Time square, NYC. Shot taken by myself.
NYE in NYC 2013-14…Checking something else off the bucket list:) Can’t wait!
Soooooo looking forward to driving around LA…8 months to go!
Interesting article…I’m glad I can say I’ve seen it!
Tokyo again - Our last day in Japan!
Sadly, we’ve just arrived home from Japan. We’ve had such a great time, and the sights and people have been so wonderful, that I’m a bit sad that our trip has come to an end. Our flight only left at 8.25pm, so we had all day yesterday to get in some last minute sight seeing, including some of the things we missed during inclement weather earlier in our trip.
We got up just in time to catch the tail end of breakfast, but we certainly weren’t alone! The breakfast lounge of the Citadines was about half full, so we grabbed what we could before they took it away at 10am. We went back to our room, had a tidy and made sure our bags were packed well for the flight, before checking out and catching the train to Tokyo’s central station. We popped our bags into some of the abundant lockers at the station, and went for a short walk to the Imperial Gardens. We stopped at a lovely restaurant which looked on to Wadakura Fountain Park.
After lunch, we walked through the Imperial Gardens, which included some really pretty areas around the moats. We got as close as we could to entering the palace, but that is only opened up twice a year to the public. It has been that cold in Tokyo recently that the water in the moat had started to freeze over.
We then walked back towards Tokyo station, seeing the statue of Kusunoki Masashige (a legendary 14th century samurai) on our way, before catching the train to Ueno station.
Ueno Park was our next destination, which was straight out of the station. I was expecting a park - you know, one with trees, open space and playgrounds, walking paths, etc. But this was a park on steroids! There are a series of museums and exhibition buildings, including the National Museum, cafes and restaurants, fountains, statues, and a zoo! It was a lovely walk through, and we’ll definitely have to come back to have a further look around on our next trip.
We walked down to the end of the park, to the Shitamachi museum. ‘Shitamachi’ means ‘low town’, and refers to the working class specifically of the 1920s. It was a really interesting and fairly hands on experience, and we were able to play with children’s games from the era and walk into recreations of houses and shops from the day. We exited the museum just before it closed, and walked back through some of the Ueno markets and shops to go back to the station.
We caught a local train to Tokyo central, collected our bags from the lockers, and headed to the N’ex, or Narita (airport) Express, platform.
While we were there, we got chatting to an Aussie rugby player, currently playing in Osaka but who looked like he had formerly played for the Western Force from the bag he was carrying, who was heading back for the birth of his child. We were at the airport in 50min, and had to wait quite a long time to check in due to really long queues at the Jetstar check in counter, so we got chatting to some of the other Aussies in the line, some of whom were in Nozawa Onsen last week at the same time we were. After a quick tonkatsu (crumbed pork cutlet) dinner, we raced down to the boarding gate, boarded, and we were off! 8.5hrs of flying, and 2.5hrs of sleeping later, we touched down at Coolangatta, tired yet happy to be home.
The trip may be over, but over the next few days I’ll hopefully have some final blogs to pop up.
Today we got up fairly early so we could catch our multiple trains back to Tokyo. We caught the bus to the train station at 9.20am, and it made it clear just what a ridiculous amount of snow we’d had over the past few days - it was almost unrecognisable from the road we came in on just a few days ago.
We caught our diesel train to Nagano, then switched to the Asama Shinkansen. Even though we caught up on sleep while we were in Nozawa, we’re still tired…I slept for parts of the journey on both trains! After jumping on the Metro and a short walk, we arrived back at what has become my favourite hotel of our trip, Citadines Shinjuku. We checked in and chilled out for a while, still being quite groggy from sleeping on the train, before heading out at 3.30pm-ish.
Our first stop was Roppongi Hills. It’s an integrated office, recreation, living and shopping area, which was interesting in itself, but we were there to head 52 floors up the Mori Tower, to the Observation deck. We had some absolutely beautiful views of Tokyo as the sun was setting, including Mt Fuji peaking out from behind some clouds.
We also paid 500 yen extra, and went up to the Skydeck, an open deck (complete with helipad!) looking out over Tokyo. It got cold fairly quickly, but seeing the lights of Tokyo come on was beautiful.
