While I've visited Tokyo twice before, both were business trips with mad schedules, so I didn't get to see anything more than the airport, taxi, hotel and (admittedly excellent) restaurant.

This was a quick three-day trip to do a bit of sightseeing. I'd created a provisional schedule, and Stephen, a friend who used to live in Tokyo, verified that it was feasible and kindly sent me detailed notes and an annotated map.

I'd expected to spend a lot of time taking photos, but in the end was more in the mood for relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere . I did take some photos, of course. :-)

My first stop was the famous giant zebra-crossing at Shibuya, where I had a go at fake tilt-and-shift effects (intended to make it look like a bit like a scale model). I'd hoped to get up higher, but the second floor was the best I could do. I'm not sure how successful the attempt was, but it was fun trying, and it was great to just drink coffee and watch it for a while.

There are actually five crossings there, with a 30-second pedestrian-only cycle for all of them, so people cross in all directions at once.

Next stop was Yoyogi Park:

I'd read it was where the cool kids hang. Not that I'm a cool kid, but it seemed like an interesting place for some street photography.

Which it would have been - except that the 'kids' bit was rather literal: there were a lot of 14-ish year olds there. Most of them were wearing either extremely short mini-skirts, or tiny hot-pants. As photographing indecently-dressed 14yos could be open to misinterpretation, I made my excuses and left.

You may have noticed girls in the above shots wearing face-masks. A good 20-30% of Tokyo dwellers of all ages were doing this, I guessed due to swine-flu coming to soon after bird-flu, but a friend more in tune with youth culture tells me it's a cos-play fashion thing for the teenagers. Gurulolita, apparently.

I'm guessing that's not the case for the older folks ...

Tokyo's metro and train system can be a little confusing at first.

There are actually two different companies operating subway systems. I initially bought what seemed to me the logical ticket: an unlimited Metro card. This turned out to get me access to nine of the thirteen lines, which caused some bemusement until I figured it out. After that, I bought the more expensive one that covers both systems.

But it helps enormously that all the signs are in English as well as Japanese (including the electronic displays), as are the on-board announcements.

Japanese people are very helpful, too. A man saw me trying to decipher the above, and asked me, in English: "Can I help you?". This wasn't a member of staff, just a passing commuter. When I asked for directions, the usual response was not just to point me in the right direction, but to walk with me to the intersection to make sure I turned onto the correct road. When I asked a store assistant where I could buy something, he took me out of the store, round the corner and into the store that sold what I was after.

Once it started getting dark, I headed to the Mori Tower at Roppongi Hill. This is a 52-storey building where the top floor is a tall viewing gallery with huge glass windows almost the whole way round:

The above photos are of a model, itself on the top floor of the real thing. :-)

Here's what the viewing gallery looks like:

And here's what the view looks like:

(No, that's not a UFO top-right, it's a reflection of lighting inside the viewing gallery.)

It's, er, quite a long way down, so let's zoom in a bit:

Photos never do justice to that kind of view, so I only took a few, then spent an hour or so just walking round enjoying the spectacle.

After that, it was time for bed! With an overnight flight (leaving lunchtime London time and arriving 9.30am local time the next day), and a lot of walking, I had no problem sleeping!

My itinary originally had a visit to the fish-market scheduled for its opening time of 5.30am. Yeah, well, anyway.

Next on the agenda was a bullet-train ride. I needed some excuse for this, so I found that a place called Mishama offered a view of Mt Fuji, so that was good enough.

First, I needed some to top-up on cash. Rather bizarrely, not all ATMs accept Visa debit cards. One that did didn't speak English, so I guessed that the biggest on-screen button was probably for cash. It wasn't: it handed me a printed slip which would no doubt have been very informative if I read Japanese. A different button produced the same printout, so I guessed at that point it was telling me to naff off with my strange Johnny-gaijin card and go and get myself a proper Japanese one.

Still, while that machine wasn't playing ball, you can't really argue with a country with ice-cream vending-machines.

You can also get cold drinks, and coffee, from machines just about everywhere, this one in Yoyogi Park:

At Tokyo station, I went to catch my bullet-train (more properly known as Shinkansen).

I spoke only my usual ten words of Japanese, and I found it quite random whether people spoke English. The woman at the ticket counter didn't at all. I was prepared for this, having printed out the timetable for the line and marked my desired outbound and return trains with a highlighter pen. I also knew there was only one class, so I was expecting it to be straightforward.

It turned out not to be. It seemed she needed to ask me all sorts of questions. Some of them I was able to figure out, thanks to her excellent miming skills, others left me bemused. A lesser woman would have given up and just given me whatever the default ticket was, but this woman was determined not to sell me a ticket until I'd answered all her questions.

Concerned that I could spend the rest of my life there, I took to answering Hai (yes) or Iee (no) randomly. The fare I paid was what the website told me it would be, and no strange fate befell me en-route, so I guess my answers were ok.

