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Monday 11th October - Tokyo
By Claire
Saturday, 16th October 2004 04:33

You know how I said those trains were quite soothing? Well they're not, anymore. Combined with the mosquito intent on devouring me whole, I hardly slept last night, so we didn't get up too early. But we repeated the morning ritual of a sandwich and email, and then went to find some of Japan's unrivalled autumn colouring.

I think we're a couple of weeks to early for the best of the maple leaves, but the garden we went to today was still beautiful. It had a lake in the middle with islands made to look natural, and hundreds of acers and maple trees with leaves that looked like tiny stars. Some of the red was just beginning to show through, but in November it would be stunning. It didn't help that it hardly got light all day and the white sky made everything look a bit flat. But we walked around and found paths and beautiful patches of lawn and smooth round hedges. Then a military band started up, all drums and trumpets. It was quite rousing and we paced along in time to it. At first it sounded like a recording, but it seemed to clear and near, so we tracked it down to the other side of a wall behind some trees in the forest. Not one to be thwarted by walls, I climbed onto an earth bank and a tree stump and could just see over the top to where a girls' school band, complete with cartwheeling cheerleaders and dancing tuba-players was practicing in the playground. It was very funny and we had to get down quickly before someone saw us. Not a good thing to be arrested for!

It was dusk now, and still early afternoon. We went back to Ginza to find Mikey's grandmother a birthday card, and spent a while in a six-storey stationery shop, which was heaven! There was a whole floor of paper, and an area for the gorgeous hand-made stuff with leaves and flowers in it. Quite lovely. We had another walk through a food hall, and a lady from a stall accompanied us and gave us an impromptu tour when we asked for directions. She almost got every one of the staff to let us taste their wares, but we managed to escape in the end. We would have been there all day!

There was a fish market downstairs with octopus tentacles and baby crabs in batter, and some giant apples, as big as my head. And a durian fruit, too. We had a bit of a walk through Ginza at night, and went into a toy shop that sold a lot of lego, computer games and Disney toys. I even managed to overcome one of my last remaining fears, that of muppets, by picking up hairy red and blue creatures from Sesame Street, but then Mikey tried to prove to me that their noses don't come off and it all ends in tears. Not literally, more like fear. We left.

Next to the restaurant we ate at last night was a noodle bar, and we wanted to try it. Unfortunately, there was a machine with no English subtitles and a suspiciously fishy-looking menu outside, so we went next door again and were greeted like regulars by the staff. I like this place! The obligatory doughnut for pudding, then we were on the packed train home. What started out as a quick catch up on diaries has taken until midnight, so I'm going to sleep now. Last day tomorrow, which is sad. I like Japan.

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