Our flight from Okinawa landed late so it was about 11pm by the time we got to our hotel. We went straight to bed to get a good nights sleep as the next day was Sumo day!
We decided to stay in Nagoya an extra day so we weren't clock watching during the day, but supposedly our hotel was fully booked (again doubtful but no reservation, no room!) so were up early to move to a hotel down the road, which actually turned out to be much nicer anyway. Once checked in we walked 30 mins to get to the sumo venue and arrived about midday. Most of the action (or big games if you can call it that) didn't start until later in the afternoon but we wanted to get there early and make the most of it. We found our seats which luckily had an awesome view and spent the first hour working out what was going on and the rules. We've been to quite a few sporting events recently and its so much more enjoyable when you know what's going on! I quite enjoy learning about the rules of sports I didn't know before! A couple of beers down and we realised that everything was so expensive we'd be better off finding a nearby shop for supplies, so went off to find one before the main event started. On the way we saw a massive sumo wrestler wandering along the street and ended up doing a bit of sumo stalking and following him into tube station (we were technically still looking for shop) and after a bit of hovering around trying to sneak a photo, asked him outright if he would pose with Grant (well Grant did while I hid behind a pylon worried he might sit on me and break me!) Luckily he said yes but he didn't look overly happy about it! He must have lost his match!!
Eventually we found a shop and bought the only few things left on the shelf then hurried back to the sumo for a full day chilling and watching. It was a really good day, Grant really enjoyed it and I was pleased we'd moved things around so we could go.
After the last sumo match we wandered back to the hotel area and found a cheap pasta dinner place before going back to the hotel and spending a fun 4 hours in their business centre doing our blogs. They take ages!!
The next morning we were up early to get the train to Matsumoto, a town at the bottom of the Japanese Alps, as I was keen to see a different and more remote side of Japan. As it was a Saturday the train was absolutely rammed and we had a fun journey standing up for 2 hours crammed into the end of the carriage with 20 other people, that'll teach us for not booking seat tickets in advance!
When we arrived we were pretty knackered and stressed and wanted to dump our stuff as soon as possible so put our bags in lockers at the station and went in search of some lunch. We'd picked up a tourist leaflet at the station and found out about a free bike hire facility near by so after lunch headed off to find the place. When we got there they found us the last 2 bikes left and after asking us to sign a register (no ID needed, no deposit - just sign and go, so trusting in Japan!) We had our bikes and we were off.
We rode around for about 2 hours, visiting a castle, and quaint little oldy worldly streets and getting a good look round the town, I enjoyed the bike ride it was fun, its been years since I've been on a bike! We knew our hostel was quite far out of town so while we had the bikes, biked there to check in. The hostel was crap, with no real facilities and in the middle of nowhere, so we were pleased we were only going to be there for 1 night. After a quick check in we rode back into town to give bikes back and went and found a pub while we worked out what we wanted to do next. A few hours and a lot of wine later, we went to find somewhere to eat and ended up in an izakaya for a tapas like dinner. The menu wasn't in English as the town was a pretty remote place but the waiter did his best to explain some options to us and what we ended up with was pretty decent.
We thought about going home after dinner but as the hostel wasn't very exciting decided to go for a drink in the 300 yen bar across the road. 4 or 5 hours later we left quite battered, and on the way to the bus station stumbled across an american guy outside a karaoke bar and struck up conversation. He told us it was his b'day and he was celebrating with his friends in the Karaoke place and after me drunkenly shouting at him 'I want to do karaoke!' we were invited to join them! We spend a funny couple of hours with them attempting to sing, and read Korean lyrics, and eventually got back to hostel at 4.30am! Awesome random night! Our hostel room was packed when we got back, they had even put an extra mattress on the floor, which we nearly stacked it over, they weren't very impressed when we woke them all up! Bad backpackers!! Our stuff was still in the lockers at the station so we slept in our clothes and woke up next day feeling like complete s***e! I was sick before getting a lift to the station with a very unimpressed hostel manager!
As you can imagine the train journey was horrendous! The train bounced all over the place, it was such a horrible 3 hr train journey, with me throwing up every 20 mins! Eventually we got to Tokyo station and after one final go at throwing up, we got the tube to our hostel where luckily they let us check in early for once (probably saw the state of me!) I was so pleased we had booked a double room instead of dorms and had never been so glad to see my bed!! Our room had unexpectedly got an en suite too and after a well needed shower I felt a million times better!
