Japan – 2024: Day Seven

The time has come to return to the UK and end my Japanuary adventure in the Land Of The Rising Sun. The last post saw me getting in to bed earlyish (about 1am) and setting my alarm for 5am.

Wake Up.

My alarm went off and I jumped out of bed, eager to not be late, headed to the bathroom, brushed my teeth with the disposable bamboo toothbrushes and little tube of toothpaste, had a wash and prepped to carry all of my gear to the station for the trip to the airport.

Hang on, wait a minute, I don’t remember turning my alarm off. How did that happen? Back into the bedroom and I look at my phone to see why I hadn’t cancelled the alarm before it stopped, and it was 3:15am. I had dreamt my alarm went off. Well what a numpty.

I thought about getting back into bed for a while but didn’t want to risk hitting a big slumber and then missing my train and subsequent flights so thought about the options available to me. There was no point heading to the airport too early as there’s nothing to do there, the trains aren’t running until 5am anyway so I’d not have a way to get there.

I had an extra bag to carry which meant I’d be loaded down a bit, one was my main case weighing around 23kg, the camera backpack which weighed over 10kg and also my new Kangol sports rucksack which had about 5kg of stuff within it. I figured that a good plan would be to walk the main case and the Kangol bag to Shinjuku station, leaving them secure in the coin lockers, then wander back to the hotel with my camera and visit Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane, or Piss Alley). There might be some interesting images to be captured at 4am in the morning, so I left my camera backpack in the hotel room and strode off towards Shinjuku Station.

To The Station

Once there I saw a few drunk locals who were having trouble walking, or even standing. One guy fell to the floor inside the doors of the station and then sat there until he sobered up or got moved on. I found the coin lockers before the turn to Platform 14/15 which would later take me on the Yamanote Line to Hamamatsucho where I could then transfer to the Monorail to Haneda.

Unable to Stand at 4:30am, Bob Griffiths

The coin lockers have a screen on the front, on which you could select language and I then proceeded to use some of my balance on the Suica Card (On my iPhone wallet) to pay for the 700yen fee to keep the bag within. I used a 5 x 100 yen coins to pay for the second locker as the kangol pack wouldn’t fit in with the case. After ensuring all was locked and secure I checked my Leica Q2 settings and headed off to Omoide Yokocho.

Coin Lockers in Shinjuku East Concourse, Bob Griffiths

Taking The Piss

Omoide Yokocho is known as Memory Lane or Piss Alley, owing to the way it looks like it belongs in the past and had people urinating in the street from the many bars and izakayas that line the sides. In actual fact the lane was partially destroyed when the Shinjuku station was redeveloped in the 1960’s and then again by a large fire in 1999. It still retains the atmosphere of the old post WWII days but with less urine. It was 4:30am and I was ambling along minding my own business with a camera in hand and most of the bars and restaurants appeared to be closed.

I was lining up a shot down the lane when a stumbling, drunken man headed towards me, I didn’t feel threatened at all and as he got closer he looked at me with some confusion, eventually asking me in his version of the English language where I was from, I told him and we had a very concise chat about England then he mumbled to me “One drink” and as beckoning me to follow him. Hmm, no thanks, I’m due to be flying soon so thanks anyway but no thanks. “Arigato Gozaimasu” I stumbled with in my version of the Japanese language. Other people took the shortcut through this lane to wherever they were going too and I tried silhouetting a few against the road way in the background through the entrance to the alleyway.

New Friend in Memory Lane, Bob Griffiths

As I was standing still waiting for a group of three drunk guys to stumble further into the alleyway, they split up, two going off ahead leaving the third looking like he was desperate for a wee. He was, he was smashed and dancing around holding himself to prevent peeing his trousers when he pulled out a set of keys and fumbled with them in the lock to the doors of the Toilets that are now prevalent on the alleyway. Here he was, pissed, about to piss himself in the middle of Piss Alley. The stars seldom align like this, it must have been a sign. A sign for the toilet obviously.

As I moved on and walked past the Albatross Bar the chap from earlier saw me and came out to get me to come in the bar for “one drink”, I think he just wanted to talk to a foreigner for a bit and he was hammered so he thought it was a good idea. With me due to get back to the hotel, pick up my camera pack and then check out of the hotel before heading back to the station I decided against a quick drink. Mainly because I don’t drink, and I don’t know this bar or the dude and need to get on the plane. It might have been funny if I’d gone in the bar and got hammered on sake then missed my flight home. Might have been, but probably not.

Check Out Time

After a few photos here it was back to the Hotel Gracery to get my gear and check out. A few photos of the room and a selfie in the lift before I headed out to the station.

Training Day

I couldn’t believe it was 5am in the morning and there were as many people on the roads and streets as there was on the Thursday night. It seemed like the shift change had just happened, young people from clubs and bars, either working there or guests there were all headed home. I picked up my bags from the coin lockers and then wheeled the case and carried my two back packs up onto the Yamanote line to Hamamatsucho, as I was on this train there were several people who were blind drunk. One sat opposite me was clutching a boxed model of Tanjiro Kamado, from Demon Slayer Anime cartoon. He dropped it at one point so I picked it up off the floor and placed it on his lap where he cuddled it again. One of the other passengers commented that I was kind, and I said that we’d all been there..

