So I’m back from Thailand – two weeks of Buddhist temples, amazing food, beach paradises, raving and cyberpunk culture-clash urban environments (more on that to follow). If you’ve got time to kill then hit-up my Flickr photoset for the now standard image overload.
Well, I’m back. I survived Havana – a bat-shit crazy but fantastic and beautiful city, both run-down and elgant at the same time, and where everyone that walks the street is a hustler. Sure, communism and food rationing has made it hard to find a decent meal, but who cares when the rum and cigars are so cheap. Plus the Museo de la Revolución and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes make it worth the cost of the flight alone. Just don’t try bringing back a load of that cheap rum through Madrid airport security. Long, painful story. Of course, as always, I took a bunch of photos, which you can check out on the Flickr sideshow below – and are certainly worth a look if you have any passing interest in Che Guevara, crumbling but awe inspiring architecture, mojitos and lots (I mean LOTS) of gorgeous 1950s American muscle cars.
Got some time to kill? Then check out this photo set on Flickr – all my photos from my recent trip to Tokyo, in lovely high-res. Or hit the link below to watch them in a slideshow. All 1353 of them. Yeah, it’s a lot. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Despite having been
boringly safely back in the UK for over a month now, I’m still only just managing to mentally process everything we saw and experienced in Tokyo. A major highlight for us, in fact one of the main reasons for going in the first place, was our trip to the Studio Ghibli Museum in the suburb of Mitaka.
You couldn’t make this shit up.
Check this guy’s outfit – I’d have killed for that get-up back in my early 90s techno days.
I took this photo outside our apartment in Shinjuku; apparently this guy was paid to stand there all night waving his lightsabre at the passing, minimal traffic. Another reason Japan has such low unemployment – well, until recently at least.
Shibuya was the only place in Tokyo that I felt slightly disappointed with. Initially anyway.
After paying our respects to wonder-dog Hachiko at the stations exit (if you don’t know the heart-wrenching story, it really is essential reading), we headed into the much hyped shopping district. Dominated by big brand, global chain stores like Gap, HMV and Tower, the place feels decidedly soulless compared to the style mash-up of Harajuku. Sure there’s the Bathing Ape shop, with it’s funky disco-bling interior and glass steps filled with trainers on conveyor belts, but the prices in there feel like someone is actually taking the piss. Same goes for the G-Star store – nice gear, but how much? Really? Most interestingly, you never see anyone actually buying fuck all in either of them.
Look, I know what you come here for. Really. I mean, I’m sure you’ve been enjoying reading about the last few days exploring Tokyo’s ancient monuments and culture, but I know what you’re thinking.
Where the fuck is the anime and the toys, Tim?
Well, my friends, let me put you out of your misery.
While chilling in the gardens around Dembo-in in Asakusa, admiring the beautiful Koi under the bridges, I got chatting to an elderly local called Hideo. I think he just wanted to flex his pretty impressive English skills, but his eyes lit up when we told him we were staying in Shinjuku. Excitedly, he insisted that when we got back there, we head on down to the Hanazono Jinjya Shrine, as there was a one day, once a year Torinoichi Bamboo Rake Festival taking place, and it ended at midnight. He explained it was where these elaborate bamboo charms were sold that would bring good luck for the following year.
You could be forgiven, on first arriving at Asakusa on the Ginza subway line, that you’ve descended into Japanese tourist-trap hell. And to some extent you’d be right; it certainly seems to be the most touristy place I visited in Tokyo at least – as soon as you pass under the impressive Kaminari-mon (“Thunder Gate”) you’re greeted by a line of literally dozens of stalls selling everything from woodblock prints to Gundam model kits. Further down though, towards the Senso-ji temple, they give way to more traditional craft stalls, with giving you a unique chance to see artists in action. The Temple at Dembo-in, where Japan’s two leading religions Buddism and Shinto meet, and it’s surrounding gardens and pogodas are breathtaking, and a welcome break from the initial chaos.
Getting to Mount Fuji isn’t easy on your own from Tokyo, unless you want to hire a car. Even then it’s a few hours drive. On the recommendation of friends, we took the easy option: an organized bus tour.