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After having my coffee and snack at the Ueno Starbucks yesterday, I took the subway to Tokyo Station, close to the Imperial Palace. Navigating the system wasn’t too difficult. The ticket machines have English, but not much route information. In order to figure out how much you need to pay you need to look at one of the maps that has English, compare that to the map that shows prices to stations from your current location and then press the appropriate button on and insert the appropriate cash into the ticket machine. Alternatively, you could just buy the cheapest ticket – as I did for Tokyo station – and either look for a fare adjustment machine or – as I did – hand your ticket in at a desk and pay the difference.

The weather yesterday, as well as being overcast, was quite hazy. Visibility wasn’t great, but it lent a certain mysterious, atmospheric quality to the cityscape. The Imperial Palace is, I suppose, Japan’s Buckingham palace, but its ground are much more fortified. It’s surrounded by extensive grounds and large moats with steep slopes or stone walls on the inner edges. Much of the grounds that I saw had close-cropped lawns with an orderly forest of manicured evergreen trees.

I walked around part of the Palace grounds and then headed to a pair of gardens – western and Japanese; of which, the latter was quite pleasant, the former quite dull – which were adjacent to the National Diet Building – ‘Diet’ as in legislative body. Not a terribly interesting sight. I walked around the nearby government buildings. It was very quiet – there were probably more police officers than pedestrians – and not that many of those. It’s not a patch on Whitehall, frankly – it’s all mid to late twentieth century buildings.

Then I headed to Shinjuku, a big train/subway station and shopping area. The narrow side streets reminded me a little of Myeongdong in Seoul (although they weren’t pedestrianised), while the main roads were reminiscent of Oxford Street in London. I had a pretty lame but cheap coffee and did some game work, then took the subway back up to Asakusa.

There, I had a nice noodle soup and some fried dumplings at a restaurant and went back to the hostel. I had a long conversation with my friend Alex via Skype – something we don’t do often enough. Habiba was probably out, and she hadn’t left me any replies to my message during the day. Now, the following day (Sunday), I’m waiting for her to get on Skype, but she’s either fallen fast asleep or she’s gone out.

I don’t really have any plans for the day – I’m just going to head to the airport early. I’ve already bought some snacks for Habiba and me (maybe this time she’ll let me have some) and some chocolate biscuit sticks for my homeroom children. The Japanese brand of these sticks is Pocky, but in Korea they’re called Pepero – and 11th November is Pepero Day. I now have enough money for the train to the airport with a bit left over.

See you in Seoul.

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