Friday 2 June 2023

Off to the castle

I hear my phone beep as I’m lying in bed. That can only mean one thing: a message from Andrew.

As I’m feeling nice and comfy, I don’t bother getting up. It’s not like he’s going to be saying “Dad, can we meet earlier?”

I slowly drag my fat, old sorry arse out of bed and tinker with my flipflop a little. As you do in the morning. Andrew has messaged me: “Can we meet at 11?” 

No problem for me. I can do some tippity-tippy tapping. These trip reports don’t themselves, you know. No matter how much they read like AI text prompted by “write a travel report based on Father’s Day and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

There are some weird signs in my room. I particularly like the combined no smoking and no hair drying sign. The latter seems weirdly specific. Who dyes their hair while on holiday? It must have happened though. Otherwise why have the sign?

We have a dead touristy day planned. Visiting the castle. First, I warm up with some of yesterday’s sarnies and whisky. While Andrew goes for the health-food option of beer and beer.

By the time we shuffle off to the lift, it’s well after one. The plan is simple: walk through the market to the metro station, then take a train to the castle. Oh, and get some food on the way.

The beef was good yesterday, but I can’t justify 5 euros a bite. And, being honest, I preferred the molluscs on a stick. The same old chav is there as yesterday. And he remembers us. Still using a twin blowtorch technique.

It’s only three stops to the castle. But we need to change. Andrew has already worked out the route. Though it’s not exactly complicated. The ticket machines are pretty easy to use, too. 190 yen each, it is. Not too expensive, either.

“Do you know which line to take, Andrew>”

“Yes. Don’t worry, Dad. Just follow me.”

“Like Jesus?”

“No, like a normal person.”

A new experience for us, this is. We never got to ride the metro in Tokyo. Just the local trains. The first metro uses an overhead wire. The second, a third rail.

The second line comes across as having been built earlier. It’s the Central Line. I can read that, as it uses the Chinese character. “chung”. As in Chungguo: China.

It’s weird how much more reassuring the writing is here. All through the use of characters. In Korea everything was just squiggles. Here, through the scraps of Chinese I remember, I can read at least a little. Amazing how much more secure that makes me feel.

The metro is bright and clean. Well signposted. But without fucking escalators. Or any lifts, that I’ve noticed. Lots of stairs. Not good for an old Dalek like me.

I have to pause for breath halfway when leaving the castle station.

“Hang on a second, Andrew.”

“What’s keeping you?”

“Crappy old lungs.”

“That’s a rubbish excuse.”

“I’ll try getting some new younger ones before our next trip.”

“Stop taking crap, Dad.”

Before venturing into the trek up to the castle, we pause at a vending machine. I get a tin of cold coffee. I need me some caffeine.

There are a lot of foreign tourists around, surprisingly. And flocks of uniformed schoolkids. As a bunch of six-year-olds walk past they wave at me, for some reason.

The castle is in some ways like and European castle, and in others quite different. There are moats and concentric defences, but no towers, really. More pagoda-like structures. And some of the stones are way bigger: bus-size.

And, being 16th-century, the walls are backed by massive earthworks. I wouldn’t fancy storming the fucker. Even with cannon.

We don’t venture into the keep. You have to pay. And I’ve done enough climbing for one day. For two weeks, really, in combination with all the stairs in the metro.

In the inner bailey, there’s a very European-looking building. Formerly an army headquarters, currently a shopping centre. We check it out.

“Do you fancy a beer, Dad?”

“What do you think?”

“That you’re probably more interested in a whisky?”

“Very funny.”

Souvenir shops, a couple of cafes, even a crane game place. No fucking bar, though. No point hanging around.

The walk down is much more fun. Despite it heating up. It’s not that warm, but Andrew’s melting point in 25.3º C. And it’s 24.9º.

We get out of the wrong exit from the metro. Right next to a pharmacy. Which I notice has a “liquor” sign. I need to check this out. I find the booze section. Where they have Nikka Black. For 850 yen. For70 cl. Around 6 euros. The robbing bastards. Andrew saves himself some money getting a six pack of Asahi.

As we’re walking back through the market, a bloke with a full neck tattoo and a girlfriend who looks about twelve bumps into Andrew. He doesn’t say anything. Andrew, I mean. I wouldn’t have, either. You need to be a total psycho to walk around looking like that in Japan.

We lounge in our hotel for a little. Plan for later? GULP, a craft beer place. We would have dropped by yesterday. Except they don’t open on Tuesday.

They really don’t seem to be into daytime drinking here. None of the beer places open until 5 PM. Which is almost going home to bed time for me, nowadays.

“I wonder why everywhere opens so late and closes so early?” I ponder.

“Because everyone is working.”

“That’s a rubbish reason. Work never stopped me drinking.”

“Which may explain why you were sacked so often.”

“It wasn’t that often. Only a couple of times. Three or four. Half a dozen, at most.”


“It’s not my fault I kept having rubbish managers.”

“Always someone else to blame, eh, Dad?”

GULP should be just down the street. For some reason it seems to be way further away on the map on Andrew’s phone. Not wanting to piss around too much, we settle on the brewpub in the station again. Which gives us a chance to check out exactly where we need to buy tickets and catch the train tomorrow.

Settled into our booth, we order the dark beer. And gyozas. You can never go wrong with them. Around us, salary men and women are doing something similar.

They have lots of little bits of food. Just perfect to add a little ballast but not bloat enough to get in the way of beer.  We order more beer and more bits of food. Tasty and relaxing.

We don’t leave things too late, buggering off before last orders at 9. It’s still buzzing outside. With scurrying commuters and younger loungers. It’s all very Japanese.

We get to our beds pretty early. We aim on rising at 8:00. Our flight is at 12:300 and we want to be at the airport in plenty of time. What with having lounge access.

Dotonbori Craftbeer Brewery Namba
5-1-60, Namba,
Mon - Fri 11:30 - 15:00, 17:00 - 22:00
Sat - Sun & Holiday 11:30 - 22:00


The Beer Nut said...

I don't know if it's the same in Japan, but I recall from Korea that it's taboo for working men to have grey hair: that's for the old and retired only. So there were a lot of obvious dye jobs. I suspect the answer to your question is "men".

Anonymous said...

Tinkering with your flip flop eh? Too much detail.