This time my co-star was my #BFF Zaira, joining me via Abu Dhabi.
Our flights were a few hours apart, so I killed time in the airport ‘waiting room’, watching the equivalent of Good Morning Britain, but with a more aged Piers Morgan. In fact, everyone in this room was quite old. I got a few smiles. Maybe this wasn’t a waiting room after all…
Zaira arrived shortly after and we hopped into a taxi. Despite their vintage feel, the meter taxis are all equipped with automatic doors and they still catch me off guard. Strangely, all the drivers are dressed like snooker referees – suited and booted with white gloves to match. And some of these cabs are adorned with your Grandma’s doilies (see left).
Once on the motorway it’s hard to ignore how green Japan is. There’s pretty trees and plants in the centre of their motorways, a stark contrast to the M1 which is littered with debris and weeds.
We were staying a stone’s throw from Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, an obvious choice for the first sight to see after checking in. To the right was the impressive Tokyo Tower (see below) and that big gold piece of shit – locally known as the ‘Golden Turd‘ – apparently it’s the Asahi Beer HQ. It also looks like an expensive parsnip.
Before taking the pathway to the shrine, there is giant red lantern at the entrance. Once negotiating your way through an impressive street market (around 100m), filled with local delicacies (I couldn’t tell you what they were), the red temple lies at the very back. Like all temples, there’s a respectful silence inside. Many were praying or leaving blessings behind.
We were hungry AF at this point and headed to the buzzing Shibuya area. During my last visit, I had the most amazing beef at Teppenyaki Ten. I remember the name now, but didn’t at the time. I remembered it was on the first floor near the Shibuya Crossing. A combination of my memory and maps.me (I should get paid each time I mention them), we were able to find it. I highly recommend this spot, they cook in front of you but more dramatically than Benihana.
Following the grub, Zaira opted for a toke of her tobacco from what can only be described as an old man’s crack pipe. Sat on a brick wall outside H&M without a care in the world, we didn’t realise there was a smoking ban. This explained some of the stares. I enjoyed people watching as she smoked the jet lag away.
The Shibuya Crossing is the world’s busiest crossing and one that I find the most fascinating. Wearing my Apollonia hoodie (give them a follow @apollonia.studios) this was an opportunity to get a snap for the Gram. I crossed back and forth multiple times, where people become ants amongst the lights and tarmac. You can easily lose a friend here…The nearby Starbucks overhead is great spot for a free aerial view, but usually ram-packed as everyone craves that viral content with a latte.
Dessert is always a good idea. Trusting TripAdvisor, we headed in the direction of a nearby basement ‘café’. The walls were littered with kittens and we were greeted by a super excited host. She screamed hello and was provocatively dressed as Santa’s little helper. In fact, all of her colleagues were dressed the same. Maybe this was a different kind of sweet spot.
There was a mixed crowd inside and the menu suggested dessert and cocktails. But why was there a podium on the middle of the floor? Why weren’t we allowed to take pictures? Why did they give us furry cats ears to wear? And why did I have to “Meow,” to get served? There were many questions and you won‘t be able to answer them either.
As we tucked into our ice cream the music was turned up and we were serenaded with Japanese Christmas jingles from each of the waitresses. I wonder what they sing outside of Christmas. This is a top rated spot on TripAdvisor by the way…
Following that, we thought we’d make things even more weird by heading to a robot show in Shinjuku. It had all the hallmarks of a nativity – flames, explosions, transformers and a giant Christmas panda! You enter a room similar to an arena, think Robot Wars. You’re seated on opposing sides with a runway in the middle. The 60-minute show was filled with all of the above, bright lasers, dancing and fifty shades of wackiness! It didn’t need to make sense. And that’s why you have to experience it.
Strolling through the Shinjuku neon lights we relived some youth inside the arcades with a few rounds of Mario Kart. I won, obviously. Even in these early hours the arcades are buzzing with button bashers. There was a real energy on the street, similar to Soho on weekends x 100. Feeling a little peckish we had a spot of sushi to certify our #FatBoyLife and slowly retired to the hotel in the early hours. Practically this wasn’t the best idea. We were due to board the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto in a few hours and I had to watch the Liverpool game at 4am! Arigato gozaimasu Tokyo! Brief, but we’ll be back shortly.