Monday, October 5, 2009

Midnight Walk

On Friday night I did the craziest thing I've possibly ever done, except for coming to Japan. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do it, but I really wanted to try and give it my all.

Rob and I went on an all-night walk through central Tokyo with a group of 51 people from ICU. The route was Odaiba (the man-made island in Tokyo Bay) through the city centre to the ICU campus in the suburbs to the West.

First we met Chihoko and two of her friends in Musashi Sakai (where we saw one of our teachers!) and then went to Odaiba (お台場) by train for dinner.

We ate at a cheap Italian restaurant chain called Sizeriya (サイゼリヤ) and ate lots of energy food!

Then we met up with the rest of the group at about 9.15pm and paid our Y500 towards the breakfast they were providing back at ICU.

We left at 9.45 and started walking towards the bridge to the mainland (well, as mainland as you can get in Japan).

We took a slight detour from the more direct route and went to the bayside, where we could see the centre, including Tokyo Tower, and the bay with Rainbow Bridge. There were even some ships docked up!

We had our first break here, 90 minutes into the walk.

After the twenty minute break we continued up past Tsukishima, where I went for a job interview last winter, towards Tsukiji and Ginza. And we passed the Sumida River, that I used to live on!

We spotted Tokyo Tower again through the buildings.

When we got to Tsukiji (築地), where the famous fish market is, another of Chihoko's friends joined us. It was about midnight at that point.

We walked past Sushi Zanmai, where I ate twice last year! It was such a nostalgic walk! Every turn was another memory!

After Tsukiji, the route led us to Ginza (銀座), an expensive fashionable shopping district in Chuo-ku (中央区), which is the ward I lived in last year!

We walked right past the Kabukiza theatre (歌舞伎座), where I never went to see a traditional Japanese Kabuki play, but I definitely intend to this time!

We then crossed the second busiest pedestrian in the world, Ginza yon-choume (銀座四丁目). The Western-style building is a French department store called Printemps.

Here's a bit of nostalgia for British things!

How cute is this!?

It wouldn't be Japan without the random Shrines dotted around the city.

We then found ourselves right by Tokyo Tower! Well, "found ourselves" makes it sounds like it didn't take a lot of time, but it took over an hour.

We bought some food from a convenience store and sat down in Shiba Park (芝公園), which surrounds Tokyo Tower. It was about 1.30am and just before we sat down for our second break I felt really sick. A wave of tiredness hit me and I had to sit down and recover. I'm really weird and I do feel quite sick when I get tired, but I knew I had to move past it. I ate some onigiri (rice with fish in the middle wrapped in seaweed - they are my staple lunch at the moment) and drank some iced coffee. I realised that, although it was only 20C, it was quite sweaty and hard to breathe. Then I remembered I'd seen the weather forecast earlier that day - it was 98% humidity!
I felt better after eating and getting some caffeine inside me. We headed for Tokyo Tower, stopping at the toilets first.

We passed right past it, and I remembered visiting last year.

Random dog statues beneath it...

Apparently Tokyo Tower is in it's 50th year now!

The next area we walked through was Roppongi, the home of foreigners out for the evening, and many a sleazy bar and club, and non-sleazy ones too of course.

There was a woman dancing to Poker Face by Lady Gaga outside this bar. No regard for the 50 students staring at her in surprise!

The TGI's where I had my birthday dinner with my family last Spring! Awww!!

We passed Roppongi Hills, a huge shopping centre.

The next area we went to was Shibuya (渋谷). I was really desperate for the toilet, so I was really looking forward to the next break! We walked past this train that had closed for the night.

Shibuya was still busy with traffic, even though it was about 3am.

We didn't go to the famous Hachiko exit of Shibuya station, where the world's busiest pedestrian crossing is, but we passed nearby, on the other side of the train station. But of course, because the last train was about 1am, and the first ones start around 5am, the doors were all locked and the metal grates were down.

After the centre of Shibuya, we stopped in a small park, where there was a toilet! I'd never been so relieved to see a bug-infested public toilet!

