9-10/7/16. On Saturday morning we were delighted to receive a message that Satoru and Asa, our friends from Kyoto (otherwise known as “the Pearson Two”), were in Tokyo for the weekend and suggested that we meet.
After a day of packing the bikes and bags while the rain fell, we headed for the main station (the one known simply as “Tokyo”) just a little apprehensive that we might not manage to find each other in such an enormous place with so many people around. We had, however, arranged to meet in a relatively small, distinctive place and it was no problem finding each other.
They were with a friend, Koji, and the five of us went off to a small, traditional restaurant in an area of eastern Tokyo where Saturo had lived previously. Just as in Kyoto, we were treated to a wonderful meal, this time with a Hokkaido (the northernmost of the large islands of Japan) influence as this was where the owner was from. It was all delicious but particular highlights were a small fish which Google translated as “under the ice fish”, pickled cucumber made by the owner and “Tokyo egg” (a very light omelette). We both felt a little “squeamish” about the inclusion of a small amount of whale meat in the plate of sashimi, although Stephen did eat a little, partly out of politeness and partly out of curiosity, (Christine had tried it many, many years ago in Norway). The beer, sake and fruit juices flowed freely as well!
After church for Christine and more packing for Stephen on Sunday morning, we met with Asa and Satoru again so they could show us some more of this city of 13.6 million people. To start with they took us to the Tsukiji fish market for a lunch of sushi. The small restaurant could seat 14 people and there were 3 chefs preparing the food to order, a waitress and a guy out front encouraging passers by to come in – a high ratio of staff to guests. What is noticeable in all the restaurants we have been to is how much interaction there is between the guests and the staff – it is a very inclusive relationship – one of equals without the slight master/servant connotations that there is sometimes back home.
Once again the food was delicious and really “hit the spot” on a hot, sunny day. Afterwards we went to an area by Tokyo’s most famous temple where there were many people dressed in kimonos – pretty much the first time we had seen this since Kyoto – apparently due to it being a holiday weekend.
Then we were taken to Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world at 634 metres. The lifts to floor 350 (the height in metres) take about 50 seconds and reach a speed of 600 metres/second. Being a couple of cynical, world weary old codgers we were not expecting much when we stepped out of the lift.
How wrong we were! The view was simply astonishing!!
A huge, vast megacity was laid out like Toytown at our feet. Mount Fuji was visible in the distance (we later discovered it was well over 100 km away) towering above the surrounding mountains.
We took a second lift to floor 450 (yep – another 100 metres higher!) where the view was even better but the main benefit was that it was less crowded.
We would thoroughly recommend a trip up the tower although it obviously depends on the weather – we were so lucky as it was sunny and clear without being hazy.
Back on the ground it was time to say goodbye to Asa and Satoru as they were returning home by train. We do hope that we have the opportunity to repay a small part of their friendship and generosity if/when they come to the UK.