Tokyo – Elephant Feet From Hell

Friday was the departure date from Japan and I left Tokyo with somehow ambivalent feelings. On the one side, there was still so much to see (and eat), but on the other (and definetely the most dominant one) side, I was longing to see Christer (junior) again, after 9 days of Skyping.

I hour train ride, almost 12 hour first leg flight, sprinting through the airport in Copenhagen, another 1 hour flight and a short taxi ride later, we were finally home. Our luggage, however, didn’t sprint as well in Copenhagen, so they never made it to Sandefjord.

It was so good to see Christer again and he actually took it well when I told him that the Japanese candy I had bought for him was in my suitcase. Something that was definetely not in my suitcase, but where lying safely in my hand luggage, were my 2 new medals and my first order of business (even before taking a shower after 20 hours of travelling) was to hang them in their rightfulky place on the Wall of Fame. There is something so right about this picture, right?

As earlier mentioned, the trip home was a bit bumpy and I did notice (while sprinting through the airport) that my feet were not fully pn my side. Granted I felt a bit flubby from before after binging on delicacies of the fabulous Japanese cuisine for the last 9 days, but this was somewhat unexpected. Check out the size on my legs after the long flight (from last night and from earlier this morning)!! Have you seen worse?

All in all it was OK to be back at home, but what I don’t appreciate is the weather goods already messing with me and in the form of MORE SNOW!!! Now thatwe were finally gotten rid og the old one (sigh…).

Tokyo – Finally time for sumo wrestling

Today is unfortunately our last day in Tokyo and what better way to finish off than with some sumo wrestling? To us westerners seeing 2 flubby men in a skimpy little outfit can seem a bit strange, but here in Japan it’s the national sport and the wrestlers are idolized.

We had hoped to see a genuin sumo wrestling match, but unfortunately none were to be arranged during our stay. Instead we settled for an organized tour, ordered through getyourguide.com, but arranged by a local operator. It included an introduction to the sport by some retired wrestlers as well as a show-match. A very touristy thing to do of course, but hey, we wanted to see sumo wrestling, and this was the only viable option to obtain that. The price was about USD 110 and the activity also included the option of going against one of the wrestlers (spoler alert: I skipped that…) and lunch.

We were to meet up in the Ryoguku area, famous for its many sumo stables. We had a bit of a hard time finding the placesince the entrance felt like just a whole in the wall, but we had predicted this, so we still had some time to spare when we finally reached our destination.

We were greeted by an amicable middelaged Japanese lady, who fortunately spoke English fluently. She took us to our table, located in a big room with a big mat in one end. Around the room we saw memoribilis of two wrestlers’ former glory.

Soon the show started and we got to meet the wrestlers (which names I heard, but managed to forget like 5 seconds later). They took us through the rules, warm-ups and techniques, all in Japanese of course, but the lady from before translated with

The wrestlers also did 3 show matches, where the big one (still do not remember his name ) won 2-1.

Before the lunch was served, we learned that sumo wrestlers cook their own food. They actually get so experienced in cooking that 50% of them choose the restaurant business as their second careere. They only eat two times a day, but then they eat a lot. The guy below revealed that when he was active he was able to eat up to 300 shushi pcs in one single meal, but now he is down to like a hundred.

The lunch was like all other food we have tasted in Japan; really tasty. We got a «Chanko Nabe», a real sumo lunch consisting of a hot pot with vegetables, proteins an chicken broth.

Unfortunately this was our last activity in the amazing city which is Tokyo. Tomorrow we go home, so tickets to the express train have been purchased and our suitcases (nearly) packed. So long, Tokyo, hope to see you again.

Tokyo – Karaoke Time!

It would have been a real shame leaving Tokyo without experiencing karaoke, so yesterday we looked up the venues in the neighbourhood for a night of singing. The choice fell on Big Echo Karaokebar, only a 10 minute walk from our Marunouchi hotel.

Before we booked a table at the karaoke bar, however, we made a pitstop for som food and (lots of drinks) at the bar next door as a warm-up. Then we booked a private room with a big TV screen and two micriphones for the six of us (with additional drinks to further loosen up the vocal cords…).

Earlier in the day, a couple of the boys were a bit sceptical of the whole karaoke and claimed audience status only. But, being in the room with a drink in their hand, made that scepticism evaporate within minutes. The whole room took off and we all went all in singing wise. We (of course) felt that we were really nailing it, but in retrospect, I think we made a wise call deciding to prohibit autio/video recording of the seance.

Our plan was to only book the room for like 30 minutes to an hour, but 3,5 hour later the staff practically had to force the microphones out of our hands. A super fun experience, and the possibility og booking a private room made even the shyest of us break out in singing.

Tokyo Marathon – A real struggle, but the Six Star Finisher medal is in the bag

OK, first a spoler alert; I MADE IT!!

