What do you with a jet-lagged un-napped little turd in Tokyo? Get lost in Akihabara the evening that you land, that's what. I should've realised when the sparkling lights and blazing billboards started to dim to a faint glow that we were walking the wrong way. She thanked me in the only way she knew how, by weak-limbed protest, fixed only by buying a gazillion gachapon and throwing some restorative ramen down her neck.
New day, right? Started off thrilled with the breakfast sushi that'd she'd hand picked the night before, and I with the dearth of coffee on hand, grabbing all but the most important of things (clearly, the heinously expensive Instax film, and entire new outfit for Small), head off to meet tour guide Miki for the day.
Clearly, pre-coffee parenting is my forte, I've stood by this logic for years, yet somehow with the tide of emotion that runs with the racing winds of a 7yr old, even I had to accept that nothing was going to work exactly to plan unless the smaller human was placated in generous lashings of mummy bribes and hushes through grated teeth about being respectful/not shouting/interrupting/imploding, until at least I'd had coffee. It was of course my fault that her [indoor] Instant camera didn't work in blinding sunlight. I was so excited 2 years ago on Santa rocking up with that bad boy for her 'One Day in the Future Trip to Japan', at a fucking pound a print. Maybe I need to wait until my 40s where they'll be slightly less popular, but not so old that they're full circle and in the vintage shops worn by folk 30 years their junior.
Did have a cheeky tootle around Ueno station under the careful guide of Miki, I did as well navigating here initially as I did finding a fucking shop sign in the 'Electric Town' last night, so seeing something pretty was a good find!
I now know how to ask for these commemorative stamps, and I have a lost of stations to try. But I envisage station stamp hunting in the busiest city in the world to be as much fun as the 14190 steps that I've done today (yes I know that's fuck all, but I'm fat and have had a whole load of time-space-continuum-slowing Japanese carbs by now).
Off to Asakusa Temple now, paid respects, wound my way through 8171549501 other visitors, a good half of which were wearing kimono which Small loved so much she proceeded to squeal and point in glee. I suppose she didn't throw up this time, the glares were almost as juicy however.
We'd near enough cracked it on the Facey McFace bollocks, until she opened a 'bad fortune' which despite Miki explaining at length that that was good as it was an opportunity to leave anything and everything that takes your energy, at the Temple and then move up, up, UP!.... She was quite pissed off as it goes. It stuck. She wasn't all that chuffed about burning her hand on plunging it into a still smoking pit of spent incense because she was so insistent on her independence either (note this, there's a theme today). Just as well there was that giant pool of sacred water that was reserved exclusively for the ritualistic process of cleansing oneself prior to sparing a thought/prayer/wish at the Temple.
To splash about in. Joy. I'm surprised she didn't crack out a water bottle.
We did have an amightly cute moment, somewhere between the breakfast sushi rage/burned incensed hands and lunch however. It's a tradition for children aged 3, 5 and 7 to visit the Temple in October to give thanks to surviving what is/was perceived that be treacherous years for health in infants, age 7 marking the final. The lovely helpful Miki negotiated a photo of the two 7yr olds (her idea) to share a special moment. Small was shaking like a shitting dog, shy little thing when presented with the unprompted, crumbling into a heap of embarrassment. There was a smile in there, we caught it by sheer luck.
Goshuin book bought, calligraphy hand painted within it, prayed to our specific Buddhas (Small-Sheep: will make a good leader and mine, Rabbit, to do good by imparting my knowledge- nearly choked on mine) bought a fair few good luck charms later then headed for food.
Now Asakusa Temple has the glorious equivalent of a a Christmas market buzz, but covered in autumnal decorations, a billion people buying red bean paste pancakes and more mochi than. You can shake a stick at in the stalls/pop up shops lining the walk towards the Temple buildings, all crammed with tourist/folk/local trinkets and food nibbles. However having watched all of 3 Japanese cooking programmes, and clearly being an expert, it was time to put what I'd binged that one covid isolation day into good use. Okonomiyaki is like a pancake on steroids cooked by yourself in a far too public place to be able to fuck it up and glide along past your faux pas gracefully.
