Robots, poems & lots of people (Japan 2014 Day 2)

Friday 11 July 2014 – Tokyo

140711_Tokyo_08_webFrom the diary: “A day where things at the beginning and the end, compared to my usual existence, highlighted the effects of technology on our lives – the expectations that are created because of it and the difficulties in the past of communication across distances. It’s been a total revolution in personal information.”  

Overnight in a hotel across the road from my sister’s apartment. The breakfast is reasonably boring, but if every meal was comparatively amazing, would I really have anything to look forward to? My sister’s at work during the day, but a friend from Sydney is in Tokyo for a conference, so we’re going to meet up and hang out for the day before going our separate ways in the evening. This morning I discover coffee in a can – there’s no turning back now.

Sure breakfast is a bit average today - but then coffee in a can!
Sure breakfast is a bit average today – but then coffee in a can!

First stop is Miraikan, the Tokyo Museum of technology and robots and things. It’s on a reclaimed island part of Tokyo called Odaiba. I have to change trains three times to get there, the final one is a monorail which comes with awesome views.

140711_Tokyo_05_web

“F-ck I love the trains in Japan!” is the first thing I wrote in my diary today. And truly, the Japanese train system is the most reliable and friendly I’ve ever travelled on. Expect the awesomeness of Japanese public transport to be a theme.

Then, it’s not yet 10am and I’m already writing poetry.

A sea of humanity flowing
With pre-determined purpose
Self-contained little worlds
Gazing inwards past the self
To another larger world online

Odaiba is pretty amazing in terms of architecture, like the cube shaped Telecom Tower.

Telecom Building Tokyo - echoes of La Defense in Paris.
Telecom Building Tokyo – echoes of La Defense in Paris.

At first I think my friend Ben and his colleague, Adam, are late.  But really it’s a communication mix-up, and while I’m waiting outside Miraikan, they’re at the train station I suggested getting off at. Without a mobile phone, I’m uncontactable. Ben and Adam have mobile sim cards which work in Japan and are routed through Bulgaria or something. I haven’t bothered with trying to get a phone – I like dropping off the grid, and every hotel has wifi anyway.

Miraikan is fabulous – we see a robot, an android, and a 3D display in a planetarium that works for my weird eyes and makes me think maybe 3D technology will work for me now. I wonder how long it will take until robots are sentient and don’t like having to put on shows for kids where they sing and dance and op on one leg.

140711_Tokyo_08_web

We travel across town to Senso-ji, a Buddhist Temple from 845AD in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. It’s really hot – we’re all sweating and slamming down water like it’s… water.

Senso-ji. Buddhist temple in Asakusa.
Senso-ji. Buddhist temple in Asakusa.

After getting lost a couple of times we find the Asahi beer hall for some well earned beer and late lunch. Then it’s up to the top of Tokyo Skytree, via a lift travelling at 60km an hour, to look out over Tokyo from one of the tallest buildings in the world.

Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo - impressive.
Tokyo – impressive.

After saying sayonara to Ben and Adam, I head off to meet my sister. We go to shopping district Shibuya, to see the “Shibuya Scramble” where hundreds and hundreds of people walk across a major intersection. We see the Ebisu statue of a buddha with a fish, like on the beer, and a statue of the dog Hachiko, which came to meet its master after work every day outside Shibuya station, even after its master had died.

We eat sushi at a sushi train where you order from a touch-screen and the order comes out to you on little trains that stop in front of where you’re sitting. Mainly we wander around looking at people looking at things.

The 'Shibuya Scramble'
The ‘Shibuya Scramble’
People walking around looking at things 1
People walking around looking at things 1
People wandering around looking at things 2
People wandering around looking at things 2

For second dinner we go to an island district of Tokyo called Tsukishima, for a local variation of okonomiyaki called monjayaki – basically cabbage plus stew plus whatever you want cooked with it. With two local craft beers it all went down a treat.

Tsukishima - a small island south of central Tokyo. Plenty of atmosphere.
Tsukishima – a small island south of central Tokyo. Plenty of atmosphere.
Japan does many things well - beer included.
Japan does many things well – beer included.
Friends out on a Friday for some monjayaki in Tsukishima.
Friends out on a Friday for some monjayaki in Tsukishima.
My little sister, Alei, about to chow down on some monjayaki.
My little sister, Alei, about to chow down on some monjayaki.

More photos from the Tokyo part of the trip on Flickr here. Photos from the whole trip are being collated in this album as I process them.

PS: For the real enthusiasts, video of the monjayaki being prepared!

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