Japanese Cute

If you put a face on it, it is cute and the Japanese love cute. 

We set off to Shibuya, an area where young fashion-conscious Japanese hang out. We saw lots of girls in short tartan skirts, knee high socks, huge thick soled shoes and long curled hair. They looked like anime characters. 
I discovered a character by Sanrio (the creators of Hello Kitty) called Gudetama which translates roughly to “lazy wobbly egg”. 
He can’t be bothered doing anything because he’s going to get eaten anyway so sleeps under a bacon blanket. 
Does that make sense? No but it was strangely cute and I now have a Gudetama bag as research. 
From there we went to Store 109 and Lafloret. Huge department stores for Japanese fashionistas and there we saw another exhibition, this time soft toys in sculpture. 

What I called Road Kill Sofa

And then there were crazy Star Wars shoes…

And then an aquarium store with sea horses…
And a bonsai store…
And then Kabuki (maybe tomorrow)

And lots of research, shopping and sensory overload. 

The competition

And then finally, after an Indian buffet (cultural eating?) it was time to put on the Japanese lounging pyjamas and relax after a very full day. 

And so to sleep hopefully. A week of this and I’ll be seriously exhausted. 

That was only Day One!

Tokyo Research Day One

After a Japanese dinner of sushi, tempura and miso soup, I started the day with the western breakfast buffet. The Japanese option looked a bit too challenging at 8:30am. 

Always a fan of eggs, I discovered that fried eggs are apparently eaten in one mouthful in Japan and I watched in awe as several fellow guests ate an entire fried egg in one bite. I can understand the logic (no lost yolk, no eggy plate) but even for me, that would be hard. And did I mention that was using chop sticks? There’s a new party game. 
With that lesson learned, we set off to the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills to see an exhibition by Murakami, a contemporary Japanese artist who creates Japanese/Manga-inspired surreal works. The detail was incredible. 

It was a fantastic exhibition for people who work with licensed consumer products. 

An inspiring start to day one!
Next stop, Shibuya, to get immersed in Japanese cute…

The warm bottom

Japan is the home of the super high tech toilet and while the toilet in my room doesn’t play music, it does have a warm seat and some strategically placed jets of water!

I’ve never been entirely sure about the merits of a warm toilet seat preferring to know that the seat has been self-warmed rather than by someone else’s hottie bottie.
This is a different story though and I’m becoming quite attached to the super high tech toilet. Watch out Money Pit, we might have to upgrade!

Arriving in Tokyo

I had enjoyed a good flight, my only complaint if I dare, was that the first class sleeping suit was too hot and I didn’t get much sleep. But that makes me sound very ungrateful, which I wasn’t, so all in all, I had a good flight. 

British Airways First Class was really quite spectacular and I will regret having to return to economy on my next flight to the U.S. Corporate rules are that if flights are over eight hours, one can upgrade. New York is 7 hours and 55 minutes. Boo!

Emerging into Tokyo’s Narita airport, I decided to get the express train to central Tokyo. It took about an hour and was a pleasure. Clean fast trains, easy to follow signs. I was soon at Tokyo station which was a labyrinth of absolute chaos.
I was having a bit of a problem as I didn’t seem able to withdraw cash. I tried three different cards and each time the message was that the card was invalid.  As I never carry cash let alone travel with it, I am far too dependent on plastic. After a phone call to the helpline for foreign idiots, it would seem I had inserted the card the wrong way. Problem solved, cash in hand and I was able to get a taxi to my hotel.
The denominations of yen are very large. I withdrew 50,000 yen which sounds like the deposit for a flat but is about £260 so should get me through the week.
And from there I arrived at my hotel, the Hotel Niwa in Tokyo. I have absolutely no idea where it is other than it feels very central. The hotel is a blend of contemporary Japanese (shoji screens with luxury bedding and very nice lounging pyjamas) and Western culture, hurray, English speaking staff!
As it was raining I decided to rest and fell into a deep, disorientating sleep for a couple of hours before forcing myself to wake up. I’m meeting my boss for an early dinner and then hopefully I’ll be on local time.  
Impressions so far: it all feels very Japanese! I have spoken French and Spanish due to language panic, but have remembered to say Origato for thank you. I’m also trying to remember not to blow my nose in public as it’s a major faux pas. 
Day One: More to come from Tokyo!

Off to Tokyo

Friday the 13th. Hmm, an auspicious date to travel to Japan for the first time. 

I cut things a little close getting to the airport as the Heathrow Express decided to stop. Not so much Express after all. 
Despite the delay, I made it through security and did my usual Boots the Chemist, WH Smiths, Pret run and legged it to the gate with ten minutes to spare… only to discover inevitably the flight was delayed.  
And so now I wait. The good news, for once I get to turn left when I get on the plane.
Travelling in style… finally!

The Queens Park Beach

We have now embarked on landscaping the prison yard, just in time for winter! 

Sunday saw Phase 1 as I moved a large pile of bricks (otherwise known as the back wall) out of the side return to make way for pebbles. It was hard work and I could feel every brick the next morning. 

On Monday 875 kg of grey pebbles were delivered. They arrived in a bulk bag and were dropped on the road outside. Someone was going to have to move them. 

I left work early and with high viz jacket still on, we started filling rubble sacks and carrying the pebbles bag by bag to the back where they slowly started to fill the side.

An hour later after a monumental effort, we were finished. We were covered in mud, the house was covered in mud but the side yard was full of pebbles and starting to look good. 
With stepping stones, up lighting and plants, the zen garden (or Queens Park Beach) will look so much better than it did before.