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Destinations

24 hours in Tokyo – or how I quit smoking

FLYING BLUE

On my 50th birthday, in April 2013, a friend and senior purser with KLM gave me the best present ever: a ride to any destination in the world, my choice. I didn’t have to think long. It had to be Tokyo.

We just had to wait for the destination to fit into her schedule. By the time my chance to go came up, rest time between flights had been cut to one day. “Do you still want to go?”, my friend asked. Of course I did.

Flying 22 hours to Narita and back for one jetlagged day in a major metropolis? That’s my idea of fun. Besides, it was the perfect opportunity to quit a nasty habit.

I smoked my last cigarette outside Schiphol Airport, two hours before take off.

IN FLIGHT SERVICE

The flight was fantastic. They even let me into the cockpit for the landing at Narita. Strapped in and headphones on, I listened to our pilots communicating with traffic control while I watched them land that huge 747 and find their way to the gate. I stayed up there in the cockpit until the last passenger had left the plane, completely in awe.

The food was pretty good, too.

NARITA

Straight to bed after arrival, to try and beat the jetlag.

YOYOGI PARK

The next day, we took the bus into Tokyo and made our way to Yoyogi Park. We were looking for the Meiji Shrine which actually turned out to be ‘next door’. Yoyogi park itself was more or less deserted this Friday morning, but for a few photographers around these trees. Cherry blossom season had not quite started yet, but these Ume plum trees blossom early.

MEIJI SHRINE

Right next to Yoyogi park you’ll find the Meiji Shrine. I was most impressed by the stack of huge barrels of sake.

HEIROKU SUSHI

We walked up Omotesando, Tokyo’s Champs Elysees, in search of a kaiten-sushi place recommended to us by the Captain of the flight. It wasn’t too difficult to find. The chef had a sense of humour which he unleashed on an unfortunate group of Korean kids, while winking at us. Fortunately, the kids were oblivious.

ZENKŌJI

Just a few steps away from Omotesando, in the middle of a residential area, we found the quiet Zenkōji temple and cemetery.

AOYAMA & OMOTESANDO

An odd mixture of hipster posh and the light decay of what looked like council flats.

TOKYO STATION

I loved all the little underground shops, selling mostly food and sweets I’d never seen before.

ADS AND PACKAGING

Since I had so little time in the city, I had hung my Olympus Pen from my neck and shot mostly without thinking.. Easy to do with its 17mm wide angle lens. I think it worked out well.

SHIBUYA

Where else to end the day but the famous Shibuya crossing? Upstairs from the Starbucks café, we got a decent view of madness central.

SAYONARA

And that was the end of my 24 hours in Tokyo and my smoking habit. I dropped my last half pack in the bin in my room at the Radisson Hotel in Chiba. I haven’t touched a ciggie since.