Aug 24, 2010

Coming Home. The Undecided Election. From Tokyo With Luxe.


It's been ages.  How are you all?  Thanks for all the kind messages that you've left while I've been away.

I just got home this morning and have spent the day sleeping, unpacking, putting on loads of laundry (thank you, God for the clear sunny days you've blessed Sydney with at the moment) and uploading my photos to my laptop.  There are rather a lot of food photos involved.  Which goes a long way to explaining how my checked in baggage weighed in at under the allowance for cattle class but my actual person has not done as well (despite hard core workouts in Tokyo to the soundtrack of my bass track heavy iTunes playlists, 6 days were obviously no match for the subsequent treadmill free 7).

I choose to ignore the scales for the next few weeks(!!) and focus on returning to more healthful eating.  I'm hoping this isn't going to be too much of a challenge now that the multitude of food temptations that are the streets of Japan have been removed from me.

Which brings me to the big question of how to blog about my 2 weeks away?  There are 1356 photographs representing at least 40 different things we did and/or ate.  I had plenty of time to ponder this on the 10 hour flight back to Sydney, the one hour to get through customs and then the one and half hours to get from taxi rank to our front door.  The tentative plan is to link my photos back to relevant events first and then try to focus on the more unique days and then fuse other interesting images and memories to what's going on in real time.  I hope it all comes together and that at least some of it will be helpful for those planning a trip to Japan and remotely interesting to everyone else.

It was an incredible holiday and I am so glad I had the privilege to visit such a fascinating and beautiful country peopled by universally polite, helpful and gracious citizens.

Let's go.

Most of the unpacking was unglamorous.  The initial elation of having brought back close to the same weight of stuff as to what I went with faded somewhat as bag after bag of laundry emerged from my suitcase.

However, there were highlights such as my duty free purchase. My favourite eye cream - Re-Nutriv Ultimate Lifting Eye Creme.  It has not been reformulated, discontinued or endorsed by any of the Lauder spokesmodels for the last 5 years. In a roundabout way, I interpret this to mean that it is a good product that Sells Itself.

Value pack EL eye cream - only in Japan!
Which came with a GWP (gift with purchase, sorry, I am alarmingly too well versed in the acronyms of cosmetic retailing).

I went away 2 weeks ago expecting to return to find the whole Federal Election done and dusted on my return.  Either a landslide to the LNP or else a smug return of the ALP, it's backstabbing daggers concealed for the moment.

Media coverage was sparse in Japan.  It wasn't just me saying this.  The local Australian press had picked up on this too.  The campaigns lacked real attention to foreign policy, our relationship with China, Afghanistan and (my personal issue) Good Clothes beyond Julia Gillard's AWW photo shoot.  It all seemed to be about cheap vote getting with policies that were remarkably similar on both sides of the fence.  Bad news if the lay person can see this.

I was touched though, one morning, to find it on the front page of the International Herald Tribune.  I was in Kyoto, sipping my morning cup of black tea with a tiny pod of UHT milk (snaffled from one of my many trips to Starbucks).

Well written and impartial election coverage at The Westin, Kyoto.
I looked hard, but there was no further mention for the rest of the week.  Which then lead to a desperate situation in Hiroshima where Mr SSG and I were holed up in the Peace Museum the day after polling, using the wireless internet to find out what was happening.

Surviving the heat of summer in Japan with fancy rehydration water and the good old ABC.
I'll leave the election to sort itself out.

It wasn't just the heat and change of language that told me we'd left Australia behind after a flight that saw me fall asleep halfway through SATC2 and regret ordering a vegetarian meal...  It was my first sight of a Japanese express train.

The Narita Express - commuting from an international airport to the city will never be the same after you've tried this.
In case of confusion, there are multi lingual signs on every possible surface orientating the jet lagged foreigner.
We were on the right side of the train line!!
Stepping inside the train was like entering the set of Star Trek.  It was all  sleek lines, hushed swooshing doors and pleasant commentary on the PA/

Is this really Tokyo?  Where are all the people?  Avoiding the heat of summer, perhaps?

