Three years ago, these retirees booked a trip to Japan. Flights and accommodation were all done, until an offer too good to refuse got offered to them. A trip to South America. With some fancy footwork, things were rearranged and Japan was put on the back burner until 2023 when both opportunity and timing seemed to be in alignment. As is their preference, these two were determined to continue their ‘backpacking with wheels’ mode of travel and so with Japan Rail Passes, some chopstick lessons, the Japan Travel App and some decent wifi, they started their journey in Tokyo, home to 14 million people.

Our retirees had found themselves at Akihabara station looking at the large city map on the wall trying to navigate their course and which exit to take from the station to their hotel (they hadn’t set up their SIM at this stage), when a BLUE SUIT* guy pointed to the map and said “I take you”. And he did just that. We got guided to the steps of our hotel, a 15 min walk from the station. What a wonderful welcome to Japan! Such kindness will be one of the highlights of our trip already. Our friend left us with a smile and a bow of his head.

(*a Japanese business man. The blue suit is kind of the uniform we would soon discover)

Who said we’d be too early for cherry blossoms?

Arriving on an early flight in Tokyo may or may not be ideal. Sure, you are ready to hit the streets running after maybe freshening up, but a 3pm check in means strictly that. These Aussies were used to a hotel saying “Sure, your room is ready now”. NOT in Japan. We were presented with a steep hourly rate despite the fact we were booked in for 6 nights. But of course the hotel staff said it all so respectfully and apologetically that you say “I understand, of course” as you accept their welcome drink whilst planning to roam the streets in your current state.

Ms X had done some research about a Robot Cafe in Tokyo that does something a little different. This one is staffed by members of the community who are unable to leave their home to work, for whatever reason. It could be an emotional or physical challenge, or both. Each table has a person attached to them who speaks remotely through a robot on the table. They take your order and throughout the experience, conversation flows. Your order comes from another roaming robot, again controlled remotely. Our Okinawa waitress told us her story and asked us all about our trip. She was able to show us ‘must-do places to visit’ and she made food recommendations through her iPad screen. It was all a wonderful experience and such an inclusive environment. We heard that there is a staff member from Sydney as well as from Germany both working remotely in this wonderful cafe. The food was good too (but that’s not why you go)