letter to a friend

A very good friend and her travelling companion (who also happens to be my wife) are coming to visit me here in Tokyo in a couple of weeks time so I get to play the “tour guide” now that I’ve been here a couple of months.

In reply to a recent email she sent me I had this to say:

konnichiwa (g’day: 今日は)”

“We’re thankful that you have selected us as your preferred tour operator. Our clients are our number one priority and testimony from previous happy customers speaks volumes.”

“As to your intrepid tour guide’s mountain climbing experience, you’ll note from the blog entry that he did indeed make it down safe and sound. Characteristics we value highly amongst our delegates are their adventurous spirit and the ability to ‘think on their feet’ in new and unusual and often difficult situations. We feel he did a brilliant job negotiating the rigours of the trek alone and we commend his ingenuity and stamina in negotiating a descent in what must have been very trying circumstances.”

“Having said this, the streets of Tokyo are not as onerous as the peaks of our surrounding countryside. Whilst the shopping malls and department stores admittedly have there own set of challenges, especially during the summer sales, our guide will ensure that your safety and well-being is paramount in the planning of your itinerary. He will also keep a handy supply of band-aids should any blisters arise.”

“Suggestions of what to do and where to go in Tokyo are as many as the flowers on a sakura (cherry blossom: 桜) in April. I have several ideas in mind, each one centred around the different precincts of Tokyo as well as the various cuisines on offer. Over the coming days and week I will post a brief summary of each of these areas and what activities they’re renown for.”

“As you suggest, the onsen (hot springs: 温泉), particularly uchiyu (private baths: 内湯), are a wonderful way to relax and unwind after a hard day of shopping and sightseeing. There is, in fact, one very near to where you will be staying in Azabu-jūban (麻布十番). I will do some research before your arrival in order to supply you with any necessary details such as operating hours and the cost of using said facilities.”

“The drinking (飲みます) of sake (alcohol: 酒), especially nihonshu (Japanese rice wine: 日本酒) is another great way of relaxing in the evening. There are countless night-spots and bars literally within stumbling distance of your apartment if this is required before de-robing at the onsen.”

“Japanese dining is reputably the best in the world. For example, I’ve heard it said that they make Italian food better than the home-land and it wouldn’t surprise me. Their attention to detail is astonishing. No wonder they have more Michelin-star restaurants here in Tokyo than any other city in the world. If your taste buds extend to fine-dining such as this then we can easily arrange a booking at a restaurant that will surpass your wildest epicurean dreams.”

“However, if you would prefer less high-brow fare, then we can also suggest a number of humble restaurants that occupy a space normally thought of as an abode for footwear.”

“It would certainly help us immensely if we knew in advance what your dietary requirements are:”

“Do you have any allergies? e.g. tinned asparagus”

“Do you like sushi (鮨) and sashimi (raw fish: 刺身)? With or without wasabi (Japanese horseradish: 山葵)?”

“How about yakitori (chicken skewers: 焼き鳥) or yakiniku (BBQ meat: 焼肉)?”

“Perhaps tonkatsu (deep-fried breaded-pork fillet: とんかつ), a dish not unlike chicken schnitzel?”

“Maybe noodles are your thing: ramen (ラメン); udon (うどん); soba (そば)?”

“Or one of our favourites: tempura (deep-fried, lightly-battered vegetables and seafood: 天ぷら)?”

“All are terrific examples of traditional Japanese dishes yet at lunch time a filling meal can often be purchased at a relatively modest price.”

“The three very special dishes you single out (hachi-no-ko, inago, and the risky fugu) are sadly not in season. Otherwise they would have been quite a rare treat to sample. It’s not every day you can crunch-on-a-critter (蜂の子 or 稲子) or pop-a-puffer (河豚). A great shame really.”

“If most or all the aforementioned styles are to your liking then we can organise a different one each day that may well suffice as your main meal saving you a good deal of money. This is particularly relevant in a city such as Tokyo which is currently ‘the most expensive city in the world’ to live in. I think Sydney comes in at #11.”

“But you needn’t be concerned with the expense as most of this relates to domestic arrangements, namely rent. The strength of the A$ will hold you in good stead during your week-long holiday.”

“Speaking of money, the friend who visited Tokyo recently is quite right. Cash, rather than credit card or travellers cheques, is the most widely used method for payment. Perhaps it is surprising given how modern a society it is here. So in answer to your question, A$500 should be ample funds for your day-to-day expenses unless you plan on restocking your wardrobe with a kimono (traditional Japanese garment: 着物) or two, and loading up on gifts such as hashi (chopsticks: 箸) and washi (Japanese paper: 和紙) and sensu (folding fans: 扇子).”

“We do highly recommend that you take advantage of the favourable exchange rates we offer our clients, commission-free. Banks and Travelex operators seem to operate under the misguided impression that foreigners are incapable of simple arithmetic with exchange rates on offer so far removed from reality they make Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge appear philanthropic.”

“As a rough guide, the current rate is A$1=¥80.”

“Your tour guide had the good fortune to literally bump into your friend during her visit to the “party district” of Roppongi (六本木). It seems she was pulling an “all-nighter” with some happy friends in tow.”

“The climate in Tokyo at his time of year is similar to Sydney in January: relatively hot and humid yet quite pleasant in the shade. I’m sure it’ll be a welcome change from the bone-chilling numbness currently on offer in Sydney. Obviously, keeping up one’s fluids is essential and so we refer you back to the aforementioned paragraph on beverages.”

“However, unlike Sydney in summer, the rainy season is over by mid-July so there is precious little in the way of precipitation. This may well be to your liking given Sydney’s recent winter deluge.”

“With this in mind we do recommend that you pack suitable attire for our warmer climate. You will have no need for jackets or jumpers, pullovers or parkas. A good pair of runners (or comfortable sandals) together with loose fitting shirts, skirts, shorts and overalls will come in handy as Tokyo is a very big city and even using the metro often involves walking some distance.”

“Speaking of which, the Tokyo metro is a transport masterpiece. Despite the immense size of the city, and a population of some 36 million people, it rarely feels crowded. Unless of course you choose to ride the subway during peak hour. Then you’ll discover first-hand what it’s like to have “no personal space whatsoever”. Put it this way: riding a densha (train: 電車) at this time will bring you in closer proximity to complete strangers than you’ve ever been with your partner. But let’s not go there.”

“The simplest way to use the metro is with a PASMO. It operates a lot like a debit card. All you have to do is swipe it at the barrier as you both enter and leave the train line. A fully charged card will be supplied to both you and your travelling companion on your arrival.”

“One final comment. Please rest assured that you will not be disappointed, either in our servicing of you and your companion or in the sheer delight you will experience during your stay. You’re in good hands!”

“Of course, we do offer a complete, unconditional, 100% money-back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied. Not that anyone as ever had the need to take us up on the offer. But it should provide you with some peace-of-mind.”

“Always at your service. travel photography tours.”




7 thoughts on “letter to a friend

  1. love it…you are just too funny, but so pleased you are having such a ball in Tokyo & am sure Ali will too!! keep up the good work – tanoshinde neh!!! x

  2. Aaw shucks. Now you’re making me blush! Yeah, it’s awesome. My one regret is I didn’t come here sooner. Where have you been all my life?

    I’m gonna have to start planning a trip to España me thinks.

    Con todo mi cariño. Kim*

  3. Better late than never eh?! And you are totally making me miss it big time…venga te espero hermano nos vemos pronto 😉 besos

  4. If your first tour group will concentrate on he city I might have to plan a trip with Ali to tour the mountains one day!!! I am very green

  5. Pingback: Mt Ōtake | travel photography

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