Having successfully received the JR day pass in the mail on Tuesday, we caught the bus at the stop right by my house on Wednesday morning, at which point The Rover realized that the driver hadn’t done him any favours by letting him off there on Sunday.
In Shimoda we got on a very nice, very expensive train that featured seats pointing sideways so you could look out at the Japanese shoreline, which, while quite beautiful and scenic, really ceases to hold your attention after about four hours.
As we wandered Tokyo in search of the hotel, I determined that Shinjuku got progressively nicer the further you went from the station, although I started to reconsider my assessment when The Rover spotted the vertical pink sign for the Hotel Lornstar. The sketchy-looking clerk pulled up our reservation on the computer and, failing to achieve any diplomacy, told us they wouldn’t rent out a room with a double bed to two males. Now, regardless of the lawsuits such gender inequality could prompt in North America, I was certain I’d booked a room with two beds, and at a price higher than what they’d advertised online. But the clerk just adjusted our reservation and raised the price again. While The Rover didn’t mind putting it all on his credit card, I was starting to think I could have just paid another 1000 yen to get the nice hotel I’d used with Mr. Blond.
In the room, the following was written on the paper strip placed across the toilet:
I can hear the music in the darkness. Flooting softly to where we lie.
No more questions now. Let’s enjoy tonight. Can’t you see we’ve gotta be together.
Just you and I.
"Flooting”? Exactly what kind of hotel was this, anyway?
The Rover insisted that we go to Tokyo Tower—he wanted to see the thing that gets blown up in every second anime series, then mysteriously reconstructed for the third.
After navigating the cheesy souvenir shops in the base, we paid about 1000 yen to go up to the first level, balking at the extra 600 yen for the “special observatory”.
Tokyo Tower has the modest distinction of being the world’s tallest iron tower, which basically means it’s forty feet taller than the Eiffel Tower and, according to the brochures, about half as heavy. We made two circles, looked at the city from various angles while The Rover took pictures, and that was about it. There wasn’t even a glass floor to stand on. I was punished for my lack of awe by being smashed by the elevator doors on the way out.
In Japan, automatic doors slide open at a snail’s pace, but the elevator doors are designed like the Pillars of Hercules.
We took a sardine-can rush-hour train to meet Etobicoke Girl in Shibuya that night. She’d just started her new job, and she’d be having nothing but tests and lectures at work for the next two months. She looked pretty tired, but seemed happy to take us to a Mexican restaurant she knew and wander among the crowds and big bouncer-looking gaijin amid the shops and game centres of Shibuya.
On Thursday morning The Rover and I went to Meiji Shrine, which was really a mid-sized forest mislabelled as a “garden”. It reminded me of the denser areas of High Park, except the trees were more twisty and occasionally tropical. The shrine in the centre was built shortly after the turn of the century, and was fairly small and unadorned compared to the scale and splendour of the ancient monuments. But it was still quite pleasant, and there were devotees sweeping up leaves everywhere. Toward noon, busloads of gaijin started to appear, and they seemed to kill some of the authenticity of the experience.
I wanted to show The Rover the Imperial East Garden before he left, so we headed for Tokyo station, where we paused long enough for me to fail once again to get a ticket for anything but the express to Narita. Don’t ask how. It’s a gift.
The Rover’s legs were starting to hurt and my knees still weren’t in top shape, so after a brief sojourn in the Garden we returned to wander the shops under the station until it was time to go. I put my last JR day pass to good use and walked The Rover down the many escalators to the Narita Express tracks, where we did the whole farewell thing. I think he was quite ready to head back to Canada; it had been a long two weeks for him, too.
I waited until the train pulled out before I turned around, climbed back up the escalators, and began my own long journey home.