We don’t miss Eduard but we do miss his I-phone.
I am sure, like us, you have traveled on subways around the word and found them quite manageable. They are efficiently run as one comprehensive network and once you get the hang of the map they are easy to navigate. We expect no less of the Tokyo subway and in fact expect more. This is after all Japan, the master of all things technical. They immediately impress by having almost all their signage in English as well as Japanese, but then we look at the map………………………
That looks a little daunting, but Gordon is an expert at map reading and we have faith that we will easily find our way around. However reality soon sets in. We discover that rather than one comprehensive network, it is a series of competing lines. Each differently colored line on the map is owned and operated by a separate company. This makes life very difficult. First we discover that when we buy a transfer ticket on one line, it may not work on the second line and we will have to pay again.
We sort out that problem, but then have to physically get ourselves from one line to the other. It can’t be that difficult, but it is. And exhausting. Each line was built independently of the other with no central planning and no thought as to how to transfer. There is a maze of tunnels all at different levels, separated by long staircases. There are very few escalators and no moving walkways. Each tunnel seems endless. We walk miles and climb endless flights of stairs just to change trains. They need shuttle buses, or rest stations or emergency rooms offering treatment for over exertion and stress.
But at the end of the journey we discover that leaving the subway makes changing trains seem like a walk in the park. Because of the network of tunnels between lines there are numerous exits at each station and our first task is to find a map to show us where the exits are. We soon realise that planning the right exit is even more important than taking the right train.
This is a photograph of an actual map that we stood in front of for ten minutes trying to work out which exit we should take. Four separate subway lines share the same station and the exits from the network of underground tunnels are shown by the yellow flags
Getting around Tokyo takes time, patience and a good pair of walking shoes.
But it is worth it
We start off with a temple or two, but they are packed.
and just getting to them is a challenge
even taking a coffee break is not a simple task. Join the queue ……. for Starbucks!
We soon realise that the temples are not the most interesting, and the crowds are impossible. We decide other cities have more to offer in the way of old Japan. Tokyo is the new Japan. It is a young fun city pulsating with energy and we should enjoy it on that level. It’s all about the streets and the people, about design and architecture, and about style and fashion.
And nowhere is this more evident than in the Aoyama District where in one short street every haute couture designer seems to have a store, each one in an ever more striking and stylish building
Prada is there of course, right next to Comme de Garcons and across from Stella McCartney, who is next to Michael Kors, and so it goes on. Issey Miyake has store after store of his own, each one a little more fabulous than the next. I am not sure that there is anywhere else quite like this street in the world. It is truly impressive. The Fabulosity Meter is going crazy while my wallet is shivering in fear.
We are having too much fun to go back to the ship. It is docked overnight but it seems so drab and lifeless compared to Tokyo. We know hotel rooms are famed for being small, but so is our cabin. And having seen what the Japanese can do with stores we want to see what they can do with hotels. The Park Hotel does not let us down. It has commissioned artists to paint each hotel room, with some astonishing results. The Fabulosity Meter cannot contain itself
But we are not sure that we could actually sleep in these surroundings so we pick a room that is a little quieter, a little more subdued. Something maybe that is more in tune with our lifestyle
God, I love Tokyo. It is Fabulous!