midday, at which point it was closed. We ended up wandering one of the gardens close by which was fairly picturesque, and somehow found ourselves cornered by a Japanese girl with a professional looking camera who was mesmerised at the sight of Jacqui's blonde hair and wanted to take a few pictures. In the evening we decided to explore Akihabara, where all the huge electronics and manga stores are. The latter really are surreal; they're all 6 stories plus and completely dedicated to Manga, action figures and anime dvds, and there are as many suited businessmen in their forties wandering around them as there are 12 year old kids. They really have to be seen to be believed, there just isn't anything really comparable back home. Until we went there, I'd been disappointed by how drab and grey Tokyo looked, as I'd expected flashing lights, three storey tv screens on the sides of futuristic and stupidly proportioned buildings with arms and legs and spires protruding into space everywhere. The reality is that, by and large, Japanese cities look about as appealing from a distance as Birmingham and it takes a bit of work to find the interesting areas, although in a place the size of Tokyo that's hardly surprising and certainly isn't a criticism of the place. On a sadder note, Akihabara is also the place where those stabbings occurred a few days before we went there, and there were several makeshift memorials dotted along the streets where people had left flowers and other gifts as a show of respect.
On our second full day we went out early(ish) to Harajuku to see one of Tokyo's nicest temples. It didn't really compare to anything we'd seen in China but was still fairly easy on the eye. As we were engaged in our wanderings we saw a wedding procession making its way through the temple grounds. The traditional Japanese dress on display was pretty spectacular, I think we have a few photos of the bride and her entourage in our Tokyo album.
After this we made our way to Tokyo bay on one of the cities newest train lines, which they had generously decided not to include as part of the metro system, and so our tickets wouldn't work. We didn't know that at the time though. Anyway, the train took us across a massive bridge and over to the bizarrely shaped Fujifilm building (which, had we known Jacqui's camera was plotting to wipe our memory card, I would have stood in front of and cursed at). We wandered around the shoreline for a bit and posed for pictures by the mini statue of liberty, and then wandered over to another massive shopping centre. This was was truly bizarre, as the whole interior was designed to look like Venice and was ridiculously over-decadent. There was no way we could afford anything there, so decided to go on the huge Ferris wheel outside instead. I'm not sure if it's as big as the London Eye, but it was pretty huge. At the top the view gave us a better idea of how huge Tokyo is, as there was literally nothing green as far as the eye could see.
That evening we took the metro to Shinjuku (Japans busiest station and therefore probably the busiest in the world) and wandered along to the Government building and went up to the viewing platform. Again we were treated to amazing views of the city, only this time at night which is arguably more impressive than during the day. It was around this time that we realised the Japanese don't use credit or debit cards for anything, nor do they see any reason to provide ATMs that accept foreign cards. FURTHERMORE (!!!) the Citibank our lonely planet guide had told us was in the area was in no hurry to disclose its location. Annoying.
On our final day we decided to wander around the Imperial Palace, only to discover upon arrival that you cannot wander around the Imperial Palace. You see, it is only open for two days of the year, so we had to wander around the walls instead. There was one point where you could see the palace peaking up over the treetops, but it was swarming with tourists and so we continued our walk around the moat for a bit before deciding to go elsewhere. That elsewhere turned out to be Shibuya, which is another of Tokyo's big-buildings-and-bright-lights areas. The area we explored was mostly full of karaoke bars and clothes shops and is supposed to be where all the young, stylish and cool people hang out. Maybe they are, but the thing is that they all wear t-shirts with English slogans on that make absolutely NO SENSE whatsoever, like "HELTERSKELTER RECORDING WE WANTED IT TO LOUD-HORRIBLE SHAKE-OUT". I got a photo of that one. In the evening we walked around "love hotel hill', which is full of hotels where rooms are available for two hour 'rests' or one night 'stays' and have exotically themed exteriors. The area was slightly seedy but interesting to wander around as it's a uniquely Japanese solution to the 21st century adulterous businessman's problem.
So that's Tokyo then. I have now been to the place that I wanted to go to most in the entire world, and it was excellent.