Well, Redwing asked for them. And a few others. I got into the habit some years ago of sending emails home to people when I was away. Originally it was just my dad, who didn't travel much. Then it grew. He died, but by then there was an expectation. Interestingly, now that the girls are older they have started asking to read some of the emails from trips they went on when they were younger. Tokyo I’ve been remiss. A few people have messaged me asking for my smartarse musings on Japan now that I’m here, so I thought I had better knock-up a few emails. I'll skew these for you, Steve, because you’re going there soon with your gang. It’s a bit 'random' to use teen parlance. Not to be cool, but because I've been tardy. I’ll even try and bung in a few photos. I’m a week into the trip, so it's a good opportunity to think back over it. So, backing up a week and a half.... Lisa and Lulu the 16 year old left Sydney for Hanoi before Mimi and I - it's a long and slightly annoying story. We were all meeting up at the airport in Hanoi three days later at midnight to fly to Japan together. What could go wrong with that plan - or 'Japlan' as Lulu has called the whole thing. The day before Lisa and Lulu left, I laid out on the studio table four plastic sleeves. I wrote each of our names on a sleeve and listed on the sleeve the contents of the sleeve with permanent marker. I put inside each sleeve a printout of everyone’s electronic tickets, visas, insurance details, passport and hotel bookings. I handed Lisa the plastic sleeves for her and Lulu and watched silently as Lisa immediately took everything out of the sleeves and distributed the bits into various places in her luggage. It was a proud dad moment when Mimi and I eventually left Sydney three days after Lisa and Lulu. Sure, Mimi has had a few wins in the last year. She got her drivers’ licence, went well in her final year of high school and topped a subject, wrangled early entry into the university course she wanted and was presented with her Queens Guide Badge by the state governor at Government House. But nothing could have made me more proud than when she hoiked her backpack onto the scales at the check-in counter at the airport and the weight came in at 9.9 kilos. Imagine an 18 year old girl heading overseas to a winter climate with so little stuff. Of course, as a consequence it seems she doesn’t really have enough warm clothes and if she gets a bit smelly toward the end of the trip we'll know she cut a few other corners with her packing. But 9.9 kilos was pretty impressive. Amazingly, the four of us met up successfully at midnight in Hanoi airport and flew overnight to Narita airport in Tokyo. It was not what I expected. Sure, the airport was huge. I expected that. But it was a bit tatty - sort of like they lost interest and stopped improving it in the 80s. I was expecting it to be much more high tech with robots whizzing around, but it was tired like most airports, and manned by people who looked pretty unenthusiastic and disappointed in the direction their life had taken them. Everything worked, though. And the signage was in English as a concession to one of their major tourist markets, so it was easy to navigate. We hung around the airport for a while waiting for two members of the Fitz family, our occasional travelling companions, to arrive. Suzie and Bella were coming in from Sydney via Melbourne. Two days later, Fitz member three was due in from France after a six week student exchange, and member four - dad James - was coming in from Seoul later that night on a circuitous route necessitated by the use of frequent flyer points. What fortunate people we are. Seeing as how there were initially six of us at Narita airport, Lisa had the brilliant idea to get a people mover with a driver to pick us up. The cost per person wasn’t much more than the fast train and we were delivered to our hotel door in Shinjuku. Tokyo is of course huge and busy and we were staying in Shinjuku, one of the busier bits. But everything was orderly. Nobody seemed to get angsty in the traffic and pedestrians all waited for the lights to change to work. Even if there were no cars coming, they waited. And waited. Also waiting were the taxis - invariably ageing Toyota Crowns with drivers wearing ties and white gloves. They seemed to be allowed to park anywhere and often lurked near pedestrian crossings. The drivers can open the back doors with a lever beside their seat and when they see a likely fare walking towards them, their door swings slowly open like a Venus Flytrap. Taxis are not too expensive and a good way to make short trips with a few people, but the train system is fabulous. And huge. There is a plastic card like the Opal in Sydney that can recharged, or single tickets can be bought (from machines with instructions in English). People told me before we went to take note of which end of the train to travel in for a specific destination and which exit to use. It wasn't until I was there that I realised what sage advice that was. If you get out of the wrong end of the train and start heading along corridors and up escalators to the surface, you can end up a long way from where you wanted to be. On the day when I went to the fish markets, I caught the train back to Shinjuku and didn’t pay attention. I figured I would just head to the surface and recognise where I was and be okay. I got to the surface and nothing looked familiar so I walked for a few hundred metres and around a corner. Still nothing familiar. I found a subway entry and headed back underground. I saw a sign for the West Concourse and walked for five minutes and headed up to the surface again. Then when I couldn’t work out where I was, I headed back down again. I was standing looking at the station layout on a big wall map trying to work out where I went wrong when an American woman walked up to me and asked in a slightly brittle voice if I could help her find her way to her hotel. I said, 'Maybe not. I've been down here since yesterday.' I just