I literally don’t even where to start with my recap of the Tokyo trip. It definitely exceeding my expectations!
I‘ve decided to write this up in two portions: the first one a few days before the marathon, and then the second the day before the marathon and the after math. Sorry if I’ve waffled too much!
Yes I was looking forward to the trip – it’s Japan after all and I’ve never been to that side of the world. But I was concerned about the marathon and how that would go (no change there then…) and it was only a very short trip with a ridiculous 12 hour plane journey and nine hour time difference.
The plane wasn’t actually too bad. I’d had a nice big meal at Giraffe and had a plan to watch one film, then take a couple of melatonin tablets and then attempt to sleep.Yes it would be late afternoon UK time but I was keen to get into the time zone as soon as possible (it would be very late evening Tokyo time). Well it didn’t quite work out that way and I only managed three hours of disjointed sleep (the tablets did help tho to get me off to sleep gently). It was just too noisy and I was too uncomfortable to sleep long periods.
The plane, by the way, was completely full, which surprised me actually. And I’d say 80-90% we’re going purely for the marathon. Either to run it or to support someone else running it. Honestly you couldn’t move for people discussing their PBs, last races and marathon game plans. There were a lot of skinny people on that flight I can tell you!
It quickly became apparent that most people were doing exactly what I was doing: getting through the Marathon Majors (Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Berlin and Tokyo). I mean I guess it makes sense, it’s a long way to randomly run a marathon. I felt woefully inadequate with “only” having run two of them.
After the long journey, we arrived at Narita airport. I enjoyed my first Japanese toilet experience… I wasn’t brave enough to try the different buttons (yet!) but I did enjoy the heated seat 😉Our tour group met up (by the way, Sports Tours International was absolutely fantastic. I can’t recommend them enough for making everything easy and simple!) and I found I was standing amongst lots of people who had either made friends on the plane or were there with their support person… I had sat with a lady from another tour group on the plane so felt a bit alone. I started chatting to a guy who looked around my age and was also alone. It became apparent that neither of us were psychos and that we got on well so we stuck together. His name is Chris and we spent most of our time together on the trip, which was nice because I had visions of me wandering aimlessly around Tokyo on my own!
The tour company took us via coach straight to the Expo. This was actually perfect as the Expo is quite a way from the centre of Tokyo where we were staying and though the company provided transfers to the Expo on any of the days leading up to the marathon, it was nice to get it done straight away before the rush.I have to say as expos go, this wasn’t the best. It was fairly small and quite a sensory overload. I’m sure this is just a cultural difference but it was a lot Japanese being shouted at you while being handed leaflets you couldn’t read. Everyone was super polite but it was a bit crazy after my lack of sleep.There were a few samples of strange Japanese products (sweets, strange dried food, a nonalcoholic beer, etc.). And a stand of tomatoes…a big thing for aid stations apparently!The clothing section was just ASICS (the sponsor) and asides from the official jacket it wasn’t great. I was a bit disappointed as I remembered Boston and Berlin being amazing with so much to waste/spend your money on. I bought a jacket and that was it.Then Chris and I headed for some food in a food hall as it was lunch time.So my first experience of Japanese food wasn’t exactly the most authentic but it filled a hole and was quite tasty. I had a chicken steak and a burger steak with rice and vegetables. And it quickly became apparent Diet Coke isn’t a thing in Tokyo sadly!
After getting back and having a MUCH needed shower, we headed out to do some exploring. Our hotel (which was lovely! And also where the elites were staying) was really central in Shinjuku.
So we walked to the madness of the main area of Shinjuku which was just a craziness of colours, sounds and busyness. Honestly it was quite overwhelming on such little sleep! But it was fantastic. I didn’t know where to look. There were just so many tiny little restaurants everywhere and arcades screaming multi-colours and sounds. Eventually after walking around just soaking it all in, we found a tiny little restaurant for dinner. I say restaurant but really it was more of a cafe.And the meal was delicious. I found I was quite adept with my chopstick skills but that towards the end of the meal my hand would get tired! It was pork stir-fry with white rice, miso soup and dumplings. Very nice!Thankfully I managed to get a good night sleep that evening – which was good because I’d randomly signed up last minute to the Mount Fuji trip that Sports Tours International had offered and we were off fairly early. After a delicious buffet breakfast (there was a lot to choose from, from more Western options like scrambled egg and bacon, to ratatouille and fish – I went for a mixed bag)…We then headed to the beautiful Lake Ashi to see the mountain in the distance. Unfortunately the clearest views we got were from the coach as we drove alongside it…But the lake was gorgeous and you could still see Fuji in the distance, though with more cloud coverage. I tried my first ever matcha latte which was quite tasty though quite sweet.And then we headed off to a little town where we could do a bit of shopping (lots of little Japanese shops selling traditional Japanese craft work and food). There was also this shop that sold lots of Japanese treats and the best part was that you could try them all as there were tester boxes everywhere!! I was in my element.We then got lunch, which was another buffet – which I love as it means you can try everything!From there we headed to a rather odd but fun pirate boat which took us across a lake so we could see the views from there and then take a cable car to a volcanic valley (called Jigokudani: the Valley of Hell) in Owakudani, Hakone, where there was a huge crater and lots of sulphuric smoke rising up everywhere.The area of the crater was famous for its black chicken eggs, which are basically just normal chicken eggs but boiled for an hour in water containing sulphur and iron. Obviously I had to try it!Yeah they just tasted like regular boiled eggs and they looked exactly like normal eggs inside. But worth a try!
The day was fantastic! I’m so pleased I signed up to it. I found out a lot about Japanese culture as well as on the coach the tour guide was a lovely Japanese lady and she explained so much about life in Tokyo and how things were.
We got back about 7pm and so headed out to find some dinner. I was ravenous at this point and unfortunately quickly found out that Friday night in central Tokyo is a busy busy place and despite there being hundreds of restaurants everywhere, to get a seat anywhere was proving to be virtually impossible. Eventually we found a little restaurant. It felt like quite a hipster place (if that exists in Japan!). There were young Japanese guys looking rather fashionable and smoking. It’s so odd (and unpleasant) that people can smoke in restaurants!Unfortunately the waiter spoke limited English and after lots of pointing, hand gestures and facial expressions we were able to order. It was kind of like Tapas… you ordered a bunch of small things, like deep fried sweet potato, pork, a single chicken wing (yep, had to be done), tofu in broth and squid dumplings (in the photo). It was very tasty but it wasn’t quite enough for me.
Luckily I’d already clocked a pudding spot on our journeys…We enjoyed a very tasty fruit, cream and chocolate sauce crepe. It made me laugh when the server asked if I wanted a spoon… like how would I eat this otherwise?? Then it was off to bed. The next day Chris and I planned to have a shake-out run to test the waters to see how running together would be (we were thinking of running the marathon together as we seemed well matched in pace and goals). Then we had a jam-packed day planned to hit several different tourist sites we wanted to see…
Have you ever been to Tokyo before?
What’s your favourite crepe topping?
Do you like Japanese food?