My trip to Japan starts a long time ago. Before the last minute panic with the iPad. Before all the research I did on the web. Before I booked the package tour in February. Years before.
My father is very much interested in Japanese culture. He
has been a major figure in the British Origami Society, and did his best
to get my sister and I folding in paper too. He let me stay up
late one night to watch "Seven Samurai" by the famous Japanese film
director Akira Kurosawa. That influence has rubbed off on me, film
is one of my major addictions.
My father also had "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" to
lead me down another path. He has written quite a few koans. I do
tend towards the mystical, the trancendental. The mystic East they
say, I suspect that mystic there means more hard to understand.
My mother gave me money towards going to Japan when I first
mentioned I was thinking of going. I failed to make the
trip while she was alive (one of my many failures). So this trip
is a necessary step for completeness. This exact time was
largely dictated by using up days of leave I had carried over from
2012. So I started surfing for package tours in Japan, feeling
I couldn't organise the details myself.
I chose Magical Japan to go with. Unless I were to do holidays
with a range of travel agencies it's hard to compare. They
answered my silly questions, were nice enough to deal with. I
got them to book the flights but I think I was wrong to do so now - it
would have simpler for me to do so. They had to see what was
there, then check with me before they booked.
I did a lot of research into the cities I was due to visit
(Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka) trying to make I could navigate around
in a strange land. Strangely I had problems in practice getting around London!
I collected Japanese phrases, maps, notes on using trains and
underground systems. I planned to make a lot of use of my iPad
to hold the notes and documents on.
And all too soon the departure day came along. Virginia and I took
a fish and chip takeaway round to Dad for lunch before I caught
the National Express coach down to London on the following
day. But I got freaked out when I tried to set up the mail
accounts on the iPad so I could stay in touch as I traversed the
globe. The iPad died . . . tried restoring a backup but the
backup was corrupt. So in the end I had to reinstall everything
But I was packed and readyish when Virginia dropped me at the
Trumpington Park and Ride for the National Express coach to
Stratford. The coach wound its way through what seemed squalid
backstreets of London, and eventually stopped deep in the urban
jungle with no sign of Stratford DLR station. The driver did
point me in a certain direction, and by following vague clues
I followed a dubious path through a shopping mall. And there was
the station! Finding platform 17 involved several trips in the
lifts, I got used to using the lifts as I was encumbered with a
My Oyster card saw me to the Customs House DLR station but
finding the right Ibis hotel was arduous. I went to the only
Ibis hotel I could see but after walking right round the building
to find the entrance I found I had the wrong one. The desk
clerk erroneously directed over the river so I had a haul
over Victoria Docks before a kind lady in a winebar put me on
the right track. The right Ibis hotel was in stealth mode
by a building site. I was grateful for the bare room with
cracked toilet seat. Despite what it claimed on the website I booked on
I discovered no airport shuttle! A good clerk Khan did help
me use their free Wifi, one plus.
Had a wander out to see if there were any reasonably priced
eateries at the Excel centre, there weren't. Did at least
discover I had omitted to swipe my Oyster card at the end of my
DLR journey when I saw someone using a strange device. I resorted
to a chicken burger at the hotel in a very dark restaurant,
adding dollops of tomato ketchup so it had some nutritional
value. My stomach told me what it thought of the meal for
some time afterwards!
Wednesday, 20th March 2013