Martin's Japan Pages

Our Man In Japan

10 June 2007

Suprise Visit

This Facebook thing has been throwing up a few surprises. I signed up two or three months ago and it seems once a week or so I get a friend invite from mates I lost touch with ages ago. This week I got one from Darren, a mate from Durham Uni. I think I last saw him a year and a half ago, and can't remember when we last emailed. Bad Martin. Anyways, I clicked 'Yes' and we became Facebook mates. First message Darren sends me? "Hi Martin. How are you? I'm coming to Japan this weekend. Wanna meet up?"

How out of the blue is that? So of course I said yes and headed down to Tokyo on Saturday and met Darren at his hotel on the afternoon. We met up and I took him out for anight on the town in Tokyo (Well, as much on the town as a bumpkin from Niigata can do in the Big City). First stop, Shinjuku. Needed a beer to get us going so we came out the East exit, walked through to the edge of Kabuki-chu, took a left and went to The Hub English Pub. We were given a place at the bar, I went to order drinks and by the time I got back, Darren was talking to a bunch of guys from Blighty. Apperently they'd just landed in Tokyo and were heading to Kyoto in a couple of days. We chatted to them about their travels, Darren's travels and me in Japan.

After our pint we headed out to try and find some food. We took a wrong lift for an izakaya and ended up on landing out side a room full of people playing Shogi (japanese chess). There was a tough looking man chain-smoking in the doorway. One look from him and we scarpered back into the lift and back to the street. We eventually ended up in a cute okonomiyaki place. Once we'd made and scoffed our meaty, cabbage pancakes we headed back to the station to take the Yamanote to Shibuya. We came out at the Hachiko exit so Darren could see the neon lights above the famous crossing. Gagging for a piss we headed into the first place that would take us, 'The Aldridge'. I'd gone past this place a few times before and, as someone who has been to pubs in Aldridge, London, was put always put off by the name. As it turns out, this Aldridge is quite nice. It hasa kindof student bar feel to it, but has a big rack of taps serving bitters and ales. We each had a 'RIP John Peel Ale' before meeting Keiko and looking for an izakaya.

This time we managed to avoid dodgy chess dens and found a free table in a Hokkaido food themed izakaiya. We ordered enough beer, yakitori, sasages and snacks to last us a couple of hours. Darren loved the cosiness of our litle snug and was impressed by teh beer and food. Time rolled on for last order, we paid and jumped on the last tube back to Darren's hotel.

On Sunday we met with Darren's parents and headed out to Harajuku. The thunder was rumbling on teh way to the metro station and by the time we came back to street level it was raining. And enterprising guy had set up a stall selling brollies, but hoping the rain would ease off, we walked past him and went to Meiji Shrine. I love the walk through the park to this shrine. There are loads of tree so you can't see any skyscrapers and each step takes you further and further away from the noise of the city until you can't hear any traffic at all. Then you turn a corner and in this peaceful little world centred around Meiji Shrine. We wandered around a looked at the buildings. There was a bonsai tree exhibition around the edge of the courtyard and as we where looking at the 60/100/150 year old trees the heavens opened and it started chucking it down. Now who needed a brollie? We waited for the rain to ease off. Darren and his parents had brought pack-a-macs and I had to settle for just my jacket and hoping that it didn;t chuck it down again. We made our way back to the station. The cosplay girls that usually hang around Harajuku station weren;t there because of the rain, so we went for the next best thing and headed to Takeshita Dori to see the cosplay shops. We stopped for a coffee and then made our way to Shinjuku. We met Keiko again and we all went to the top of the Tokyo Government buildings to see the Tokyo skyline. After we went for some food before buying the shinkansen tickets Darren needed to get to Kyoto. Then to Shibuya again, but it was time for me and Keiko to head back to Tokamachi. We said goodbye on the train before Darren and his parents got off at Shibuya.

It was a great couple of days. I'm glad Darren was able to get in touch before he arrived soI could meet up with him and his parents. I hope they have a great time in Kyoto.


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