A bit further up the carriage was another young man, sat on the floor with his back against the seat, legs completely stretched out across the gangway. One fellow passenger walked over to him, picked him up , popped him up on the seat and checked he was ok before moving on to sit down with his friends. That wouldn’t happen in the London Underground I don’t think.


Once I’d changed onto the monorail at Hamamatsucho and returned to the Haneda airport terminal 3 I found my way to the Ninja WiFi desk and found a huge queue of people waiting there. I hoped that this wasn’t a queue to drop off the wifi systems so I strolled to the front and found a letter box in a curtain for the devices to be dropped off into. The queue had been for people waiting to pick up a pocket wifi device, thank heavens. I was originally bricking it, thinking that I’d end up forgetting to drop it off and realise only once back home. With that done I headed to the check in desks in departures. I eventually found what I was after and went through the process of checking myself and bags in using the automated terminals, with some assistance from a friendly member of staff.

I headed up to departures to make my way into the shops to see if they had any souvenirs I could find for my wife as I’d not yet seen anything , other than the Hokusai t-shirt on day one. I found a pair of tea cups that were traditionally made and decorated in a lovely little box so I bought these and placed them carefully in my bag.

Ideal Combo, Bob Griffiths

Gate Mistake

Then I checked the sign for the gate and it was gate 146 so off I headed. I found a seat by the gate and sat down to charge up my iPhone ready for the mammoth journey home. Another Brit sat down near me and we started chatting about where we’d both been and what he’d enjoyed etc. He said he’d been in the Universal Studios in Tokyo but didn’t find it that great. During the chat he stood up and went off to check the gate, then came back saying there was plenty of time yet. I looked at my watch and thought that there wasn’t masses of time left, so I asked him where he was flying back into and he said Heathrow. At this point I figured out I must have been at the wrong gate. I checked again on my phone and had a text message from Air France saying that the boarding was closing and I’d need to go to gate 145 to board. Bloody hell, what an idiot.

I got to the gate, with three people behind me, so I wasn’t the last. Then down the tunnel and onto the plane, turning right to head to economy only to find the plane was virtually full up, everyone was already in and settled down. I think I came close to missing this flight, and I would have had a hard time explaining it.. Doh.

Haneda Goodbye, Bob Griffiths

On Board

I sat in my window seat with a young man next to me on my left and then in the aisle seat next to him was a Japanese woman. The fella sat next to me was a US Army Military Policeman who had a girlfriend in Japan and was extolling the benefits of having a Japanese wife. “She does everything for me, the washing the cleaning the shopping and everything” Hmm, not exactly an enlightened point of view but at least they were both happy.

The flight back to Charles De Gaulle appeared to go by quicker than the outbound flight even if we did have to fly around Russia. I watched three films, Anatomy Of A Fall, Past Lives and another that I can’t remember now. All films were good and I managed to grab a few winks of sleep. I dropped my iPhone down the side of the seat at one point, as I was taking a photo through the window so I had to call over the steward. Once the two passengers in my row were asked to stand up and step into the aisle, I was able to reach down the side and find it with no issues. The steward was very pleased that I’d found it and that it wasn’t going to burst into flames in an unreachable part of the plane.

The journey was fine and once we’d landed at Paris CDG I was going through security when they made me remove every item from my camera rucksack, each lens, each camera and other item. It took ages, the same as on the way out and I was a bit worried I’d miss my connection back to Birmingham.

Sunset Flight, Bob Griffiths

After being transported from the gate by a bendy bus onto my last flight of the day in Paris CDG, I was bound for Birmingham (BHX) and hoped that my bags would arrive in the correct location at the correct time too. As we came into Birmingham at around 5pm it was cloudy, wet and foggy. The wind must have been a bit feisty too as the plane was buffeted around a little as we descended to the runway.

Tidying up my belongings and saying goodbye to a nice elderly lady I’d been sat next to, I grabbed my camera gear from the overhead locker and disembarked. Down towards the arrivals and baggage reclaim, through the border control point with no issues and then pick up my bags. Yay they’re both here. I would have been double annoyed if they’d lost either again as I’d had to pay extra for another bag in the hold, owing to them losing my first one when I got to Japan.


After picking up and being loaded down by my case and the two backpacks I entered the arrivals area and was greeted by my wonderful wife who gave me a super hug like she had missed me. I’d missed her and my family too during my time away but as I wandered the city streets day and night I had no real thoughts outside of what the next picture might be. I had a quick wee to prepare for the hour-long journey back home.

Then it was explaining the journeys and stories to my wife and learning about the events of the previous week in England. Mum had been poorly so that had been a topic in the family as well as some other family dramas.

Once home it was dump all of the cases and have a chill out and chat with my family whilst sat on the sofa with a nice cup of nescafe coffee.

Japanuary complete, now it was time to download the images from the cameras and prepare the films to be sent away for processing.

I had over 5000 photos between my Canon 5D and my Leica Q2 with 8 films between the Canon A1 and Bronica ETRS. It’s going to take a while.

Some of my Japan images, Bob Griffiths

The final post about Japanuary will take the form of a review of the country, people and the opportunity I had to go and make photographs in this place. Keep an eye out for it.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply