Monday, June 23, 2014

3am running, plane trips, and Bunkyo-ku

And onto Japan, this time with a new attempt on sleeping on the plane. So a friend called out for ppp4spa over at Maroubra sports clubs, a 24 hour running event to raise money for Suicide Prevention Australia. Silly me thought doing 3am-5am would be a good idea. Well it wasn't so bad, but I probably should have taken more than 3 hours sleep that night. Bedding down at 2330 for a 0230 rise didn't feel super awesome. Arriving at almost 3am to see 8 runners on treadmills on a stage, a DJ and MC, plenty of bananas, it was actually quite fun, but bloody warm under the lights. Big shout out to Ben for providing a comfortable sleeping couch and transport to Maroubra sports in the wee hours. And Laura for getting people onto it, great work and good effort keeping the treadmill stacked - hope everyone made it through the 24 hours.

So after almost 2 hours on the tready, quick shower and off to the airport for the 8am flight. Flying JAL this time around, never been with them, but it was pretty good. The route SYD-NRT was on a 777-200. Economy class cabin is showing its age but had good entertainment options on a small screen, and the meals were good (but no Japanese options - hoping for this on the way back out of Tokyo!). After eating, I did manage to sleep for a good 3-4 hours. So if you need any tips for sleeping on the plane, get absolute minimum sleep for a night or two leading in, do a long run right before your flight, and you should be fatigued enough to kip out on the plane. Or just fly business or first, thats probably easier.

Enough about sleep. Following a quick border control check in Narita, and the customs officer suprised/amused at my small amount of luggage for a 10 day trip (refreshing to see after hauling around a snowboard bag on every other trip), I began navigating to Bunkyo-ko to find my Ryokan for the evening. Each other time I've been here, I've stayed in a hostel, but thought it best this time to upgrade, and the Ryokan is the traditional japanese hotel. Think low-rise traditional building, shoes off at the entrance, host escorts you to your room and a quick tour of the place, traditional futon on tatami floor in room, green tea and hot water at the ready, traditional yukata robes and downstairs a separated male and female bathing space where you strip down and seated-shower then relax for a short time in an large onsen-temperature bath.

That is if you can find the place. Luckily my human compass was somewhat calibrated, with some basic mapping saved on my phone from the last wi-fi experience, it was an easy 15 min walk from the station (after a quick 5 min turnaround when I realised I was walking the wrong way), guided by the expanse of Tokyo University campus on my right hand side. After checking in, plugging in all my devices, picking up a meal, I donned my robe and took a quick bath and felt the stresses of the week melt away with the warm heat. 

Japanese Style Room with Futon
Unplugging from 24/7 internets has been good. You start to realise how much of it you rely on during the day to day, when flung into a new unfamiliar downtown area. Where do you eat and sleep? How do you get where you need to go? You start to rely on the hardcopy materials more, maps, handwritten directions. Its refreshing and somewhat liberating, as you try new things without checking a review first, go a new direction without necessarily knowing where it will lead, ask people for directions (rather than google) and are forced to be much more in tune with your surrounding environment. I was wondering earlier what it was like travelling before the internet was born, alas an experience I will never have (other than the well organised trips planned by my parents, which I didn't take any role in organising). My guess is that you would lean on the guidebook more, and the telephone or the hope that the 'no vacancy' sign is not lit up. Or carry a swag.

Ok enough for one night, time to finish the suntory premium malts and hit the 'western style bed' in my Hakone pension for my second night, its no Ryokan, cheap, and I'm missing my futon on tatami already...

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