What Was I Thinking?!?

I am an over-packer. I just like to be prepared, okay?

I’m guilty of packing too much because I hate being caught out. Delay at the airport? I’ll pull out my book, a magazine and a lonely planet. Hands dry at work? I’ll have a bottle of moisturiser, hand sanitizer, nail file. Meeting the Queen? I am sure to have some extra jewellery floating around in my bag. Sadly, no tiara.

While you’re traveling, you just don’t know what kind of occasions you might find yourself in! Hence my need to pack many, many things.

I’ll admit though there are times when I am on the road, I look in my bag and say to myself: “What was I thinking bringing that large bottle/hair straightener/lifetime supply of bandaids along?”

My favourite heels. Pretty!!!

On this trip, it seems that the item of most frustration was a pair of high heels.

Their appeal is obvious. Black, sleek, stylish, goes with everything, just right. They also happen to be surprisingly heavy because of the slight platform.

After the shopping expeditions, sales and souvenirs from both Hong Kong and Tokyo, they became cumbersome and irritating.

What’s worse… I didn’t even get to wear them. My initial dreams of dinners in swanky restaurants and nightclubs trotting these babies out were dashed as the thought of walking any great distance to these places (as Jez likes to do…) made me reconsider.

What on earth was I thinking?!?

Let this be a lesson to all: practical is best.

Tokyo Tower

The New Year Celebrations

The New Year Celebrations

The Tokyo Tower, in true Japanese style, is a beautiful and functional tower.

It has a main observation deck, where you see the ‘2012’ sign to the left, and it also has the ‘special’ observation deck right at the very top. We visited both sections of the tower but we had to wait in queues for over an hour. I’m not sure if this was because of the time of year, but it did take a very long time to get up to the top observation deck.

The view from the tower is fantastic, as you can look down at the silvery-grey streets of Tokyo. One thing that surprised me was the number of flashing red lights that adorn the tops of buildings to indicate their height. The whole city seems to twinkle with red lights from every angle.

Although we really enjoyed the Tokyo Tower, we discovered that another taller, newer (and more impressive looking) radio tower is being built – set to open in May 2012. It will take over much of this tower’s capabilities. It would have been wonderful to see the new view from such an imposing new tower, the Sky Tower, but alas we are six months too early!

We did take a number of photos of the new Sky Tower on New Year’s Eve as it was close to Nakamise, where we were having dinner. I think it would be a fantastic spot to visit any time after May 2012.

Mount Fuji, Lake Ashi & Hakone Tour

Mount Fuji Day Tour

I booked a tour of Mount Fuji through Viator.com as a gift for Jez for his birthday. The tour was a one-day bus trip to the 5th station of Mount Fuji, then to the quiet lake-side town of Hakone then returning to Tokyo on a bullet train. While I was most excited about the tour to Mount Fuji, Jez was thrilled at the opportunity to go on a bullet train.

We met with the tour group at about 8am from a bus station near central Tokyo before spending about an hour on the bus traveling to Mount Fuji. Our tour guide was lovely and gracious, telling us about the history of Tokyo as we sped through the city’s motorways.

As we approached the foot of Mount Fuji, I was hoping that the low-lying cloud would be swept away by the wind before we traveled further up the mountain. I had the picture that I wanted in my mind and boy, did I want it! We stopped for a short break to watch an obligatory documentary about the mountain in an information centre.

As we traveled up the mountain, the scenery was beautiful. Being winter, the ground was covered in patches of snow and there were fierce, angular trees jutting out of the ground. The mountain has quite a gentle slope and in summer it is quite achievable to climb to the top. Apparently it gets very busy in the spring as people prepare to climb to the top of the mountain. I think that climbing to the top of Mount Fuji is something that I would consider doing later on, if my ability allows it!

When we got to the 5th station of the mountain (about half-way up) our guide told us that we would have about 45minutes to wander around the area and take photos. Well, I was relieved when the 45minutes were up because it was just SO COLD. We were unprepared for how cold it was going to be. In retrospect, this sounds ridiculous because we knew we were going up a mountain in winter. I bought Jez a souvenir beanie to commemorate the -10degrees Celsius adventure. His ears were turning blue!