Full to the brim with squid, spicy fish eggs, prawns, cheese and pork not too catastrophically cooked pancakes, Small finished full-bellied and nursing not the one but the three hot plate stings she gave herself clearly ignoring every single instruction to be careful near said hot plate- thankfully as extremely superficial (what is it about "don't touch that, it's hot and will burn you" makes someone need to touch it whilst looking you dead in the eye). It would've been easier had she not been hissing rage at my embarassingly audible discontent at her absolute disregard for her safety. This is however following spending the best part of five hours already clinging onto her in fear we'd get split up in the scrambles and was swiftly met with the loveliest kindest kid for an hour I'd never asked for. I was feeling a bit frazzled by this point from accidentally pressing the wrong button at the wrong time for the wrong body part and 'reverse-pissing' all over myself to the cute sounds of waves lapping at the beach- those waves didn't mask shit. By the time I had cleaned the ginormous wet arse patch from my pants and dungarees, on my return Small had entirely forgotten about her little hotplate adventure, and there wasn't a mark to be seen.
Then we headed to Japan's answer to a clean, glass floor boasting, Eiffel Tower-esque shiny tower to watch the sunset. Saying our goodbyes to Miki we headed up into the biggest throng of queuing people in a small space I've ever seen. I remember when chatting with the tour organiser thinking 'do I want to do this, really?' but then realised that there was the Pokemon Centre and a huge anime themed character goodies shop that would sweeten the load with Small (and myself), so off we hopped.
The sunset was incredible, didn't even mind playing human jenga for the privilege, the sun ebbing away beneath the horizon with a city that hosts 14 million people twinkling away alongside it. Romantic as shit if I'm honest, the kind of place that my future queen in gilded armour would be welcomed to private hire, wine dine and good time me over a cracking pint of Asahi and a corking platinum engagement ring. Please, form an orderly queue ladies.
The opportunities for commercial shite were endless, however we both felt this a worthy cause, tying our wishes with our ribbons the tallest structure in Japan. Kinda up there with the audio tour guides in the British Museum, but a definite must-do all the same.
Japan is the kind of place that you can so easily pose next to something that makes you an instant fangirl, bit I rather quite adore this snap.
By the time we'd explored every last corner of the character shop, and talked each out of buying every thing in said shop, we tried to hot-foot it to the Pokemon Centre she she could buy the bastard Pikachu she's been chunking on about since touchdown in Haneda. It would have been a grand achievement, had we not gotten ourself entirely lost in said hunt, had a huge bag of shit that we didn't need but truly wanted (that's the theme of the shopping related decisions we're making this week, both in agreement we'll check with each other and then when said party is in agreement it's fair play and all guns blazing for more kawaii crap then we can shake a bento box at. I should try this more in real life : "Small, do we really need this 10ft bouncy castle/house sized plushie" etc etc.
We called it a bailed attempt on realising that the store was on the opposite side of the Skytree complex, that it was 20.53 and no matter how much we tried to do a Mo Farrah, the odds (and shoes on burning feet) we're against us.
Note however the night to day change in expression on falling into the authentic conveyer belt sushi restaurant that I'd been promising Small for years, to that post 20 plates between us in. It is honestly no wonder I'm so round, she was jabbing at that picture menu like a bat out of hell and ambitious rolls, wraps and mystery bowls were firing at us from left right angle centre. I've never felt quite so attacked by food, maybe this is the uprising that I need.... The teeny tiny sauce/seasoning packets sweetened the load and red bean filled, fish shaped doughnut completed that smile. It's like Yo Sushi had a baby and became affordable for the masses.
I'm rather certain quite frankly I must have missed Bowlby's theory of raising highly spirited and independent kids in this massacre that is the next generation of grownups to be.... But that face, the joy of the days treats/gifts- anything for an easy life when it's all you can manage to do to not misplace, incinerate or let them climb onto a sushi belt, feral or otherwise.
She's not that bad, I reckon she's having a decent time, betwixt the foot fatigue, sheer gluttony and going MIA in a new country to the most unhelpful of times/whereabouts.
A pleasantly hot shower, scrub and laying the tattas on the table to dry out like the porcelain spaniels ears they resemble, in quite most 'un-Japanese' activitt I've achieved so far!
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