A Japan trip: Okinawa and Shikoku, Day 1
I woke up and we were almost ready for landing. What a great pleasure to have spent most of your trip sleeping, so these almost 10 hours of flight actually feels like 2 or 3! This is my first time in the Narita airport. Immigration is surprisingly fast and I’m out on my own after around 30 min, not bad.
After getting some cash and recharging my SUICA I am now heading to Narita. It’s just one stop as I want to spend the morning visiting Naritasan, a temple complex in the Narita city. These moments in the train after such a long flight are unique: to be remembered on how Japan feels like through their images, sounds, smell…
Arrived at Narita. This a nice cute town with tons of small shops and picturesque streets. After wondering around for a little I arrive at Naritasan. I spend around 1 hour walking around the complex, looking and observing the well-conserved temples and the people praying. Next to the complex there is a big garden with 3 ponds. Since it’s early in the morning, there is not much people and the feeling of solitude is good. Only interrupted by the constant reminder of the weight I’m carrying behind! I decide to take some action to alleviate my back because in Shikoku this is gonna be much much harder.
Inside the garden there is a big building which is the National Calligraphy Museum. It’s only 500 yen, so I decide to enter and take look. There is a big collection of big murals, long scrolls and other paper mediums with samples of calligraphy that can be considered art. It’s interesting that there is a whole movement of artists that created art just by writing stuff in a paper. The works are pretty beautiful if you ask me, and I realize that most of the artists are around 19th century, very rare to see something from 18th century or before. I guess because the conservation methods were not the best back then. I take some pictures to take a look at the authors later, unfortunately all the info displays are only in Japanese.
In the second floor there is also a small section with draws by artists of around the same period. One of the artists catch my eye: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (大蘇芳年). He was an ukiyo-e artist, one of the last great artists of the genre, and no mystery about it: the works are astounding. I really like the colors and the expressiveness of the people and scenes represented. One special work titled: 不知藪八幡之實怪 (Ghosts Appearing in Yabushirazu Forest at Yawata) catch my eye, it reminds me to the game Muramasa. No doubt this artist is one of the biggest influences in the upcoming of styles in future mangas, animes and videogames.
After finishing my visit to Narita, I decide to continue to Tokyo. I wanna check-in in my B&B before continuing with the rest of the day. This B&B is off the beaten path, near Akabane station but deep inside the residentials that sorround the train station. I wonder around for some time looking for a suitable place to eat and I finally find a very local place with soba and ramen. They look me like I’m some kind of alien, and I don’t blame them. I have some ebisoba エビそば which is not that bad, and super cheap ７００円. The place itself is the typical noodle shop with 3 or 4 tables, the woman serving the tables is kind and diligent.
The place I’m staying is run by a family. It’s a house reworked as a B&B with around 6 rooms. The owner shows me around and explain me how things work. The house has a nice japanese garden in the porch, which you can see from some of the rooms. He also speaks good english so it’s not a problem communicating. The only thing is that he is a little annoying, always wanting to take you to the station, take you to the onsen, or take you anywhere! Akabane station is not that far (10 min walking)!
After resting a little I decide to go play some arcades in Akihabara. I really like Bemani style games, specially Nostalgia Op. 2, but I suck big time. There is a huge variety of rhythm games in Japan that haven’t come to Spain (and probably never will!) that I just love to play. Nostalgia is one, but then you have more hardcore ones, like Mai Mai, a big concentric circle which people play with gloves and Chunithm, another game that seems like magic. I spend some time just observing these guys play and also playing myself a little. Inside these places there is always a lot of noise and they are pretty dark, but the atmosphere is just authentic and awesome, one of these places I always come if I’m in Japan.
Then I decide to take a long walk as I go to the Tokyo SkyTree Aquarium, also known as Sumida Aquarium. This is a small aquarium which is in the base of the SkyTree, and it’s just another attraction people go to enjoy while in this big complex of shops and things to do. I spent some time in there, the section I like the most is the jellyfish ones. There is actually a display which shows how they raise the jellyfish, and how big they are after one, two, three days, etc. These creatures are fascinating, they are so alien, so magical that it’s difficult to imagine what is going on inside of it…
Before heading back to the hotel I have some “fried soba” in a small shop within the shopping mall. It wasn’t bad but nothing spectacular. Quite cheap, at least. I decide I’m too tired to try and go to another place so I’m calling it for the day, that is, after 1 hour of train to come back to the hotel.