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Mike's Japan

numerals. Each character corresponds to a numeral normal people use. So if there
are three of them you know the price is less that 1000 yen. It helps to remember that
one horizontal stroke corresponds to 1, two strokes make 2 and three make 3. After
that it gets more difficult.
When I’m in Tokyo, I often eat in the shopping area below Tokyo Station. There’s a
vast expanse of streets down there and most are packed with restaurants. The main
customers are office workers so I try to avoid the midday break. Ten years ago, most
served Japanese meals. Now, I’m having difficulty finding a place that does not serve
a Japanese version of Western food. If you want to eat Western (or something like it),
Tokyo Station could be the place for you.
My picture (above) was taken at a friend’s place. We gathered for a sakura party
(cherry blossom party) and it started to snow, which was totally extraordinary for the
time of year. Snowflakes were getting into the beer and the girls were complaining of
the cold so we went into the garden house. This was built in the old style with a
charcoal hearth for cooking . Our host put on the gear he keeps for this sort of
occasion and we got on with the festivities. He emailed me, following last year’s
terrible earthquake, to say that the family had gone through the ordeal without injury
but the old building in the garden had collapsed together with many other stone
structures in the district.
4 Narita stopover
A lot of people break their journey at Narita, which is Japan's main airport and
about an hour away from the centre of Tokyo by train. There are various
You can check into the airline hotel at the edge of the airport and eat in the hotel
restaurant with a whole lot of other international travellers. Alternatively, you can book
in and take the next hotel bus to Narita city.
Most buses stop at the main railway station and you can walk through it to the top of
the high street, which is packed with tourist shops and eating houses. You can choose
to dine there with other tourists or you can hunt out the places where the locals eat.
My preference is for the beer halls near the station. They are in high-rise buildings
and you have to look at the advertising signs to find them. The signs are lavishly
illustrated and written in both Japanese and English so you will have no difficulty. The
beer halls sell drinks and snacks from an illustrated menu. All you have to do is point
and hold up one or more fingers to show how many items you want . Needless to say,
places in Narita are accustomed to serving people who can't speak Japanese.
If you have time, stroll down the high street to the magnificent temple gardens at the
bottom. These are shut after sunset so you might consider spending a second night in
Narita in order to see them. You could also take a trip into Tokyo.