September 4th, 2007

Japan 2

Japan tourist day 2 - what do you do with a Tokyo afternoon...?

We confidently left Yokohama this morning and made for the train station, swaggering in like pros, "We now know how to do this stuff", in other words we OWNED Japan Rail.

You know that overconfidence thing...?

We hopped on a train. It stopped dutifully at the next stop, and they talked about "Yokohama" a lot in Japanese on the PA, but it wasn't SUPPOSED to be Yokohama, it was supposed to be the station BEFORE Yokohama, and so we sat there and waited for the train to depart.

It did.

And it kept going.

Six stations post-Yokohama we slunk off the train and crossed the rails to the opposite platform, to catch the train back to, uh, you know, Yokohama.

We made it this time... only to run, in the crowded in-the-throes-of-renovation mess that is Yokohama main station, straight into green_knight, who was waiting in line to deal with a few minor matters concerning her rail pass. We chatted for a while, and then bid one another a "farewell-and-enjoy" and found the Keikyu line to take us to Shinagawa station in Tokyo. We got a really slow local train this time, and it stopped at many small stations on the way, a lot of them with pagoda temples peering out from amongst the houses crowded against the tracks; it helped that Shinagawa was the terminus and we didn't have to keep a beady eye on passing kanji to avoid overshooting for the second time.

But all went well, and we were duly spat out at the other end. We found our hotel, got given a room which looks out over an awesome Japanese garden with a pond full of koi the size of small porpoises, had a bite to eat at the garden restaurant where we were served by women wearing blue silk kimonos who brought us hot towels to clean our hands before the artistically arranged meal followed by a really civilised cup of good coffee. In fact we used that word a lot today - civilised. This place is utterly civilised. Everyone says please and thank you and is polite and the little touches let you know that you have landed in a place that's had a long time to hone its traditions and mores. It's EMINENTLY civilised. (We can has civilisation...?)

We went out for a wander in the gardens, after, and then out into the streets where the crass gaijin tourists like us kept finding things to photograph - things like weird manholes and signs in Japanese featuring an unmistakable silhouette of a Scottie dog... right above a fire hydrant. I, um, don't want to know.

It was hot. Really hot. Clammy hot. Urk. So guess what we did in the end?... We discovered that there was an "aquastadium" (Japanese word. Very odd descriptor) not a city block for us. It featured DOLPHINS. I was sold immediately, and carl_allery showed an interest, and *it was airconditioned* and we were going to go tour Tokyo the next day anyway with our tour group - and so... we went to the dolphin show.

They had bottle nosed dolphins (naturally - they are always the stars of these shows) but also a quartet of white-sided Pacific dolphins and a very vocal false killer whale which appeared to thoroughly enjoy the breach-and-fall-back-and-douse-the-audience aspect of the whole thing. They put on an awesome show, not the least of which was watching the "performers" playing tag with one another in the pool before the show started. Afterwards, we got to go down ringside and pet a bottlenosed dolphin called Snowy. We wandered through the rest of the aquarium exclaiming over the manta rays and the huge crabs and puffer fish and what looked like a small school of piranha. We had ice cream. Then we meandered back to hotel, had dinner in the hotel restaurant (still very civilised!) and discussed Star Trek and Doctor Who and Carnivale and "Galaxy Quest" and many other things, and then we returned to the room, after a detour to attempt to photograph a Blade Runner skyline of Tokyo, whereupon carl_allery, whose turn it was to blog our adventures, did the research required to identify our false killer whale and then said, "But I don't WRITE that kind of blog..." and left it to me to talk about our day.

Our tour meets at 8:20 tomorrow morning. There is Weather Expected, so we shall see what happens then.

Tomorrow, in Tokyo. Over and out. We can has civilisation.