Unwelcome guests

“Oh shitting, sodding bollocks.”

 

The big tip-up door into the workshop has been open all night. I can’t bear to think what’s gone walkabout.

 

Full of angst, I enter, setting off the alarm as I do.

 

Bike? Still there.

 

Mrs P’s Audi? Still there.

 

Electric screwdriver? Still there.

 

Tools, saws, other goodies? Still there.

 

Well. That wasn’t so bad after all. The door is closed, Mrs P re-sets the alarm and life calms down a bit.

 

Several hours later, we’re eating a late lunch in the kitchen.

 

From next door, we both hear the door handle rattle, the usually locked door open and quickly slam shut again.

 

WTF?

 

I get up, imagining an intrusion by not nice people and come face to face with a large male baboon*, which is at least as surprised as I am. Unlike me, he has both hands in our vegetable basket, planning to grab something to eat before he rushes out – which he can’t do because the wind closed the door behind him.

 

I speak to him – telling him that stealing our food isn’t a good idea.

 

Jeannie, our aged scottie is loving the opportunity to get so up and close and personal to something she dreams of chasing with her every breath. She is barking at earsplitting volume, only inches from our visitor – not very friendly, really.

 

He of course, looks quite panicked and trouble is, he is between me and the door, so I can’t get past to let him out.

 

He tries to help by jumping up onto the bench where we feed the cat – luckily he isn’t here – and then on to the top of the fridge(s) – all without knocking off the stash of beer I keep up there. I’m impressed.

 

Meantimes, Mrs P has left the kitchen, through the garage and out to the front of the house and with some help from our now keen to leave visitor, has opened the kitchen door from the outside.

 

Door open, he scuttles out chased by a geriatric scottie, already out of breath.

 

Quite a day really. A workshop open all night and still there when we discover the error. And, our house, invaded by a 70Kg simian, with theft on his mind.

 

That’s quite enough fun for one day.

 
 

* The chacma baboon is a native of the region and the only baboon which is known to forage on the shoreline – most others content themselves with seeds, nuts and berries. They are unintrusive, but inquisitive by nature and generally share the environment with us humans pretty well. Until the locals and tourists feed them. Then the trouble starts and when the visitors have gone, home invasions for food become a real problem, especially if 10 or 15 excitable monkeys get into your home and can’t get out. Then the mess in the fridge and pantry becomes nothing in comparison to torn curtains, shredded furniture and baboon excrement smeared everywhere.

Bar, Golden Gai

Tokyo wind-up

 

 

Welsh onions

“Welsh onions” – Shinjuku

 

Not that you’ve necessarily been gagging to hear, but Tokyo was fantastic – easily one of the most interesting and worth visiting cities we’ve seen to date. If it wasn’t so far, we’d have booked a return visit already, perhaps supplanting our long-time favourite, Singapore.

 

The delay in writing has been the result of flu. Both of us were poleaxed by it last weekend, 36 hours before heading for home. Individually, Di succumbed first, with me about 18 hours behind her.

 

Between bouts of sleeping, we sat in our hermetically sealed, air conditioned hotel room and did nothing other than mope and yet more sleep. By Sunday morning, it was clear that the walk back to the bus terminus at Shinjuku station that we’d done on arrival, was now way beyond our abilities and a taxi ordered to get us to the bus stop, bus and airport.

 

Fortunately, the next hurdle; the bus to Narita went off like silicone. Made all the better by getting a sizeable pensioners’ discount. Check in, immigration and the security formalities came next, the pair of us like zombies, just wanting to get on the plane and sleep (more).

 

Twelve hours to Dubai, three hours wait for our Cape Town connection – sounds like a drug deal – not – and another nine hours in the air, saw us arriving on time with just the baggage, customs and drive home left to endure.

 

Asakusa shrine

Asakusa shrine

 

That was Monday. I’m writing this eleven days later, both of us are finally past the worst – still largely incapable of any kind of enthusiasm, exercise or appetite. Independently, we’ve both been out during the intervening week and a half, both arrived home exhausted, ready for little more than to sit and stare at the ocean outside.

 

On Monday, we both agreed that if we didn’t go out and get some shopping, we’d starve. So, we did a big pre-Xmas shop, the fridge is full to bursting and all we need (apart from our kids to show up and surprise us) is the energy to eat and drink it all.