We caught the metro to Shinjuku-sanchome, the stop after our normal stop, to grab some dinner. We were trying to find the Golden Gai area, but got frustrated and stopped at a multi-level building full of restaurants, and picked one that had good looking pictures (if there’s a better method, let me know!). We went in, asked for a table for two, and the waiter reeled off a spiel in Japanese, to which I responded with a blank look. He turned and walked away, and we were lead to a booth. We saw the glossy menu and the exciting looking, electronic ordering system. We asked for a menu, and were met with a clear ‘no’. Even last night, in the middle of a ski village in the middle of nowhere, we were able to know what we were eating in English, and yet again we have no English menu here in Tokyo! We picked a handful of things so we could eat ‘Japas’ style again, and muddled our way through the online ordering system. When we went to order drinks, there were only pictures for the cocktails…what were we going to do? I grabbed my little phrase book, and looked up the kanji for ‘cola’ (which is how they refer to a coke or pepsi). Nothing. OJ is popular here, so I looked that up, and found the corresponding symbols on the screen in front of me. Orange juice, it is!! We sent off our order, and our food and drinks began arriving and happily, they all looked like what they should have!
After our delicious dinner, we decided to have a wander around the Shinjuku-sanchome area. We turned two corners…and there was the Golden Gai area. You could tell because the streets narrowed, the bar decor starting looking quite traditional, and in some there was standing room at the bar only (no stools or seats). There were people blowing in and out, and it generally looked quite full. A former Yakuza hotspot, it’s now quite an artsy district and can be fairly expensive, so it was looking only for us tonight.
This time tomorrow we’ll be on our flight home! We’ve got some time for sightseeing before we head to the airport late tomorrow afternoon, so we’ll update you on that when we get home!
Today, for the first day since we’ve been in Japan, we had a sleep in…hooray!!! We only got up at 10am, and had brunch of scrambled eggs and ham in our room (which has a self contained kitchen). It STILL hadn’t stopped snowing, and we were again astounded at how much snow fell last night. We hung around, watching tv and chilling out, until we had to go to the tour we’d booked for the Jigokudani Monkey Park!
We walked down the slushy roads to one of the other accommodation houses here in Nozawa, who organised the tour. To start with, we had a traditional tea ceremony, with a koto being played live (a traditional flat, wooden, stringed instrument). We were served green tea in bowls, and had a little sweet biscuit to eat.
Then, it was time for us to hit the road! It’s an hour drive to the monkey park, which was made even longer because of the weather. We had to stop early on for the driver to put some snow chains on, and there was lots of snow everywhere (and still snowing!). When we finally got to the car park at Jigokudani, we had a 40min walk up the hill to see the monkeys. It was a very pretty, if a little cold, walk through an icy forest, complete with ice on our path at times! There were certainly a few near stacks for both of us on our walk up (and back!), but thankfully we managed to keep our feet.
We finally entered the park, and walked another couple of minutes around the corner, past some monkeys down near the stream, and arrived at their onsen. What an absolutely gorgeous sight. They have such cute, pink little faces sitting just above the water, with plenty of them grooming each other (one small one opened another’s mouth to check their teeth!). There was a little icy ledge that you could step down on to so you could get all the way around their onsen, and really very close to them! I was a bit scared of the icy-ness, but hopped down without incident and was able to get some really great pictures of them. Some even had their eyes closed, relaxing in the warmth.
All of a sudden, a great ruckus erupted, with two monkeys swinging at each other. Half of the monkeys in the onsen moved around, and what must be the alpha male let out a growl and came running over. The monkey who must’ve been the instigator was chased away up the hill, and a few went with it, screeching back down at the others until the alpha let out another growl silencing them. Soon after, a ‘park ranger’ came and threw some seeds or pellets out for them.
I could tell it must’ve been food time, because as soon as they heard the wooden lid shut on the box, they all started hopping out of the water. It was a mass exodus as they started chowing down, and because we were standing on the ledge between the onsen and the food, they started storming past us like we weren’t even there, coming within 20 or 30 cm of me. I could just see it turning into one of those ‘When Animals Attack’ shows (because I was filming at the time), but alas, we are safe and sound. Quite a few arguments broke out over the food, which was fun and exciting to watch (unless it was close, then it was ‘When Animals Attack’ part II). We headed back, very happy with our afternoon of monkey watching.
