Our third day in Tokyo, and the day that we were going to spend apart from each other, as Kas went off to run the marathon and I had a somewhat less taxing walk with a bit of geocaching planned.
Kas got up and set off quite early, and I decided to get moving fairly early too, if only to avoid getting pinned into Shinjuku until the runners had all left. The start of the marathon was literally a couple of hundred metres from our hotel and they’d been closing off various bits of road to traffic since well before daybreak.
I didn’t bother with breakfast anywhere, as I wasn’t really hungry. I sort of just wanted to go out and see how many caches I could find in Tokyo in the amount of time it took Kas to do the running. I’d got maybe 35-40 on the radar.
I began my walk by skirting around the north end of Shinjuku Station and after a quick find I began to get hit by the day’s first problem – poor GPS signal. Fair enough, there’s a lot of tall buildings around this area, so there’s not really a very clear sight of many satellites, but still, huh ? At the first cache I tried I gave up with the GPS when I was a good 50 metres away and just used the map and hint. At the second one I tried I wasn’t so lucky – I couldn’t get the GPS to settle at all and the hint didn’t give much clue as to where I should go. Likewise the third.
At the fourth I was supposed to be getting some information from a piece of street furniture, I think, but I couldn’t make sense of it and couldn’t get an answer. So that was a waste, and by this time I was starting to get a bit irritated by the whole idea. I really should learn to set lower expectations when I’m caching in towns and cities. It’s always hard work.
Anyway, I eventually found one and then picked my way down to the Shinjuku Gyo-en National Garden, where I found another whilst waiting at the gate for it to open.
The next half hour was spent rather in frustration as I tried to follow my way around a multi-cache but kept getting lost as the information trail just seemed to disappear about three-quarters of the way in. I tried three times before giving up. The gardens were pretty though.
And from here, then began the second major problem of the day – missing caches. Now I know that urban ones can be hard to find, but the particular problem here seemed to be that at least a third of the caches on my radar were known not to be present (from multiple DNF logs and/or disablement) and a third more had at least a couple of DNFs or were in areas with tall buildings. A consistent lack of useful hints wasn’t helping either.
By now it was getting on towards lunchtime (or at least it was lunchtime if you hadn’t had breakfast) so I decided I’d park my butt for a while and contemplate what was going on. I stopped at a small outlet belonging to a local coffee chain and had myself a sandwich and a latte flavoured with honey, which was nicer than it sounds. I was alongside the main road running through Yotsuya, alongside Yotsuya-sanchōme Station, I think. To be honest, if I hadn’t been trying to fill time before meeting Kas I’d have given up and gone home. I wasn’t really enjoying the caching very much and the walk along here was the part where I felt the most uncomfortable all weekend. Not unsafe, but I definitely felt like stood out a bit.
I progressed my way through a couple more suburbs in the general direction of the Imperial Palace and found myself at Kudanzaka Park, where I found another couple of caches that I couldn’t find, as it were. One was inaccessible due to building works (but wasn’t disabled) and one I just couldn’t find.
I was now really despairing at the state of caches in the city and time was starting to march on, so I started to progress my way through the Imperial Palace grounds, initially failing to find a cache again at the Nippon Budokan, and then entering the proper “palace” bit. I had to get to the far side of the palace from where I was to get to where I’d agreed to meet Kas, and even this proved frustrating as I didn’t have a map of where all the paths went and I ended up going a bit around the houses (or the gardens, to be accurate).
I eventually came out onto a main road where I just had to walk a mile or so to meet Kas. There were plenty of caches on the way but I felt I was out of time, so I left all of them apart from a wherigo that I was walking right past. I did start to wonder about how come the grass everywhere seems to die back and turn beige-coloured in the winter.
From the caching perspective it had been an appalling day. I’d been caching for the best part of 7 hours and had found an extremely disappointing 9 caches. I suppose I’d done a nice long walk through a strange city and had gone to a number of places that a non-cacher would never go to, but it didn’t suppress the overriding feeling of disappointment.
What did help was sitting in the gardens at the end of the marathon course and Kas turning up with a bit of a limp, a massive medal and a smile. It had been a decent run which had been fast enough to make a “good for age” in Chicago for 2019, so that’ll be up next.
For dinner we took a short walk at street level to the place we’d been a couple of nights previously, and this time we ended up in a Japanese speciality cafe/bar, where we were treated to a veritable feast of hand prepared foods accompanied by some very nice locally made beer. The food was generally “tapas” style, but that worked well because they served things as soon as they were ready and we shared all of the dishes between the two of us.
Our night of sleep was ever so slightly disturbed by what felt like a general shaking of the floor. It turned out that there’d been an earthquake which, had it happened 24 hours earlier, would have resulted in the cancellation of the marathon. Thankfully it happened afterwards. So we can now both describe ourselves as “earthquake survivors”, which is not something I was expecting.