We were meeting up with Ellie (our tour guide) today for some sightseeing and a long overdue catch up. I haven't seen Ellie for at least five years so it was brilliant to be meeting up in her home town. A few points that the Loughborough girls will understand;
1) Ellie is actually tall in Japan-definitely middle blocker material!
2) Turns out she can speak Japanese and wasn't just making up a language when phoning work. Although after two hours with us she forgot how to say 'Thank you' in Japanese!
Our first stop was the Tsujiki fish market, the biggest of its kind in the world. None of us fancied the 4am early morning rise to see the main hubbub of buying and selling. Nevertheless there was still plenty to see when we arrived at 10. Ellie (worst Japanese person ever) doesn't like fish and James isn't keen on Sushi so we wandered around looking at all the weird and wonderful fish and took some great photos of giant tuna and strange looking fish!
Ellie took us to the Emperor's Palace garderns and we were so busy chatting we didn't even make it to the palace and famous bridge (don't worry James and I re-visited on Monday!) We met Maya, a lovely girl that also went to Loughborough and we headed to the >>>> temple or the love temple. We weren't the only ones there, a huge line greeted us and Ellie explained that at the start of each year people visit this temple and receive a fortune about love for the year to come. James and I learnt the ritual of how to pray-clap, clap, bow, bow, pray, clap, clap-the louder you clap the more likely it is the Gods will hear you.
Ellie got the best fortune for the year and Maya got the 2nd best. James and I got almost the same fortune, which is good for a couple! It was one of my most memorable experiences, so simple but such an important ritual for Japanese people. The inside local information from Ellie and Maya was already providing us with different great experiences. Ellie had been doing her research and there happened to be a festival showcasing different areas in Japan from food to traditional dance. We thought this would be a great idea and as it was located in the enormous baseball dome it would be a sight in itself.
This was the first time we got to experience the joy of exploring Tokyo with Ellie and Maya (E&M) as our guides. It became a running joke and a source of great amusement to James and I their unique ability to get confused, sometimes lost, with both using google maps and sometimes street maps. And remember, at this point we were searching for a domed baseball stadium, a similar size to the millennium dome! James said 'isn't it right there?' we all burst into laughter and followed James' lead.
The show was amazing with impressive dancing and delicious food to try. This time with E&M as our translators could find out exactly what we were putting in our mouths! The only disappointing moment was towards the end. A huge an amazing pagoda like structure was crawling with people. We thought they were going to spin it around or something similar. In the end all they did was push it forward for 10 metres, take 2o minutes to turn it and then push it back! We weren't bothered as the rest of the festival had been so good and a family of eight sat in front of us and kept us entertained, especially when Ellie tried to feed the baby!
More efficient planning from Ellie, she found and booked us in at a restaurant nearby (it goes without saying we found it easy enough!) The drinks were included and you had a limit of two hours so it really was a game of drink while you…. well do anything really! Ellie introduced me to the wonders of plum wine and it became my poison for the rest of our time here. The food was really tasty but James and I got a bit lost in translation as we thought it was also all you can eat. James demolished the potatoes and I set a good eating record of the most peas eaten in one sitting! E&M were too polite and lovely to say-stop being greedy so luckily we cottoned on shortly and apologised profusely. We got a lot of food and it was a bit like tapas so we were able to try lots of Japanese foods-so brilliant!
Ellie and I went truly Japanese and wore our face masks (mine has come in very handy in SE Asia-thanks Kawai!) I got a 'lovely' compliment from a very old and drunk man-always charming! Maya proved she was truly Japanese when we asked 'what is your favourite fo…' Maya- 'SUSHI'. I hadn't even finished the word food! Ellie won a few more Japan points back as she has watched sumo and Maya hasn't!
Getting back to the metro proved tricky and one of the funniest walks ever. Google maps was becoming a hilarious hindrance and E&M were arguing about which way to go. James and I soon picked teams-I knew with Ellie's MVP status that she'd be right but Maya was convincing so James sided with her. Loughborough (well Ellie) was triumphant and James soon switched camps-ha poor Maya! The homeless guy who was sleeping on a bridge must've thought we were mental, I think we were on first name terms by the time we found the right direction!