The typhoon has spared us. A few kilometres to the right and we’d have been royally fucked.
The trains are running a normal service today. At least from Kyoto to Tokyo. We were pretty lucky with the typhoon. It was a bit windy, but I've seen much worse in Amsterdam.
The Japanese railways are reacting impressively well. Coping with pretty extreme weather conditions with only minimal interruption to services.
I’m sure Japan would ultimately drive me insane, but in the short term there are so many things I love about the country.
Or maybe I wouldn’t go crazy. Everyone is friendly, polite and well-ordered. When we saw some rubbish on the street in Kyoto, it shocked me. Reminding me that I’d seen no shit on the streets since, well, I’d been in Japan.
Joe to the station, as usual. We have another ancient taxi driver - are any under 60? It's still boiling hot so we go in search of an air-conditioned waiting room. We find one and soon get seats as other travellers leave.
I got dead jealous watching other passengers eat from bento boxes on our early journeys. I'm determined to share the experience.
“Bento box for me, dear boys.”
“What are you talking about, Dad.”
“The ace food I’m about to get.”
“Don’t take too long.”
“You know me, Andrew.”
“That’s why I said that, Dad. I know you.” The cheeky little bugger..
I leave the kids in the airco waiting room and head off in search of one. There are several places selling them. I select a random one and get a random box. Plus a couple of cans of Suntory Highball.
"What took you so long, Dad?"
"I've only been 10 minutes. What are you complaining about? You have seats and there's airco." They’re so panicky, sometimes. “We’ve ages until our train, anyway.”
As we have reserved seats, the train journey is a pleasure. One of alternating tightly-packed villages, even more tightly-packed cities and bright green rice fields. It's all very exotic. And I’ve a bento box. What could be more Japanese than this? Tucking into a bento box on a shinkansen.
My bento box contains sliced beer, rice and an omelette. It’s rather tasty. Before I’ve even lifted the first mouthful to my lips, Andrew is already pestering me.
“Be careful how you eat. Don’t make a mess.”
I’ve been putting up with this crap the whole trip. Don’t do this, don’t do that, do do this. Nag, nag, nag. It’s almost as if they think they’re the parents.
“Fuck off, Andrew.” At least I have a good comeback.
The trip continues with near non-stop nagging. I take solace in my Suntory Highball. Beer, but with an added something.
“It’s called alcohol, Dad.”
“Was I speaking out loud again?”
“Yes, Dad, you do it all the time. Mum’s right to suspect that you’re going senile.”
“Fuck off, Andrew.” I think. “Did I say that out loud?”
“Yes, Dad, and can you keep it down with the swearing. People can understand the F-word.”
“But not in all its subtleties: fucked, fucked off, fucked up, can’t be fucked, fuckwit, fucking, fucking, fuckity fuck.” I reply. “It’s such a versatile word.”
“And one that everyone understands. Keep your voice down.”
This isn’t how I imagined parenthood. Adoring kids, at my feet, saying: “Oh Dad, you’re so cool.” That’s what I expected. My kids, really annoyingly, seem to have their own minds and ideas. Who could have expected that? I blame their Mum.
Alexei points out the brail on the top of cans.
“I suppose that’s so you don’t accidentally drink a can of cola instead of beer by mistake.” I quip.
I’ve miscalculated with the Highball cans. I’ve just finished the last one and we’re still an hour away from Tokyo. Where’s the refreshment trolley when you need it?
At Tokyo station we get another taxi to our hotel. We’ve two nights here before we head back to Amsterdam. It’s still stiflingly hot.
Our hotel rooms are tiny. But that seems to be the way in Tokyo. The room isn’t much bigger than the bed. There's barely half a metre between the desk and bed. So close that even though there's a little chair, I sit on the bed to fiddle with my laptop.
There’s a little shop on the ground floor, which is handy. We stock up on drinks and snacks there. I get myself some more squid jerky. I’ve got quite a taste for the stuff. Inevitably, Andrew is drawn to the Strong Zero.
The kids have been dead helpful in finding places to go. They’ve noticed that there’s a brewpub within walking distance. So that’s where we head for the evening.
Ottotto Brewery is one of the largest place we’ve been in so far. Perhaps being in the basement helps them get more space. Along one wall is all the brewing kit behind a glass wall. It definitely looks like they really brew here. It’s looking good. But the proof of the pudding is in drinking five pints of it.
That’s good timing: it’s Happy Hour. Which means for 850 yen you get 435ml of beer plus a little snack.
“Look – more Japanese tapas, kids.”
“Can you hurry up and get us some beer.” They’re so impatient, sometimes.
I get myself a Red IPA. Which is both red and IPA-flavoured. SO it’s already one up on that dire brewpub in Hiroshima. The kids both go for the wheat beer.
“How’s your beer.”
Some of the little bits of food are slightly odd, but edible enough. Most of the larger dishes are very American. But I suppose what this place is trying to be – and American-style brewpub. At least the beer is decent enough. Though, take away the customers and it could be just about anywhere in the world.
We don’t stay all that long. Just 90 minutes or so. I don’t want to burn through all my remaining yen quite yet.
On the walk back to the hotel, the lights sparkle and gleam. It does look very impressive at night, Tokyo.
Ottotto Brewery Hamamatsucho
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