Day 1: Tokyo Calling
Well there can be no doubt that first impressions of Japan are very very cool. Arrive into Narita absolutely killed by the jet lag but despite a head swimming with 12 hours time difference still managed to find a train to take me into the city. Somewhat surprised to be in the equivalent of the the metropolitan line rather than being whisked along at 100mph on a bullet train but I guess that will all come later.
Decided that the best course of action would be to get at least a little bit of sunlight so headed straight from the terminal to Euno park famed for its hanami (cherry blossom). Very beautiful though strangely not the fields of it I had been expecting. Instead a very orderly avenue of parkland with tarpaulin laid out for people to come and have a few beers under the blossom. Looked like it had been out for a week or two as they blossoms were already starting to give the ground a light snow like dusting. Didn't realise it at the time but was lucky enough to arrive on one of the first days of the season when the sun was shining so that would explain the hordes of people in the parks on a Friday morning and not just the gaijin (foreigners) like me.
First lasting impressions of Tokyo are the enormous crowds wherever you go, many of them wearing face masks. At the time I presume this is for colds but am later told it is to counteract the hayfever that the blossom season seems to bring on in many of the population. On the positive side, everyone has the camera out which is great as you don't feel bad for snapping away as the locals seem to be at it, Buddhist shrine or not.
Was starting to feel really woozy with the jet lag at this stage but managed a little walk around a nice lilly pond and chilled out watching the kids on the lake, Beautiful Day on the iPod by shuffle (started an alphabetical shuffle a week ago and am halfway through B after a week of listening)... loved the serendipity of it all.
Finally succumbed to the head wooziness and had to crash for a couple of hours in my little hotel room but forced myself up again later and decided to head across to Shinjuku to get a feel for 'real' Tokyo. Headed against the flow of traffic as all the office workers started heading home to have a wander through a few of the skyscrapers before twisting around back towards the lower end of the station where the nightlife was just getting started.
Saw my first non Japanese faces of the day, predictably trying to hustle me into one of several strip clubs around the station. If the posters are to be believed, your average Japanese man has quite a thing for a bit of light bondage and a borderline unhealthy interest in animated manga ladies, possibly preferably together. Wandered about a bit trying to work out what to eat before settling for what looked like a very down heel sushi bar but the stuff was incredible. Particularly liked the way you got as much ginger as you can handle in a big bucket. If day one is anything to go by, this trip is going to be awesome.