Sturdy, secure baggage areas at the end of each car.

Yes, the biggest suitcase was mine.  The Japanese are incredibly minimalist with their luggage.

It was much more civilized than either a plane seat or a taxi.
Ample leg room as shown by the only slightly bent legs of SSG sharing leg area with one overstuffed backpack.
The hour's train trip passed quickly, allowing the overhead screen to change from this.

To this.

With news coverage, live maps of the train ride and weather details in between.

In the heat, humidity and haze of jet lag, the walk from Tokyo Station to our hotel passed without a photograph.

Happily, being wooshed soundlessly to the 28th floor lobby of a hotel in an office block changed all that and perhaps less than happily, this was my first photo of our room at the Shangri-La, Tokyo.  On the way there was opulence in the shape of chandeliers, floral arrangements, plush carpets, art work and perfectly groomed and friendly staff.  Just to put things in perspective.

I now proudly join the countless bloggers who have posted photos of the toilet control of their Japanese hotel rooms.

Click to enlarge but this console kept me amused on a daily basis.  Why aren't these in Australia?
Fortunately, hotels of the calibre of the Shangri-La featured many other details to faithfully photograph - so you don't get a photo of the commode proper.

It was L'Occitane central, starting with the hand soap, my favourite - extra gentle milk.

These are miniatures of L'Occitane's Essential Oil range which appear to be just for the Japanese market.  Very mildly scented.

Onwards to the tea service.

Our pyjamas.

I now know why P Diddy and the Beckhams prefer white pyjamas for lounging over trackies and uggs.

The welcome fruit platter.  Possibly the juiciest white peach I've ever eaten.  Readers, I didn't use cutlery, I just took a huge bite.  Fortunately, no staff were on hand to witness my faux pas.

Loved the note card.
Not a bad corner of the room to sit and read (or have afternoon drinks).

You know it's a holiday when Famous, is on the side table.  Posh is preggers again!
After a few hours in the air conditioning, we were sufficiently revived to head out again and face the Tokyo heat and humidity (you will hear of this often on this holiday, I'm afraid).

Ceiling light fixture in the lift.

There was no hiding that I was a tourist by this stage though I am sure my poor Japanese gave the game away a few hours earlier.

Mr SSG and I giving the elevator chandelier due attention.
It was a short walk outside.  It was more pleasant to look out on the cityscape from the windows of our room.  The gardens, I think, are the outer regions of the Imperial Palace Gardens.

This was also the view from the fitness centre.  We are looking at the Marounichi  Building amongst others.  Despite their austere exteriors, basements of fabulous shops can be found in almost all of the CBD office blocks.

Looking downward, the train tracks and roads that form the arteries of this pulsing city.

As the evening crowds began to surge onto the streets, it was time to make plans for dinner.  I am already liking this city a whole lot.

Thinking clothes and reading material.  Duty free sparkling beverages not pictured.


  1. This is crazy, I think I had the student priced version of Japan, which was excellent but OH MY GOSH. YOUR ACCOMMODATION AND YOUR TRANSPORT. AMAZING! (I got from Narita to my destination via coach and trains).

  2. PS: Welcome back to our ungoverned lands :) Looking forward to your bloggggs again!

  3. Welcome back SSG and what a fabulous time you seem to have had.. now to sort out all your photographs! x

  4. Dear Sisney Shop girl, those pictures you took are witty and pretty: they really do give an impression of your journey - and they are beautiful. Thank you for that!

  5. Welcome back SSG! I think I'm headed to JP over Christmas and New Year! Writing down the tips, don't worry! Can't wait to hear what you thought of Beige.


  6. Lanelle Elizabeth: thank you for the warm welcome back.

    Semi Expat: Hello!!!!! xxxx

    Britta: thank you. :-)

    She Wore It Well: so much to share....

    SSG xxx


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