 

Morning, Shinjuku

Morning, Shinjuku

 

Rewind.

 

I’m not sure if we’d ever have gone to Tokyo if Emirates hadn’t written to me a couple of months ago, offering a whole e-mail full of bargain-priced flights to just about everywhere. Having recently returned from Laura’s wedding, we weren’t much interested, that was until I followed the link in the e-mail and found yet more budget city flights.

 

“How would you like to go to Tokyo as a kind of joint Christmas present?”

 

Moments later, the booking was made, hotel reservation done and the anticipation started.

 

Outbound, we flew to Dubai and then on to Tokyo’s Narita. It was smooth, easy and on arrival, we opted for the Airport Limousine (a bus), which dropped us at Shinjuku Station – about 800m from our hotel.

 

Street scene, Tsukiji Market

Street scene, Tsukiji Market

 

Checked-in, baggage dumped in our room and in seconds, we were out on the streets of Shinjuku to explore and find something to eat. We found the latter in a yakitori – chicken grilled on tiny skewers over a charcoal fire – bar (izakaya) about 250m up the street from the hotel, pretty much the first place we tried.

 

Fed and watered, I paid, expecting a massive bill – this is Tokyo after all – and was very pleasantly surprised. For lots of yakitori, a couple of side dishes and beer/wine, I got a bill for a bit less than R300.

 

That set the pace for the rest of the trip.

 

Autumn trees, Yoyogi Park

Autumn trees, Yoyogi Park

 

Our travel days easily fall into a new city routine; I wake early and go out to photograph, Mrs P sleeps. I’m usually back around 07:30, we deal with the daily ablutions and head for a good breakfast.

 

The Best Western we were staying in fitted that need perfectly, with both European and Japanese buffets. Grilled mackerel, deep fried chicken and rice porridge for breakfast was a novel experience and begged to be tried. Other days, toast, marmalade or a couple of boiled eggs held a bit more appeal.

 

Usually, by around 10:30 we’re ready to depart, having agreed a destination for the day. Shinjuku is huge and it’s only a matter of minutes into Yoyogi, Harajuku (the Carnaby Street of Tokyo) and various nearby suburbs. Other days, we braved the Metro for Shibuya and it’s famous scramble crossing, Ueno, Ginza and the Imperial Palace.

 

Grown up fishing, Shinjuku

Grown up fishing, Shinjuku

 

Ginza

Ginza

 

Fortunately, we’d finished our must-see list as the flu struck. We still missed returning to a couple of places that just cried out for more time and exploration. For every one of the twelve days we spent in the city, we ate in bars, restaurants, izakaya, markets and street stalls. What we ate was often a bit of a mystery – most Tokyo-ites will attempt English, but ordering food can be a lottery. We ate what we got irrespective. In the main it was fantastic.

 

Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market

 

Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market

 

I bought some kitchen knives in the the Fish Market at Tsukijki – there are hundreds of stalls selling sea food of a bewildering variety and shoehorned between their stalls, a vast variety of cutlers, offering knives for just about every occasion. That was after a street stall don lunch – a bowl (don) half filled with rice, topped with a variety of raw sea foods (mainly tuna), gari (pickled ginger) wasabi and soy sauce. It might have been chilly sitting out on the pavement, but the food was fab.

 

Getting around the city is pretty straightforward. That said, the Metro map was a complete mystery, until unravelling it to get to the Imperial Palace became a motivation. In sum; the station you are in lies at the centre of the map and the place your wish to get to (when you finally find it amongst the coloured lines) is shown with a number on it.

 

That is the fare in ¥ (yen), usually between 170 and 330, depending on distance.

 

Use the ticket machine, press the English button (you’ll only need to do this once as the process is actually, very simple), select two people and the fare, chosen from the map above. Ticket machines accept anything up to ¥10000 (R1000) notes and give change in notes where appropriate, instead of a million small coins. Along with your change, two tickets pop out of he slot. You’re now good to go.

 

The Tokyo Metro goes just about everywhere and the odd station it doesn’t serve, is accessible on the JR Yamanote line, a Japanese version of London Underground’s Circle Line.

