As you may have noticed I am back from my most recent trip to Japan and more specifically Tokyo. I had an incredible time and made the most of being immersed in what I consider such an amazing country and culture. The trip was not without its complications but despite that I pushed through to make it memorable. In this new blog series, I will share with you passages from my travel journal. Every day, several times a day, I would take the time to update my travel journal with notes and thoughts and experiences as they occurred throughout my day. The images I share in these blogs will relate directly to those experiences. Some days I took a huge amount of photos. Other days, I barely took the camera out of my bag. I just went with the flow and didn’t put too much pressure on myself. I may not go into as much detail on the food side of things as I am saving that for a separate blog about my food journey around Tokyo. On to the travel journal.

Friday 24 May 2019

My flight was leaving Melbourne airport at 6:00am. Fortunately I was staying at my parents house who live close to the airport and my dad was kind enough to have me at the airport by 5:00am. This was to be a short trip of about two to three hours from Melbourne to Cairns. I had never been to Cairns nor was I likely to see any of it this trip – other than the airport.  Melburne was mild but Cairns was hot and sticky. There was a couple of hours between flights and the check in all went smoothly.

I was excited for the next flight as I had been upgraded to Business Class for a small price. Keep in mind that this is still Jetstar which is considered a budget airline. Still, I was first to check in and first to board. My seat was large and very comfy with a much greater amount of leg space. Before I knew it I was being offered a champagne.  Then I had to sit there sipping my bubbles whilst all the other passengers sitting in economy shuffled past the business class area. It almost seemed to me that business class wanted you to drink lots. I was constantly offered beer. The food was great too. Despite being tired, I didn’t sleep on the flight. Instead I watched three or four movies and before I knew it, it was less than an hour to land. That is always the longest part of the journey. That long slow descent into an airport. But yes, I was over Tokyo and we were coming in to land.

Everything at security, baggage and customs went well. No issues with departing the airport either. I made my way to Terminal 2 which houses all of the train lines to get into Tokyo. I got my return ticket to Tokyo via the Narita Express for 4000 Yen. This train is the one I have always taken and it stops in Shibuya which is where my hotel is located. I noticed that they have just opened a new fast rail service from the airport that takes only 39 minutes but goes direct to Tokyo Station. The NEX takes just over an hour.

So much for using Google maps. I had carefully rehearsed my route from the South Exit of Shibuya station to my hotel via street view. A simple five minute walk. But Japan is in the midst of a monumental infrastructure overhaul due to the Olympics coming next year. There was a new South exit, a new overpass and lots of blocked roads. I quickly found myself heading in the wrong direction several times due to the nature of the road works. Even some of the overpasses had been removed or partially blocked. But get there I did. It probably added almost 45 minutes to my total commute from Melbourne to this point – when I was at my most tired.

Hot and bothered I hit my room and a hot shower. The room was small. I don’t even think that the bed qualified as a double size. Bed, tiny desk, tiny side board for the kettle and the fridge. The bathroom was at one end of the room and was separated by a floor to ceiling glass wall and door. It was modern and clean. Into some fresh clothes then out to find a bite and a beer. I landed at Kirin City which was only down the hill from my hotel and which had a dozen different Kirin beers and a mixed grill! I took my Fujifilm XT3 with me but only took a few shots within the immediate area. I was feeling pretty tired.

I love just sitting and people watching. A Japanese salary man was making some sort of complaint with the bar manager. But no voices were raised. No gesticulating. Just a passive conversation with lots of bowing from the bar manager and a stern look from the customer. The bar manager handed the customer, who was a little drunk, some sort of voucher and they bowed to each other. Issue resolved. No bouncers. No testosterone. No raised voices. Just a peaceful transaction. Well played Japan.

I wanted to get out and take photos but I was equally hesitant. Several of my best people told me to just relax this time. Make it a holiday holiday. Not just a photography exercise at all cost. Part of me wanted to give in and chill.

Where I am staying is south of the Shibuya crossing. Back out on the street I found that on this side there is a university and a lot of students and musicians around. Groups eating in tiny bars and enjoying each others company. I took a few shots as there were hordes of young Japanese folk itching to be noticed. I stopped at a small bar named Sakura Bar Kitchen for a refreshing beer. The temp was warm but walking always makes me hot. At this point I was just enjoying the freedom and the night. Strolling and exploring yet only a couple of hundred meters away from my hotel. The beer here is a Japanese craft beer known as Gargery Estella. Mild and smooth. The bar was comfortable and calm and I kept coming back to the relax, versus photograph idea. For now I will just go with it. I don’t feel drunk in the slightest. Lots of adrenaline finally kicked in today after months of not feeling excited.  Lots of time for photography if it happens.

Itching to hit up a game arcade center to try some skill testers. But I imagine by now my hand eye coordination was a little corrupt. Tomorrow. Still cannot believe I am here. Which is odd given how much time and effort it took to get here. Things will feel more real tomorrow I am sure. But for now it is back to my hotel to get some sleep as I am sure I will be up early.