Funny and factual account of our last trip to Japan. Pictures to come soon.
Woke up at 6to shower and catch our limo to the airport. It’s was 13 degrees out and we wanted out of Jersey badly. Limo arrived around 7:20 and then it was an hour-long ride to EWR. The driver said nothing and kinda sucked.
Got through security very fast. B got stopped for his big honking battery pack.
14 hours is a long flight, and we entertained ourselves and each other with “Lost in Translation” (appropriate I think) reading and a bunch of music. Shortly after we took off they turned out the lights. Then in short order all the window shades were closed and it was suddenly nighttime. We did get a couple shots off in the plane. At one point we were over one of the great lakes and it was completely iced over. You could see the plow marks over some land.
We had the continental in flight entertainment stick. Basically a phone/TV remote/game controller/light controller and a 6-inch screen that showed every channel but the one we wanted to watch.
Finally got to Narita and after much stumbling around waiting for our luggage, exchanging money I got to have a cig and oof 16 or so hours without nicotine and it’s a free head rush! The shuttle took around 2 hours and in that time we found the Japanese have a proclivity to mounting their rearview mirror way up in the front of their cars. Also big ferris wheels, As in the Worlds Biggest.
Finally got to our hotel around 6:30 or so Tokyo time. Promptly marveled at the room. Awesome room. Unreal view. Absolutely gorgeous, I swear. We were a little confused about the toilet, I mean it had a bunch of buttons that looked a little ominous and the functions are downright intrusive, though oddly pleasant. The blue button rocked, the pink not so much.
We promptly got changed and cleaned up a bit and bounced right out on the town. It goes without saying that at this point we were up for around 25 hours.
The walk to the Train station was only around 7 blocks and we found a Wendy’s restaurant. And had our first experience with the vending machine phenomenon. They are everywhere and a bewildering array of drinks and things can be had.
The train station is interesting because it has little automated ticket purchasing machines and a HUGE map of the confusing subway and Rail system. We became good friends with the railroad. The way it works is it shows you your stop on the map and all the other places have a number next to them. The names and in Japanese so we whipped out our handy English copy of the map figured out where Shibuya was and its correlating price, about 160 yen, inserted a bill and got our tickets and change. This was where we noticed they have a lot of coin money with values up to 500yen (about 5 bucks). I also decided I like coin money.
The trains are clean, crowded and quiet. A huge change from the NY subway system. Everyone is polite and stays to themselves.
Shibuya is insane. Gorgeous, and bright and dizzying to the first timer. After much walking and looking around we started getting hungry again and decided to find a place to eat.
They put plastic replicas of the food they serve outside so you can see what they have and most menus seem to have pictures also. So we went into this little doorway and down some stairs to a basement restaurant. We were seated and were stunned at the size of the place. The entire restaurant, including the kitchen, was maybe as big as my kitchen (my kitchen is big but not that big) and we were seated next to a few girls who were very attractive.
We pointed at the menus to order and our food came out pretty quickly. We ordered pasta forgetting that they only had chopsticks. That was fun. I actually managed to eat everything in my bowl with them and got pretty good at it. Very reasonable prices I might add. Tokyo is notorious for being extremely expensive but we didn’t really find it to be so. Maybe its because we’re from jersey and its expensive as hell there too. Anyway after dinner we took off and started bouncing around Shibuya some more. We came upon the seedier section (not that bad really) and found “Love hotel Hill” that was neat. Also a strip club but they were a bit expensive so we went in search of a cool bar.
We found a bar called “Tombstone” and thought why not? Again we went into a tiny hallway and into a tiny bar. They had a biker/outlaw motif but the bartender was friendly and there were no fights or anything. When I say tiny, I was right next to the coat rack which was on top of the bar fridge. There were maybe 7 places to sit in the entire place and a live dj took up the only open space at the end. The bartender was constantly having to duck down under the bar crawl through to the fridge to get beers. People came in and out regularly and there was steady flow for such a small place. A couple other tourist stuck their heads in and exclaimed “Is that all there is?!?” and left.
We were very much getting into the Tokyo experience and when we were getting good and drunk we had to leave and run to the train because they shut down at 12 putting a cap on the fun for the night for everyone.
We finally got back to our room and crashed out we were so wound up we didn’t go straight to sleep immediately. We just talked for an hour or so while raiding the minibar before finally getting changed and crashed out hard. It was about time too; at this point we had been up over 30 hours.
