For a while, us Americans had been talking about how we needed to take a decent trip together and go somewhere far. Somewhere our Japanese friends would not be able to show us around, and somewhere we could stay for a few days. Of course we decided on Tokyo, it’s the equivalent to a Japanese New York, and everyone in the world knows about this big city. Like typical Americans, we talked and talked about the idea without making any solid plans or reserving hotels or busses, and waited until the last minute. We reserved our hostel, booked the bus tickets, and finally had the ball rolling only 4 days before we were to leave. With my clothes and camera packed, fresh tunes on my iPod, and an adventurous mindset, Rob, Jessika, and I headed to Nagoya to catch our night bus ride to Tokyo.
We left Nagoya around 11:30 PM on a bus with Japanese sized seats, meaning I was uncomfortable, and arrived at Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward at 5:30 AM.
One of the places I really wanted to see was the famous fish market in Tokyo. It is said that millions of dollars are spent buying top quality fish each day. The boats dock in the early morning, and everyone gets busy moving the fish around in a crowded market. They’ve got the system down to a science it seems, because they still manage to get things done even in the crowded streets. They sell fish from only 5 to 7 in the morning, so being awake at 5:30 was a perfect opportunity to go and see this. It was frantic, and there were lots of expensive fish everywhere. I wasn’t particularly interested in making a purchase, but I did notice the price on one fish being about $70. We walked through the market shooting photos and making small talk with the shopkeepers. Then I got hungry, not because the fish lying on the ice looked appetizing, but because it was breakfast time. Being the appropriate thing to do because we were at a fish market and would never had this same opportunity again, we had some of the world’s best sashimi, or raw fish, for breakfast. Delicious. I’ve really grown to like sashimi. Here’s what I ate:
With a full stomach and absolutely no plans for the rest of trip, we decided to find and hang out with some of Jessika’s friends who had come to Tokyo for a week trip. The three of us found their hotel, we rested a bit and chatted about some of their experiences they’d had in Tokyo since they had been there for a few days. After a while, Rob and I went to check into our hostel, dropped off some bags, and then everyone met up for lunch. We ate, explored, and then took a break before heading out for the night.
Rob and I wanted to have a drink and see some of Tokyo’s nightlife, so we went out in search of a bar in Shinjuku. We found a small place with many empty bottles of sake lining the walls, and knew we found our place. We sat down and the waiter came up behind us with the most helpless look on his face. I figured that he knew no English and felt like he had no idea what to do, so I quickly made him feel comfortable by letting him know that we understand Japanese. We then proceeded to ask what the strongest sake was and ordered it along with some edamame. Rob and I enjoyed ourselves discussing some possibilities for the next two days and then made our way to the hostel shortly after 1 AM. The taxi driver did not know exactly where our hostel was, so I had him drop us off at the station that was literally less than a minute’s walk from it. This didn’t seem difficult, nor should it have been, but being slightly inebriated in an area we were not familiar with led us on a small, unplanned adventure. We were at the opposite exit and didn’t realize it. So we wandered for a while, stopping for some late night snacks at the convenient store, and finally made it to the right side of the station and found our beds waiting for us.
The next day, we woke up, got some food, and then met up with Jessika and her friends for an all day adventure in electronics paradise. Akihabara is a part of Tokyo with street after street filled with shops and stores that sell any kind of electronic goods you can think of. It was amazing, and there were so many interesting things and people. Girls dressed up in French maid outfits handing out flyers for stores, and groups of people huddled around many of the “DS download stations” with their Nintendo DS’s in the air like their doing something important. I’m not going to lie. I went into nerd mode and began thinking that I needed all kinds of stuff from netbooks to lego shaped mp3 players, but I managed to escape with only buying a $30 software upgrade for my computer. The most impressive place we went was a 7-floor store with one floor being about the size of a Best Buy. This place was ridiculous, and we had fun just looking at everything. When we got to the floor that was dedicated to professional camera equipment, I was all over it. I acted like I had enough money to buy a new lens, and the guy let me test a bunch of new lenses on my camera. I got to take a few photos with a fisheye lens and wide-angle lens. I also bought a little tripod so I can take some nice night shots. Altogether, we spent about 6 hours there, and it was worth it! Japan is known for electronics, and I had yet to see why.
Having no real nightlife in Tsu, us Americans were pretty fond of the idea of a club night. Jessika, Rob, and I got ready, and headed to Shibuya, which is supposed to have the best nightlife in Japan. We found a cool place with good music and then danced the night away. It was a good time, and if you want to know the details, you’ll have to inquire. It was a night out…that’s what I’ll say. But being that taxis are expensive and we were very far from our place, we stayed out until around 5:30 when the subways started up for the day. The only downside to this is that we woke up really late with half of our last day in Tokyo gone, but we still managed to do some things.
We spent that day at Tokyo Tower. The observatory deck sits about 850 feet…it’s pretty big.
We learned a bit about the layout of the city and how it still reflects some of the streets of ancient times. There are a ton of shops in the area too, so I bought a few souvenirs for friends and family. It was a pretty touristy day of sightseeing, and then we decided to have a quality sushi dinner together as our last meal in Tokyo. We searched forever, and finally found a really nice, traditional place. It was delicious and maybe a bit expensive, but it’s good to indulge sometimes. The staff spoke no English, so they were delighted that we could understand the menu explanation. They even threw in some free food and alcohol. Everyone headed back to our sleeping quarters and prepared to wake up early and catch the bus back to Nagoya. We traveled all day and then I still managed to teach my class that evening with just slightly less enthusiasm.
Our Tokyo trip was a great experience. Just being in a big, crowded city and learning how to use the subway system makes for an exciting adventure. We managed to have only a few problems meeting up, but for the most part we really didn’t get lost. The city does not seem nearly as safe as Tsu, but you still feel no dangers. One thing that I was particularly pleased with was how clean the city was. With all that said, I can’t wait to go back!