Not Suspicious at the end of the day (Day 192)
Our first full day in Tokyo – what a day! By early evening I was thinking it would be great to experience just one more magical moment – my wish was granted. Anyhow, that’s for later.
We arrived in Shinjuku, a central ward of Tokyo, via bus and train. Cleverson had mentioned a trip down Memory Lane to give us a glimpse as to what Tokyo used to be like. So different to the hustle and bustle of the glitzy shops just round the corner. We walked down a tiny alleyway called Omoide Yokocho; translation = Memory Lane, decorated with Cherry Blossom which was being removed and replaced with Sunflowers – yes, the plastic variety! Many tiny shops serving the local food such as yakitori (skewered meat) and noodles were being served. Too early for our lunch so we wandered around and then decided to go to the local Park.
On the way, we came across a road that had been closed off. A crowd was surrounding a large area with a couple of cars and men on bikes. Suddenly one of the cars drove down the middle and knocked one of the men off his bike. Men rushed over to check he was ok, he did a very good act of making out his arm was hurt – yes, it was all a performance. They were demonstrating road safety.
Further down the road a couple of fire engines were parked with firemen chatting to families. There was a smoke simulation tent…we had to have a go. One at a time we walked into the container, thick with smoke so that you couldn’t see a thing. Feeling our way through, with plastic sheets to pass through we managed to get to the end. Great fun, yet gives an understanding what these incredible service people have to endure – far worse for them, with added heat and often falling debris.
We carried on our walk to the park. Tokyo is certainly living up to expectations. So many “characters” including young ladies dressed as little girls. Finally we reached Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, originally part of the residence of Lord Naito, a feudal lord of the Edo era. About 145 acres of land, including Mother and child’s forest (should be called Parent and child, surely?), Japanese, English and French traditional gardens, lakes with large Koi-carp, a Taiwan Pavilion and a couple of Tea Houses.
It was, by now, lunchtime so we found the Eco-House Restaurant. We were guided to our table and presented with the menu. Tim then had to go to the ticket machine, where a kindly elderly waitress helped him, adding payment and clicking on the correct item. A ticket was printed for us to keep on our table, then the order was placed electronically with the kitchen. Eventually our meal arrived perfectly presented with the waitress matching the tickets. What a palaver!
More walking, viewing and having a lie down on rather prickly grass, with Tim drifting off into slumber land, we then went to one of the traditional teahouses. Again, we punched the number in the ticket machine for tea and entered the paper screen doors into quiet room with just one other couple. An elderly lady in her kimono greeted us, toddled back into a room and returned, presenting us each with a Japanese sweet dessert and a little bow. Imagine mashing up some red kidney beans to a pulp, add some sugar syrup and squeezing through an icing pipe. That was the dessert. Interesting! There was also a little wooden stick on the plate like a mini half of a chop stick for us to use to slice the ‘cake’ and prod it similar to a fork.
Next she arrived with two beautiful ceramic bowls. She held one, turned it twice and placed it in front of me with a bow, the same with Tim. Inside was a frothy pea green tea. It was rather bitter.
We made our way out of the park as it was closing time and through the speakers they played “Auld Lang Syne”! As we got nearer to the exit we could hear loud cheering, then saw a huge crowd of people wearing brown tunics holding a shrine. It must have been extremely heavy as people kept being replaced to carry this and they were covered in sweat. We asked around what was happening. Even young people rarely speak English (serves us right – about time us English learnt some languages) and all we got was “Mikoshi”. I have since discovered that it was a Mikoshi festival where a portable miniature shrine is paraded around the local area to ward off misfortune and bring happiness for its people. Apparently that Mikoshi is shaken and rocked while being carried so that the deity is involved in the fun of the festival. And what great timing for us.
Moving on, a couple of people mentioned to visit the Robot Restaurant just for a drink. We realised that we were a short walk away so that was our next stop. Oh dear – very tacky and cost just over £50 each to go in. We think not. Also, this area is very much the red light district, so lots of photos of beautiful young women to entice people into their bars. Not our cup of tea and a shame that in the 21st century this type of thing still continues!
Time to go home….and this is when I was thinking it would be great to experience just one more magical moment. Hetty, a dear friend (I held her when she was 1 hour old), has sent us details of what to do in Japan and mentioned the Albatross. As this was right near the station we decided to head that way. We discovered that it was a similar area to Memory Lane, in fact, these tiny alleyways had over 300 minute bars in them. We met a young woman, Abi from Australia, walking around and mentioned we were looking for the Albatross. A few minutes later, she called us as she’d found it. Sadly the Albatross was still shut. The three of us heard a lady calling us from above “Come up, come up” We climbed the stairs to find a tiny bar with three young men from Texas in it.
People from Slovakia, Russia, France, Uruguay, Japan and of course, England and Australia came and went while we sat drinking beer and saki. Apparently the most that had been in this bar at one time was 18. We reached 12 and it was packed! Yes it really was tiny.
Our lovely barmaid gave us all a piece of paper to draw on. Once we had completed our work of art, these were then stuck on the wall to join hundreds of others. We also could choose our own music from her tablet. Tim became the resident DJ for most of the evening. We mainly chatted to Bee from Slovakia and her fiancé whose parents are English, but he has lived in Japan and then Goa in India for most of his life and their friend Melinda. What a great vibrant young people they were. Bee, in her 28 years had moved to England for a time, then onto New Zealand, was on holiday in Goa and met Johno, who two months later became her fiancé. He is a cool, yet friendly guy who is a surfing instructor and has now landed a job in Portugal. What fun we had and a fabulous end to a wonderful day.
And the name of the bar? “Not Suspicious”.