For dinner tonight, we tried to book a kaiseki dinner (wikipedia describes it as ‘a sequence of dishes, each often small and artistically arranged’), but all of the places in town were already booked. The travel agent we were trying to book through (who’s an Aussie! So many ex-pats here!) suggested we try another traditional dish from the area - a wild boar hot pot. We were a bit hesitant but the guy assured us that it was fantastic, so we booked it and headed up at 6.30pm - it was literally 50m from our hotel, straight up the hill. We got there and were surprised that there was only 1 other table eating, and two tables set up (of which 1 was ours). Personalised attention! We sat down, and they got the hot pot started, which was filled with tofu, the wild boar meat, different types of mushrooms, shallots, potato, carrot and other vegetables, and then filled with stock to make a soup. The man told us when to start eating, and later on, brought over some (what we think were homemade) udon noodles.
It was great! The wild boar tasted a bit like beefy pork, and it was very much like a quick casserole that cooks at your table. Tasty! We were also brought green tea and peeled apples (local apples are quite famous here), and left feeling like we’d had dinner at somone’s home due to the lovely hospitality of the owner and his wife, both of whom spoke very little English.
We leave Nozawa Onsen for Tokyo tomorrow, having had a very cold, yet fun time!
Skiing day was here! We ate a quick breakky, got into our ski clothes, and headed up the mountain. It hadn’t stopped snowing since it started when we were out yesterday afternoon, and so there was fresh powdery snow everywhere. Snow tires were on some cars, but others were (rather idiotically) barreling up hills, stopping to allow another car past, and then having to slide back down because they couldn’t get any grip on the steep hills. Where there were clear walkways with a little snow in the gutters yesterday, this morning there were no gutters and snow, ice and slush everywhere. There was at least 30cm of snow on roofs! It was absolutely crazy that this had happened overnight, and as a result, we were already pretty wet by the time we got up the moving walkway.
We had booked a ski lesson in English this morning with a lovely English guy (the irony wasn’t lost on me). We started out learning how to put on skis, then walk in the skis, and side stepped up a little training hill. James, our teacher, told us how to take off, how to stop (which was hard!) and how to turn, which I found fairly easy (until I got caught in some of the fresh powder). We had a few goes at each of these, before we got onto the gondola and headed up the mountain. It was a 10 min ride up…but we still weren’t done! We had to hop on the ski lift to get to the top of the run we were going to attempt, the Uenotaira run.
I was a bit intimidated now - we were a long way up, and I didn’t want to stack it and hurt myself. I threw caution to the wind (well, the snow, because it was still snowing heavily)…and I wasn’t too bad, actually! I was able to do my turns pretty easily, but when I tried to stop, I couldn’t! I made the decision to ski into one of the snow drifts under some trees on the run, and came to a standing stop. James helped me correct my technique, and we were off again. The worst part was that I couldn’t see! We hired goggles, but they would fog up really quickly, and I couldn’t use my glasses, because the blustery snow kept getting on the inside, so I had to put up with snow pinging me in the face. After every few turns, I’d stop and wait for Clinton, who was being helped by James (because while Clinton had no problems stopping, he couldn’t turn very well). Even though it was really tiring, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and had rescued myself from stacking it a few times (even skiing on one leg at one point!). I shouldn’t have been too confident, though - the hardest was yet to come. We had to go down quite a steep bit at the very end of our run, and as soon as I’d pick up speed (which was quickly!), I’d freak out, bail and stack it into powder, and James had to get me up each time. Once, I got so thoroughly stuck in the powder, I basically had to be dug out. My legs were wobbling, and I’d developed a sore spot on my leg where the ski boot kept knocking me heavily when I stacked. I was absolutely, phenomenally bone tired, and we were both pretty wet from the continual and heavy snow. Clinton even had a little snow beard! We decided that we’d call it a day after our lesson, and would go ‘home’ for an onsen after lunch at Mos Burger on the slopes.
Cold, wet, and depleated of energy, we gingerly headed back to our hotel, careful not to slip on any of the ice. We decided to head to the basement of our hotel for an onsen (a hot spring bath), but were a little nervous - there are certain protocols for using an onsen, and we were hoping we’d do it ‘right’! Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone else in either of our onsen (because there are separate onsen for men and women), so we could relax a little. When you go in, you undress (down to nothing!) and place your clothes in a little basket or locker, and then go into the large open shower area, where you have a thorough wash and rinse. Then, you hop into the pool-like tub, adjusting the temperature with a water scoop and the cold water tap. They have special properties, such as calcium or sulfur, depending on the area, and was a great way to relax our muscles and warm up after the chilly morning.
It’s now just before 9pm here, and it still hasn’t stopped snowing since yesterday afternoon!
