This was such a fun night in Tokyo!  We had read about this district near central Tokyo, with laneways lined with interesting restaurants and bars.  We chose a casual, small restaurant with shared seating around a bar.  There were set menus so we were about to make a wild guess as we like most Japanese food + we can’t speak/read Japanese (except for super basic greetings etc. as we learn in all countries) when the young woman beside me asked if we would like her to translate.  After that we had a lovely evening together even though her friend had no English and was a bit shy.  The young woman, who could speak some English, did a great job of including her and Tony in our conversation – teaching her some English and us a little more Japanese.  

We arrived in Tokyo from Sydney (a week long stopover before another 7 weeks in Europe), we stayed centrally and used their fast and efficient trains to explore the city.  Easy to independently move around the inner city without being able to read/speak Japanese – there are many signs in English too.  Many younger people, especially those in business attire, can speak some English and are happy to help if you have a simple question, eg.  “Excuse me” (in Japanese…forgotten word now!) & then launch into English eg. “Where is the subway station?”.  We got that tip from an experienced traveller & it has helped us many times when in countries where English isn’t spoken often.  We learn basic polite/friendly greetings before we arrive in a country even when English is spoken by most eg. in the CBD areas of German cities.  Most people are very helpful and even help with language tips/pronunciations (something that can be irritating if fellow Aussies correct our pronunciation – especially when they know little or no more than us!) but is usually done in a very respectful way when we’re overseas as many enjoy practising their English too.  We’ve found that having a go at a new language is one of the really fun things about independent travel, especially on trains as there seem to be many opportunities if you stay open & friendly but also respect others’ own private space & need for quiet times.  When travelling with children, parents/carers can model the “reading” of social situations so that kids can see how respectful communications can be initiated, if the time/place is appropriate and safe.

Another highlight of our time in Tokyo was Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – not far from our hotel (Hilton Tokyo…loved indoor pool there!).  Check the opening times of these gardens as we found it closed one day even though our hotel reception said it was open.  The next day we had more luck – see photos.  We also did a fabulous cooking course –  Uzuki – with Emi…she’s a very talented cook (chef in a former life).  Travelling by local bus to her house in the suburbs was so interesting too and she accompanied us to the bus stop (5 min from her house/business) for our return journey to the city.  I’ll post more photos soon.

We continued onto Kyoto by fast train.  Highly recommended!