Got up and went down to have breakfast and had a fun hangover. The restaurant looked very nice and the prices were commensurate with what you expect from a 5 star hotel, extremely expensive. Ordered a ham and cheese omelet and got something I didn’t quite expect. It tasted funny and that along with the bitter coffee worked in conjunction to make me make a hasty departure and suffice it to say I made my mark on Tokyo that morning. After another quick change we went strolling around and found a Buddhist Temple next to Tokyo Tower. At this point I realized I wasn’t feeling better and really should try to eat and get something for my head. I actually found Excedrin in a pharmacy and stopped at the Wendy’s to grab a bite to go. After which I took a nap and B took off again to Tokyo Tower.
That evening I got cleaned up and decided it would be fun to hit Shinjuku. That place is absurd too. I thought it wouldn’t be a bright as Shibuya but I was wrong. And its seedier section is much seedier. After nosing around in shops we went looking for a pub to get some dinner. I ordered a pizza and B got Fish and chips. His Chips were excellent and my pizza was good. Or at least half of it was good. The other half was, well, strange. It had raspberry cheese on it and I couldn’t eat it. We paid and left to continue around scooping things out.
We had an amusing time with one meek quiet guy that was trying to offer us a hooker or 2 for sex. We politely declined and finally ended up being offered something that sounded, well, not as illegal.
The “Snack shop”
A guy on the street offered us a huge discount for an hour and a half with attractive girls and free drinks the whole time. I decided to take him up on his offer figuring at least it was worth the drinks. I got a hot blonde and Brian got and attractive filipino girl. He was not into it but figured what the hell. After a while I got into it and even extended our stay. Drinks for me free, drinks for her were not. But I figured we’re on vacation so live it up right? Brian and his “date” got along pretty well while I was licking salt off my “dates” breast for my tequila shots. Then we realized how late it was and like mad we dashed out after I paid and had some drunken words with the proprietor of the place because he was trying to gouge us even more and made for the street so we could get to the train. Once out there we were almost surrounded by pimps trying to sell their wares and going so far as to offer us rides back to the hotel after. Good marketing ploy I might add. We politely told them no and managed to get to the train station on what may have been the last train.
Tired and drunk we both passed out on the train only to get booted off 2 stops early. Now its after midnight, there’s no train, and I have to pee. I went all the way back into the station only to find the door to the men’s room locked so off I went. Running around and finally hopping a turnstile because I say a bathroom there. By the time I got back out to Brian he had flagged down a cab and, I later found out, had left his own mark on Tokyo. Finally arriving back around 1:30 or so we crashed again, pausing only to take off our shoes.
Out of Yen. I woke up pretty early for the day and ended up waking B up to go get food. He was in poor shape and somehow I was feeling no pain. After consulting with the front desk and changing the last of our American dollars to yen we asked about an ATM and got directions. We finally found it and I pulled another 20000 yen and off we went. I got a bun thing and he got a jelly based energy thing and soon enough we were back on our way to the train station. Off to Akihabara, electric town.
As loud and bright as Both Shibuya and Shinjuku were this place is like that during the day. As far as the eye can see are electronics shops. Any piece of equipment you need is there. I mean anything, from titanium ear buds (awesome and expensive, around 168), to statues of nude anime girls (much more than I would have expected, average around 60-120). Both being good navigator helped us not at all and frequently we found ourselves walking in circles down aisles we’d been in just a little while ago. Everywhere there were people hawking their wares cell phone shops for NTTDoCoMo and Softpac were in abundance.
I have a fascination with Japanese cell phones probably because of the lack of choice offered by carriers in the states. Every size shape and color were available from companies I had never even heard of as well as brands I knew. Cell phone usage in the states is high but it’s nothing like Tokyo. In the trains and restaurants everywhere actually you’d see somebody using their phone and not just to talk. Reading, texting, surfing the net and occasionally talking. I found myself jealous as mine doesn’t work there and I didn’t rent one when I got there. So super connected me was out of touch.
We found a restaurant that had Italian food in AKIBA ICHI and it was spectacular and cheap. I am so falling in love with this city. We went to Yodobashi-Akiba and that place was nuts, NINE floors of shopping. If you couldn’t find it in this store your just not going to find it in Tokyo period. Unreal. We walked every level and though almost every section in their. It actually became too much. Too many adds, to much stuff, just too much. After getting beaten senseless by the sensory overload we had to duck out and find somewhere quiet. We happened on a Café, which was once again underground, and had some time to just chill and reflect. At this point we were punch drunk and blown away that by the time we got on the train and it went to the next station we realized we were going the wrong way and had to pop off and on to the right one.
So sore, tired and needing a break we came back to the room a made an early night of it. Tomorrow perhaps Harajuko, and one or 2 more places. Then we may change our plans of staying in a capsule hotel and stay here one more night. The simple logistics or moving all our/my baggage to a capsule hotel on a train after checking out of here just seems like too much. We’ll see. We decided to cap the evening with a simple store bought diner consisting of soup and something that’s not entirely unlike egg foo young. After several rough nights a quiet night is important.
