So, we’re in Japan!
We left with no real issues on Wednesday, arrived here on Thursday afternoon around 5pm and then pretty easily got to our hotel in the outskirts of Tokyo. We had a really nice flight. Courtney slept some, and I watched three movies. It really passed the time and it didn’t feel awful at all.
You may remember last time I tried this, I had a few hours of panic in the Narita airport because I was without cash and none of my cards worked. This time we traded up a bunch of USD for Yen in Seattle and that made the process much more smooth. I did learn one more new thing though. TravelEx is a ripoff. We should have brought a bunch of USD cash with us and traded it here. TravelEx charged us almost 10% in Seattle but it would have cost nothing here.
We’ve been really busy and have had a lot of fun so far. On Friday Courtney and I got up fairly early, grabbed some breakfast at 7-11 and then headed in to Tokyo. We spent the day wandering around Shinjuku and Ueno, and we went to the Ueno Zoo which was pretty sweet. Lots of the normal stuff, but here the monkeys screech in Japanese. So strange.
We called it a pretty early night on Friday cause we were both pretty run down from the traveling so we took a long, long nap till someone knocked on the door! It was Megan and Ryan! They had flown all the way to Japan, taken jobs as English teachers, got an apartment in Gifu City and spent the last 6 months learning how to live in Japan just to make our trip more pleasant! And then they took the train all the way from Gifu City to Tokyo to hang out with us for the weekend. That’s true friendship there, people.
So, Saturday we toured Tokyo with Ryan and Megan. Ryan speaks quite a bit of Japanese, and can read a lot of Kanji, which is very, very helpful. One of the best parts is that he can tell when people are talking about Courtney and Megan’s boobs on the subway. I’ve been in 16 fights so far. One guy actually ran up to Courtney in Ginza, asked to take her picture (to which she said yes), pointed the camera at her face and then quickly moved it down to her boobs before he took the picture.
Saturday we went to Akihabara, Yoyogi-koen, Ginza and Shinjuku. We wandered for a bit in Radio Center in Akihabara (aka Akiba) which is where tiny stalls sell every kind of electronics component you can imagine. It’s pretty wild. There are entire stalls dedicated to biscuit fans, or surface mount resistors, or plugs… it goes on and on. I can only dream of having physical access to a place like that on a daily basis. It would be so awesome. I’m going to try to go back at some point this weekend without my friends so they aren’t bored to death while I peruse every stall.
In Akiba we also found a vintage game and arcade place. There was on store that was all brand new, some still in the package, games and systems from the 80s and 90s. All Japanese versions, of course, but still cool. They had racks of Famicoms and Super Famicoms, Dreamcasts, original light guns for the NES / Super Famicom, Power Gloves and every game you can imagine. It was pretty cool.
We took the subway over to Yoyogi-koen cause I wanted everyone to see the freak show that I saw last time, but aparently that is on Sunday, not Saturday. Woops! We did see a wedding procession at the temple in the middle of the park though, and that was very cool. Looked a lot like the one from Lost in Translation.
After that we went to Ginza. It was already getting dark (around 4pm!) so by time we got there it was fully dark and the Ginza strip was in full effect. This is the strip you see when you see movies about Tokyo. Giant, multiple story high animated displays on the sides of buildings, billions of neon tubes, everything moving in every direction and thousands of people everywhere. I didn’t go there at night when I was here last time, and it was pretty amazing. I was blown away.
One funny thing that happened in Ginza was… There is this giant intersection in Ginza where when it’s time for pedestrians to cross the lights in all directions go red and people just cross in every direction, including, say, southeast to northwest corner. This happened, and somehow two foreigners were trapped in the middle of the intersection when the lights turned green. Suddenly there were four lanes of traffic all around them and they were basically spinning around in the middle of it all with cars flying by a few feet away in every direction. A policeman had to run out into the middle of the intersection stopping cars to pull them to safety. In the mean time everyone on ALL corners took pictures and laughed. Ha!
And girls in sexy, black Santa costumes were giving away cat food samples. Ahh, Tokyo.
We didn’t stay very long in Ginza cause we were starving it was too expensive to eat there. So, we went to Shinjuku and jumped into the first Yakitori we saw. Had some great yakitori and yakiusoba and drinks and then jumped back out into the nighttime Shinjuku crowd, which is insane. The night life was just getting started, but we were all pooped so we finally headed towards home. After a quick nightcap we totally crashed at like 9pm.
And now it’s Sunday morning around 9am and we’re waking up again. Today we’re going to visit the Metropolitan Government Building No. 1 (which Courtney and I did on Friday, once) and visit the other tower with Ryan and Megan. Then we’re going to back to the park to see the freak show and maybe take the monorail out to some futuristic city in the bay.
I’ll let you know how it goes.