Returning to Tokyo

A collection of bits and pieces of stories

Unbelievably, I’ve now been in Japan for nearly two weeks. I’ve started work, found accommodation, (mostly) unpacked, got a phone plan … now I just need a bank account and I’ll be all set to work here indefinitely. Many things have happened over the past couple of weeks, but here’s a selection of the most interesting.

A diversion: Changi airport

I was only meant to be in Changi (Singapore) airport for an hour waiting for my connection through to Tokyo, but thanks to a delayed flight I ended up there from 5am to 9am. Turns out Changi is a great place to spend the early morning, especially when Singapore Airlines gives you a breakfast voucher to apologise for the delay.

After some comforting eggs on toast and what was probably my last Wellington-grade coffee for quite a while, I discovered both the airport’s butterfly garden and its cactus garden - both surreal things to find without even leaving the terminal. So many things in that airport just scream “Well we have to spend all this money somehow …”

Of course they have a free entry butterfly garden in the terminal

It's really quite a relaxing place to spend time - especially when you're sleep deprived enough to feel like you're dreaming

Action shot!

Oh, and they have a cactus garden which is barely even signposted! I had to guess its rough location and then follow signs to the "smoking area"

More cactuses ...

And more cactuses ... they're not really as interesting to look at as butterflies

Spoiler alert: Singapore is not midway between New Zealand and Japan. It’s considerably off route, so my journey ended up taking nearly 24 hours, instead of around 14 with Air New Zealand. Singapore Airlines are great to fly with, but not great enough for me to want to put up with that journey again.

Arriving at work: Three fields in the port

“Three fields in the port” is a uselessly literal translation of “Mita, Minato-ku”, the district where my office is located. I dropped in there on my second day to meet the team and get my fancy new laptop, then wandered over to the waterfront for lunch.

Not as good as the Wellington waterfront, but still nice to see the sea

I think this is a ferry terminal of some kind? I got excited thinking there was a pirate ship docked, but was then disappointed to realise it's on land

As usual, I then rather misjudged the scale of Google Maps, and headed off towards what looked like a medium-sized temple park just down the road. Twenty hot and muggy minutes later, I discovered a large and variously-styled park next to the enormous temple of Zōjō-ji, which I discovered later is the main temple of one of Japan’s largest Buddhist sects.

This part of the park feels pleasingly haphazard and wild - a surprising discovery in the midst of well-groomed apartment blocks and ferociously manicured trees

Ah, there's the little temple

That's a bit bigger than I thought ...

... a LOT bigger

Still the centre for rich gaijin: Roppongi

With nothing particular planned that Saturday, I looked up “weird things to see in Tokyo”. Obviously there were several thousand instant recommendations, but a couple in particular caught my eye. The first was a parasite museum, where you can see all manner of preserved parasites, sometimes still attached to their hosts. I decided to take up a rather more wholesome suggestion which happened to be on the way, and went to see a pond in Roppongi which apparently contains the descendents of fish that were born in space as part of a zero gravity experiment. I didn’t see any fish, but it was a nice pond, I guess?

It is a pond

With no great eagerness to proceed to the parasite museum, I wandered around looking for lunch, and happened to spot that the art gallery in Roppongi’s fancy central tower had an interesting-looking architecture exhibition. Turns out the museum (which is on the 53rd floor) also has a viewing deck which gives you a spectacular look at Tokyo.

Google helpfully (and rather creepily) stitched this together without prompting based on a bunch of photos I took out of different windows of the gallery

You see the tall reddish building just below the waterfront? My office is just next to that building

The exhibition itself didn’t blow me away, but it was a fun way to kill a couple of hours. The most interesting part was a series of depictions and models of traditional wood joinery, the art of building wooden structures that last for hundreds of years without using nails. It’s fascinating to examine an intricate interlocking joint and try to work out the purpose of each cut. Well, fascinating to me, anyway.

Something random: Akihabara

This picture is pretty self-explanatory, but for context: I went to Akihabara, the “electric town”, to look for some bits and pieces for my room, and happened to notice people doing one of the other things on the “weird things to do in Tokyo” list I mentioned before. This is real-life Mario Karting, where you get to cosplay as characters from the game and drive around in go karts on the main road.

Apparently this is legal

And finally

Now that I’m in permanent accommodation (which I’ll write more about later), things should hopefully calm down a bit. The best thing about it so far has been the ability to cook meals again so, to finish, here’s my attempt at a somewhat Japanese-influenced goulash:

Not very traditional, but very tasty

Posted on 27 May 2018
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