After a terrible night with hardly any sleep, I woke up at race day at 5 AM, not exactly in top shape for 42.2 km. One look at the rain ouside, and I was tempted to crawl back into bed and forget about the whole thing. But, we are after all doing this volunteerly, we have worked for it for several years an we have actually paid a small fortune to come here, so I managed to give myself a kick in the rear and get ready for breakfast.

When it came to transportation to the starting area, it was already timed perfectly by our group’s Tokyo-Transportation-system-whisperer, so we others really only had to meet up in the hotel lobby, walk to the next building (Tokyo Station), walk for a few more minutes without concerning ourselves with which direction to take and volià, there was our train and after a 15 min train ride we reached our destination.

Yhe bib-number control and baggage checked were done real quickly (have I mentioned how efficient the Japanese are?), so we had over an hour to kill before the run started. I choose to spend that time in a stair case, after a trip to one of the many outdoor toilets, which was quite an experience indeed. The most organized line ever, with a guy standing in the end of the line holding a sign saying the line starts here. There were also multiple persons actually telling which toilet to go to when it was our turn. Perfect system and no cutting in line..

Check out the line in the background.

Even if the lines seemed endless, I didn’t have to wait too long before it was my turn. On drawbavk, however, was the fact that these were squatting toilets and small, which made this. 1.78m, 40+ year old with bad knees struggle so much that I almost fell over at one point. I did make it though, but a repeat visit was out of the question, so I made myself hold it in until the race was over and more comfortable facilities could be located.

One our before my starting tine, I went to my starting block to get in an as good as possible position. Tokyo Marathon practices gun-shot timing when i comes to cutoff times, and they are strict on enforcing those times. My starting block not crossing the starting line before 30 minutes after the gun-shot, made it a real threat that I might struggle with some of the earliest cutoff times, which I incidentely also ended up doing. It did not help either that I wad, due to the heavy rain, both cold and soaking wet, so it wasn’t the most amusing hours of my life that marathon.

I must admit that the race itself was a struggle from Start to Finish and I wad really hurting from all the longruns I never took prior to it. But, I did manage to crawl over the finishing line in the end and was handed both the regular Tokyo Marathon medal and the big Six Star Finisher’s medal, the proof that I have made it through all the major marathons in the world (Boston, Berlin, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo), something approx. 4000 have done before us, but only 36 Norwegians.

Something very uplifting during the race and which really made my day, was of course our anazing cheerleader, running through town to cheer for us at three different locations. ❤️

So to sum up: rain and windy, soaking wet, painful race, but two more medals in the bag. Now it’s time for celebrations.

The gang (but missing our cheerleaders).

Tokyo – Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is the Times Square of Tokyo with its huge billboards and neon ligh. In is also one of the most buzziest intersections in the world with people crossing in all directions at once.

Check out this video to get the feeling of participating in the chaos of crossing the intersection.

We managed to spend a couple of hours just crossing the street from all angles and by just looking at the crowd. The Starbucks nearby turned out to be the perfect hangout for the spotting activities.

This intersection has also appeared in movies/TV shows such as Lost in Translation, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fuller House and is definetely worth a visit.

..and si is the neighbouring area…

Tokyo – Love at first sight

After travelling for 24 hours from Norway, we have finally reached the capital of Japan, Tokyo. With its roughly 13 million people it’s the biggest city in Japan and hence it is buzzling with life. Or so we thought… We were a bit surprised not to be seeing more people when we arrived and it was not before we were entering the metro system we got the authentic feeling of it being really crowded.

From the minute I sat my first bloated foot (the last leg was for 11 hours, need I say more?) on Japanes soil, I was in love. Everyone were so friendly and helpful, and even though very few speaks English, the airport staff were really good at visual communication and got us through immigration and customs in record speed. Outside the terminal, the transportation options were really professionally lined up. Our express bus had a departure time at 11:40 and guess what, it left at precisely 11:40:00, a punctuality which is no more than an utopia back in Norway.

Being the world record holder in punctionality is one of the major reasons for my instant infatuation with Japan. In 2017 it was considered a scandal when a train departured 20 seconds too early, and even though no customers complained, the management of the rail company had to issue an official statement apologizing for the incident. Somehow I don’t see this ever happening in Norway where a train (long distance) is considered on time if it arrives its final destination within 5 min, 59 secs of its scheduled arrival time and where bus-for-train has become a common phrase in our everyday life.

When we arrived in downtown Tokyo, the weather was cold and rainy, so we hurried directly to our hotel. Or, at least we tried to… The many tall buildings both impaired visual orientation as well as confused the GPS giving us a bit of a struggle finding the correct way. But, with a little help from some very friendly Japanese, who gesticulated the direction the best they could, we were able to find out hotel. Our final good samaritan did not even leave our side until we were safely inside the hotel building. Amazing! In other words, a wonderful start on our stay in Tokyo:)