 

Shinjuku skyline

Shinjuku skyline

 

And, that’s about it. Tokyo is a fanastic, exciting city and now, we’ve recovered somewhat are already planning a return to see Spring in the city in 2016.

 

One final note; our pre-departure research told us that the Japanese are not great credit card users and so, I drew a not particularly large sum of Yen to tide us over on arrival. It was planned to cover the first few days travel, sightseeing and meals until we figured out how to draw more cash. As it turned out, ATMs are readily available in the many 7/11 stores around the city, so we needn’t have been so concerned.

 

Better still, instead of lasting a day or so in what we expected to be a frighteningly expensive city, our cash lasted almost ten days – providing you don’t plan to eat and drink in top-end of restaurants and bars, Tokyo is no more expensive than Cape Town.

 

That was a surprise.

 

Tokyo night

Tokyo night

 

Tradition

Tradition

Unexpected find

Tokyo in colour pt. 1

 

After last evening’s post, I got a note from a reader asking why such a colourful city was being shown in black and white.

 

Answer; right now, that’s what I am focussing on. I’m not forgetting the colour – I’m keeping most of those for the InSight: Tokyo guide that will be published shortly.

 

So as not to disappoint though, here’s some Tokyo colour.

 

Red light Shinjuku

Red light Shinjuku

Shinjuku street morning

Shinjuku street morning

Shinjuku sunrise

Shinjuku sunrise

Flatiron Uedo style

Flatiron Uedo style

Shinjuku Gyoen National Park

Shinjuku Gyoen National Park

Shinjuku shrine

Shinjuku shrine

Restaurant lantern

Restaurant lantern

Shinjuku street scene

Tokyo in black and white pt. 1

 

A week in Tokyo with a new camera – there’s lots to see, plenty to do and an entire world of interesting food to eat.

 

I’m hoping to get to the food posting shortly, but we only have three days left before the great trek back to Cape Town, so we’re making the best of it. In the meantime, enjoy this small sample of the images I’m bringing back with me.

 

More soon. Promise.

 

Level crossing, Yoyogi

Level crossing, Yoyogi

 

Meiji Temple

Meiji Temple

 

Yoyogi bar

Yoyogi bar

 

Yoyogi bar

Yoyogi bar

 

Shinjuku street scene

Shinjuku street scene

 

Didn't make it home

Didn’t make it home

 

Well fed, tired in Shinjuku

Well fed, tired in Shinjuku

Hygiene Japan style

It’s just one of the oddities of travel

Hygiene Japan style

Hygiene Japan style

 

“It’s weird. It’s warm and feels like someone’s just got off it.”

 

As ever, Mrs P has hit it on the head. Well, the backside actually.

 

It’s the lavvy, loo, bog, khazi, whatever. It’s the toilet seat in our Tokyo hotel room. Not only does it have an entire bathroom attached to it, it’s pleasantly heated as well.

 

They’re clever these Japanese chaps. Not only do they make good cars, cameras and TVs, this is clearly the pinnacle of lavatorial technology – probably the biggest breakthrough since Mr Crapper invented a way to flush those nasty, odiferous jobbies away more than a century ago.

 

If you’ve not encountered one before, the idea is to settle and perform whatever function you choose, calmed and cosseted by the delight of a warm botty – now made especially enjoyable in an otherwise near-Arctic air conditioned hotel room. I’ve been in hotels where the lavvy seat was so cold that my skin has stuck to it on contact.

 

Finished?

 

Don’t clean up manually, yet.

 

Look down and to your right and press the green shower button. In seconds, a warm jet of water squirts onto that little puckered spot from whence everything has just flowed. Wriggle a little to ensure that there are no Klingons – oh for fuck’s sake, how did you think they got their name? – and switch off.

 

Wipe with KP* as usual, except this time, you’re just drying.

 

Done.

 

For the lady, I imagine it all works in much the same fashion, with the additional benefit of an extra button for washing their other naughty bit. Us blokes can shake or wipe it on the curtains, but for the ladies, a gentle warm post micturation (or other activity) spray must be very nice.

 

So one up for the Japanese. I’d quite like one at home – except when it comes to maintenance – I’m occupying an idle moment with the terrors of a badly adjusted jet, a thermostat set too high, or worse, an improperly insulated electrical connection…

 

* kak papier – it’s a Burger family thing apparently.