On the train again... seems to be the best time to type blogs. Can't go anywhere, but I still find I'm never bored on the train.
Firstly, you're getting somewhere and it's often interesting to see what's out the window. Good chance to eat a meal (even though it's not super-culurally acceptable to do so, it's still ok). Sometimes there are toilets on the trains. You can strike up a conversation with someone (practice Japanese). Read a book. Study some Japanese. Write some blog. Sort photos. Do anything on a laptop. Listen to music. And, of course, like so many Japanese people do, catch up on some sleep (and if the train is empty, lie down on the seat and try to wake up at the right place).
Currently travelling from Tokyo to Sendai about half way up the coast from Tokyo to the top of the main island of Honshu. The trains stop there tonight. Tomorrow I'll head further (catching the first train about 6am) and make it into Hokkaido, my destination for the week. Accommodation tonight will probably be a 24/7 internet cafe in Sendai :-)
Let's back track a bit to since my last blog post.
Last Tuesday arrived Shinjuku station just after midnight. Rode around Shinjuku with my luggage on my fold-up bike to find an internet cafe (which would be the place to stay the night). The place I was looking for had closed down, but right next to it was "Mamboo". Proved to be a good alternative. The deal: 7 hours (1-8am), shower, unlimited drinks (water, juice, tea, coffee, miso soup), internet (of course), probably other stuff, comfy foldback chair for 980 yen. I was very happy. I have to say, the sleep was not that great, but it did the job for the night.
Wednesday morning relaxed in the park and meditated on Bible teachings. Communicated with God. Headed up Shinjuku Metropolitan Government building for a very good free panoramic view of Tokyo. Sky was a bit hazy. Rode my bike through Yoyogi Park and Harajuku to Shibuya.
(Shinjuku is the skyscraper district of Tokyo, is a business and shopping district, and contains the worlds busiest train station (3 million passengers per day) with well over 200 exits. Yoyogi Park is a very park and a good escape from Tokyo's continuous buildings! Harajuku is a youth/fashion district... any form of fashion imaginable (beach, gothic, minnie mouse, casual, dress up etc). Also in Harajuku is the Tokyo Central SDA Church. Shibuya is a youth area also. It also has many love hotels.)
Met up at Hachiko Statue in Shibuya, with Kouda (good friend from Hiroshima) and Mari (good long term friend from Nagoya). We had a good meal together. Great to catch up.
Kouda and I went to Akihabara! Akihabara has "Electric City", which, I would say, is the most "electric" retail centre in, probably, the world. So many electrical products for sale (eg. computers, cameras, TV's and everything else). It's a crazy place with bright, visual advertising, loud shop assistants shouting out their products, music blaring, jingles jangling and everything moving. Good prices for many things. Cheap cameras (yet good quality), 50 blank DVD's for 1000 yen etc. Good place to get bargains, but I didn't buy anything :-) When I need something, and if I can get there, I'll go there. Recommended (for buying things and just seeing the craziness!)
Akihabara has a real unique culture. Apart from the geeky side of it, there is the manga culture (Japanese comics), and also the "maids" among other sub-cultures. Maids are dressed up like European "maids" and are seen advertising and giving out things. Maid Bars are places that pretty much only men go to have someone give them some wanted attention.
Kouda and I headed back to Meiji-jingu, one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Tokyo (located next to Yoyogi-park). It was quite impressive, and very peaceful. A good environment for thinking about the things in life that really matter. We then walked around Harajuku a little. Quite busy. Then we caught a train to Kouda's home.
Kouda lives about 100km south-west of Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture (near the border of Shizuoka Prefecture). We caught the Odakyu line train and met his parents, who took us to a "kaitensuzhi" restaurant, where the sushi goes around on a conveyor belt and you just take off what you want :-) It's really cool, I think. His parents welcomed me to their home, I had a nice bath and rested well.