Most workplaces in London become utterly anaemic in August, haemorrhaging workers to summer holiday spots like France, Spain and the ever-popular Cornwall. Last August I was slow on the uptake and spent most of the month hanging out with the office tumbleweed, so this year I was determined to do as the British do and get outta town!
In the world of airmile savvy frequent travellers, there is something called a mini round-the-world (rtw) ticket that you can cash in your aeroplan points for. I’m still kind of fuzzy on what the rules are for your destination plans – you kind of need to speak treasure map-ese to plan a trip that’s ‘legal’ ie acceptable to the airline gods. Luckily, my travel partner is fluent in such speak, so after months of planning we came up with this year’s summer holiday – a whirlwind week in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, followed by a week of not moving on a beach in Phuket, Thailand.
The Japanese have a saying that they use when greeting friends they haven’t seen in awhile: ‘Are you genki?’ It basically means, ‘Are you energised and full of life?’ We definitely were on this trip – hard not to be, in such fascinating places!
Japan is a country that a surprising number of my friends have been to or lived in, but many people I mentioned the trip to still view it as an exotic and adventurous travel destination. On arrival in Tokyo, I was immediately struck by how modern the whole city was, and yet utterly foreign at the same time (this thought might be personified by the Japanese toilet. A winner with many male visitors as an object of fascination).
As London, Japan was in full summer holiday mode, so the majority of tourists we spotted weren’t Westerners but Japanese coming to visit Tokyo from all over the country. We may have missed cherry blossom season, but let me tell you, the parasols were out in full bloom. It was a HOT one – 30 degrees anywhere but a beach is a bit much, even for the sun dweller in me. I still haven’t figured out how the Japanese women do it – pristine hair and clothing and not a drop of sweat visible to the naked eye. Meanwhile, I gave up on any semblance of fashion and embraced the bird’s nest number the humidity bequeathed to my coiffure.
Aside from the heatwave, Tokyo was a veritable playground of a metropolis, with fun fashions, gastronomic delights and imperial history bursting out at you from every corner. Overwhelming at first, the city has so many different areas with their own flavour and attractions (though you can bet your bottom the common thread throughout each is the neighbourhood shrine. SO MANY shrines). Our first full day, we opted to do a tour, just to get our bearings, which was absolutely worth it. I’ll share the highlights in my next post – until then, stay genki!