A rough start today. I got up at 8:55am, 5 minutes before the 9am mandatory check-out. Just had time to throw on some clothes and rush out the door before they locked everything up. Since the Japanese Sword Museum was pretty close to the hostel (10 minutes away), I decided to start off my day there. Absolutely beautiful swords. I can see why some of them are considered national treasures! As a testimony to the craftsmen who made these swords, some of them were over 600 years old, and they were all perfectly polished, and razor sharp. After the sword museum, I headed for the Ueno Zoo (which was suggested the night before by Paul). The Zoo was really very good. I would venture that it’s the best zoo I’ve ever been in. There were thousands of pigeons in the park outside the zoo. Bought some peanuts to feed them, and they swarmed me. It was pretty neat (pigeons landing on your hands and shoulders to eat peanuts. A good example of the lack of crime in Japan was demonstrated in the Zoo, as families would leave expensive cameras and video gear unattended on the tables as they went for lunch, etc. Even in Vancouver, it would be gone in seconds if left unattended.

Went to Ginza in the early afternoon, and was just leaving the train station when I saw a Plus-System ATM. Used this opportunity to grab more cash . Went to Sony’s H.Q., and played with all of the different devices Sony makes (all are encased in clear plastic, so that you can see the inner workings). I really wanted a Mini-Disc player after that… Back to Shinjuku to buy a cheap camera ($50), and grab some supplies (instant noodles, juice, etc.) for dinner.

After dinner, I was just relaxing and reading some of my pamphlets, when I noticed the following line in one of JR Rail’s pamphlets “Reservations are necessary at the following times … March 21st to April 5th”. It appears that I had unknowingly booked my trip directly over spring break, and all of the school kids were traveling around. Instant panic set in, and I grabbed my coat, and headed back to Shinjuku station, and found a different travel service window to make Shinkansen reservations (I was planning on going to Hiroshima the next day – one of the longer, and busier routes on the Shinkansen). No problem with the ticket agent this time. The entire process took 2 minutes, and I had my reservation ticket. Back at the hostel, I checked to see if I could stay there on the way out of Japan (April 7th-9th). Unfortunately, the Yoyogi hostel is really popular (with good reason), and was booked solid until the 11th of April, so I had to make other plans later.

Part of the reason why Japan seems so expensive is that spending a 500 yen coin (worth around $6.50) doesn’t “feel” like spending $6.50 in Canada. The coin is the size of a $1 coin, so it “feels” like only spending a dollar or so. This was true at the beginning of my trip, however nearing the end, I was getting a feel for the real “worth” of yen.

Also tried Pachinko today. Pachinko, while very interesting, and rather addictive (those little balls are pretty cool), is possibly the most efficient way of separating a foreigner from his/her cash as quickly as possible. I lost $13 in around 5 minutes. Lesson learned (or was it…?)