Japan Holiday – Day 2

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I was up about 7am after a sleepless night. Actually we’d both slept very intermittently and we think it was due to the time difference.

The first thing I did when I got up was look out the window. Although it’s not a Bank Holiday here, we had typical Bank-Holiday weather! Rain!!!

We have a full-day tour of Tokyo planned today, so we’re hoping it’ll brighten up. The Tour was picking us up from the hotel reception at 8.55, so we just had time for a quick breakfast, (carefully avoiding the sprouts and steamed carrots – noooo!) in the mostly empty restaurant. It was still raining, but we remained optimistic.

In typical Japanese efficiency, at 8.53, our Tour Guide arrived and we boarded the coach. Now imagine the worst rain-storm you have ever been caught in. Now multiply that by five and you have something approaching the conditions here. “The Typhoon is coming…” uttered by the representative when we landed was starting to sound very likely! We learned the Typhoon has a name: ‘Typhoon 11’.

We stayed on the coach for around 20 minutes and then swapped to another – the weather was now getting much, much worse.

The Tokyo Tower
IMGA0003The Tokyo Tower was first on our itinerary. It looks rather the like the Eiffel Tower, but its orangey-brown paint job suggests it has another use. When it was opened in 1958, it used to be the tallest in ??? at IMGA0004333 metres high, but now, many other towers around the world dwarf it. The Tower’s function is to act as a transmitter for Japanese analogue TV. However, it’ll soon be switched off and replaced by its much, much taller digital equivalent – just under twice its ‘brother’s’ height.
IMGA0013The rain spoiled the view from the observation tower 150 metres up as the glass was covered in rain, but between us, we managed to get a few good shots.

The Meiji Shrine
Next stop, the Meiji Shrine – dedicated to the spirits of the former Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken.  The entrance to the shrine is guarded by two huge heavenly “gates”, with their pillars made from 1700 year old cypress trees.  By now the rain was getting bad…really bad! To add a bit of fun to the conditions, there was also a very strong wind blowing too. We learned at this point that the planned boat-trip had been cancelled

The Samurai Statue
IMGA0025This was a statue of a famous Samurai who served the Emperor.





The Imperial Palace
IMGA0024As we approached the Imperial palace, we saw the famous ‘twin bridges’. They would have looked even more spectacular if it had been dry! Did we mention it was pouring with rain?

P1000469The entrance to the Imperial Palace was well-guarded, and the general public are only allowed into the grounds twice a year – 23 December (Emperor’s Birthday) and 2 January (new year celebrations)

We also drove past the State Guest House, where foreign heads of State sleep – a sort of posh Japanese Travel-Inn!

P1000475 Just before lunch, Ann tried out the loo. Interestingly, it had running water sound effects! Once Ann finally got off the loo, we had lunch in a restaurant in Shiodome City centre complex – it was traditional Japanese fare of sticky rice; Yakitori (Chicken kebabs); Tempura (prawns and vegetables dipped in batter and fried); tofu swimming in something and Miso soup (looked like washing-up water, tasted much better!)

Our Guide announced that he was handing us over to a colleague for the afternoon part of the tour.

Tasaki Pearl Factory
The factory was very interesting. We were all led to the lift and after going up a few floors, ushered into a room where there a few chairs and a podium. At that point we were all given a coloured ‘tag’ with a number on it. A young guy came on stage and took us through the process of how a pearl is formed and how it’s cultivated. The best bit was when he then produced a small timer-type device and invited one of the audience to press the button on the front. This then randomly displayed a numbers and after a short while stopped. We were asked to check the tags we were given. If the number married-up, the winner got a fresh pearl. The best bit was when the guy sitting in front of us pressed the button and when the numbers stopped it matched his tag!

After a few rounds of ‘pearl-fishing’ we were shown to their showroom and encouraged to browse. There was some beautiful stuff here, but well out of our price-league. We only had to wait around five minutes and the coach re-appeared. After boarding, we noticed that many of the staff had come outside – in the pouring rain – ready to bow to us all when we left. Reeeeeespect!!!

The Asakusa Kannon Temple
P1000476 Our final stop was to a Buddhist temple founded in 628 AD. Guess what, it was still raining as hard as before, and once again even with an umbrella, we got soaked.


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The Temple was surrounded by lots of gift-shops and we picked up some postcards.

There was also a fountain where you could splash yourself with sacred water, or if that didn’t suit, inhale P1000480some sacred smoke. The sacred water area was very busy, but the smoke area was deserted – maybe because it was out in the open, in the rain.
 
On our return journey, we came through down-town Tokyo where there lots of specialist shops. Even shops that make the fake plates of food you see outside restaurants here.

We were dropped-off right outside the hotel just after 5.30. That’s almost seven-and-a-half hours in-and-out of the cold pouring rain. After sprouting web-feet and waddling back to the room, we were missing all the water, so we had a quick bath. We’re quackered knackered, so we couldn’t be bothered to do out, and so took the lazy option and ordered from the room service menu.

In amongst all this, the Government changed today!

A ‘free’ day tomorrow and the weather forecast is the same as for today – eeek!

Saving Ryan’s Privates

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P1000455 (Well, I thought it was funny!) Further to yesterday’s entry where I’d mentioned that we’d spotted that the toilet seat was plugged into the mains  electricity, all is now clear!

Take a close look at the symbols in the picture ab9ove (click on it to make it larger) – are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Those clever Japanese – they think of everything don’t they!

Japan Holiday – Day 1

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We landed at Narita Airport around 9.00 (25 minutes ahead of schedule) local time, which was a good start!

