After a whirlwind week in San Francisco, I travelled across continents, and the Pacific Ocean, to Tokyo, with a short stop-over in Taipei. The flight was surprisingly okay considering I left San Francisco at 8pm on Sunday night and arrived at 4pm Tuesday afternoon here in Tokyo 🙂
Thanks to directions from my good friends, Ian and Minako Jackson, here in in Tokyo, I found my hotel quite easily by only following signs for the ‘South Exit’ at Shinjuku station. There are so many exits at Shinjuku station that I could have quite easily taken the ‘New South Exit’ or any other of the 200 exits, and still be wandering the streets of Tokyo right now!
Actually, by resisting the urge to follow any other South exit, I exited at the correct place which enabled me to find my hotel with less than a 5 minute walk away. The warmest of welcomes awaited me, which was just as well, as I think by that point I was beginning to look like I had actually travelled every minute of the 44 hours time difference. My actual travelling time was 27 hours, but because we had crossed the meridian, the time difference advanced my clock by a further 17 hours!
I was shown to my room on the 14th floor of the JR Blossom Hotel in Shinjuku, which had the most spectacular view across the city.
Though I was really starting to flag, after asking Twitter to send me advice on the best way to beat jet lag, I decided to get a quick shower, change my clothes and to explore Tokyo by heading out into the bright neon lights, but more importantly, to try and stay awake.
It worked. After a couple of hours exploring and eating some fresh noodles I felt fine, although I noticed that even when I was standing still I felt like I was swaying.
Back at the hotel, I discovered a washing machine and a dryer! At this point in my trip, having been travelling for 5 weeks through the sun, rain and snow, and even though in that time I’d washed some clothes by hand, I have to admit that I’ve never been so happy to see a washing machine and have never loaded one so quickly!
A couple of hours later I was in bed and thanks to the advice from Twitter friends, I actually slept right through from 10pm until 5:30am, which felt great!
The following day, I met up with my good friends Ian and Minako – it was so good to see them!
We walked and talked and ate ‘ethical noodles’ and took me to visit my first shrine. Such a wonderful afternoon.
The noodle place was fantastic. Would definitely recommend searching it out. They even provide elastic bands to tie your hair back while eating!
Later that day we met with other people who had been helping to organise my itinerary – a group of amazing people affectionately known as ‘Angie’s Project Team’. It was so nice to put faces to names.
We looked at the plan for the next 3 weeks and almost immediately I felt a couple of disappointments. I had really wanted to visit the studio of artist Shinichi
Sawada, whose work I have followed since I first saw it at the Wellcome Trust’s Souzou outsider art exhibition, Unfortunately, my request was declined because there are too many requests from people wishing to visit his studio. Whilst I was naturally disappointed to hear the news, maybe it’s a good sign that the artist is being well cared for and protected from overt intrusion into his studio time?
The second disappointment came as another of my meeting requests was also declined. This time it was a meeting that I had asked for with the Clinical Director at the Seiwa Hospital, Tokyo. I’d asked for the meeting to try and understand the culture shift within the hospital that allows artist Yayoi Kusama to electively live in the Hospital. From everything I’d read, this decision is a departure from the Hospital’s usual policy and I wanted to meet with staff to find out how and why this exception, if indeed it is an exception, had been made. Alas, it appears that I’m not going to get the chance to ask now.
That said, I have got a whole series of other exciting meetings scheduled, the first of which happens tomorrow in Kyoto.
I promise I’ll find time to update this blog as I go!