Thunder is a rude awakening at six in the morning, and it won’t even cook you breakfast as consolation. Pitter-patter soaks through any hope of a decent rest, and regardless of how waterproof those mental rain boots are marketed to be, the morning is still soiled with earthworms and the common cold. Such is the tragedy of airport visits and the natural lethargy that accompanies them. After all, night owl flights are a popular clique; they party lavishly while the rest of the world continues to sleep (except for morning people, or as I like to call them, robots). But despite the gloom, thunder isn’t a deterrent at all. It’s just the itch on the side of a wonderful entree called Japan.
Aside from a slight delay in Hong Kong, the flight went smoothly. It was unquestionably the most memorable flight I’ve ever had. Descending into Narita was so scenic and full of earnest joy; fields of water and grass meshed together brilliantly like pieces of a puzzle, and the roads twisted and turned with an ethereal beauty. But the biggest fascination was the big sphere of spitting fire that people call the Sun. Our arrival in Narita coincided with its orange sunset glow, and the reflections, poised elegantly atop the ripples of the ocean, spoke only of bliss. It’s Mozart’s orchestration of a waltz between the clouds and the waves, and well – I’ll stop talking like an old sap now. (It might not be so bad, though, considering how well the Japanese treat their elders.)
First stop: Tokyo! Since we arrived early into the evening, there wasn’t a whole lot on the daily itinerary – but we did catch a brilliant sunset by the water. I also had my first taste of Japanese culture. It’s rather special because there’s the conceived notion of Japan’s society – and then there’s an immersion where you see these two-dimensional ideas spring to life. As in, “wow, this is real takoyaki,” or “these people are bowing at me!” When the intangible or televised becomes a reality, it’s the best kind of culture shock. Japanese people are also very, very polite. And very, very, very ENTHUSIASTIC (the only time I will ever use caps lock in this blog – and appropriately so).
They are especially enthusiastic about their Gundams, and will spend life insurance savings on elaborate figurines to prove it, too. But even though the mecha giants aren’t one-size-fits-all, Diver City in Tokyo – with a big “life-sized” figurine of Gundam warding off enemies out front – is an ideal place for everyone with a curiosity larger than that of a rock’s. The Gundam figurine looks especially dashing at night, as scheduled light shows flash colours and blast a montage of anime scenes and electronic battle music. Limited edition sets line the walls of a store propped just outside the entrance, and not far away, the Gundam Cafe puts mecha into the art of baking.
This is a pastry filled with mochi and chocolate sauce. It’s a mush-gush of molten cocoa lava – kind of like what you’d expect from an IV drip at Willy Wonka’s factory, minus the LSD fairies and bratty children. The cafe is lined with Tokyo-exclusive merchandise as well, although the items for sale are more about the novelty. Take, for example, a set of Gundam chopsticks – or cookies in a jar, imprinted with iconic symbols. And what of the first meal to be had in Japan?
Okonomiyaki, my friend! If you can recall from a trip to Sogo in Causeway Bay, it translates to “what you like.” The definition doesn’t come unwarranted; like Canada’s poutine, okonomiyaki is a dish landing right in the bullseye of comfort food. There are many variants, of course. The one I bought had yakiudon forming the base of the dish, which I think is just the icing on the cake. Japanese fast food is an ensemble of takoyaki balls and ramen, and the food court provides free disposable cups and tap water. It’s pretty rad – although dinnertime itself was arduous, involving passive-aggressive table hunting. Alas, the food court is our modern Passchendaele.
Yeah, so remember the maid cafes Japan made headlines for a few years back? I didn’t think I’d see one during my stay in Japan, let alone on the first day – but here we are. I didn’t go inside, but the bento boxes in the display outside were pure eye candy. Even though the terms are technically synonymous, bento art seems to distinguish a nuance between “cute” and “kawaii” – with the former being adorable, and the latter being a pastel-coloured grenade. But anyway, a maid cafe! In the flesh! (See that double entendre?) Tokyo is full of quirks, and I look forward to the rest of my stay. However, I do want to apologize for the tardiness of this post; the search for Wi-Fi is a bit of an inconvenience in Japan. Do enjoy, though!