Finding an Address in Tokyo
This is not my favorite thing about Tokyo, in fact it is my least favorite thing. When I work in Tokyo, I often find myself having to go to a building in some remote part of town. Often, since the company had to pay, I would take a taxi. Taxi's are great, but sometimes they don't even know where they are going.
Case in point, if you ever get the urge to stay at the Best Western in Ikebukuro, don't give the taxi driver the address for the hotel. He won't be able to find it either. Instead, get plenty of landmarks from the hotel before you get there. This is true of many places.
The reason for this is this, Roads are easy to find, although they may be twenty miles long. The buildings aren't numbered in order, instead, they are numbered in the order they are built. So building 2112 can be twenty miles away from 2113 on the same street.
The landmark suggestion works well, as long as they are unique. If someone tells you to keep going until you see a McDonalds, or a Mos Burger, you may be in trouble, as they are probably on every block. Best bet, get detailed instructions with a lot of landmarks, and when in doubt, ask a local. If you can find a police officer that speaks english... well you are just plain lucky, but if you do, they will often be the best person to ask for directions. The other way to find a building is to find the local mail agent. This is harder than it looks too. I was made the mail agent for my building. Basically, I got to distribute the mail after it arrived separated, but in bulk from the mail man. It is a worthless and evil job, but is has the one perk of knowing where everything around you is. If you can find the person with the mail, you can get anywhere in that area.
Get out of the city scene to...
Get out of the city scene to see the variety that Tokyo offers- even if it is just to nurse your hangover!
In central Tokyo there are a few big, lovely parks with grass, trees and everything green. I like the fact that you can see the odd skyscraper behind the trees- it reminds you of where you are and in Tokyo thats a good thing to remember.This picture was taken in .... (I'll get back to you)
Nikko (day trip from Tokyo)
A very popular tourist spot combining natural beauty and history. Set in a lush cryptomeria forest, the magnificent Toshogu Shrine complex inspired the saying "Never say splendid until you've seen Nikko."
What to see and do: Visit Toshogu's elaborate Yomeimon Gate; photograph the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" monkey carving and sleeping-cat carving; visit the tomb of the first Tokugawa shogun; tour Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji; eat rainbow trout.
Access: 2 hrs to Nikko from Asakusa Stn by Tobu Line train. The shrine complex is within walking distance. Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls are reached by bus via sharply winding Irohazaka road.
Catch a glimpse of MOUNT FUJI: the world famous FUJI-SAN is on everyone's itinerary if you are on a tour to Tokyo. To be able to see the snow-capped mountain is considered very lucky. So, brace yourself for a spiritual journey! Icon of peace & serenity, this mountain has been regarded as home of the gods.
Fuji-san lies about 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Tokyo & is the highest mountain in Japan (12460 ft / 3798 m). Oldest lavas here have been dated as 8000 years old; a young volcano!
The five lakes arched around the northern side of Mt. Fuji are an added bonus on this one-day excursion. Lake Kawaguchi is one of the most frequently visited lake on the 1 day-tour.
The homeless of Ueno Park
Opinions are very divided about the homeless who live in such places as Uneo park. I must admit it came as something of a shock to find so many older men, in suits, who were homeless. Their neat rows of turquiose coloured taupaulin tents in the park seem to give them some kind of dignity.
When you learn that many helped re-build Japan after the war years and are now seen as useless to the heartless economic machine you sympathy is aroused.
In comparison to the "got 30p for a cup of tea, guv" merchants of London or the varoius smackheads found in every other large city across the world, it seemed to speak volumes about the values of that particular generation of Japanese.
On the other hand I came across a very sourbugger on the internet indeed who described Uneo park and it's homeless thus :
" Japan's ugliest park is filled with homeless people, illegal phone card venders, and drug dealers. The grass is sparse and sickly, and there is too much concrete. Although it is home to the excellent National Museum, you go there in spite of its being in Ueno park, not because of it. There is also a zoo, whose animals are said to be unhealthy and depressed. If you live in Tokyo, there is a good chance that someone will invite you for cherry blossom viewing in April. Unless you like looking at mountains of garbage, listening to portable karaoke machines, and stepping over drunks passed out in their own vomit, give it a miss. "
It made me feel quite fluffy in comparison!