As we landed in Tokyo, the culture shock was immediate. It was one of the most efficient customs crossing ever and there was a general feeling of things running smoothly. We got our metro pass from the tourist information page and also got a free pen and a token to gamble in one of the gift ball machines. These were present all over the place and seem to be a national obsession.
Unfortunately, the house we had rented was just outside of the area covered by the metro pass but it was only a short way off so we got on to a train and headed that way.
At this point I think that I should say a few words about the Japanese underground system. First of all the stations: they are clearly built to support very heavy volumes of passengers. Every corridor clearly indicate whether you should be walking on the right or left hand side. The few times we got confused it was very obvious that we were on the wrong side and were forced to switch by the throngs of people.
Then there are the metro trains themselves, plastered from wall to wall with ads and one of the most silent places in all of the city. Mobile phones need to be on silent and you are not allowed to answer your phone inside the carriage. Add to that the fact that the seats are heated and it is a perfect recipe for sleep. I found myself nodding off most of the times I got onto a metro train. Most of the other people that were asleep seemed to feel the same way.
Once we got out of the metro we were greeted by a sight that could have come out of Sin-Chan or Doraemon. The neighbourhood was very quiet and composed mostly of small houses. It was great. We got to the house just as the owners were finishing cleaning up. They were extremely nice and helped us book a night at the Robot restaurant.
The Robot Restaurant is a surreal experience of modern Japan. I think “Japanese robot burlesque” is the best way I can describe it. It is something I would recommend everyone to go to see if they are in Tokyo as the feeling of “what did I just watch???” will linger for a while.
As we were very tired, the plan was to go to the Robot Restaurant relatively early, then grab some dinner and head back to sleep. This worked out great as the show finished at 7:30 or so and we headed to Omaide-Yokocho which is a small street that has many taverns where local businessmen go for dinner/drinks after work.
We sat next to a group of lively drunken businessmen and tucked into some Yakitori, rice, tempura and other food. The businessmen eventually started talking to us but as they knew no English the conversation was basically an exercise in remembering names of football players that we would recognise. Unfortunately, neither Esther nor myself know much about football but we had a few laughs,
After dinner, it was time to get back on the metro. We were greeted with rows of heavily snoring Japanese people, trundling back to their houses and I proceeded to join them in their snoring. Overall a very good first day!