Still plenty of vendies in the snow!
Tomorrow we’re visiting the snow monkeys, so hopefully we won’t be too sore from the skiing!
*1 - Snow outside our hotel this morning
*2 - Snow outside our hotel this afternoon (same spot as morning)
*3 - Snow outside our hotel tonight (same spot as morning and afternoon)
Today we headed to the snow!!! We got up, breakfasted, got packed and caught the train from our local station, Shinjuku-gyoemmae to Tokyo, and then the shinkansen (so fast…like a bullet!) to Nagano. We then had to change on to a smaller, 2 carriage diesel train for another hour, making it a 3 hour transit before we got to Togari Nozawaonsen station. There were spots of snow on the ground at Nagano, increasing steadily after that, until there was solid blanket coverage and big snow drifts by the time we got to Togari Nozawaonsen station.
Seeing as the bus wouldn’t be leaving the station for another hour and a half, we decided to take the taxi to our hotel. We were too early to check in, so we left bags and went to lunch - at the little Italian restaurant next door. I’ve commented on this before, but the Japanese love their pasta and pizza! They put their own little twist on it, though, and it was a good lunch. We wandered around the town, booked a snow monkey tour for Friday, spotted some of the onsen that Nozawa Onsen are famous for (including a hot outdoor foot spa), and then headed up the mountain to the snow resort via the covered moving walkway, which is kind of like an escalator, but without steps.
Just as we were about to get on, it started to snow! It wasn’t our first snow in Japan, but it was certainly the powderiest, just a little at first, then by the time we’d gotten up to the top of the mountain, it was snowing lots! We confirmed our skiing lesson for tomorrow morning at the snow centre, then hired our boots, skis and poles. Just before we headed back down, we threw some powdery snowballs at each other. I got Clinton when he thought the game was over, just as we were about to get back on the moving walkway, and he got cranky at me…sorry, gramps!
We went back down the mountain to find some ski clothes near our hotel, and heard a very familiar accent…an Aussie was working there, and only started 3 days ago. We came back to our hotel, checked in properly, and chilled out for a while. Then it was time for dinner…we walked around for a bit trying to find a place that was opened and had available spots. It seems that you need to book places for dinner in the snow! We found a spot, eventually, at a ‘Japanese tapas’ - Japas? - restaurant. We had a wide variety of different foods - bacon, onion and potato on a hot plate, ramen, a (chicken) yakitori plate, two plates of karaage chicken and salad.
It has been a long day, and now that we’re home, it’s time for bed!!
Today was a pretty late wake up, seeing as we were up until the early morning to celebrate New Years. We watched the traditional rice cake making (mochitsuki) in our hotel lobby, where you wear a hanten coat and take turns whacking the rice in a giant wooden mortar (called an usu) with a big wooden mallet (or kine). It turns a little stodgy and gloopy, and then they add sweet flavouring to each of the three little rice cakes you get.
Even though it was 11.30am or so before we surfaced, we decided to go with our plans and make our way to Mt Fuji, albeit with a shortened itinerary. To get there we had to change trains at Otsuki to take the private Fujikyu train, and while changing I overheard two people talking in Italian at the gate, and struggling a little to understand the Japanese station master. As Clinton and I went through, I told them, in Italian, that to get to Fuji they had to change to the other railway, which was around the corner, and that the train was there right now. They thanked me, and asked if we were going that way too, and when I said yes, they said they’d follow. You NEVER know when your Italian will come in handy! We caught our Fujikyu, a cute little train with cartoon pictures of Fuji on it, up the rest of the mountain. It was expensive, at 1100 yen for your ticket plus 300 yen as it was an express train, but we were hoping that the views of Fuji on such a beautiful fine day would be priceless.
After our cumulative 2+ hour train rides, we finally arrived at Kawaguchiko, the end of the Fujikyu railway and in the shadows of Mt Fuji. We had our lunch at the station, a delicious bowl of steaming udon noodles and kimchi (long noodles, such as udon, are traditionally eaten over New Years, to wish for many more new years celebrations). We also saw our Italian friends, struggling (again) to communicate with some of the staff at the station, so I again stepped in to help out and translate. The male asked me, ‘How do you know so many languages?’…I was a bit puzzled, because I could clearly speak Italian and English, and some very rudimentary Japanese. Many people in Europe are polylinguists, so I was surprised that he was so incredulous about my language skills.