The trains themselves look very impressive. The length of the ticket interrogation and the need to grab some food to eat on-board meant I had no time to take a photo before departure (and bullet-trains do depart on time, to the second), so took this on my return.

I'd hoped to take some arty shots, but although the station is a terminus, you can't get in front of the trains and the barriers stop you getting any low-down shots. Ho hum.

Everything is organised in a fiendishly Japanese fashion. There are marked lines on the platform to queue for each carriage on each train, and you know where the doors will open because every position is marked (and in a much clearer fashion than on Eurostar):

Inside, the carriages are quite spartan, but this is deliberate: everything on board is as lightweight as possible, to maximise acceleration.

The seats are probably very comfortable if you're Japanese. I'm only 5'9", but the lumbar support was in completely the wrong place, and the head-rest was at the back of my neck, so it wasn't wildly comfortable at first. However, the seats recline a long way, so that made it much comfier.

I'd picked up some fast-food to eat on the train:

The stuff on the left is rice, the strip of meat is chicken, the star is carrot, the while spheroid is some kind of small egg. As for the rest of it, your guess is as good as mine - even after I'd eaten it! It tasted good. though.

The lightweight approach to the interiors clearly works: the acceleration of these electric trains is quite phenomenal compared to UK trains.

What was even more impressive was the way the guard paused to bow to the passengers each time he entered the carriage. He also turned around to bow again on exit. You don't often see this on the 17:52 from Liverpool Street. Maybe I'll suggest it to them.

The train journey gave interesting views of the Tokyo suburbs, showing just what a densely-packed city it is.

Unfortunately, things were not looking promising for the ostensible purpose of my train journey. While the weather in Tokyo had been clear and sunny, the closer we got to Mishima, the hazier it got. In the end, this is the view I got of Mt Fuji:

And no, it's not the mountain just visible in the cloud: that's a much closer mountain. Mt Fuji is about the same distance away again. Ah well. Another time.

On arrival back at Tokyo station, I hung around for a few minutes to watch them turn the train around. I suspected it would be ultra-efficient, and indeed it was.

The passengers are of course all neatly queued up for the door to their assigned carriage. Cleaners (two per carriage) wait for the passengers to offload.

They then zip through the carriage, clearing away the litter and swivelling the seats around to face the new direction of travel. Total time, about two minutes.

This orderly approach is even seen on the pavements. At busy times, people walk on the left, enabling easy progress in either direction. I shall be campaigning to have this system introduced on Oxford Street with immediate effect.

This kind of neatness is seen everywhere:

My plan for the evening was two-fold. First, to see the bright lights of Shinjuku:

There is more - much more - of this, but you get the idea.

I was also steered into very dangerous territory: a camera shop!

Fortunately, prices were not dramatically lower than the UK, so my credit card and I escaped from the store without buying a D3S.

I suspect these guys playing gaming machines may have been having a more expensive evening:

I, however, was heading here:

Or, more precisely, up there:

To the bar on the 39th floor of the Park Hyatt. Here I spent £15 on some Brahms Shiraz.

Which would have been a bargain for the bottle, but that was for a glass. It was, however, money very well spent: not only was the wine excellent, but this was my view:

Given the price of the wine, I didn't dare enquire about the price of dinner at the highly fashionable New York Grill two floors up. I headed off for dinner at a more modest restaurant.

Incidentally, choosing a meal was easy, as most restaurants have these displays:

The food is actually made from plastic using molds made from real food. The resulting model is then hand-painted (yes, I did watch the Virgin destination guide on the flight over ....).

My final day in Tokyo was wet. Very wet. Pissing it down, in fact. This was not entirely compatible with my plans for the day, starting by spending the morning photographing skyscrapers. Rain + pointing your lens into the sky is not an entirely workable equation, and that's before you factor in boring flat light and unphotogenic white skies.

Still, I headed to Shiodome anyway and did what I could by finding things to stand under.

And yes, the 'tail' of this absolutely gorgeous teardrop-shaped building really is in the clouds:

(And that tiny thing on the roof is an antenna, not a Japanese banker who's just been told about this year's bonus ...)

But while the photos may have all been rather flat, I really enjoyed wandering around this amazing area.

My plan for the afternoon had been for some street photography, but there are only so many photos you can take of people with umbrellas ...

I was thus forced back into Yodabashi Camera. This was risky. Very risky. But once again, I escaped with my bank balance intact.

I had a few gifts to buy. An extra one got added to the list by a friend called Delphine. She's visiting Japan in December, and I texted her to ask whether she wanted me to hold onto city and metro maps for her. She said yes, and demanded a gift also, promising cake in return. My protestations that I was travelling with handbaggage only did me no good, as she said something small would be fine and pointed out that I had pockets. I did find the perfect thing, but won't show it here until she's received it.

And that was the end of my short-but-fun trip! I'm expecting to be kept busy on a couple of projects in Nov and Dec, so aside from the usual business trips round Europe, I'm unlikely to be heading anywhere else until sometime next year.