This morning I arrived in Taipei, for the first bit of my absurd, four legged journey back to the UK. Tomorrow night is Hong Kong and then Friday, on to Heathrow via Moscow. Taipei seems like a very cool place but I’m not planning anything much more ambitious than eating and sleeping here at the moment… [Though perhaps I should take the chance to see it before Trump’s machinations start causing more trouble with China].
The internet told me that the first thing you should do on arrival is to have a traditional Chinese breakfast. So I did that. I’m not sure if a) being English and b) having it at lunchtime counts as adding my own annoying Jamie Oliver style twist? On the table was a jar of chilli sauce, its label announcing that it was in fact Made in Taiwan. For once, an indication of locally sourced produce ie. a good thing and not suggestive of cheap, poor quality imports and the decline of British manufacturing, or something. So I added a big dollop to my radish rice cake and omelet-pancake thing with a clear conscience!
Anyway, here are some photos of Japan, where I’ve been for the last two weeks and 3 days. Probably not accompanied by many words right now, as there’s not enough time to think or write. Oh wait, one more thing…I always associate Japan (well Tokyo) with the Manic Street Preachers, basically because of this video, filmed in and around Tokyo and which I first saw when I was a highly impressionable, overwrought adolescent (no not much has changed..). I always loved the song and the way the video perfectly conveys a feeling of urban alienation. But really it’s only in the last few days I’ve realised that seeing that video might have been what first planted seeds of curiosity in my mind about Japan. Followed up by studiously attempting to train my palette to acquire a taste for sushi, purchased at great expense from Pret a Manger, as we called it back then, in the *old days*. And yes the title of this post is ripped from the song..
‘push it to the depths’ !
Toilet occupation information panel. Essential!
Charming etiquette suggestions from Japan Rail:
Mystery musical happenings in Shibuya:
The best cheap food in Tokyo seems to be found in the maze of little alleyways that surround most stations. They’re highly atmospheric and generally quite well known by tourists, but some welcome non-Japanese speakers (big clues like: We have English menu), and some don’t! ‘Memory Lane’ in Shinjuku is also affectionately known as ‘Piss Alley’…
The Ameyoko market district next to Ueno station is another foodie haven (especially if you like fish):
Or noodles (decipher what you want from the plastic models, cross reference that with machine at the front of the shop & put in your yen, give ticket to one of the chefs inside!):
Beer, oysters and choco-strawberries on a stick? Ok then!
But there’s no escape from mutton shashlik. (Look closely, top left.) Aarrgh!
Occasionally I stopped eating and went in search of some *cultural leanings*. With the benefit of a degree in history and anthropology and thus an almost curatorial level of knowledge, I give you: some stuff I liked at the Tokyo National Museum!
Here’s a quick glimpse of the Emperor’s gaff – you can’t see much (though there are some gardens to stroll I think if you’re motivated).
This is his view:
Typical Tokyo (though not visible from the Imperial Palace!):
(They didn’t like it when I tried to take photos of the actual inside of a pachinko parlour..).
On more random strollings I discovered: that they really have missed the point of Happy *Turkey* Party day; surprisingly tranquil, low rise bits of Tokyo; and unexpectedly, a mosque.
In the spring the Japanese go wild about the cherry blossom, and in the autumn they have similar excitement over the colourful, falling leaves – anywhere that’s got any good trees will probably light them and open up for evening viewings. (And yes, early December is still autumn in Tokyo: I arrived having heard about a freak snow storm in November, but at first it was so balmy, I thought about taking my cardigan off).
This is Rikugien Garden:
Happily they had stalls selling freshly made food on a stick in some kind of sauce! (Glutinous rice balls in kind of sticky sweet soy sauce, yum, and washed down with unseen hot sake 🙂 )
After that I was planning to go to an onsen (hot spring – we all know the drill now..) nearby, but first err, I needed to eat some noodles. There are actually two michelin starred ramen shops in Tokyo, and in fact they are both in that area (near Sugamo station), but I don’t think the place I went to was one of them!
Yes, one of the toppings is rice krispies..
The hot spring itself, Sakura (no pics..no clothes) was very soothing, the outdoor section especially so under the autumn night (as opposed to the neon loneliness).
My final night in Tokyo featured this place, Sushi Genki. Order on the tablet at your spot, and then your dishes are sent to you on a little tiny train track. Great if you’re feeling antisocial (ha!) and the menu is decipherable-ish for non- Japanese speakers if you don’t mind an element of uncertainty 🙂