33 days in…
A busy few days awaited us as we arrived in Tokyo. After taking a chance and getting off the highway bus a bit early because the place name sounded like the area we wanted (and it was, result!) we explored Nakano, a bustling town just a stop away from Shinjuku.
The following day we hopped on a train south to Meguro to meet with the Scouts. This goes back to a chance encounter with a Japanese Scout whilst camping on Brownsea Island in preparation for the Jamboree. With the help of Minori’s mother Keiko, we joined in with the Cub Scouts as they practiced some knot tying then had a game catch the tail. A BBQ lunch followed with exchanges of gifts and photos to finish, it was fab to see their troop in action and feel part of everyday Japanese life for a couple of hours.
That evening we journeyed into the bright lights of Ginza to meet with 2/5s of the Pinto clan, with Dave out here to get some serious Motorsport action in. The company was great fun even if dinner was a little on the expensive side!
During our travelling, I had begun to get a craving to get some running in, and was fortunate enough to be invited along to the Namban Rengo running club. These guys have some seriously good runners and during the Wednesday evening session around Yoyogi park it was all I could do just to keep in sight of the pack. Still, a rewarding soak in the public bath was followed by a Peruvian dinner in the company of the team and the most generous Fabrizio who not only insisted on paying for the two of us but also gave me his old running shoes, mille grazie. I was able to put the trainers to good use a few days later as the club had organised a run, the Eco marathon (despite the name it was actually 10 km). Under 38 minutes in the midday sun was pretty good going and 5th place meant I received a prize, which room we will put the lampshade in is as yet undecided.
Two things we had yet to do in our month of travelling around the country was see Mount Fuji and get involved in a festival. An hours train ride out west to Mount Takao got us a tiny glimpse of the famed volcanic cone. The summit top we were on was heaving with school children and many classes were having their group photos taken which meant getting a good position for a decent selfie was not on the cards. We hung around but the day turned hazy, so we ventured off the mountain via Yakuoin temple, a really fascinating shrine and well worth a look for all it’s colourful mini shrines and revolving statues.
The Sensoji temple is a popular tourist spot in Tokyo, but on the third weekend of May it absolutely comes alive as Sanja Matsuri festival fills the streets. The festival celebrates the founders of the temple and mini shrines are paraded through the streets to the temple, each one carried by 20 – 30 people. The atmosphere around the temple was buzzing, there were so many people and the rhythmic chanting of the people carrying the shrines made you want to join in.
So long Japan, we’ve had a great 5 weeks exploring the country. We’ll miss the simplicity of your onigiri, the generosity of your people, the technicalities of your toilets and the indulgence of your onsen; sayonara!