What Tokyo So Long?

The only way to get from Osaka to Tokyo is by bullet train. That isn’t strictly true. I mean you could fly, drive, walk or ride on the back of a gibbon if you so wanted – but none are as comfortable as the Shinkansen. The five hundred kilometre journey takes just three and a half hours, and you barely feel as if your moving at all – it is basically the complete opposite of going for a jog after twenty-five sambucas. Plus you get a breathtaking view of Mount Fuji on your way. Check out ours below:

Yes, that’s right, we saw f-all as a soufflé of clouds (real collective noun) decided to spoil our party. But, as I always say, “if you put an inspirational quote under your selfie, no one can see your narcissism”. Hang on, that wasn’t the right quote. I also say that “everything you don’t see, is another excuse to go back”. Mount Fuji will remain on my ‘to-hike’ list, right next to my ‘films-to-watch-with-Gary-Busey’ list. Following our arrival in Tokyo, we were met by an old friend that Yugyeong and I had both worked with in Vancouver. Shizuka, possibly the most positive and cheerful person I have ever met, took us out to dinner – whilst also providing us with his and her Japanese bandanas – which didn’t leave my perspiring forehead for the remainder of the trip. Thank you!

The following day we started our tour of the sights at Ryōgoku Kokugikan (a giant Sumo Hall to you or I). As we got closer to the stadium, we started to rub shoulders with a few of the wrestlers – and I could see the fear in their eyes as they thought about the prospect of meeting me in the dohyō. Well, either it was fear or they were completely insulted by my flatulence – I blame the broiled fatty salmon sushi from last night. The inside of the Sumo Hall was a shrine to wrestlers past and present – although we weren’t allowed to take any photos of them (you will just have to take my word that one such champion looked EXACTLY like Donald J. Trump).

A short sumo’s waddle from Ryōgoku Kokugikan is Sensō-ji – possibly one of Tokyo’s busiest touriist attractions (and that’s saying something). In fact, according to the source of all knowledge: Wikipedia, it is the “most visited spiritual site in the world with over 30 million visitors annually”. Although, I would hasten to bet that ninety-five per cent of them don’t even know their bodhisattva from their bodhicitta – imbeciles. The oldest and most significant (so I’m told) of Tokyo’s temples, it certainly didn’t bring about the onset of “pagoda-fatigue” as we experienced in Osaka. The ‘Thunder Gate’ (or Kaminarimon) is a spectacular sight in itself, as are the hundreds of street sellers trying to offload their tourist junk (I ended up with seventeen fridge magnets and an inflatable geisha).

If you hadn’t already noticed Tokyo is a pretty busy city. However, nowhere is quite as busy as the Shibuya Crossing. You most certainly will have seen this intersection (good lord I am turning American) in a film or on a travel show. A quite staggering number of people, sometimes up to one thousand, attempt to cross the road at the same time – this is not the place to be if you have agoraphobia. The best quote I heard about Shibuya is that it is “a great example of what Tokyo does best when it’s not trying”. Although, the businesses that encircle the crossing don’t really need to try (the Starbucks here is the busiest and highest grossing in the world).

Having seen enough other human beings to last several lifetimes, we headed to the relative tranquillity of the Meiji Shrine. Built to commemorate the great Emperor Meiji and his wife, world leaders are often taken here in order to give them a sample of Japanese culture and architecture. George W. Bush was brought here (yes, remember that guy that we thought was the bottom of the barrel?) as well as Dave Cameron and Obama. The Torii gate at the shrine’s entrance is suitably enormous, as are the grounds that surround the central sanctuary, where I stood and paid my respects to the great Emperor Meiji of Japan – 122nd of his name.

With inner peace restored, it was now time to return to the quite ridiculous life of an English teacher in Korea. Japan has wholly captured my imagination, and I am thrilled that, despite the short-notice and short time in the country, I decided to cross the East Sea and visit. Just hope I can get my inflatable through customs…

J

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