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  • sueaitken7


We arrived in Tokyo after a long flight - it's taking an extra 2 hours to fly from London at the moment because airlines are avoiding much of Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine. So the flying time is around 13 hours. We flew with JAL for the first time, which we thought was a good airline.

We're spending our first 3 nights and our last 3 nights in Tokyo in 2 different areas. And we've chosen Shinjuku as it's a fascinating area - a strange blend of the ultra-modern and the traditional. We headed for the Gyoen Gardens - a lovely garden surrounded by the modern tower blocks of Shinjuku. We wandered around for a while - not massively impressed by the Chrysanthemum Exhibition which took centre stage on all the signage. But we really enjoyed the traditional gardens with the bonsai, lakes, wooden bridges and tea houses.

After a short doze back at the hotel, we ventured into the neon madness of Shinjuku and its hundreds of bars and restaurants. One of the current trends seems to be for young men and women to set themselves up as buskers to get captured on video by passers-by. I don't think any of them will be hitting the big time any time soon. But we had to laugh at a group of young guys who were doing their best to perform as break dancers - let's put it this way, it wasn't NYC!

We had a delicious tempura meal in a small restaurant washed down by some lovely Asahi beer and then set off to explore the area. It was absolutely rammed with people for a Sunday night. Shops open till really late and a range of both salubrious and unsalubrious establishments. It felt really buzzing. We walked up an alleyway which has a number of different titles - including Cockroach Alley - where tiny little shops sell a range of foods from Yakitori to Sushi. With the bright coloured lanterns hanging all along the street, it was very atmospheric.

Today we got to grips with the niceties of reserving seats on our numerous train journeys around Japan with our JR Rail Pass. And then we went to see the iconic 3D Cat Billboard near Shinjuku Station. 50 feet on the side of a building - the cat makes an appearance every 15 minutes with people waiting at ground level to catch a glimpse of him. Very cute.

Then we explored a new area of Tokyo for us - Shidome which is a business district, particularly popular with media companies such as Dentsu. We visited some more lovely gardens with requisite lake, wooden tea houses and pine trees. We're off to Nikko for the day tomorrow - it's a good first baptism on the trains - only one change - wish me luck!

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