Our view for lunch
We then headed out into the 5 degree afternoon, walking down towards Lake Kawaguchi, which was very beautiful in the softening afternoon light. Despite the cold, there were still paddling boats and tour boats on out the lake, soaking up the last few hours of daylight.
We continued walking through the little township and headed towards the Kachikachi Yama Ropeway (ie cable car), so we could head up Mt Tenjo to view Fuji. After the 3 minute ride up the steep hill, we exited the car looked up to one of the most amazing views I’ve ever laid eyes on. To the right, Lake Kawaguchi’s waters stretched out, its regal blue mountain waters contrasting with the soft green of the mountains and the beautiful blue sky.
Then turning my head 45 degrees, we see Fuji-san, seemingly just puckering up out of the relatively flat, symmetrical land around it. With its little white hat of snow and a coat of whispy clouds, I could absolutely see why Fuji is revered so highly by the Japanese.
We hung around on the top of Mt Tenjo for quite a while, checking out the fading sunlight and how it changed the appearance of the mountains and landscape, before heading back down the mountain and away through Kawaguchiko town, back to the station. Guess who we saw there? Our old Italian friends from the train ride in! They were trying to check what time the train back to Tokyo left, and again were lost in translation (maybe their accents were too hard for each other to understand?). I ended up filling in the gaps again, and we we headed out onto our train.
We got back to Shinjuku at about 8pm, and wandered around trying to find something for dinner. Despite it being Shinjuku, one of the biggest night districts in Tokyo, many businesses close down for the first few days of the new year and Shinjuku was no exception. We found a street with lots of food boards outside restaurants, and I found a yakitori one - we were going in! Yakitori are grilled skewers of meat - kinda like kebabs - done on a type of traditional open charcoal barbeque. We were seated around the bar, and while it was great at first, when it got busy we were smoked out! Watering eyes and running noses made us look like total amateurs. It was delicious, anyhow - chicken, beef, beef with wasabi, scallops, and cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon were fantastic.
Off to the snow tomorrow, so some much needed sleep is calling!
Today was New Years Eve, and because we were going to be out late tonight, we decided last night to give ourselves a sleep in today. We headed out at 11am and caught the train to Shinjuku, before walking a short distance to Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. As the name suggests, it’s a tower that looks like a cocoon, and was really interesting building to see.
We then hopped back on the train and headed towards one of the biggest locations for New Year in Tokyo, Meiji-jingu Shrine. While the first incarnation of the shrine was burned down in WWII, the rebuild was completed exactly like the original and celebrates Emperor Meiji and his wife, who transformed Japan into a modern country while still valuing its traditions. Even though it was ‘early’, many people were coming in to do their last shrine visits for the year and there were lots of stalls setting up their New Year markets. We also saw heard some drumming and saw some suited people very close to the inside of the shrine, leading us to believe that they were VIPs.
Consecrated sake bottles at Meiji-jingu
After meandering through the gardens, we headed for Harajuku - another case of Japan being a land of contrasts. We passed Harajuku staion, a hive of activity with young people meeting up for the last time in 2012, and headed towards Takeshita Street, THE street of Harajuku. We saw some very ‘snappy’ dressers, some crazy looking restaurants, and throngs of tourists. To me, it felt a little gimmicky and and ‘touristy’, not like the Japan we’ve come to know and love.
Next, we headed towards Omote-Sando, which Lonely Planet describes as the Champs-Elysees of Tokyo. The tree lined boulevard houses Emporio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Gucci and all the other high fashion outlets, but the thing I was most excited to see was…a Ben & Jerry’s store!!! We had lunch on the sunny top floor of the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando department store, at a beautiful restaurant called Bills serving brunch to the hipsters of Tokyo. Replenished, we headed back out into the crowds on Omote-Sando, before catching the subway to Shibuya.
Shibuya is the pulsing heart of Tokyo. When we got out of the station, we headed straight for the statue of an akita dog named Hachiko. His legend goes that he would walk to the train station with his owner every day and then return home, before coming to collect him from the station in the afternoon. His owner died one day at work, and Hachiko waited for him every afternoon for 11 years, until he too died. It’s such a touching story about the loyalty of dogs, and the people of Tokyo respected him so much that they created the statue to honour him.
