Saturday, 1 October 2016

Tokyo - take 1

Tuesday, September 27th

Arrived at Tokyo around 10pm. +27 degrees. I think I’m going to like it here. Got to my hostel just after midnight and fell asleep almost instantly. I guess figuring out when did Tuesday go exhausted me completely. At one point I was tired boarding my plane in London, on Monday evening. 14 hours later, and I’m tired leaving a plane at Tokyo. Time, what a tricky bastard…

Wednesday, September 28th

Just after I woke up on Wednesday morning after a nice refreshing sleep, I fell asleep again.
I woke up a couple of hours later - and I fell asleep again.
After short nap, having the feeling that I’ve finally mastered the cycle, I got out of bed and went for a mandatory run around the Imperial Palace.
For some reason I decided breakfast could wait but this freaking palace, standing there for centuries clearly couldn’t.
The distance to the Palace from my place was just under 5km each way (actually more like 6km considering my superior navigation skills).
I started jogging through midday Tokyo, getting the first impressions of the city. So far so good. The city looks nice, full of Japanese people, Japanese signs, Japanese cars. Lot’s of cosy, narrow streets, packed with shops, small workshops, cafes and restaurants. Very nice vibe.
After a few stops at traffic lights I started noticing running wasn’t as easy as expected. It was getting quite hard to be fair. First I was trying to blame traffic lights for it, but then I realised I’m not scared of them anymore, as I was already introduced to them prior to this trip. Then I was trying to blame lack of sleep, but somehow I managed to come to the conclusion that I just had 10+ hours of it. In intervals!
Then I realised it was humidity. And temperature. When I left the hostel I didn’t realise it was that hot. Hostel has air-con. Tokyo doesn’t. It was clouded, but still +30 degrees or more. And humidity of approximately 219% (before you start - don’t. Just don’t. I’ve been here and I’m telling you it was 219% humidity. Do you really want to argue with someone who’s been to Tokyo?).
I stopped at one of the shops and got something to drink. Smart move - now I had a bottle I could refill at one of the many drinking-water fountains.
I got to the Imperial Palace and it’s vast gardens. Actually you can’t really get inside (I think they are letting general public in only twice a year), but just running around is nice enough. There are a lot of runners there, seems it’s a quite popular running destination for Tokyo’s joggers.
Eventually I managed to run around the Palace, and got back to my place. Just over 18km, just over 2 hours (!)
That was definitely the slowest run in my life. Even considering all the picture-taking, traffic-lights-waiting and water-refilling stops.
Oh, after all I missed my breakfast, as by the time I was out of my hostel again, it was almost after the lunch time.
Lesson learned: breakfasts are more important than palaces.

I’ve spent rest of my day walking around Tokyo, visiting temples, museums, even the Sky Tree tower - a new structure, apparently the highest free-standing tower in the world. Freaking impressive, the view from 350m deck is really impressive. I guess the view from 450m deck is even better, but since it was dark already and couldn’t see too far due to clouds (this city is really cloudy!) I decided to skip that one.

Thursday, September 29th

I woke up earlier this time, and decided to go for a run before the breakfast (again! I know, but this time I wasn’t planning 2 hour long run, and even if that happened, I would still have enough time to get my breakfast. Yeah, early bird…)
I wanted to do 8 times 800m intervals, at something around my 5k - 10k pace (or rather effort, as my paces are still nowhere close to my pre-injury ones).
The day before I figured that there is a nice, long path along the river, just a couple of hundred meters from my place.
I run there, did about 3.5km warmup, then some mobility exercises and dynamic stretching + some strides. Basically my typical pre-session warm-up routine.
It was 9am, but it was already quite hot. And bloody humid.
I set off for the first rep. Man, that’s hard! Anyway, I managed the first rep in 2:56. Not that terrible considering the pavement was wet after the rain, therefore quite slippery at places. But I felt quite tired already, after just one rep! And there are 7 more to go.
Ok, 90 seconds rest, and here we go again - opposite direction. 3:03. That’s not looking good. Next one - 3:06. Then 3:05. I’m sweating like a bacon source already, completely soaked. 3:10. Shit, that’s hard.
3:19 !!. Fuck it, that’s enough. I’m going home.
Seriously, it’s bloody hard to run in this city. No traffic lights to blame this time (I already stopped blaming them, didn’t I?).
Just humidity and lack of fitness.

After the breakfast I went out to explore more of Tokyo. First I went to see Miraikan - the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. It’s located in university park, near Tokyo port. Getting there on a fully automated monorail train I realised, that Japanese are probably not getting enough recognition for their amazing engineering skills.
I mean - of course, they are praised for robotics and electronics, but they are also absolutely mind blowing when it comes to the civil engineering. Roads, trains, all sorts of construction works. It’s simply unbelievable. Because the space is of great value in Japan - country not much bigger than Britain, but inhabited by more than twice as many people. And 70% of Japanese landmass is actually mountains and forests, so there’s a very little space left for people. So they are really industrious and creative when it comes to the use of space. There are plenty of multi-level roads (say, 2 or 3 levels of a highway), with the train lines above. Everything looks very light and elegant, yet seems to be really durable at the same time. When you come to think that Japan is one of the most seismically active parts of the world and all that stuff must be strong enough to survive an earthquake, that puts it all on even higher level. So, hats off to Japanese engineers.

And then I got to this museum. Wow.
I don’t know where to start. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s futuristic. It’s full of school kids who actually look really interested in what’s going on there. Which is quite nice and reassuring to know that at least some parts of the world would be in good hands.

What is quite interesting about this museum is the emphasis on mankind survival. There’s a lot about climate change, about technology protecting us from natural disasters (emphasis on volcanoes and earthquakes). They talk a lot about bio-engineering and designing better drugs. A bit about space programs. Artificial intelligence.
And obviously robotics.
Japanese really love their robots, they have plenty of them, and they are really good at constructing them. During the visit in Miraikan I’ve seen Asimo - the famous Honda's robot. They have 10 minutes long shows every hour or two. The door to a small room opens, and Asimo runs out of it into the open area, surrounded by spectators. I must admit - pretty good running technique!
And then there is a short presentation of it’s incredible skills. They really nailed it’s bio-mechanics (or robo-mechanics). Impressive.
 After that I walked more around Tokyo, went to Meiji temple, walked more. What’s really interesting here is that super-modern, even futuristic stuff lives in a harmony next to the traditional. Old fashioned temples, workshops, clothes, customs. It seems like a well balanced coexistence of The Old and The New, with both of them benefiting from each other (yeah, the day before there was a robot in the temple giving pieces of paper with prayers on to the people, who fed it with 200 Yen).

Some pictures for your enjoyment. And much more pictures here - in completely random order though.

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