Countdown / by Deborah Clague

In one week, I will be in one of my favourite cities in the world – the megalopolis known as Tokyo. I am beyond excited. With so much to see and do, I will not face a moment of boredom. These are the things I am most looking forward to: 

FOOD

Tokyo's culinary scene is second to none. The best chefs on the planet congregate here to experiment and finesse dishes with both regional and international inspiration. While it can get pricey dining out, there are a lot of alternatives for the frugal traveller such as 7-11. Yes, 7-11. Japanese convenience stores are amazing! As living space in the capital is at a premium, a lot of apartments don't offer much in regards to a kitchen area. The corner store meets this need offering all manner of take-out dishes for the busy salaryman (and thrifty tourist) with no oven, fridge or freezer available. From fresh sushi to spaghetti to stir-fried octopus – which I unwittingly bought the first time I visited the country – there is something for all tastebuds and I can attest to it actually being good. 

Areas where I plan on actually indulging include savouring authentic Kobe beef, exploring Japanese café culture and experiencing their (in)famous robot restaurant: 

DAISO

We've already established that I'm cheap. So it's no surprise that one of my favourite stores is Daiso, the Japanese equivalent of North American dollar stores but with much, MUCH cooler merchandise. They are often multi-level, easy to navigate and contain everything you didn't think you needed in life. Like a banana-cutter. Or a silicone pot holder in the shape of a crocodile. Or a seaweed puncher

GETTING HIGH

At 634m, Tokyo Skytree is the world's tallest self-supporting tower (and second only to the 829m Burj Khalifa in Dubai for tallest structure in the world). An alternative, free (!) option that comes with a great 360 degree view of the never-ending city is the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Although at only 202m, this doesn't seem quite as spectacular. I plan on heading to the top of both. 

View from the 45th floor of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (2009 ©Deborah Clague).

View from the 45th floor of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (2009 ©Deborah Clague).

GETTING HIGHER

The entire purpose of my holiday is to check off an item on a bucket list I created last summer: climb Mount Fuji on my late father's birthday. In preparation, I've been training, purchasing appropriate gear from hiking boots to stocking up on blister patches, and have been thoroughly reading up on what to expect. Which, at times, has had me questioning my decision to attempt this feat. 

Physically, this may be the most difficult thing I ever do.

Spiritually, it will probably be the most fulfilling. 

ONSEN

If I'm not brought to the hospital (or morgue) because of a heart attack, then I plan on spending the days after my Mount Fuji climb at a Japanese onsen (or hot spring). But not just any onsen. In the Odaiba area of Tokyo, there is an onsen "theme park". One can spend the day pampering themselves in a multitude of ways from traditional aquatic baths of all temperatures (both indoor and outdoor) to silk and sand treatments to something called "fish therapy". Fuck it. I'm doing it all. Because if I can climb the highest mountain in Japan at over 3,776m, then I deserve it. 

I must confess though, part of the training I've been doing has been for this... 

As it is expected that visitors be fully nude when visiting a traditional Japanese onsen, mentally this may be the most difficult thing I ever do.