Thursday 29 August 2019

Flying back to Tokyo

We really should have left earlier than 7 AM. Our flight is at 10:10. And the airport is more than an hour away by train. But we have to get to Seoul station first. And there are only two fast trains an hour.

A taxi stops almost as soon as we leave out hotel. It’s dropping off. That was lucky. No waiting around. Could have been much worse.

We get tickets from a machine. The next fast train leaves in 10 minutes. Perfect, really. If we’d got here 10 minutes later, we’d have been buggered. I’m still feeling quite stressed, as we’re cutting things pretty fine. Obviously, it’s still hotter than Hades.

We can't get seats together on the Skyliner train to the airport as it's so full. No biggie. I’m sat next to a random middle-aged bloke. At least he doesn’t keep complaining, as the kids do.

I feel better when we’re in the terminal. Everything looks like it will be fine.

We check in incredibly quickly, thanks to my pushing in boarding. Security and passport control are thankfully also a breeze. Things are looking good. We’ve still 15 minutes before boarding when we’ve jumped through all the airport hoops.

“Wait a second, kids.”

“What is it now, dad? We haven’t got much time, remember.”

“I’ve still got all these won. I may as well use some in the duty free.”

“Hurry up then. Why do you always do this stuff, Dad?”

“I’m just being economical.”

“Total drunk, more like.”

The whisky is all stupid prices. So I just get a litre of the cheapest vodka I can find.

We get to the gate about 3 minutes before boarding begins. Which stresses me out a treat. But at least I have a litre of vodka.

I’m dead impressed by Korean Air. The service is very good. And my KLM pushing in boarding counts. Even on a flight of just 1.5 hours they serve a full meal, with an alcoholic drink. Feeling stressed up, I go fo orange juice again.

“What’s wrong with you, Dad?” Alexei asks, getting stuck into his beer. “Why aren’t you drinking a wine?”

“I thought you wanted me to drink less?”

We’re picking up our JR passes at the airport. It involves a fair bit of pissing around, along with some Andrew sweating and getting angry. He does sort out the passes for us, mind, while me and Alexei wait.

"Did you see the Weebo on the plane, Dad?"

"Who was that?"

"The Dutch girl sat a few seats in front of us."

“How do you know she was a Weebo?”

“It was obvious from how she looked.”

She did have hair dyed pink.

It's fucking hot in Tokyo.

We also pick up tickets to Tokyo. This time we’re headed for Ueno rather than Nippori station. It’s one stop further. We need to book seats on the shinkansen to Hiroshima for tomorrow. But the airport train comes into the wrong Ueno station. The airport line is run by Keisei, not JR. And at Ueno the two companies have completely separate stations.

We have to walk out into the blazing heat. Andrew is coping as well as ever.

“Just hurry the fuck up, Dad.”

After some sweaty stumbling, we find the JR ticket office. At the start of the queue there’s a sign in English warning that it’s the busy season and on many trains all the reserved seats have already been sold.

“All the reserved seats have been sold. You’ll need to go in one of the carriages with unreserved seats.”

Great. That sounds like being fun.

“At least it isn’t hot.” I quip.

“Really, shut the fuck up with that shit, Dad.” The heat makes Andrew a right grumpy trousers.

We find our way to the taxi rank, sweating like pigs in hell. This is so unpleasant. Alexei sits in the front, as usual.

"Did you see how old our taxi driver was, Dad? He was born in 1933."

We check straight into our hotel. It’s not the greatest in the world. Check out is at 10 AM. And the rooms are tiny. But we're only here one night.

Alexei just dropped by to tell me there's a dead famous temple nearby. And that Andrew wants to eat sushi tonight. Alexei has found somewhere close with good reviews. Not the racist one that only allows Japanese people to sit at the counter.

The temple is impressively close as well as impressive. And has a fire station right next to it. No coincidence, as at the temple entrance there's a sign saying no open flames. I suppose these wooden structures are susceptible to fire.

There’s a row of little shops welling weird trinkets. And quite a few people praying. It’s quite serene as dusk falls and the sky slowly darkens and envelops the surrounding buildings.

The sushi place isn’t far, either. Down a little back street. I’d never have spotted it if we didn’t have Alexei’s phone. Though I am starting to recognise the cloths hung over the entrance as being the sign of a restaurant.

It’s tiny. All the seats at the bar are taken, but there’s one free table. A minute table. About big enough to seat four 6-year olds. The kids barely fit into the space. Andrew is half off the table.

The food is amazing. One of the two chefs spends 30-40 minutes preparing it. Very impressive to watch his knife skills. There doesn’t appear to be any waiting staff, just the two chefs. Who also serve the food.

A woman sitting at the bar turns around and chats with us a little, which is nice.

When the sushi is all gone, we’re brought bowls of miso soup. Odd finishing a meal with soup.

Bit of a shock when the bill comes. Also brought over by our chef.

When I was shown the menu and the prices, I was still thinking in wons. It hasn't come to 30 euros, as I had thought, but 300.

One of the most expensive meals I've ever bought. But worth it for the quality of the food and the experience. I'm not going to let money spoil it for me. Though I only have just about enough to pay. The kids will be on bread and water tomorrow to compensate.

Luckily I have that litre of vodka to console me back at the hotel.

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