Saturday 6 June 2015

Japanese New Year Trip 2014 - Day 7 (Homeward bound, or not)

Well folks, I don’t even know how to describe what happened but I’ll try my best so here goes.
It was day 7, the day Kyle and I were set to fly back to the UK. By good fortune we had flights that were around midday which meant that we didn't have to get up too early to get to Narita. Because I was a last minute addition to the trip I was with a different airline to Ryan. This wasn't a problem, baggage drop off was open for both of us at more or less the same time (our flights were only an hour apart) so we dropped our bags off and headed through to the gates. Ryan was due to fly out first so I kept him company while we waited for his flight, I had some noodly goodness at a café after he boarded.
Ryan's flight - the (elderly) queen of the skies, 747-400
My flight - The A340-600 (Travelled on a few of these, over the last few years)

Next it was my turn to board the aircraft; things looked to be going smoothly. Less than an hour in to the flight we were informed by the caption that there was an indication problem in one of the engines. As a result, we’d have to dump some fuel and return to Narita so Virgin’s engineers could have a look at it before resuming our journey. I can think of a few people I know who would have completely freaked out after hearing an announcement like that. Veteran long haul flyer that I am, I was unperturbed. Anyway, the situation was inconvenient but on the plus side I had a window seat behind the wing so I could see the fuel dump in progress. That was rather interesting to see. Also, in a situation like that, safety is paramount so I completely understand the need to turn back.
Things went from inconvenient to frustrating when we were informed that the fuel dump was taking longer than expected. It was going to take another hour. I could already tell that this was not going to be a good day. Clearly, my plan to turn the aircraft in to a good luck shrine (through the many omamori in my suitcase) had not worked. I wonder if Kyle decided to load my luggage with expired omamori instead (they only work for a year, then need returning to the shrine they were bought from to be burned).
On the ground you’d think that we’d get some good news, right? Wrong! With the length of time things were taking, the crew would end up exceeding their maximum shift time (I'm not going to complain about that, I certainly wouldn't want an exhausted crew operating an aircraft) so the flight would be rescheduled for the morning. Consequently, the airline would be putting us up in a hotel near the airport for the night so my trip ended up being extended by another day.
As luck would have it, the hotel was nice enough and we received a voucher for dinner that night and breakfast the following morning so we didn't have to worry about starving (or finding money for food).
Making the best of a bad situation I chatted with a few of the other passengers while we queued at the check in desk to receive our reservations and details of how to get to the hotel (which shuttle buses to use). It certainly proved to be an interesting bonding experience. I compliment the other passengers on not getting mad at the staff while they were doing their best to make arrangements for us for the evening.

Give me a hotel room with a bed, a desk and an internet connection (plus a veding machine with beer) and I'll make the best of the situation
Being on the 9th floor, the view wasn't bad
The hotel room has a genkan (place to leave your shoes), I approve!
With internet provided in the room I was able to use skype out to make some frantic phone calls – I needed to let my family know that I would not be in Manchester that evening.
Once I’d done everything needed on my end I freshened up and went in search of food. There was a Chinese restaurant on the first floor (by the way, that’s first floor in UK parlance) that looked nice. As expected of my luck, there was a 1 hour wait for a table. I decided to try the buffet on the ground floor. Food was okay and at least there was a mix of things to try. While there I ran in to one of the passengers I was speaking to earlier, through this whole experience we had a tendency to run in to each other.
With food sorted out, it was time to make use of the hotel (beer) vending machine. I think I earned the beer on that day!

Until the next day…

Japanese New Trip 2014 - Day 6 (Akihabara, Asakusa and Yamashita San)

As I woke on the first day of 2015, I felt as if the Kami were already cursing me. It was clear at this stage that I had a hangover (is there a Kami of hangovers?). With hindsight, Ryan and I picking up a bottle of sake on the way back to Kyle's apartment (for further new year celebrations), was not a good idea. The fact that Ryan ended up showing less interest in the sake once opened and leaving me to consume it did not bode well.
Kyle needed to do some work that morning so Ryan and I needed to keep ourselves occupied for the morning and early afternoon. Fortunately, I was not at the point of summoning the spirits of darkness so Ryan left the apartment in search of new and interesting places.
Our first stop was... Akihabara. Okay, that wasn't very imaginative but this was our last full day so it was our last chance to see electric town for a while.

Looks like Cross Ange is available on DVD and Blu-Ray
While we were there, we decided to check out a few of the new stores. Strangely, one of them was called "Fewture Shop Akiba". I took this to be a typo but when we entered the shop we found that this was indeed the name. It would be easy to laugh but in the west we do the same thing - look at Super Dry!
Fewture - it's like the future, but betterer!
While investigating Fewture Shop and a few of the other shops in that building, we decided to procure fukobukuro - lucky bags. One way of clearing old stock at the end of the year is to package various items in a paper bag. It's luck of the draw, you pay a fixed amount and see what you get. Sometimes they can have some very expensive items in. Consequently, big stores often have large queues of people waiting to buy their fukobukuro. The bags we bought were for Yokai Watch - so Kyle is really going to hate us for that! (Yokai Watch has taken the place of One Piece so now that's the show/game he's sick of hearing about)
Another noteworthy point was that the Tokyo Animation Centre appeared to be running some kind of Macross Frontier promotion. This caught me a little off guard as it's an older series, released in 2007. This made me quite nostalgic as the 1980's series Super Dimension Fortress Macross was the first anime I really got in to (although I didn't watch it until about 2009)
Ranka Lee on the left, Sheryl Nome on the right... I'm not sure who's in the middle
While we were in that area we could see one of the other new year traditions - sales! Various street vendors were carrying out clearances of their old stock.

Also, I noticed that there was a "Mister Donut", that chain features quite heavily in Bakemonogatari (and the rest of the Monogatari series)

After a little geeking out in Akihabara, we moved on to Asakusa. Ryan was keen to see the Asakusa district, having been there a few times before, it seemed logical that I show him around in the afternoon. The plan for the evening was to meet at Kyle's and spend the evening with the amazing Yamashita San.
Although I'd already been to Asakusa a few times, it's a place I like to come back to so I was happy to show Ryan around.

By this point, my stomach had recovered from its battle with sake and I was in serious need of food. I've often said that the best places to eat are a little off the beaten track. The little places that are not immediately obvious and don't look too touristy will often have good food and are reasonably priced. Following this guidance, we found a little place squirrelled away just off of one of the main streets.
Lunch was a nice tempura and udon set with rice. It hit the spot.
With fuel for the day sorted, we set about touring the area. Unfortunately I don't have many pictures of Asakusa for this post. If you're not familiar with the area, please look to some of my earlier Asakusa specific posts for more details. One thing I did notice was that there was a... cat themed shop. I'm not quite sure whether this is cute or creepy.
Previously, I said that I was the logical choice to show Ryan around Asakusa as I'd been there a few times.There was one slight flaw in that plan - I have virtually no sense of direction. So I'm sure you've guessed that we (okay, I) got lost on the way back to the train station. Being a chapskate, I resisted turning on data on my phone (that's expensive! It's probably going to cost me 1500 Yen!). After a little wandering, I noticed a large building near to the train station so we just used that as a landmark. Problem solved!
So we made it back to Kyle's with a little time to spare (okay, not much) before Yamashita San was due to arrive. As Yamashita San was also bringing over a printer I could use to print out my boarding pass (as I'm pretty old fashioned, Ryan opted for electronic boarding passes on his phone) we made sure to bring plenty of Yebisu (premium malt beer) for him.
After an evening of drinking and discussions with Yamnashita, our last full day drew to a close.