I promise I can deliver on everything in the headline. But this isn’t the grim post you may anticipate!
The good news. I went for a run! A decent one!!! Actually one that was longer than I’d anticipated. The downside of not being able to read kanji and having an iPhone that doesn’t work abroad! Well, the map feature anyway!
I had planned a route on mapmyrun but it was vague. I knew I wanted to check out two neighbourhoods north of Ueno which are known for their old-fashioned appeal – Nezo and Yanaka. Nezo was easy enough to find and within seconds of turning off the main road I was lost in a maze of alleyways suitable only for pedestrians and bikes. It was fantastic, suddenly so peaceful and so intriguing. We stumbled on a playground and had the obligatory stop, and then found some ENORMOUSLY fat local cats. The Dude and I are missing Charlie, so we stopped to say hello.
From there we ran on. I was taking roads that appealed – I have a decent sense of direction and knew roughly where I was. I passed loads of little houses and local restaurants which would have no English menu! It was so cute. Eventually I found a road lined with various shrines and temples and a little graveyard, and then finally turned into Yanaka graveyard which was roughly where I’d wanted to go.
From there, it went slightly tits up…I headed in the generally right direction but had to keep stopping to ask directions, read maps on the side of the road etc. It took me a while to get back to Ueno station (and thus the park) and I was starting (maybe) to feel a little panicked. I kicked myself for not having any money on me so I could take the subway home if it all went badly wrong. But it didn’t, and just in time, I recognised my little corner of chaos! I rewarded the Dude with a trip to the playground by the lake in Ueno Park where we saw the saddest, most pathetic, soon-to-die cat who broke my heart a little and then the Dude engaged two sensible Japanese people in a fabulous game of leaf throwing.
I ran roughly 5 miles in 52 minutes. Happy with that, it was a decent run! It felt much further!
What else have we been doing this week?
We spent an afternoon in Shibuya, the shopping heartland of the city. By night, it’s neon-soaked. By grey day, it was a little less mind blowing but still pretty amazing actually. The Shibuya Crossing (a road crossing) is renowned for the hordes who cross it, and even in the middle of the day, watching the swarm from above was quite cool!
We had a day expecting rain but the rain never came. We checked out the Science Museum (yawn, I can’t get excited about science), then the posh shopping area of Ginza (also yawn, I can’t get excited about things I’ll never own) and then we had an amazing time in the local market streets!! Much more fun!
Things that have struck us lately.
1. Fruit and vegetables are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. Prohibitively so. We are making do with bananas, carrots and broccoli. Yesterday we treated ourselves to an apple.
2. School children wear the most amazing uniforms. Boys wear these kind of navy military suits with brass buttons. Girls wear sailor dresses. And kids wear matching hats. I love it all.
3. All the cool girls here have fringes/bangs. I am very on trend, for the first time EVER.
4. To be hot in Tokyo, you need fur around your collar and your cuffs. Apparently trends start in Tokyo so get yourself furred out. You read it here first.
We are definitely getting more used to Japan. The city is starting to come together in my head. The subway and trains are no longer terrifying but actually very easy. The people continue to be lovely, especially to the Dude. I’m finding that by being polite and smiling a lot, you get a long way here. We are all so enjoying this experience!