A spot of Tokyo

My kind of pancake
Who needs much milk anyways
Found some near my place.
The only busker I saw, but he wasn’t asking for money’s…
Wet and cold Jono

Tokyo, to say it’s full of people is pretty accurate. Just a constant stream of folks, all doing their thing, filling up trains and emptying them just as quickly, then filling them up again like waves on the beach. To be fair, I probably didn’t get to see as much of Tokyo, or the Tokyo that people usually see. I was staying in Yochiyodai where I was as a bit of an oddity, as it isn’t really a place where tourists tend to frequent. I guess that’s why I chose to stay there, a place that was quiet, genuinely Japanese, and not so out of the way that I was isolated, but just far enough away from the hustle and bustle that I could relax. And for at I am thankful.
On Saturday I woke early and walked the quiet streets until a local cafe that served the really puffy pancakes opened.. see picture, soo good. Then I made a move to go into the city, the plan was to check out some of the parks, a museum, and perhaps a mall. I learned that Tokyo is massive and not ablidging of my plans. After another helpful couple of ladies set me right on the train, Japanese isn’t the easy of languages to understand, (again with pointing and actions, a helpful tip is to take screenshots of maps), I got into Ueno. There were some pretty extensive alleyway markets, with the competing callers trying to get your attention, a great place to people watch.
I walked my way down to the national gardens. Again packed! Kinda weird too as it was probably a good month or two too early for the park to be a place of greenery, and the blossoms were also few and far between. Still didn’t stop countless folks crowding round the odd tree to get pictures. Another weird thing was everyone and their cousins were out picnicking on the barren ground. It was almost dirt, but still hard to find an empty spot.
I guess in hindsight, the weather of Sunday and Monday, people probably wanted to make the most of a sunny day.
I had a good ‘chat’ with some old boys at a Shinto temple, they asked me where I was from, then again after I extinguished by poor Japanese, shook my hand and bowed extensively. I haven’t quite figured out how long I’m politely meant to hold a hand shake for, I think the expected is over 5 secs. I’ve cut hand shakes short, then found myself shaking the same hand shortly after a number of times… either way, everyone has been incredibly polite.
I walked 27km on Saturday, so my watch tells me, now a lot of that would have been the aimless walking in the train stations thinking I had the right platform only to realise, nope, it’s a good km back on the other side. Fun fun.
I was able to order my dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant through a picture menu they had out back. That was lucky. The food was fantastic, made in front of you sort of place. The type of place that every time new people came in or out a chorus of higher pitched welcomes would sing enthusiastically out. A welcoming sort of place.
And yet I found myself on Saturday evening missing conversation, it had only been a day, but I hadn’t been able to converse with anyone comfortably all day. I guess the introvert in me will be getting some front time.
So people can smoke inside buildings in Japan. I’m in a small mall waiting for a renowned coffee place to open with an older duck smoking on my right and an old fella behind me… it’s been a while since I’ve had to put up with that.
I chatted with a cafe owner last night, and by chatted I mean used the speak and translate app on my phone to converse. It was incredibly helpful, but not perfect. She was saying they are looking to move away from smoking by the time the Olympics roll around, but up until then, smoking is super cheap… like 400¥ for a pack of 20, which is about $4.
That coffee shop was great by the way, the roaster is over 100 years old, and some of their beans are pushing 40 years, there are plenty of articles on the place, it’s called cafe de l’ambre. Took a while for me to find it and it didn’t open until midday. Totally worth it though.
So the highlights of Tokyo, as I sit in a bus taking me to my next stop, Hamamatsu. Cafe de L’ambre was pretty darn unique, the cream came in a little thimble jug. The markets in Ueno were pretty cool and the umbrella dodging in the packed streets all over the place. I think the main highlight would be Sunday morning, I managed to find a wee church not too far from where I was staying. The people were incredibly warm and welcoming. I have found Japanese people to be really gracious, and so that was the case as a visitor of a small evangelical church, where I was asked to share what brought me there, and with the help of a translator explain my move toward Ordination. You know it’s a nice church when they invite you to lunch after, and everyone who had been to NZ was eager to tell me about it. I guess it was just really nice to get some conversation.
So I’m on the bus, my accommodation tonight is a small farm inland from Hamamatsu, the place is meant to be a really traditional Japanese home, over 100 years old. My only concern is considering it snowed this morning, how warm, or rather cold, I will be…
Time will tell.

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