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PLANETSKI HITS JAPAN: PART 2 - James Cove, Tokyo, Japan
Friday September 20, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

We're continuing our stay in Tokyo before heading off to Hokkaido and beyond. Would we manage to master the metro? Maybe...






Japan has been top of my must-ski destinations for several years.

Awesome powder, extraordinary terrain and then there is the Japanese culture - a ski experience like no-where else on earth.

At least that's what many of my ski friends tell me - many are repeat visitors.

For them it is the world's No 1 ski spot.

And these are friends that have skied exotic destinations across the world.

New Zealand/Australia and South America in the summer months, through to the steeps of USA and Canada in the winter months with Russia, Scandinavia and beyond.

I am here before the snow arrives - researching a series of winter features for PlanetSKI on skiing in the Land of the Rising Sun, experiencing the Japanese culture and taking in the Rugby World Cup.

I'm going to be blogging across the next few weeks about anything that takes my fancy.

There is no fixed itinerary, in fact no itinerary at all.

Except England v Tonga on Sunday 22nd September in Sapporo and Wales v Australia on Sunday 29th September in Tokyo.

I have a 21-day rail card, some curiosity and my usual spirit of adventure and going with the flow.

What could possibly go wrong?

TOKYO

After my first experiences on the Tokyo metro and rail system where a 20-minute journey took the best part of an hour and half things could only get better.

Surely.

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See here for the details in my first blog from Tokyo:

Er, no.

They got worse.

You see the first rugby match I was going to see wasn't in the World Cup.

It was an international University competition.

A friend's son was playing for Oxford University and the opening match was against the host team from Tokyo, Waseda University.

The pitch was 300m from the Kamiigusa stop.

Simples.

I found the terminus station in the Shinjenko district and went straight up to a rail attendant as I had decided to try to stop doing it myself and ask the experts.

"You take the next train Platform 3, it's the 12.11. and you will arrive at Kamiigusa in good time," said the neatly dressed attendant.

I stood patiently on Platform 3 and the train arrived ahead of schedule at 12.06.

"Excellent," I thought to myself I can get there a bit early and I clambered aboard.

I was taking nothing to chance and decided to monitor progress on maps on my phone.

I saw the little blue dot that represented my location head off on the correct line.

All good so far.

I should be early and therefore perhaps time to have a Japanese beer in the Clubhouse.

The blue dot accelerated towards Kamiigusa but didn't appear to be slowing down.

In fact it was gaining speed.

We shot through in a blink of the eye.

It appeared I had got on the fast train.

I could even see the ground fading into the distance as we headed onwards.

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On arrival at the next station I  ran round to the return platform and there was a train raring to go back where I had just come from.

I jumped aboard.

And raring it was.

It was another fast train and the exercise was repeated, except in the opposite direction

But this time I didn't blink and I saw the station, the clubhouse and the rugby ground go past in a blur.

The express train continued its journey until it pulled back up the station before Shinjenko  where I had started my journey 45-minutes or so ago.

The match started in 15 minutes or so and I had to go all the way back.

Fortunately the local train pulled up heading back to Kamiigusa and I jumped aboard.

I never realised there were so many stations on the line.

After all the last time I took the line we passed through at Japanese rail speeds - fast.

Suffice to say the train crawled in at 12.56.

There was enough time to run down the road to the ground (sadly missing the bar) and I rolled up on the touchline as the whistle blew.

"You're cutting it a bit fine mate, good to see you," said my friend as he handed me the match programme

Now we are PlanetSKI not PlanetRUGBY (though at the moment it feels more like PlanetRAIL or PlanetWTF), so I wont go into the match details.

Suffice to say it was worth all the effort as Oxford University won by 3 points in a fiercely competitive match.

Well done to Ryan and the team who are heading to the final.

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And guess what happened after the game?

I made it back into the centre without incident and headed to the Shinto shrine at Meiji-Jingu.

On the entrance there are giant vats of saki - and (of course) numerous people with their selfie-sticks.

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The entrance sees a giant arch, or Torii.

It is constructed from  Taiwanese Cypress that was 1,500 years old.

It is 12m high.

It marks the border into the sacred world.

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And there is a smaller one ahead of the shrine.

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In the evening I was heading down to Shibuya for a drink, a meal and to soak up the atmosphere in one of the busiest places in Tokyo.

And, therefore, probably any city in the world.

I made it there too without getting lost.

Crossing the road at Shinuya was an experience in itself.

And a first dining experience for me, in Tokyo or anywhere else.

Placing my order with a machine outside the restaurant and then for the freshly cooked fare to be delivered inside to me.

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It was delicious and cheap - £8.50 the lot.

Eating in Japan does not have to be expensive.

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I had utterly fallen in love with the city and its experiences and I had barely scratched the surface.

If you are heading to Japan for skiing next winter than I suggest you MUST make time for a few days in Tokyo.

I was even beginning to master the metro.

Surely I wouldn't be able to get back to my hotel without mishap on the transport system.

I did.

The key is to plan the journey in detail, working out in advance the stops and keep a very close eye on all the signs in the labyrinth of passageways.

In fact they were more than pedestrian passageways.

Underneath the ground is almost as busy as above.

With shops restaurants and bars inhabiting the sub-terranean world of Tokyo.

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And adverts for the Rugby World Cup that is now underway.

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I have no idea if Tokyo is the busiest metro system in the word but it must be the biggest and deepest.

With more than 10m single journeys in a day it must be.

Er...Er...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving that many people needs multiple lines, mile after mile of underground passageways and tunnels on a multitude of levels.

It needs a metro and rail system working side by side.

It was busy sometimes and quiet the others.

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There is no eating or drinking allowed and no talking on your phone.

Bliss.

Only texting and everyone is at it.

I never once saw a person reading a newspaper, but I did see the rare sight of a person reading a book.

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It is spotlessly clean and people queue up right by the door to get on as quickly and quietly as possible.

I concluded that it is designed to move millions of people around their city in the most efficient manner possible and it does so.

If one idiotic skier from Europe doesn't have the intelligence to master the system than that is a small price to pay.

I have already decided I will be coming back to Japan to ski and hopefuly this coming winter.

But it seems I won't be able to lean my skis anywhere underground.


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Will I stay a few days in Tokyo?

You bet.

I have barely scratched the surface of this metropolis of 37.5 million souls

And now I have mastered the metro I will have more time to discover more about one of the most fabulous cities I have ever been in.

Next stop the Bullet train to Sapporo for England v Tonga and a visit to the ski resort of Niseko...

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Goodbye Tokyo it has been a ball.

Above ground and below.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news


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