We (I was accompanied by my wife) reached
Tokyo in the afternoon of November 24. We were very tired as we
had to leave house around to catch
the Delta flight. Not only we were tired, we were very hungry
too. We had a quick sandwich at Starbucks before we boarded the flight. I could
hardly sleep on the plane as I am always tempted to watch movies on a flight
and I always have a backlog of movies that I wish to watch.
Just two days before the flight to Tokyo I had watched almost an hour of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel en route to Bangkok and had loved it completely (especially the humour in the film). So, during the flight to
Tokyo, I first watched that movie (from where I had left it off)
and I don't regret it. Perhaps it was the best film of this year for me. Many
Indians, including myself, dislike India for its crowd, squalor and poverty, and the film sort of
showed me how to see the same situation in a different light ("In India,
life is not a right," says one character. "It's a privilege.").
That is the beauty of the film.If you haven't watched it, you must. There is a
lot of good humour in the film. I thought it was a well-written movie.
Singapore, almost any airport in the world will disappoint me--in
terms of ease of movement, layout and sheer opulence. Narita was no different.
Anyway, the immigration process was very smooth and after collecting our bags,
we boarded the Narita Express (NEX) to our hotel in Shinjuku.
Shinjuku is one of those little districts in
After a while, we hit the streets. It was evening and it was very cold, and we admired our cleverness that we had packed enough winter clothing to brave the
Tokyo weather. The streets around Shinjuku had a quaintness to
them—small, narrow streets, with small, little shops and lots of neon signs and
locals, mostly youngsters, pounding them in groups. My wife thought we were
back in the 70s. Despite the cold, it seemed there was enough cheerfulness in
the atmosphere and it didn't seem like a country that had been stuck in
economic stagnation for decades now. The traffic was slow and there
didn't seem to be a mad rush for anything (or was it because it was a
Saturday?), and many people rode bicycles on the streets. Even the taxis looked
of an old vintage but they were all in good condition. The whole atmosphere
reminded me of a Dev Anand film shot in the 1970s or 80s. My wife was right
about the feel of the district.
Next to our hotel and across the street there were plenty of vending machines. That's where I first saw vending machines that dispensed cigarettes. Also, every now and then, one would find a Family Mart or a store to buy items of daily and frequent use, including food items, water and fat, comic magazines that were sealed to prevent thumbing by browsing-happy readers.
The streets were packed with noodle bars and restaurants (the signs were sometimes vertically displayed, implying different restaurants at different levels of a building) and global fast food restaurants like McDonald's and KFC were easy to find. We also spotted a Yoshinoya outlet but it looked so different from what I had seen in
Singapore that I decided not to enter it. There didn't even seem to
be a menu at the counter.
Across the Shinjuku station, there was Takashimaya, the shopping complex of the same-name that we have on
Road in Singapore. That's where we planned to spend the evening. On the way
to the mall, we came across beautiful Christmas decorations. We saw people taking
pictures around the decorations.
Even though the mall was sprawling, the layout of the stores seemed to be a bit confusing or maybe it needed many more trips to get used to it and find our way around with ease. We had spent nearly half an hour inside the mall and as we entered an elevator to go to the fifth floor, we had a taste of the famous Japanese earthquake. The elevator shook, the lights sputtered off and the doors forestalled. Luckily, we were not between two floors so all of us rushed out of the lift.
The mall's staff sprung into action: all elevators and escalators were jammed up, and they showed the shoppers the exits. I wanted to see Kinokuniya the bookstore but my wife didn't want to hang around anymore so we followed a bunch of locals who took the staircase down. Somehow we managed to get out of the building. Outside, people were milling round on the streets as if nothing had happened. We went to a Starbucks which was very crowded, (and it seems young people in
We had our dinner at McDonald's--we got some burgers and we had to ask for ketchup. It was really self-service in there as we had to clear the table after we had eaten--everyone was doing that in the restaurant. Japanese shops seemed to get along fine with minimal staff and we saw it everywhere. They could hardly speak English but communication was not a problem. Gestures and pictures supplemented pidgin English.
I slept at night wishing for our safety. There weren’t any more tremors that night.
The next morning we set for Odaiba, a reclaimed island next to the
We entered one of the shopping malls in Odaiba and by the time we were done with our shopping it was dark outside. We had our lunch inside the mall--we ate the delicious beef bowls at Yoshinoya, and I put a check on my list.
After coming back to our hotel room, we went out again. I had to see the original Kinokuniya in
The next morning we left
Tokyo for the United States. The journey from the hotel to the Narita airport turned
into our biggest adventure in Japan, and what was meant to be a 90 minutes journey turned into
a 3 hour long rush. That is something I have to tell you when we meet (remember
to ask me), and not write about it here.