January 4th 2019:
Rough night – very hot even with just a sheet over me. Kept it pulled up tight – every now and then something let out a loud ‘squeak!’ in the room, I have no idea what it was. Lots of wind and rain overnight.
Walked the village in the morning, it was really something – low coral walls, and traditional Ryukyu single storey architecture has been carefully preserved to show how life was always lived here, and to bring in decent tourist income. From the arrival of the first ferry, to the leaving of the last, the lanes are trafficked by cyclists and also by water buffalo drawn passenger carts. The local guide tells of the history place, and entertains the passengers with shamisen playing and traditional folk songs. The buffalo need almost no instruction by the driver – they could walk their route in their sleep, and indeed some appeared to be doing so.
Since the tower was in a bad state of repair it couldn’t be climbed, but for 100 yen a nearby café allowed you to climb to their observation terrace – a fine view of the island. Some excellent examples of shisa guardians on the rooftops.
Decided it was time to change plans. Headed back to Ishigaki. Cancelled the Iriomote stay and car – though the sun had come out today, some rough days were forecast. Plus my forearm looked like one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s – didn’t really want to risk more bites.
Afternoon bus tour of Ishigaki, stopping off at some sightseeing spots. First stop was an amazingly decorated memorial (and actually a grave) of some Chinese people who died here in 1852. The Toujin Grave and Kannondo Temple commemorates Chinese labourers (in reality, little more than slaves) who rebelled and attempted to escape on Ishigaki, many were shot.
Didn’t realise that it included a glass bottomed boat ride off the most popular spots, Kabira bay, where we even saw giant clams and sea turtles on the reef. Some lovely views of the island as we travelled around. Then Blue Cabin again, and plan for flight to Tokyo tomorrow.
After getting off the bus, found a little izakaya with good local beef gyoza, and Elton John’s greatest hits – love this country.
January 5th 2019:
Checked out of Blue Cabin, and went next door to Blue Café for breakfast. Didn’t really have anything planned so decided to head to the airport early – couple of hours to kill there so caught up on writing this nonsense. Vanilla Air flight to Tokyo Narita.
Got a special discount ticket on the plane – Keisei Skyliner Express to Keisei Ueno, plus 3 days of Tokyo subway, 3200 yen. Bargain. Was staying at the APA Hotel Asakusa Ekimae, so plumbed that into Google Maps and away I went. I thought it odd that the hotel was right next to Tawarimachi station not Asakusa Station (station = ekimae), but was only 1 stop along so close.
That’s when the evening got weird. First thing was the hotel’s ‘self service’ check in desks – a huge Wacom touchscreen display which as I recalled didn’t work too well last year. It hasn’t improved, every terminal had a staff member helping guests. So they couldn’t find my reservation so I showed the guy my Expedia confirmation. He gets all apologetic, and gives me a printed map – showing that I was at the wrong APA Hotel, the APA Hotel Asakusa Tawaramachi-Ekimae. Pretty similar huh? And any search for APA Hotel Asakusa Ekimae only came up with this one. Turns out the one I’m in (close to the actual Asakusa station), doesn’t exist on Google Maps – even though it’s been open 3 months now.
AHA – further searching shows the problem. When entering the name of the hotel, Google Maps presents its usual list of results. Default one it jumps to is the Tawaramatchi one. The actual one I needed was fourth one down – yes, there are actually 4 hotels called APA Hotel Asakusa <something>. Nightmare.
So one stop on the Metro and a 5 minute walk later, I’m at the correct hotel – and they still can’t find my reservation at first. Their first try was to scan my passport – no match. Then put in Peter Kavanagh in the name search – no luck. Gave him my Expedia confirmation number – still no luck! Guy had to go and check another system, then come back to carefully enter Peter P Kavanagh – which finally worked. Turns out it needed an exact match to my name on Expedia – no partial matches would work. Who designed this thing???
By now it’s nearly 9pm and I’m thirsty. Asahi Sky Bar at their HQ was 5 mins away so head there – it’s bloody shut early! Last chance – head to Campion ale. Success! Golden ale just the ticket. Then early night before an early start for Tokyo Tower tomorrow.