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Entries about senso ji

Day 86- Ohayōgozaimasu (good morning) Tokyo!

After the lack of excitement in the last entry I'm sure you are desperate for the fun loving stuff to kick start again. Oh don't worry Japan will not disappoint you...

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27 February
Following the traditional backpacker penny pinching ways we had booked an overnight flight with Jetstar. Which was basically the equivalent to Ryanair except the fact we were in the air for like 4.5 hours instead of the 2 hours you often have to endure Ryanair for. Izzy was left wishing we were back on Cebu Pacific even with their terrible arrival song... Maybe one flight is all it takes and Cebu Pacific is all you need?

We landed at around 6am in our 4th country excited about the prospect of Japan, while trying to fight back the yawns. After our extensive research and due diligence in Manila (and thanks to a number of fellow traveler blogs) we had pre-ordered a number of items and knew the best places to get cash, as again surprisingly Japan is a country that still heavily relies on cash. The first of these pre-orders was not one we would have ever considered if not for the travel blogs; pocket WiFi. Again we had read that despite all Japan's technological advancements WiFi is still largely subjected to hostels, train stations and restaurants. Now don't get me wrong it couldn't be worse than the Philippines but having weighed up the options we considered this to be a smart purchase and would also save us needing to get data sims for our phones (as long as we stayed within 60metres of each other). We had pre-ordered this to collect from the airport and once we found the right desk all went smoothly. Even setting it up. So far it has proved very convenient, although Japan does have sufficient WiFi in most places.

Cash was also obtained easily and without a charge! Plus the cash point talked to you and you were in your own little booth. 2 out of 2 obtained. We were just waiting for something to go wrong. Next up was arguably the most important, well at the very least the most expensive; our Japanese Rail passes. We booked these ages ago when in Australia (that really does seem a long time ago now!) and were apprehensive of the website used and whether they would be there. We had a bit of a wait before the ticket office opened but luckily for us with it still only being 7.30am we had time to kill. Once opened we were informed we needed to collect our voucher first to exchange this for the tickets. But again we had no issues with either of these processes and decided to commence our 14 day rail pass for 4 March, the day we planned to leave Tokyo.

We also booked our subway tickets to take us to our hostel and by 8.30am we were on our way. We both envisaged having to ram ourselves onto crammed carriages with our massive bags; being hot, uncomfortable and pissing everyone off like you see on the YouTube videos. However this initial train was quieter than the tube and we got seats for us and our bags. So far so good and we were loving how seemlessly Japan appeared to be. Another thing we noticed and loved was how quiet the train was. Literally nobody speaks! It's silent. There are even signs up telling you to refrain from speaking on your phone and if it's busy refrain from using it altogether. From our experiences so far everybody fully obeys this. At first it was a little disconcerting but it still became oddly comforting.

As we couldn't check in until 3pm we just sat and read through some of the guides we had picked up on Tokyo and how to use our new rail passes. Our first impressions of Japan and Tokyo had, as you can tell, been very positive. This only continued to grow throughout our first few hours. Such things like their top notch customer service, respect and cleanliness were apparent very early from our initial 7/11 (supermarket) experience to having to take your shoes off at the door to the hostel and wearing provided slippers.

Everything was going so well we were just waiting for the bubble to pop. We thought it may come when checking into our hostel room as we knew we were in a room of 30!!! The biggest hostel room either of us had ever been in. However... We loved the room. It was spotlessly clean, everyone had their own little capsules that were much bigger than the usual bunk beds and completely private and again everyone was silent. Admittedly at no point during our stay was the room full, yet I don't think it would have made a difference. Plus the toilets here are something else! They look like bloody computer games with buttons for everything from music to heated seats and even a water fountain for your bum. It is such luxury especially coming from the Philippines whereby often you would have to squat over a bowl on the floor and had to bring your own toilet roll which you couldn't even flush down the loo! It was also nice knowing we would be in this hostel for 6 nights and actually have a proper base for a good period of time.

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Tokyo appeared to be the polar opposite in so many ways to the Philippines. This example was perfectly demonstrated as we stepped out our hostel to explore that late afternoon. As we walked down the street you could hear... Nothing! Like the subway this place was silent! There were busy parts of the street but no one made a sound! Even the cars were the same as 90% are electric. We couldn't get over it and it was so different to the noise and chaos of Manila. Another contrast to the Philippines was you can tell convenience here is important. There are literally 7/11s everywhere, yet if 3 on every street wasn't enough Inbetween them are vending machines with everything from drinks, to snacks, to capsule toys (something we will come on to later). As you can tell we were in pretty upbeat moods!

The only slight dampener on our mood was the weather! We had left 28-30 degrees for about 5 degrees! Some change in temperature and we had not packed for such weather as you may have read from our New Zealand entries. But here we couldn't even hide in a campervan so we decided that we needed to go coat shopping. Kirsty and Elliott had installed their love for Uniqlo on us and after learning that Superdry is not a Japanese brand (I know... Who knew?), there was only one place to head. The shopping centre appeared to be in the train station and it was huge, all seem to follow the same suit of food courts on the ground floor with usual department stores on the floors above. The coats were a little more than we wanted and the Uniqlo was small, so we decided to sleep on it and try and go to a larger store tomorrow.

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Wandering around Asakusa just helped cement our early love for this city. Then came something I wasn't expecting as Iz was driving the directions. We came across a huge torii (Japanese gate) at the entrance to a market lit with fairy lights leading up to a stunningly impressive shrine called Senso-Ji. It dominates the skyline and is just beautiful.

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After our visit we were walking down the steps when a young Japanese guy approached us taking about tickets to a geisha show. Being always the skeptical we already had a no on the tip of our tongues. However, we listened to his story about his friend being in the show and that some tickets hadn't sold (probably due to the virus) and it started in 20minutes around the corner. Although a traditional geisha pricked our interest we knew the price would be the kicker. But that's when he said he would give us one ticket free and other for 1,000 yen (which some quick mental maths told me it was about £7 for the both of us!). It still sounded a bit dodgy but we decided to be spontaneous and take up on his offer, silently agreeing that for £7 it was worth finding out. As I reached for my wallet he told me to pay on the door. This further convinced us that it must be legitimate as why would he randomly be handing out bits of paper. Plus if it was more than he said we wouldn't go in.

But all seemed to be valid, although at the entrance the woman who processed our £7 tickets seemed surprised at the price. This is probably as there was a big sign saying these should have been £21 each! Not only were we granted entry, these tickets came with a free beer! What more could you ask for. Even if the show was terrible the ticket price barely covered the beer. Drinks in hand we walked through an out of hours funfair to an empty hall and reflected on our spontaneouity and checked the program for what to expect. From what we could work out there were 6 short sketches with various Japanese dances.

Over the coming minutes the hall started to fill up with a mix of people who clearly had pre booked tickets and others like us who had been coaxed of the street. By the start time there were still a number of empty seats as a random videod played before the geisha's came out. Now we hadn't really prepared or knew what to expect from a geisha show... So my first reaction was to hold back a laugh. It was a strange experience as 8 women in full kimonos and make-up swayed around with fixed expressions and creepy music. The wanting to laugh was more out of shock and being out of my confort zone. This died down and although the strange atmosphere didn't I come to appreciate the tradition, the outfits and the uniqueness behind what we were witnessing.

The rest of the evening involved various traditional dancing and a ninja karate show. Each as shocking and surprising yet interesting. It was an evening like I've never experienced before and it was a great cultural induction into Japan and it's history. The performance was well worth the ticket and although I would personally not have paid £40 odd for the privilege it was the kind of experience we wanted while traveling and were pleased we took a chance. At the end you were introduced to the choreographer who had produced similar performances all over the world, so we had seen a high quality show. That was before being allowed to take a picture with the dancers. Iz suggested sneaking off but I thought it would be a good way to remember our evening so we joined the queue.

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Afterwards we laughed, talked and shared our views on the evening and early opinions of Japan. Well in between taking a few more photos and briskly walking back to the hostel regretting not being as spontaneous with the coat decision. We stopped to buy noodles at 7/11 and heated them up at our hostel. Iz had not chosen well but as it had been a long and very unexpected day was happy just to get snuggled in bed with Netflix ready for another full on travel day tomorrow.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 04:14 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan quiet geisha ninja senso_ji seven_eleven Comments (0)

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