We woke up for an early breakfast then used the subway to get to Kyoto station for the shinkansen back to Tokyo. With a 2 week Japan Rail pass you aren’t allowed to use the fastest “Nozomi” service which now makes up most of the trains, but instead can get the “Hikari” every 30 minutes. This still travels at around 170mph and just stops a few more times. I watched the countryside fly by and tried to spot Mt Fuji which wasn’t too hard. Sadly it had the typical layer of cloud covering the peak.
We got into Tokyo just before midday and headed back to the same hotel we’d used at the start of the trip. Whereas Tokyo felt very unfamiliar just a couple of weeks before, it now felt like returning home. We knew dinner would probably be a little awkward so we wanted a big lunch and had the amazing idea of trying to find the same katsukura curry chain in Tokyo and there was one at a department store in Shinjuku within walking distance. Even though we’d had it the night before, more tonkatsu was amazing and we both had bigger portions.
From Shinjuku we headed over to Ryogoku where the Kokukigan sumo stadium sits and made our way inside having obtained English lists of the competitors and the rankings for the day. The tickets weren’t cheap but we had excellent seats on the upper level with a great view and the spectacle of sumo turned out to be genuinely enjoyable, much more than either of us really expected. The bouts were short and involved a lot of ceremony but it was always a powerful and exciting contest. The fighters improved as the time went on and as the quality improved, so did the amount of time spent on pre-match build up.
The funniest part of the sumo was how men would do a lap around the small ring holding very traditional style advertisement banners for major companies. I saw one fight where both wrestlers toppled out of the ring at the same time and after a length deliberation the judges decided they should fight again. We also saw several wrestlers exit the ring at speed straight into the crowd which sits very nearby. I had to wonder how many people get hurt this way. The experience was well worth our time and really made the last day in Tokyo into something to remember.
Afterwards we headed back to Shinjuku and grabbed some bento for dinner before packing up ready for an airport transfer so early the hotel couldn’t help us with breakfast.
At least on the flight home I haven’t had to worry about staying up as long and being immediately ready for sightseeing so I can enjoy a few movies. Turns out the new Robocop was better than I expected, Divergent was doing OK until the second half and The Angriest Man in Brooklyn said it was a comedy and then ended up with Robin William’s character trying to kill himself and it all got a bit emotional. There’s just enough time left to think about watching Life of Brian which I found in the archive before we land.
I don’t think Claire and I have ever been so quick to decide we want to return to a country to see more of it. The food which was a worry before the trip turned out to be a highlight. The sights were better than expected across the board and the transport runs so well that we rarely had cause to stress. Above all else we found the people to be incredibly kind and hospitable. Strangers stopped for us (and other western tourists) to help them with ticket machines or if they saw us looking at a map with a little confusion and many people tried to use what English they knew to talk to us and ask us about the trip.
Arigatou gozaimashita and sayonara Japan. Ja mata ne!