Tokyo Touchdown


First stop on our trip – Tokyo.

With just 2 nights here, our mission was to enjoy a little luxury and – after fading away during our final week in Sydney – to take inspiration from those local sumo fellows and start to pack on the pounds.

Working to a rigorous regime consisting of 5 meals a day, we began our sumo noodle challenge with gusto. After kicking things off with our first steaming bowl of udon upon touchdown, then continuing the intensive gastronomic program with a little help from our local culinary guides (merci to the lovely Maggy + Axel!), we managed to test out a few local delicacies in record time. On the menu – sashimi of every fishy description, silken tofu with caviar, crispy salt-and-pepper pork, melt-in-your-mouth rockfish… and the highlight (at least, by virtue of the name alone) – shabu-shabu… a sort of Japanese fondue, where thinly sliced beef is dipped into a bubbling pot of soy milk, whilst intoning a ‘shabu’ for every dip (an extremely hypnotic experience… particularly after a few glasses of the local plum brandy).

Clearly, after all this eating we needed to squeeze in a bit of a walking tour of the city (…if only to make some more room for our next meal…!)

Staying in Minowa – not far from Asakusa and the old Edo-era part of the city – we spent our first day in town exploring the fascinating back lanes of our neighbourhood, and wandering around the nearby Senso-ji Temple and the surrounding traditional Japanese gardens.


Afterwards, we entertained ourselves with a bit of a photo tour of Phillip Starck’s infamous headquarters for ‘Asahi’ beer. Apparently the building – with its dark, reflective panels to the main base of the building, and an enormous golden sculptural curl on the top – is meant to be recall a glass of beer with a blowing head of froth on top (aaah… according to the architect, of course!)

Apparently, critics think differently – they call it the ‘golden turd’.

Anyway – the building with its ultra-cool, sleek style + slight quirkiness seems emblematic of this city.


Our trip to Shibuya – the sort of Bladerunner-styled ‘Times Square’ of Japan – certainly revealed the coolest collection of cool cats, you could ever imagine. People watching here is an intense 24-hour pursuit. Packs of young twenty-somethings hang out under the shifting, Shibuya light parade in their pointy snake-skin boots and blow-waved manes (…and that’s just the fellows…) These guys sport hair-styles that any self-respecting 70s band would be most proud – think ‘Sherbet’ meets Astroboy in downtown Tokyo.)


Christophe and I were the perfect tourists – predictably dazzled by the lights and dabbling in all the local past-times… a bite of yaki-tori here, a showdown at the local amusement centre there…

(Unfortunately, Christophe refused to endure my superb rendition of ‘California Dreamin’ at karaoke, so we’ll have to save that quintessential Tokyo experience til next time.)

We also popped into a local underground bar where we were hoping to run into Bill Murray and order a Suntory whiskey. Unfortunately our relaxing drink at the bar (mystery sake cocktail replete with glace cherry on top… mmmm) got hi-jacked by a local Japanese girl who somehow managed to show us the ENTIRE collection of her recent shopping purchases that she had conveniently recorded on her brand-spanking new 80Gb video iPod (…curse that technology!!)