The Abu Dhabi pause was a pleasant enough break and refreshing. The flight to Tokyo was not. It lasted nearly ten hours and there were noisy children and a pleasant but fidgety neighbour who was on her way back to Japan from a visit to Brussels. Upshot – lots of reading – no sleep. Clearance at Narita airport was slow but by the time I made it to the station there was a direct train to Asakusa leaving in 5 minutes. It was busy but fine and the announcements keep you well aware of where you are and there’s an electronic tracker as well which flips from Japanese to English every minute or so. The hotel was an easy walk from Asakusa Station – on the map. In practice with two suitcases it took forever through the masses of tourists (many Japanese among them) admiring the cherry blossom at the Senso-ji Temple which lay on the direct route. There may be a few bruised shins out there!
Checked into my room I was able to congratulate the hotel on its choice of name: Asakusa View Hotel. Did what it said on the tin. Skytree still looks big but Senso-Ji and the Pagoda look quite small from up here. I was also able to confirm that our timing for hanami is perfect and the Asakusa Pagoda looked as good as ever from the ground.
I made contact with my son Tom who’d just arrived from Hong Kong and arranged to meet at his hotel later – his wife was already in Tokyo for a series of business meetings. So I checked out the bar and had a refreshing beer and then showered and changed and set off back to Asakusa Station to take the subway down to the Government District. After a long subterranean march the subway exit led straight to the hotel lobby. There are great maps in the stations showing you places of interest and indicating which exit you should use. I must have missed those in Rome at Christmas or maybe they don’t have them there.
Caroline returned from the office with a recommendation for a yakitori restaurant just round the corner. A fine recommendation it was too but finding it reminded me that you have to suspend European notions of looking for restaurants and remembrance to look up. There are often lengthy strips of restaurant names on many of the floors above street level. This was on the second floor with a confusing lack of entrance method – you have to slide the door. Once in we were welcomed and fed well with chicken, duck, mushroom and asparagus skewers with a variety of sauces and accompaniments. Great fun and an easy dinner for an early night since I’d now been up continuously for about 30 hours. Caroline correctly predicted a wake up at 3 am but after a bit of awakeness the effect of the wine took over and I slept till 7 Tokyo time.
I decided to sort out my other flights so a morning of, I hope, successful admin was followed by another travel nightmare. I took the subway to Nihonbashi and walked the short distance to Tokyo Station and was ensconced in the appropriately named Aged Coffee, news of which I WhatsApped to Tom. Except he didn’t get it and I didn’t get his increasingly frantic messages or calls, and mine wouldn’t connect to his phone. I had failed to activate roaming when offered it in Abu Dhabi since I ddin’t want it there and station WiFi wasn’t working well enough. I managed to blag my way to Track 18 where the train would depart from on our trip to Kobe but the guard wouldn’t let me on despite my protestations that my son was on the train with my ticket. So I waved the 12:10 goodbye – they weren’t going to break their punctuality record for a ticketless vagabond were they? Finally Caroline managed to call me on her phone and we were able to discuss the problem. I then whizzed back to the ticket office bought a cheap unreserved seat and am now on the12:30 to Kobe and will catch up with Tom and Caroline a little later.
Nice clear view of Mount Fuji as we passed through Hakone. [Tom’s photo credit – I was stuck in the middle] Hope it’s as good for the grandchildren next week when at least we’ll all be starting from the same hotel and might just keep together.
Once in Kobe, Tom and I went for a walk along through Meriken Park while Caroline had more reports to write after her meetings in Tokyo. A sign informs us it’s a local attempt to spell America! One of it’s great attractions is Frank Gehry and Tadao Andao’s Dancing Fish but we refrained from leaping.