First timer in Tokyo
by Jessica Pook | 04 October 2017
Taking the 19 hour flight to Japan, no less than a week after North Korea’s latest long-range missiles test may have seemed a little crazy at the time, but then what is a trip to Japan without a little craziness?
I was there for the Visit Japan Travel & MICE Mart 2017, an inbound business talk session where overseas travel agencies and other related parties meet to promote the Japanese tourism industry and stimulate local economies; and with the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics around the corner, this year’s event was bigger than ever.
Of course, Tokyo could hold the Olympics tomorrow if it had to. With a faultless transportation system, an abundance of skyscraper hotels and excellent toilet facilities with more functions than I have kitchen appliances, they are already way ahead of their time!
Venture into Shibuya, one of Tokyo's central wards, or districts, and you’ll come across the world's most famous intersection right outside the station. Here, everyone waits patiently for the lights to turn green, until, in a moment of complete organised chaos, all five crossings turn at once. It’s then that you’re suddenly faced with a decision: attempt to cross or just watch this magnificent human scrabble unfold in front of you.
Shibuya is a complete assault on the senses. Flashing billboards light the way, drawing your attention to the latest tech craze, while karaoke bars entice you in with a questionable rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody or some cheesy pop hit that you just can’t resist.
Ginza was next on the list, offering up every high-end store you can think of and the price tags to match! The food halls presented the most delicate confections and the famous Wagyu and Kobe beef, along with fresh fruit packaged individually, reminding me that in a world where an apple could be priced at £15, I couldn’t even afford a single grape!
I stopped briefly to admire the Mikimoto pearl shop, which catches my eye on the way out. I’m told of the story behind the pearls: for hundreds of years Ama women have been diving to collect these precious gems, training themselves to hold their breath and dive for astonishingly long periods of time, and some of them up to 80 years old!
It’s said that women were considered better suited to diving because they have an extra layer of fat to insulate them against lengthy periods in the water and they were thought to be able to hold their breath longer than men – sometimes for up to a minute at a time.
It’s only then that I spot the price tag for these beautiful pearl creations… maybe I’ll have to stick to an apple after all.
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