Words by Dorian Mode and photography by Lydia Thorpe
Tokyo is the ideal place for seniors to visit as there is virtually no crime
Suddenly a piercing siren echoes through the canyons of skyscrapers and into the tranquil Imperial Gardens of Tokyo. I freeze under a cherry blossom. Is it an earthquake? A Tsunami? Has John Farnham announced yet another comeback tour? I quickly scan the face of my guide for latent signs of panic. Nothing. Feigning nonchalance I ask, “That’s not an earthquake warning is it?”
“No. It is not.” she says in her formal manner. “Each Tokyo citizen has a phone app warning us of impending earthquakes or tsunamis.”
Gotta love technology!
Now, if I was in my 20s I would have found these sirens exciting. Thrilling. Something to write about on ‘WasteBook’. However, as I grow older, I have an inexorable sense of my own doom and self-preservation. I realise, I have survived in this world so far by the skin of my teeth. But here’s my point: Without my guide I might well have been running around the streets like Mad King George. So, at my age, being guided around in a foreign city (even on the first day) it’s something to consider. In my 20s I would have scoffed at the thought. I’d be cycling around the Himalayas (prefer Holland) or trekking through the jungles of Thailand, in thongs and a floppy hat. But these days, my priorities are toilet stops and Devonshire Teas. Indeed, my wife and I will eat scones silently, tacitly acknowledging the quality of the cream. “These people know their cream,” she nods, chewing. I’m impressed with their jam,” I wink.
The Imperial Gardens in Tokyo are one of Japan's finest gardens
The Imperial Gardens and Edo Castle are de rigueur for any Tokyo day-tripper. After the capitulation of the Shogunate, the Meiji was restored and Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu removed from Edo Castle. Leaving Kyoto Imperial Palace in 1868 (Kyoto was originally the capital of Japan) the emperor returned and renamed his new digs Tokei Castle. Originally, Tokyo was called Tokei, leading to much confusion on FaceBook.
After our tour of the gardens, our guide takes us to the famous Tokyo Fish Market. Here we trawl the local stall holders, where I find sardine ice-cream with whale sprinkles. Indeed, it’s rather disturbing to see whale meat for sale. I suppose these are the Moby’s that didn’t survive all that rigorous scientific testing!
This smiling shopkeeper tries to sell us her whale meat
Everybody is friendly in Tokyo. Indeed, it’s the ideal place for senior travel as there is literally no crime. I was stunned when upon sitting in a café, a Japanese lady left her handbag open on the table next to me to use the banjo (Japanese slang for W.C.). Moreover, Japanese go out of their way to help you. People will come of out of shops, wiping their hands on a tea-towel, just to chaperon you five blocks to your destination. I also admire their work ethic. In Akasaka, I saw a white-gloved council worker clean a bin like a shrine. And every taxi is laboratory clean, with drivers wearing ties. We can learn a lot from the Japanese.
After the fish market our guide takes us to a small Tokyo house (huge by Tokyo standards) to learn how to make sushi. With the ubiquity of sushi takeaway in Oz, I’ve never really considered making sushi at home. We remove our shoes and the lady of the household asks a me if I must use the toilet (traditional Japanese loos are on the floor) to sit down. Even for number ones, I think! I bite my bottom lip. I’ll pass (metaphorically – not literally). With my knees I don’t think I could get up again!
We visit a house in Tokyo to learn how to make sushi
Japan is famous for its gardens - as our guide explains
There are a large number of beautiful gardens in Japan. Here are three of the best which are worth seeing: Rikugien, Hamarikyu, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.
Also Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – this is a huge park in Shinjuku consisting of a number of different gardens – French format, British landscape gardens and Japanese gardens.
More information on these gardens can be found here: