Oh. My. God.

An incredibly busy day! Definately a high standard set for the rest of the trip, but especially fun because we met up with 愛! (Ai is one of our friends from Nottingham who we used to play Capoeira with regularly, though she's now moved back to Japan having finished her masters' degree)

Step one: Food. Having not given it too much thought we wondered past corner shop and bought ourselves a 'triangle' ('of death' as far as I'm concerned, as I'll explain). These sticky rice triangles or おねぎり (oh-neih-gih-rih) are wrapped in a seaweed sheet and filled with a strong tasting savoury meat/fish/fruit. Therein lies the problem. we can't read kanji so we have no idea what's in them! For a person whose stomach rejects prawns etc (like yours truely) this makes the whole thing quite the gamble - it paid off well! I'm sure these triangles will be a staple travelling lunch :)

First off we wandered around the Imperial Palace gardens. The outer section, while pretty, left us feeling a little separated from the beauty (the main attractions are the gates, the moats and the bridges - astounding for their age, but done once you've seen them really) - we started moving towards the Yasukuni Shrine and found we could go into the East Gardens of the palace.

These are some of the most beautiful gardens I've seen (having a Mum who worked in an Arboretum, that's saying a lot!) - one entire section was a grassland ecosystem moved piece by piece into the Palace's grounds because their original habitat was to be destroyed to create a residential district.

The entire gardens were both stunning and surprisingly informative (with the odd museum and even English translations on info-posts) - there will be plenty of photos on flickr when I have the time!

Next stop was the Yasukuni Shrine to meet Ai, a small park dedicated to War Victims built in 1836 (over 2.5 million are commemorated to date - kamakazi bombers are recorded as telling each other they'll meet again at Yasukuni). It also included the first ever Western style bronze statue of the military commander who first pushed a modernization (ie. westernization) of the Japanese army, earning him a wound, which took over 4 months to kill him, courtesy of the samurai.

Tube rides left-and-right took the three of us to Harajuku, Ai telling us of the obscure fashions that teenagers from across Japan travelled there to take up. Even Ai said it's oddly similar to Camden Market, for a place nearly a world away.

Finding a back-alley hidden restaurent gem we learnt how to cook our own まじゅやき (majuyaki, we think) a weird combination of cabbage,meat, flavouring and soup you make into an omlette type thing as you griddle it yourself - a Tokyo speciality! I was especially pleased to try Ai's choice, one based on fish eggs and 'mochi' (a rice paste I hunt down in any Chinatown I find at home).

Moseying on over to 'the electronics district' - akihabara - we persued the bright and flashing lighted streets that I guess is what we all expect Tokyo to look like.

The final stop was a bonfire party - a tradition originating in a day of the dead ritual - in Shinjuku which unfortunately was called on account of the rain. Still we made up for it with an amazing bar, good beer and tasty, tasty sashimi, which is raw meats and fish! In our case, raw cow heart, liver and 3rd stomach! As I said tasty, tasty, おいしい、おいしい!

Anyways, that was our 14 hours of fun - it is now definitely time to let James use the iPhone and to get some sleep! Nite all!