So I began my solo adventure getting a little teary in Kathmandu Airport at both the prospect of saying goodbye to Dad but also definitely the fact that we had arrived for his flight at 4pm giving me at least 7hours to kill until mine…. I popped on a podcast as my usual distraction technique and was reminded in an interview with Micheal Palin the value and luxury of travelling and also the importance of keeping a diary. His mellifluous voice began to describe his own travel experiences, witnessing the trembling African sunsets and the elegant shrines of Japan and I was transported out of Kathmandu airport for just long enough. As my check in time grew closer I became quickly surrounded by what can only be described as an old Chinese man convention. Around 20 pensioners began to pile their suitcases around me and settled down for what I can only assume was some sort of poetry reading before finally deciding it was time to stop holding up a planes worth of people and find their passports for check in. My first flight, when it finally arrived, was definitely manageable and I even squeezed in a nap before being turfed out for another 4 hour wait, this time in the most silent Chinese airport for my connecting flight. Eventually however we made it and fuelled on the most delicious plane food I sped through Tokyo Airport’s incredibly efficient immigration and onto my first ever Japanese train. WOW these were different to their very distant Indian relations! Clean and spacious with huge windows, we sped out with views across the sea and the city. I think it was that moment that I thought yep, Japan is gonna be good!
(Photos – Pork ramen, Getting my little omkuji, My bunk for the next two nights, Tokyo shopping)
I arrived at my hostel ‘Bunka’ in the Asakusa district which is famed for its old Japanese style buildings. My hostel was however architecturally very different, sleek and modern with beautiful minimalist interiors. I was directed up to the 4th floor to my berth for the next two nights which was like a tiny wooden cave. Definitely too coffin like for anyone claustrophobic but to me it looked super cosy and with the cleanest of bathrooms and a fresh fluffy towel every day I honestly couldn’t complain! Once I had unpacked, I headed out to the nearby Don Quixote Supermarket to buy a brolly as Tokyo suddenly seemed to have clouds looming. This was however no ordinary supermarket but instead a Primark, Poundland and ASDA superstore rolled into one! If there was anything I was short on I could definitely get it there!! I selected along with my brolly two mysterious baked goods as a bargain lunch. One turned out to be a surprisingly delish crisp breaded Katsu curry filled doughnut and the other was like a flakey cinnamon apple pie! Very yum! I strolled with my carbs to Senso-ji Temple as I had read that this was a place I could have my fortune told. The temple was magnificent classic Buddhist structure glowing in red and gold. The fortunes or “omkuji” could be obtained using a big metal shaker and with a couple of shakes, through a small hole poked a stick labelled with a number in Japanese. You had to then take the stick to its corresponding drawer and inside lies the fortune! Now my first two were labelled ‘bad fortune’ and both essentially said don’t go travelling… third time lucky however and I was satisfied with a good one that permitted and even encouraged travel – that was all the luck I needed! It was getting pretty chilly so I tried to head out for dinner but at the place that lonely planet had suggested I would have been the only diner there. This was a bit too much ‘solo traveller’ for my first evening! Instead I decided to pop into a ramen bar that looked pretty busy and hoped it would fit into my budget! When inside I was directed to an electronic menu machine thing where I paid and selected my pork ramen dish based on the pictures alone. Now unlike nowhere else that I have experienced, the meal that arrived was perfectly how it had looked in the picture, hot pork bone broth with thick firm noodles, crunchy cabbage and bean sprouts, thin leaves of seaweed and a medallion of pork and god it was good. I used all the condiments available to make the most of my 800 yen spend (about a fiver) and by the time I was finished I was STUFFED! Definitely ready to catch up on a proper nights sleep and for a day of exploring tomorrow!!