So, in March a couple of my friends flew out to Tokyo to see me. First to come Catt an old school friend from Tavistock and who I’ve known since Year 6. We’d both been to Japan together before as part of the exchange group run by our school (Tavi College, I love you despite, you know, the slight failing OFSTED thing…) and so she seemed to be quite excited to come back and see Tokyo again five years on.
So, I had a new experience of not only hosting my friend, but doing so in a foreign country which made me feel very grown up and resonsible and OMG panic attack panic attack panic attack. Luckily Catt is very easy to please so I didn’t have to worry too much about ballsing it up. So she arrived at Narita to a lovely sunny day, and finding a slightly tired Jenny who had decided to get to the airport forty-five minutes before the plane landed, to find the plane had been delayed, and then that going through customs seems to take an age so ended up not seeing her friend until almost three hours after having arrived at the airport. It’s a hard life (I woke up at 6AM. 6AM!!! Being awake at that time should be illegal) After collecting Catt, we dumped her stuff at my dormitory, she gave me a load of goodies from home as well as my glorious new laptop. I survived nearly two months without a computer. I should be knighted. Took Catt to be fed at the ever trusty Jonathon’s (om nom nom pancakes) and then headed out to see the sights of Kasai (there aren’t many) checked her into her hotel and then hit up Harajuku. We wandered down the Takeshita dori, aka the street of insanity and clothes. However, the fashion in Japan lately is mainly garu, so everything is pastel with extra frills. Not really either of our styles. After going for adventures in a pastel and frilly floral land we emerged back at the station and went to go get some okonomiyaki which is just goodness in batter.
My memory gets a little hazy here of what we did exactly what day, been a couple of months since she was here. I’m getting old…. but I took her to see Hosei, we went to Yasukuni Shrine and the Imperial gardens, found another giant buddha statue somewhere in Tokyo, went to see my friend Izumi and his family on hina matsuri (girls festival) and got treated to some shabu-shabu (you have a pan of boiling broth and vegetables, and hold slices of meat in it until cooked and then gobble up the wonder you have just created), went to see the Ghibli museum, went shopping in the Disney Land plaza, went souvenier shopping in Asakusa, shopped in Shibuya, Odaiba and went touristy in Kamakura. We also went to see the Great and Wonderful Oz or whatever it was with Chiharu. A truly terrible film. Don’t watch it.
I’ve probably forgotten a few of the things we did, but still I did my best to show her a variety of things. She seemed to enjoy herself so I think I succeeded!
Inbetween friends I had a conference at Hosei with all my fellow sheffield-ites and got given a lot of information on a lot of things like dissertation and exactly what we need to know for the coming year. It was a bit of a wake up call due to having been taking my studies fairly easy whilst in Japan, but it was useful. Also got to go drinking with a load of British people again which was mahem I promise you. Izakaya rocks.
After the Sheffield conference I had a few days to myself and then my old uni housemate Abi came. I was a little worried about having Abi here, not because of her, but because where the hell was I going to find vegetarian food in Tokyo? Japan isn’t really a country that has vegetarian values, and unless it’s a really touristy place like Disney Land, a vegetarian option on the menu isn’t really an option. Also, Abi gave me a challenge. She wanted to see Japanese Nature. I live in Tokyo, where the only forests are made of concrete and the most wildlife are the odd pigeons that toddle around. So I set this difficult question to google and discovered a few things we could do. Phew! I took Abi to some of the same places as Catt such as Shibuya etc but also went to a couple of areas I hadn’t been before. For one we went to Tokyo Disney Sea, which was brilliant fun, if ever so slightly foot slaughtering. Found it a lot more fun than Disneyland as the rides were a little more teenager appropriate. One of the more terrifying rides was the Tower of Terror. I don’t like drops, and I point blank refuse to go on Oblivion at Alton Towers, so nope nope nope. However I thought I could manage this. Although when it came to our turn to ride, I suddenly came aware of the fact that I was bursting for the toilet. People who grew up with me will know, that I have never had a strong bladder. That paired with a ride that revolved around my worst ride concept of all time, well I feeling more than a bit skittish when I sat down to my impending doom. However I made it. Not only did I manage to enjoy it pee free, I didn’t scream in terror nearly as much as I thought. Also they had a fantastic Indiana Jones themed ride. It was so much fun, even more so that Sophie, Abi and I were getting rather into it while the Japanese people sat there in our fake jeep thing as though it was a real jeep and we were merely driving up the road in some pleasant hills. The waiting hours at Disney Sea for the separate rides are a bit longer than at Disney Land, so while I fully reccommened you go, be prepared to see queue times of three hours.
We also went to Mt Takao, my way of enabling Abi to see a bit of nature. Mt Takao is a couple of hours or so out of Tokyo, but is worth it if you want a day to escape the city. There are several trails which vary in difficulty and take you up various parts of the mountain. If you just want to go to the top and not have to hike up, you can get a cable car, but you know, wheres the satisfaction in reaching the summit then? Also there was a monkey park which we had been hoping to go to, but we got misdirected by a man who didn’t want to admit he didn’t know where the monkey park was and only found it on the way back down when it was closed. But it was a nice day in nature and clean air, and I even saw a real life tanuki which are actually quite cute unlike their creepy-giant-testicled-statue counterparts. I also managed to succeed in feeding Abi, with care we managed to find non-meat included items on menus and kept her from starving. Success!
While I won’t be offering my tour guide services on a professional level anytime soon, I now know I can convey people around a foreign city without getting ourselves totally lost. Achievement unlocked.