While we were there, it was hard for us to miss the massive protest going on, which must’ve had something to do with NHK (a TV station) from the signs and placards they were holding, and involved lots of shouting from the back of a truck, flag waving, clapping and tv cameras. All of this just added to the frenetic atmosphere of the famed Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest road crossings in the world. More than a million people use it each day! We stood and watched thee craziness for a few light changes, before braving the crossing ourselves. We then headed into the highest grossing Starbucks outlet in the world - so popular that they only serve tall drinks to maximise profits - I mean, discourage loitering. They also have an 2nd floor window, and, as I found out, they employ someone to go around showing a card that tells you taking pictures is prohibited, as it doesn’t ‘create a comfortable atmosphere for guests’…the sign didn’t say anything about video!!! I was pretty angry at this, actually - stupid Starbucks will gladly take your money, and THEN tell you you can’t take pictures, when the only reason you’re there is to do exactly that!
We then headed back into Shibuya, to walk through Center Gai, one of the neon-lit back streets, and also to Dogenzaka, the ‘love hotel’ district, where you can either ‘rest’ or ‘stay’. On our walk back to the station, we walked past the signs for a cat cafe, where the Japanese can go in and spend time with cats if they can’t have pets in their apartments. We were going to go in, but you needed spend time by the half hour, and we didn’t have that much time spare.
After another big train trip, we arrived at the newly opened Tokyo Skytree, a massive tower complex. I had tried to book a table in the restaurant that night, but was too late - they were already booked out. Unfortunately, they only hand out a certain number of tickets to even go UP the tower, too, and we missed out on that as well. After wandering around the base for a while, we headed up the street, passing the Asahi Flame, which locals apparently call the giant turd - an accurate description!
After dinner close by, we continued our wandering on towards the Kaminarimon or “Thunder Gate’ outside Senso-ji temple, another big attraction for New Years and one of the oldest in Tokyo. We walked through the stalls, buying some more souvenirs and having our picture taken by a random (?), before arriving at the temple proper. There was already a queue to pray, and quite a few of the stalls were now open and selling food. We could see the five pillar pagoda, which was beautifully lit, contrasting against the neon modernity of the Skytree in the background. After a wander, gawking at some of the different fried seafood on offer, we headed back to the train and skipped across town yet again.
Zojo-ji temple has been quite renowned for its NYE celebrations and countdown, however in my researching prior to our trip, I found that sadly, yet another beautiful celebration had fallen victim to ‘public liability’ concerns. We decided to make this our last shrine visit of the year, in the hopes that there might still be something on. There were markets around, just like at Senso-ji, and the sparkling golden temple was open worship, but there were several signs up saying that the festivities were cancelled.
Also in my research I had seen that the nearby Tokyo Tower would be open until midnight, and there would be some festivities there, so we walked through the temple and headed to the Tower, which is a replica of the Eiffel Tower (that’s actually larger than the original!). There were people everywhere! We decided to escape the crowds and head up the tower to see Tokyo by night, 150m in the air. It was spectacular. Glittery lights twinkled in every direction, as far as the eye could see, and no camera could do it justice.
We hung around up there in the relative calm for a while, before heading back down to ground level. There was a big piazza with a screen set up, showing a tv program with a strictly red and white colour scheme (which we’ve since found out is THE thing to watch on NYE), and there were stacks of people watching there. Again, market stalls were set up, and we got ourselves some churrros. The tv show screening finished at about 11.30pm, and we were pretty puzzled…where was the countdown??? Disappointed, we decided to start heading back towards the temple, where there would at least be bell ringing as we entered 2013. On the way, we noticed there were stacks of people lining the streets, and the lights on the outside of the tower had been turned off. Yes! There would be some sort of display on the tower. We stood and waited for the last five minutes at an intersection with a front on view of Tokyo Tower, and the little lights started running around and making patterns on the tower as we got closer and closer to midnight. A hodge-podge of languages started shouting out countdowns, and as I only know the numbers in Japanese from 1-6 (and not backwards!), I only really got into it at 3-2-1…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! After a short pause, the tower showed up the new year on its centre section. Some people had beers (or, like the people beside us, were swigging a bottle of whiskey), others had poppers, and others (like us) just had a kiss and a hug.
Then, the fun really started - the commute home. However, this was very Japanese as well - organised and efficient. It took us an hour because we had to change once, but we even got a seat for part of it! I’ve never had such an easy trip home from a big event, and I think Australia has a lot to learn about public transport. Overall, it was a busy, tiring, but enjoyable day, much like 2012. I hope 2013 is everything you want it to be!