Once we’d got through the elaborate security (photograph and fingerprints!) we collected our bags and headed for the coach. To our surprise, we could see a local Representative with our names on a card, and after the traditional bowing ritual sorted us out with tickets and other essential bits and pieces for the next few days. She also announced: “The typhoon is coming!” – ooo-errr!

We had a bit of time to kill until the coach arrived, so we sampled the local Starbuck’s – no problem with the language so far! Our Representative popped back every so often with more useful bits and pieces for us

P1000443 Around an hour later, we boarded the coach. We were both pretty shattered by now and looking forward to checking-in, after about an hour on the coach, we arrived at the Marriott, Courtyard, Ginza.

P1000445 With typical Japanese efficiency, we were quickly checked-in and headed for room 621. The room looked fantastic – very modern and electrical sockets everywhere! Plus a toilet-seat connected to the mains – why? – more on that later maybe!!

We had a nap for around four hours and got up around 5pm. The plan was to explore the local area, but a quick look out the window revealed that it was chucking it down!

P1000446Ignoring the weather, we decided to risk it. The helpful Concierge pointed the side entrance to the hotel, that sent us in the direction of the shops (and hopefully somewhere to eat). A short walk later, we were in the heart of the shopping area. We took a look round the first big department store we saw and were surprised how many people were browsing and shopping on a Sunday night. It was actually quite difficult to find somewhere to eat where the menus were in English – perhaps we’ll be more experimental later in the week! 

P1000454In the end we settled for a … err… German-themed restaurant! By 6.45, we had found a restaurant in the shopping complex that was heaving with customers and we took that as a good sign.
 
P1000453 We opted for the ‘German-pot’ not really knowing what to expect. A few minutes later, the ‘pot’ arrived together with a burner to keep it all hot. Continuing the German theme, we were also served with mustard and sauerkraut. On closer inspection, we discovered our pot contained a large chunk of meat (very pink!) on the bone and a selection of vegetables including a couple of strangely coloured sausages. Our waitress carved up the meat in-situ and served us with a selection from the cauldron pot. We tackled the results with enthusiasm, but in truth, it was fairly bland and those sausages looked strangely anaemic swimming around the plate!

After we’d conquered the main course, the waitress collected the pot…but returned a few minutes later with a different container containing all the bits we’d left in the original pot (I recognised the half-carved sausage from round one!) but with the added bonus of some rice all mixed in. Good job we were a hungry!

P1000448 P1000449
We skipped dessert and headed back into the department store and bought a small box of Godiva chocolates for dessert.

As we left the store, it was raining hard, but we protected the important stuff – the chocolates!

Back to the room to watch a bit TV (err…BBC World or BBC World!) and then time to catch-up with our lost sleep.

Full tour of Tokyo tomorrow!

Films seen on the flight to Japan

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‘Gran Torino’ starring Clint Eastwood
A retired Korean-war veteran leans to live with his neighbours – sort of!
stars-three 

‘In the Loop’ starring Peter Capaldi
The big-screen version of the TV series. Political double-crossing from both sides of the pond. Fruity language throughout with a hilarious storyline highlighting the incompetence of politicians.
stars-four


‘Knowing’
starring Nicolas Cage
Apocalyptic thriller based around the significance of a 50-year-old document predicting future large-scale disasters.
stars-fourandabit

Japan Holiday – Travel Day

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John, our taxi-driver arrived at just after 9.30. We had a reasonably trouble-free journey down to Heathrow and about two-hours later, we were walking into Terminal 3.

P1000440 We’ve booked with Virgin and splashed-out on ‘Premium Economy’. I’m not sure what that gives us over-and-above the economy passengers, but I guess it’s greater leg-room and posher nosh!

Check-in was short and sweet and we the wandered around Duty-Free until they called the flight. Just time for a sandwich at ‘Eat’ where freshly made sandwiches, non-smiling staff and zero-eye contact are a speciality!

P1000441 As we gulped-down our last mouthful, our flight was called. We headed for Gate 19 and just had time to catch our breath before they boarded us. First impressions were good looking at the super-luxurious leather seats awaiting us. Add to that, a bucks-fizz and we were soon into holiday-mode.

The flight time is 10 hours 59 (approximately!) minutes and because Japan is 8 hours ahead, we should get there by around 9ish on Sunday morning.

Just time to scribble this blog before I’ll have to close down for the flight.

Bat out of Hell… err…Feldkirchen

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whoosh 8.30 local time. For those of you who were disappointed to learn that Michael Schumacher is not returning to the race-scene, I have good news!

I can confirm that after extensive facial plastic surgery and an enforced two-stone weight gain, he is now driving a taxi from Feldkirchen to Munich Airport.

Overtaking on hairpin bends, straightening out any curve in the road network and regularly exceeding the speed limit (120kph in a 70 zone was a regular thing) ensured that I got to the airport in record time experiencing a mix of exhilaration and fright throughout. The only time I thought he wasn’t Schumacher was when he stopped to point out a beautiful castle along the route!

If he’s the pilot, then I will be nervous!!! – can’t wait to get home.

The Bauer Hotel, Feldkirchen, Munich – Day 2

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breakfast_feldkirchen I’m pretty impressed with this hotel. After a luke-warm reception when I checked in last night, service levels have exploded into 100% total customer focus! Our allocated staff member – Angela – for my two day event here has been a whirlwind of efficiency and she’s been consistently one step two steps ahead of me all day – perfect!

The food has been excellent both in quality and and quantity, from breakfast right through to our evening meal.

I didn’t get to bed until nearly 11pm, but it was worth chatting with the delegates ‘out-of-uniform’ and more especially my client, who has confirmed another 4 days of work plus a future introduction to her ‘opposite number’ in another part of the client’s empire.

A great day!!