I started off by heading back to the Imperial Palace to get into the Eastern Gardens before they closed. That turned out to be really nice. I wandered the gardens for about 2 hours and had a really nice time. The weather was gorgeous today, the gardens were quiet and beautiful and it was all really nice.
I took some pictures of flowers, which I try to avoid usually, because they were so pretty. I’ve never seen such “gentle” hues of color in flowers. The blues and purples were so delicate that it looked like the color would fall away if you touched them. Like it was powder, or chalk. Really pretty.
On the way back after that, on a whim, I decided to stop off in Akihabara again (the electronics mecca) and wander a bit there. It was a totally different story this time. I really got into the place and wandered into the little alleys and tunnels where all the good stuff is. It’s unbelievable. I found one hallway that was just individual stalls with electronics components like capacitors, resistors, LEDs and so on. It was like a dream come true. They had everything I normally have to order off the Internet and it was all cheap. I also found whole stores dedicated to soldering irons, cooling fans, tiny button cams, circuit breakers, compact flourescents and everything else a geek could want. So awesome. I even found a stall selling nothing but vacuum tubes, and I took a picture for Jono 🙂
I stopped in Akihabara for two reasons. One was as described and the second was to try my luck again at having a decent meal before leaving the city. This time I did good! I found a little restaurant that had a tiny bit of English on the outside menu so I decided to give it a go. It was the kind of place where there is a vending machine at the front where you order your food, pay and get a ticket and then go in and sit down.
I still had no idea what I was doing but I was determined to figure it out so I walked up to the machine and paid for a “Bowl of beef and rice” which sounded right up my alley. It spit out a ticket which I took and then I wandered over to the seating area. I sat down and a waiter type of guy came over to me. I handed him my ticket, hoping that was the right thing to do and he took it, gave me a glass of water and ran off.
Eventually he brought me my bowl of beef and rice and it was great! The beef was super fatty, and kind of a weird color looking more like bacon but it was really tasty and the rice was great too. I also got a bowl of some kind of soup that was really yummy. The guy brought me a little teeny cup with a spoon, which I have no idea what I was supposed to do with. Maybe it was for the soup but he didn’t bring anyone else one so I am guessing he thought I didn’t want to drink from the bowl or something. Who knows. He spoke NO english. I tried 🙂
So, yes, it took me almost exactly one week to get up the nerve to try to eat in a restaurant here but there it is. I had a really yummy meal for just ¥380 and now I feel much more confident about the next time.
So that’s about it for Tokyo. Tomorrow I check out of here and take the bullet train to Kyoto. I don’t know what to expect more than a smaller city and a less busy experience but I am very excited about it. I will be staying in a hostel dorm there, so I’ll get some more chances to actually interact instead of hiding in my private room. I’m really looking forward to it!
And some final thoughts:
Japanese people will go to incredible length to not sit next to me on the subway. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been sitting alone on an entire bench and people will just keep squeezing into the one across from me until people are actually piled on top one another while there is four feet of empty space on either side of me. I’ve seen people get in the train, see me, see all the other seats taken except the ones next to me and decide to stand. One guy actually stepped back off the train, pulled out a sword and committed ritual suicide right there on the platform.
I have no idea what the deal is. I don’t stink, I’m not dressed raggedly or anything. The only thing I can think of is that they don’t want to sit next to the gaijin. It’s weird.
Also, I have noticed people do not talk to each other unless they know each other. Even for the niceties, which is what stuck out to me. If someone is in someone else’s way they will just wait and wait and wait, or try to slide past without touching instead of just saying “Excuse me” (sumimasen)
Each time I have said “sumimasen” to someone to get their attention so I could pass they nearly jumped out of their skin. The subway trains are almost always dead silent. Everyone stares at their feet or their phone. It’s considered impolite to look someone in the eyes. It’s considered a challenge. It’s also impolite to turn your back to someone on the subway, so if there are no seats available you should stand facing directly at someone who is sitting as to not appear rude.
One thing that really surprised me is that there seems to be a billion ways to insult someone, or appear uncouth but farting is not one of them. Putting you chopsticks in the rice in a certain way is bad manners, and standing the wrong way on the subway, and blowing your nose and not bowing properly are all bad manners but ripping a 20 second long ass blaster in the middle of a crowded market is no big deal. I had heard this was true, but didn’t believe it till I heard it in person. Sheesh.
That’s it for now! I am off to shower, do laundry and pack for tomorrow. Today was great, and I had such a nice time it really helped with my confidence and excitement about being here. I’m looking forward to spending time in Kyoto!