When I was in the aiport in NZ I made contact with a couchsurfer in Tokyo and loosely arranged to hook up with her and her fellow English teachers on my first afternoon.
This weekend was also the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa. I went for a wonder around the area waiting for the international mob of English teachers – Canadian (my couchsurfing contact), English, American, Welsh – all fresh off the plane by two weeks. Just before they arrived I was interviewed on the street corner for a Japanese TV show asking what I thought about Japanese food. Needless to say I couldn’t comment much as I had just arrived, and hadn’t really plucked up the bottle to order much yet.
(Pictures : Sanja Matsuri festival)
The group then spent the afternoon milling around the area and generally having a laugh at the festival, joining in as much as we could, and had a few beers along the way. We also looked at lots of things wondering what they were about, with noone around to ask. (Picture : Liz wandering how long it would take us to match the Japanese on the chopstick with the trays displayed) To be honest, despite being around the festival for several hours I still don’t really know what it’s about apart from loads of different groups carrying around temple shrines on their shoulders, chanting some Japanese mantra, and men walking around in no ‘pants’. Despite this description coming from a Canadian (so it was trousers), many of them really did look like they were wearing no pants, as the pictures will show.
It didn’t take long for Liz to buy myself and another guy some Octopus balls (no, not their actual balls, but octopus in a batter with some sauces) – see the pictures below. All kinds of food was on display. We pretty much munched throughout the afternoon – my only snack for breakfast was a ‘chocco banana’ which looked pretty fallic when there were loads of them lined up.
Needless to say the beers kept flowing and as we ate and drank outside we quickly became the tourist attractions with Japanese coming over to take our pictures all the time. An older couple then came and joined us, fleeced us for some beers, but sat down and had a real laugh with us, as other Japanese popped over for a photo and joined in small conversations. It was an absolute blast. Before we knew it we were being offered kimonos to try on and more as our celebrity status slowly escalated.
My new found friends :
The rest of the group went back home to freshen up around 8pm, with a very Tokyo type arrangement made : “We’ll meet you in Roppongi at 1am”
We met, we drank, we karaoked, we conquered. You see once you are out at that time you have to make it until at least 5am to get the train, and my curfew was long gone in the hostel anyway. We did have the slight excuse it was one of the crowd’s birthdays, but it wasn’t like the excuse was required.
I must admit I was really grateful for them letting me tag along to the celebrations – a fantastic crowd having a great laugh that just let me join in their socialising for 18 hours without even knowing me. One of the group even managed to get our karaoke extended when they tried to kick us out at 5am as we hadn’t had a chance to get our two hours unlimited drinks. As the sunlight hit us I popped in for a nightcap around 7am. The heavy beats took us into into what seemed a very obvious hostess bar as a large Nigerian guy thanked us a lot for coming in as he thought he had spoken to me in the street earlier…. The rest of the group were still outside on the pavement allowing daylight to sink in, along with the hangovers.
I parted with a farewell thanks, knowing I only had a couple of hours to get back to the hostel, freshened up, and out again as it’s pretty normal to have to leave the hostel during the day in Japan.
Amazingly I type this relatively late having been on the go all day, activating my rail pass, and floundering around as I forgot to take out my guidebook. I was about to write I survived mingling through the electronics shops in Akihabara but I just remembered I bought a new camera lens. A nice 50mm f1.8 fixed lens – great to get that bluury portraits (erm, that I ahem always take – of course it was an essential purchase)…but it is the cheapest one you can buy. I did manage to walk away without a new MP3 player though – it seems they are too much of a fashion accessory over here with hardly any of them getting more than 8 Gigs capacity to keep the size down!
I was hoping to leave Tokyo tomorrow but I haven’t planned a thing, so will see how it goes. I could do with leaving the city as I spent a fortune last night and it’s just full of electronic temptations. To be honest I’ve got a bit lazy so I’m not so sure how I feel about heading to the sticks and having to struggle with the language, but I’m sure it’ll all end up good in the end. I’m also hoping I can just jump on a train as I can’t really be bothered with all this reservation malarky! I don’t even know if there is much happening in terms of public transport in the Mount Fuji area as it’s well off season for climbing it.
Watch this space.