It's been quiet on the blog for a while but now I have some fabulous news to share with you all...we are in Japan!!! It's amazing to be able to bring Man here for the first time to show her all my favourite places and discover new ones with her. As we arrived in Tokyo by Skyliner train from Narita Airport, it started to snow gently which just added to the magical atmosphere of the moment.
Despite the jetlag, we managed to see and do quite a lot on our first day here. First job after checking in to our hotel was to explore the local area and find some lunch. Man wanted sushi, which can be surprisingly hard to find in Japan! This led us on a wild goose chase around some tiny back streets and cobbled lanes, only to discover that the local 'kaitenzushi' restaurant on Google maps had closed! She enjoyed the street views and was surprised by the tangles of electrical wires everywhere.
It was cold and raining by now, so we decided to take a wander towards the station and see what we could find. As it was about 2:30 and lunchtime was over, many places were closed, and added to the constant challenge of finding vegan food for me, we took a chance on the first place that served anything suitable. This happened to be a tiny side street bar with some pictures of food outside including edamame (boiled soybeans in pods).
There was no English menu but the owner was friendly so I managed to ascertain that indeed the edamame was the only dish I could eat. So we ordered draft Asahi beers, chomped on the free roasted peanuts and ordered edamame, with pork and basil leaf gyoza for Man.
This snack kept us going while we explored some used kimono shops. Man was keen to buy me something, as well as a gift for a friend, so we sought out something lovely for the friend (top secret!), then I found a cool hanhaba obi for just 1,000 yen. In a different shop we were treated like royalty by the lovely staff member - we were just glad to get in from the rain and warm up for a while. We came away with a vintage haori jacket each.
After some street food snacks (yakitori chicken skewer and minced meat between slices of lotus root for Man, a rice ball for me), we decided to get out of the rain and headed for Tokyo station. This beautiful building is over 100 years old and I dragged Man back out into the rain to fully appreciate its facade from the outside. It really looks at odds with any other building in Tokyo, but is charming at the same time.
There was a Strawberry Festival in the station, with several streets of vendors all selling their delicious-looking strawberry cakes, biscuits and myriad other goodies. It was very crowded but we jostled our way through, enjoying the atmosphere. At a station shop, Man indulged my train geekery and bought me lots of merchandise featuring my favourite ever train, Doctor Yellow. These included a spoon and fork (to go with the chopsticks I already have), keyring, toothbrush and even a pack of sticking plasters!
Speaking of Doctor Yellow, I had researched some nerdy Japanese blogs and discovered there was a chance it might be passing through Tokyo Station at 18:46 that day, hence our trip there. Dr Yellow is a bright yellow shinkansen which inspects the track all over Japan, but as it is not a passenger train there is no timetable and its movements are deliberately vague, so nobody knows when or where to see it. Seeing Dr Yellow has become something of a holy grail to me! For the full experience, we battled our way through the crowds at Ekibenya Matsuri to find the perfect ekiben - station lunchbox, of which there are hundreds of varieties including a vegan one - then headed for a department store in nearby Yurakucho where you can get a good view of all the shinkansen coming in and out of the station.
As we had time to kill, we found a swanky restaurant on the 14th floor for a drink and were seated by the immaculately dressed and mannered staff, right by a huge window. At this point we were both feeling quite delirious with jetlag and decided that as soon as Dr Yellow had passed, we would head back to the hotel for an early night. Then we felt it...a slight jolt, the room started to spin a little...we looked at each other in panic, was it an earthquake?
No, it was a revolving restaurant!!! A wonderful experience I'm sure, but at this point it just made us feel a little queasy and travel sick. We finished our drinks and went to wait for the Doctor.
After 18:46 had passed with only ordinary shinkansen for company, we realised the nerdy intel had been wrong all along and made our way back to the hotel. Ah well, I'm sure I'll see it one day...
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I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.