The search for Godzilla.
So day five we extended our stay because the logistics of getting our things to the capsule hotel on the trains and stuff was daunting and we were lazy. We decided that today was a good day to see some of the last things on our list. Harujuku, Roppongi, and Godzilla in Hibiya Park. So first we decided that Godzilla would be good to start with as it was early and since school was in session and Harajuku is a youth teenage kind of attraction and Roppongi is an adult kind of attraction it sounded like a logical first choice.
On the way to the train station we noticed something we’d been walking past for days. A really nice park and we decided to go in. I finally managed to get to a nice Japanese park and garden. There was a lake with a few islands and bridges connecting everything and it was beautiful. We got some very nice photos there too. After dodging the children who showed up on a field trip and were obnoxiously loud (though forgiven as they may have been only around 5). We cut short our trip and we left.
We caught the train to Yurakucho Station and decided to find the park. But first we needed to eat and stopped at a nice place with a name we couldn’t decipher but with an attractive menu (nice pictures). We ended up having a very nice lunch and were taken care of hand and foot by a Korean lady. She came over and poured the soy sauce for us and even offered us forks even though we have gotten extremely proficient with chopsticks. She doted over us like she was our mother and that was very nice.
After lunch we struck out in the direction of the park and found it to be beautiful and completely bereft of any Godzilla monument. We took some great shots and the park was gorgeous. We then started venturing off from the park in the hopes of finding the elusive beast but were unsuccessful. I looked up hot to ask where he was (“Sumimasen, Godzilla o sagashite”) and finally met our first gaijin in Tokyo. He was a resident and hadn’t heard of a statue and our hopes were getting low. Finally I worked up the nerve to ask a police officer and waited the beating for the possible racial slur. Surprisingly enough he figured out we were looking for something and once I said it as gojira the shoe dropped. He pointed us to go around the next block and so we went. And there he was resplendent in his bronze casting. After searching for around 2 and half hours we sat and basked in his glory and took several photos, much to the amusement of the sari men (salary men or professionals) standing around smoking. On the way back to the train station we saw a Nissan Showroom and unfortunately only saw Pinos. I asked about the Skyline and was given directions to another showroom a few maybe 5 blocks away and off we went. I was surprisingly under whelmed by the Skyline but was thoroughly impressed by the Fairlady 350Z. Our mission complete we headed to the train station and then off to Harajuku.
Harajuku is an interesting place but it is crazy in the way that teenagers are. Bright lights loud music and silly clothes were the norm. I only took one shot of the main strip there and found a coffee house and tried to detox from the silliness outside. After exploring a bunch of side streets and finally finding our way back to the train station we went back to the room and chilled out for a while before changing and heading to Roppongi.
Roppongi has a reputation for a wild nightlife but all we managed to see was one bar because we were thoroughly annoyed with pimps trying to hawk their wares at us and left completely annoyed after having a few drinks at the “Propoganda” bar. An uneventful ride back on the subway and a quick stop at a liquor store to refill our minibar so as to avoid any outrageous fee and it was back to the hotel. A fitting last day to our trip. Off to the airport tomorrow and off to Korea for me and home for B.
Final thoughts on Japan.
I have fallen in love with this country. Everyone is polite. Everything is suprising and so is the food. The sense of efficiency is everywhere and for me that’s heaven. The toilets rock. AM/PM Stores will be your best friend. Japan is not as expensive as they make it out to be. If you can’t speak Japanese it is a major unintended relief to speak to another person from your country. Japan is quirky, and that is apparent no more than in Harjuku where hello kitty Lollita Goth is an actually fashion sense. Japanese guys are goofy looking. Japanese women are gorgeous, the outfits are amazing and the high pitched voices are great. You will end up wondering why they aren’t freezing all the time because of the short skirts, but you won’t mind it. Wendy’s is a known quantity here, portions are smaller and there are menu items that aren’t stateside but its more or less the same. Diet coke and pepsi taste funny here, due to the use of a different sweetener than nutrasweet.JR Railroad will we another of your best friends. Scooters and motorcycles are everywhere, from little goofy Vespa’s to the huge confortable “limo” scooters (I don’t have abetter name for them they are big look comfy and have room for at least on more person in style), hot sportbikes. I am definitely coming back, probably once a year and now my goal is to find a native Japanese speaking girl in the states and learn how to speak this language (may as well have a little fun while learning).
Japan is not for everyone. Some people will be miserable here, being unable to communicate or read. If you have an open mind and a decent amount of money it is a great place for a few days. I spent around 900 here for 4 days and I didn’t go buck wild shopping. Japan isn’t as expensive as they say, it’s comparable to hanging out in Atlantic city or NY for the same amount of time.
Try it, you’ll probably love it.