A few people were wilting, and a couple fell asleep on the ground, but I was on my fifth iced coffee and felt okay. My legs and feet were starting to hurt quite a bit though! Rob and I had done Soul Run practice after Uni so we were tired and aching to begin with!

It was still really fun, despite the tiredness. I was speaking more Japanese than I had done since I arrived, and meeting the new people was nice.

After twenty minutes break, we got up and continued our, now trudging rather than walking, to Shinjuku to the north.

And then we made it! To Shinjuku! The big halfway point! It was about 3.45am and we were all pretty tired, but energised that we'd made it that far.

We sat down outside the station and relaxed for nearly half an hour.

The group leaders explained that the first Chuo line trains were at about 5am, so people could either wait for them to start, or could continue walking at their own pace to ICU. I had been feeling that I couldn't make it past Shinjuku earlier, as I was really tired and we'd already walked about 20km (12.5 miles). But I knew that I wanted to do it all, and have the experience of walking across Tokyo overnight.

Because we went with the Runners' Club, lots of them ran the last half to ICU. I thought that was madness! But one of them said that because running using different muscles to walking, it's actually a relief to run it.

So Rob, Chihoko and her friends, and I all set off at a little past 4am and followed the road out of the city centre, past the Skycraper District, towards the suburbs.

About an hour later the sun started to come up and we started seeing people (people who had slept!!) going to work or school, which I thought was crazy as it was Saturday morning.

It was about 6am, following the same one road to ICU, when we all started to really feel it. I felt sick and sweaty and tired. Some of our group were really flagging and were seriously considering going to the nearest station and giving up. And, honestly, so was I. I felt awful!
We stopped at McDonald's and I had a coffee. Chihoko nearly fell asleep on the table, and the only one of us who seemed to have energy was Rob. And I really think it would have been much more difficult to do it without Rob. He's like a bubbling pot of high spirits.

I thought about it seriously, but probably not that lucidly, and decided that the disappointment in myself if I gave up would be much worse than the physical pain of walking the final 11km (7 miles).

And the others seemed to feel the same. So we set off, not with new-found energy, but with new-found determination.

And it was really difficult. Maybe one of the most difficult things I've ever done! But I realised it was all in the mind. I knew I could do it, and my body would answer to my mind. (I know that sounds really weird, but I think it's the only way I actually managed it.)

We passed this cemetary about 3km along the road after McDonalds.

The cheerful chatter was long gone. There was only the occassional moan of pain or discomfort, or 殺してくれ (please kill me!) After 10 hours walking, we were all just focussed on making our feet move in a forwards direction.

When our guides eventually told us that we only had 3km (1.8 miles) to go, it was literally like music to our ears! We were so close! We continued with new enthusiasm. Which was then drowned by a downpour. I had my umbrella luckily, but Rob just had a thin coat and Chihoko just had a small towel. I shared my umbrella with her and we tried our best.

We were all pretty miserable then. Even Rob looked downcast and in pain. My feet suddenly started to hurt really badly. Just in that last half an hour. It was all I could do to keep them pounding the concrete.

And then, as the rain started to clear, we saw a sign to ICU! We all broke out in huge smiles, and would have ran if that wouldn't have resulted in ambulances being called.

But, curse ICU for being so nice, even once we were on campus, it took over 10 minutes to get to the right building. 10 minutes doesn't sound too long, but after 11 hours, it really is.

Oh, and then the relief! The relief! And the happiness! And the pride! My emotions were all over the place when we walked in and everyone clapped and gave us big bowls of hot soup. I was so happy. It was all worth it, just for that. To be able to say that we'd done it. We'd walked 40km (25 miles) in 11 hours overnight, and seen so much of central Tokyo as we did it. And for me, as a pretty non-sporty, non-physical person, it was a great achievement. I'll be proud of that for the rest of my life.

Rob and I got the train home, and promptly went to bed at about 10am. We woke up at 5pm or so, and went out for a celebratory dinner with Chihoko and her friend in Kichijoji. I couldn't believe we'd done it!

And actually, several days later, I still can't really believe it. But I know I'm happy about it. Really really happy.

They might do it again next year, and Rob's really keen to do it for a second time. I think I'll have to see...

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