Blade Runner

Tokyo is so much more “Blade Runner” than most other Asian cities. In my neighbourhood of Shinjuku you can be seemingly in the 22nd century one minute, but turn down a small side street, and feel like Ridley Scott has just started filming his latest sequel in a dingy noodle bar. My first foray into Shinjuku nightlife proved slightly confusing. I wanted to find some bars in a district called “Golden Gion”, but which ever way I walked around the blocks I ended back up in the Tokyo equivalent of Soho, albeit possibly a bit safer but much much weirder. […]

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Finding Fugu

If you are not familar with “Fugu”, it’s the Japanese for blowfish or puffer fish. To describe it as poisonous is a massive understatement. Chefs need a licence to serve it in Japan and they are trained for two years to learn how to correctly remove the deadly bits. Some deliberately leave just a trace of the toxin in the dish so that your lips tingle when you eat it! Wikipedia suggests that its poison is 1200 times stronger than cyanide and close to Sarin or VX gas in the way it paralyses your central nervous system. You can’t buy […]

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Lost in Translation

My first duties on arrival in Tokyo were unplanned. It turns out that they are filming some sort of Japanese “Apprentice” type show at my hotel. My role is that of the checking in Western guest. I’m reminded of how Bill Murray is directed by the fictitious Japanese director in “Lost in Translation”, so I decide to follow his lead and play my part “with intensity”.. I didn’t take any fee for this role, but on the advice of my friend George Lucas, I have retained all the merchandising rights in case the “Toad-San” action figure takes off in Japan.. I have […]

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The Tokaido Shinkansen

The Tokaido Shinkansen is currently the busiest and fastest single high speed rail line in the world, serving the cities of Tokyo and Osaka. To me it’s nothing short of a public transport miracle. The “normal speed” is 320 kph, but speeds of up to 443 kph have been recorded. The trains are pressure sealed and run on 25000 volts DC. As they have their own tracks, last year the average delay per train across the year was.. 36 seconds! You probably know that these days the word “Shinkansen” is used to generically describe a number of different types of […]

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The Hikari Super Express

Okayama is a busy station and smells of noodles. It immediately gives me a “Blade Runner” feeling. It’s a big place, and it takes me a few minutes to work it all out. I have 46 minutes here, and already have a reservation, so no need to panic. Time for some iced coffee and ibuprofen as I’m a bit dazed after the last train. The Shinkansen has its own dedicated “terminal” on top of the regular station, and I’m soon on the right platform. As this is a terminus, the train arrives on the platform more than 20 minutes before […]

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