Sunday, 14 January 2018

A Trip To Tokyo

Tokyo, a city on the other side of the world, in a country with a culture and language incredibly different to that of ours here at home, and at the start of this year I had the pleasure to spend 5 days there.

The travel was a bit of a mission, as to avoid paying through the nose I chose a 2 hour stop in Moscow rather than a direct flight. Leaving Heathrow at 10:40 on January 2nd and finally hitting Tokyo at 11:30 on the 3rd, my body clock was gonna struggle! It's actually taken until now, a week later, to be back to normal (having come home to work a set of 4 nights).

That first day I did some walking around, getting the lay of the land so to speak and figuring out where I was in comparison to the Tokyo Dome for the next night (the pictures are all on FB). Joel and Mali arrived later that night and we all went for dinner, where I continued my tradition of eating local. Although eating tonkotsu ramen as a chopstick rookie was interesting.....

January 4th was the main reason I was in Tokyo, New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 12 show at the Tokyo Dome, 6 hours of wrestling including a truly epic encounter between Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho (yes, he of WWE fame). I've discussed how awesome that experience was on our wrestling podcast “The Smarkcast”, found on soundcloud and itunes by the way, so I won't dwell on it here. Prior to the show, myself, Joel and Mali met up with Stuart and grabbed some yakitori, which I think the easiest way to explain it is mini meat kebabs. I tried pork tongue and pork heart, but drew the line at colon and rectal!

Then came the sightseeing, taking in the Tokyo Tower and a couple of the temples dotted around the city on the Friday, along with seeing the Shibuya Scramble up close and personal. It wasn't the warmest weather, but we had a decent day and I thoroughly enjoyed the Sushi we had for dinner that evening. The story of the day though was the earthquake warning that came through on all the the mobile phones around us. That particular warning was a false alarm, but there was no warning for the quake that woke me up at 1am that night. Surreal and unnerving is probably the best way to describe it, waking up to the whole room shaking sent my heart racing, and it took me an hour to calm down and get back to sleep!

It was more sightseeing on my final day there, seeing an area of Tokyo that was full of arcades, with classic retro games and plenty of new modern ones. Took me back a few years as I played crazy taxi for the first time in ages too! There were a few games that were a bit odd and different, and I was surprised to see a couple of fairly detailed train simulator games, with pretty accurate train cab layouts! After seeing more of the city it was dinner time, Yakiniku was the order of the day. It's essentially japanese BBQ, we were cooking our own meats over the grill in the middle of the table, some of which were absolutely outstanding.

Then came the long journey home, with another 2 hour stop off in Moscow, the first flight leaving Tokyo around 13:10 on the 7th, and landing back home at 21:30 that same day. The city of Tokyo was beautiful, different to any I'd been to before but just as impressive and memorable. There's plenty I didn't get to see out there, but I don't think I'll be heading back in a hurry. For me, Tokyo was a bucket list item, it's ticked off and I can say I've been, same as Wrestle Kingdom. But whilst I'll not be rushing back, that doesn't take anything away from what a great city it is, and if you ever get the chance to take that near 12 hour flight to Tokyo, I'd definitely recommend taking it and soaking up that unique and special culture full of friendly, helpful, welcoming people.

Also, I generally don't go on holiday with people, my trips are just that, my trips. Italy late last year was the exception to the rule, but meeting people I knew on this trip, having that buffer between my nerves and emotion and the local culture/people/food, really added something to whole experience. I've said it elsewhere, but I'll end this blog by saying it again. This trip wouldn't have been what it was if it wasn't for the people I shared it with, so thanks to Joel and his wife Mali, to Stuart and Saki, it was an amazing experience.

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