On second thoughts, that souvenir shop was doing a booming trade that day! I also bought a cute Tea cannister with Brown Rice Tea.

After we all rushed back to the bus with our ruddied cheeks and hands we were starting to get hungry. The tour included a lunch at the nearby town of Hakone. It is advertised as ‘a family summer holiday hot spot’ but looked a little forlorn during our winter visit. The town has a gondola that reaches the top of a mountain for spectacular views of Lake Ashi below and another neighbouring town. This section of the tour was also very cold, but the scenery was truly breathtaking. The windswept grasses and glassy-blue sky were so peaceful and serene.

The sun was setting on our tour and we made our way back to a train station to catch the Shinkensen (bullet-train) back to Tokyo. The trip was about half an hour in total but it seemed longer as there were no seats available. Jez was also disappointed that we weren’t able to appreciate how fast we were actually going because it was night time, but we were able to feel the train going quite fast! We said goodbye to some of the people on the tour and left the train at Shibuya.

I really recommend taking a tour to Mount Fuji and getting a glimpse of the area surrounding Tokyo. Shibuya, one of the central shopping districts was also a fantastic location for the hotel – it was SO easy to get around on foot and public transport.

New Year’s haul in Shibuya

New Year's Sales

Every country does their ‘End of Year’ sales differently. The US have Black Friday, Australia’s boxing day sales are frenetic, but the Japanese have the best sales of all.

Department stores and specialty shops put together a goodie bag (apparently known as a ‘fukubukuro’) that customers can purchase. You can choose from different price ranges and each bag has a lucky dip of items.

The dazzling lights, bejeweled signs and frantic Japanese being spoken over the PA whipped me in to a frenzy. Naturally, the shopaholic in me jumped at the chance to purchase these things on sale. Jez, ever patient and wise, waited with me while I purchased two such bags.

Inside the bags I discovered a whole treasure trove of items. Including: Two beret’s, two scarves (one a mottled mauve and another black pashmina), a glittery headband, a keyring that looked a little like a voodoo doll, a pair of orange and navy footless tights and a floral set of stockings both by Vivianne Westwood. I have no idea when I shall wear these last two items.

While these items are all amusing in their own way, I was fascinated by the inclusion of a pair of Burberry socks. Does anybody actually purchase designer socks?! I must admit that it is rare for my own socks to have a matching partner – is this just me?? Do people buy designer socks that last a long time?

If you do happen to be in Japan at New Years, I highly recommend looking at the sales. However, it might be wise to plan what you would like to purchase on sale – electronics, skincare etc – before you brave the shopping mall.

Happy New Year!

Womb Club, Tokyo

For those of you who have followed our last overseas holiday, you will know our mission to visit the world’s most famous clubs. In Tokyo, we visited Womb Club for New Year’s Eve.

We enjoy clubbing and under Jez’s wing, I have probably experienced more of any culture through their moves and patterns on the dance floor than I have considering art or artifacts in a museum.

Tokyo was no exception.

Womb is tucked away in what is known as ‘Love Hotel Hill’ near Shibuya. It is essentially a concrete bunker that one descends into from the pedestrian street. As it was New Year’s it was packed with people, Japanese and American primarily. It seems that there are a number of Americans that spend semesters abroad in Japan (as well as Berlin…see our Berghain post) but I should also point out that there was an American DJ, Josh Wink, playing that night.

It was cramped, crowded and pretty uncomfortable in the hour leading up to midnight. After the count down to the new year, there was a rush to the exits and it was pretty spacious and fun for the rest of the night. Although the drinks were relatively expensive, we downed Asahi’s and a cocktail named ‘Kamikaze’ in rapid succession before dancing the night away.

We stumbled back to the hotel at about 4am, pleased with our clubbing efforts despite the cold. We were more than happy to sleep in that morning.