asked google and it said Shinjuku station has over 200 exits and 3.5 million people go through it every day. On one day the week before last, I was half a dozen of those 3.5 million people passing through Shinjuku station as I criss-crossed it. Tokyo is a two week city at least, and we were there for only five days. But we packed plenty in thanks to Lisa and her diligent research and the fact that the girls are now 16 and 18 and better at walking. We went to Shibuya and that crazy intersection that is the Tokyo equivalent of Times Square. Lulu made the observation that some of the streets around it are like sideshow alley at the Easter Show. We went to Team Lab - very good. Immersive sound and light art. You'll need to take the gang there for sure, Steve. And we went to the Mori Art Museum. It’s at the top of a very high building. Great exhibition - called something like Catastrophes and the Power of Art. Not very cheery, but Japan has had a few catastrophes. It wasn’t just Japanese catastrophes, though. There was a video work from New York where an artist set up a camera that took one frame of the New York skyline every five or so seconds. He set that camera up a couple of days before those planes went into the World Trade Centre. That artist would not have set out to capture a catastrophe, but he would have been pleased and horrified that he did exactly that. It would have been an awkward boost to his career and now nearly 20 years on his video is still doing the rounds. I wonder if he did much else? That building also has a viewing floor, which is great. We could see Mount Fuji, which really is a perfectly shaped volcano. Hopefully it’s never going to do something catastrophic because it’s pretty close to Tokyo. There is also a bar on that floor called the Moon Bar - great spot for a drink at sunset. We ticked off the Golden Gai area - a few impossibly narrow streets with little 10 seater bars in old two storey buildings nestled up against eachother. I’m sure the space downstairs used to function as a waiting room and upstairs a working girl did her thing until prostitution was outlawed in the 1960s. Of course we went and had a stickybeak at the New York Bar that stared in Lost in Translation, but there were eight of us and we felt a bit out of place. The next floor down was the Peak Bar Lounge where we had a few drinks and somehow ordered $50 worth of nuts. The girls are still gobsmacked at that. I am a bit, too - perhaps more at the fact that I don’t think we finished them. A lot of Tokyo is all about the food. I suspect average Japanese people rarely entertain at home - their kitchens and flats would be too small. So they meet up and eat out. Many people also get prepared food on the way home for dinner. Food is everywhere and it’s easy to spend a lot, or not much at all. We tested the theory about the food halls in department stores and ventured into Isetan in Shinjuku - there is an underground exit from the station. It’s apparently the best of the food halls. It truly was amazing and made the David Jones Food Hall seem like a corner store. It would have easily been twenty times the size and had everything imaginable - and some things impossible to imagine. There were fresh and cooked foods, a bakery, butcher, sweets, and the seafood area was beautiful. Everything looked fantastic. Behind the seafood counters were people in ties finely slicing fish. I bought some mixed cooked seafood to eat and was able to identify two of the three things I selected. The third one I suspect had resided in a shell and probably didn’t realise it was a food. I had a few too many of them and didn’t much feel like dinner. Tipping is a tricky thing. It’s not done in Japan, apparently, despite the fact that they try so hard with their service. On our second night we went to dinner at a small local restaurant and they were very accommodating. I paid cash and when the waiter brought the change back I said he could keep it – about $8 worth. He looked confused. We had one of those awkward exchanges where neither of us was sure what the other was saying, but eventually he walked back to kitchen counter with the change held out in front of him on a plate. He carefully piled the coins up on the counter and the waiter and two blokes from the kitchen stood looking at them not saying a word. I’m not sure the Japanese particularly like tourists, they certainly don’t court them like people in other countries do, but they are solicitous and very polite and helpful. I got the feeling tourists from China are their least favourite, though I suspect there is some lingering resentment of Americans because of that whole bomb thing. Americans are also loudly proprietorial in most places, but particularly ones where they had a win. That probably grates on the Japanese who tend to be more circumspect. Australians are just clumsy. The Japanese are mostly polite to eachother, too. I have seen no antisocial behaviour at all. There is no graffiti, no rubbish and no ********s. People are not allowed to smoke on the streets, either. Goodness knows where young people go to misbehave, but it’s nowhere we have been. Drivers all behave, too - our taxi driver today had a TV on his dash that he had half an eye on while he was driving us across town. Try doing that in Sydney traffic. The absence of rubbish is an odd thing. On one of our first days in Tokyo, Mimi bought some fast food and ate it walking down the street - something we found out later is not done. Then she looked about for somewhere to throw out the wrapping. There was no bin in sight. Without exaggeration, she carried that rubbish for over an hour. I was beginning to think she might need to take it back to Vietnam with us and toss it on the street. We finally found a bin next to a drink vending machine. That is a requirement, apparently. If you provide a vending machine, you need to supply a bin beside it. And we learnt later that shops are obliged to take back from people the wrappings from the food that they have sold them.