Not quite able to go out yet, but needing food, I chilled in bed for a bit while Grant went for an explore and got us a subway, after which I had a lovely 3 hour nap, and by the evening I was pretty much normal again.
We went to a Ninja restaurant for dinner, something that was on our list to do while in Japan. When we arrived we were asked to wait while our Ninja waitress 'appeared' coming through a secret door. They led us thru a dark tunnel with draw bridges and more secret doors to an underground dark restaurant, it was all a bit tacky (as expected) but quite funny. We looked at the menu and weren't surprised to see how expensive it was so went for a taster menu which was just about affordable, fully expecting small portions and to be hungry when we left. We couldn't have been more wrong! The food was delicious, it was 5 courses of the nicest food we'd had since we'd been away, all with a 'Ninja' twist like inside out sushi and black squid ink sweet and sour pork. A couple of times they came to our table and cooked 'Ninja' style at our table by putting different ingredients in a bowl with a hot stone to cook it in front of us. At the end of the meal a Ninja magician appeared and did magic tricks at our table, some were pretty impressive!! It was a really nice evening and we were stuffed by the time we left!!
A short train ride later and we were back at the hostel for a very needed good nights sleep!
The next day was our last full day in Tokyo so we wanted to make the most of it and see as much as we could. We wandered round different districts of Tokyo; to Gion to walk round the old pedestrian streets, to Ginza to see the main shopping area and to Shibuya to sit in starbucks above a famous street crossing to people watch, apparently 10 thousand people an hour cross the street! It was pretty mad and supposedly a popular thing to do.
Walked out and tired, we tried to find a 300 yen bar that was supposed to be pretty cool but we got there too early and it wasn't open. Then we tried to find a bar recommended by one of Grants friends but couldn't find that either so ended up in an underground cafe eating the most disgusting food (I swear one of the dishes was fish cartilage and the other was some sort of testicles!) before giving up and heading back to the hostel for a rest.
That night we got the train to Shinjuku which is famous for its nightlife, to find some dinner. We walked around trying to find a BBQ place which we fancied for our last dinner, but after walking around for ages ended up in the seedy red light district area with a lot of girly bars but not really any restaurants! It wasn't a particular nice area to hang out in! Down one of the roads Grant took photo of the street and some black dude started accusing him of taking his picture and wanted to know why he had, he was obviously up to no good to be that bothered!! He got a bit arsy and we didn't pay any attention but he started following us around for a bit so we quick sharpish went back across town to a nicer area. When we got there the restaurants had started to close and we couldn't find anywhere we wanted to eat so decided to get tube back to our area, where the restaurants had been open pretty late the night before. So far not an overly successful last night! Luckily when we got to our area we found a cute little izakaya place for our last dinner in Japan, and in Asia!
The next day we had most of the day to kill until our late night flight so booked a free walking tour with the tourist info place. We thought that it would show us round some of the culture places we hadn't seen and it also said it included a gourmet department store tour (or so we thought) which was right up our street. Unfortunately the tour turned out to be a tour of the department stores in the Shinjinku area not culture or food! Neither Grant or I are even remote fans of shopping so we wandered around for a while wondering where we went wrong, but eventually the cute little old lady, who reminded me of my nan (sorry Granny B if you're reading this!) asked us if there was anything in particular we wanted to see and when we suggested the food floors the tour suddenly improved dramatically and we were taken around the food floor asking questions about what all the weird and wonderful different fruits, vegetables and ingredients were. We also managed to walk round the cooked food section trying different foods, with the second tour guide keen to please us (you've got to love the Japanese) scurrying off finding us different things to try. It actually turned out to be quite a cool day!
The more I've travelled, the more I've realised the UK is such a boring place! Our food, culture and even the weather are not nearly as diverse as many other countries! Luckily for me I still love it there tho, or i'd be in danger if never going back! It's come close!! :-)
After a quick stop at a spinny spinny conveyor belt sushi lunch (not quite ready to let go of Japanese food!) we were back at the hostel to pick our stuff up and make our way to the airport for our 36 hour journey to South Africa!
I loved Asia, and with the route we did I loved each country more than the last, with Japan definitely being my favourite! After 3 months however I was ready to move on and was pretty excited about the next leg of our trip in Africa. Even if that did mean we were now half way thru our travels!! :-(