Off to Japan, well really Thailand, with a “brief” stop over in Tokyo. I will get into that meaning behind that punctuation that surrounds the word ‘brief’ later. Am I supposed to use double or single apostrophe for either/both of those references? I will be honest, if you keep up to date with my blog, like I know you do, then you know I don’t really care too much about grammar or spelling. Probably because I suck at it. During grade school we had a spelling bee every year. I don’t think there was one instance I ever made it out of the first round. It was kinda like collecting your diploma at graduation, I walked up on stage, stopped briefly at the mic for a small diatribe (stole that from CNNs reference to Trump speeches) and then proceeded down off the stage and returned to my seat.
Anyway, I liked the idea of stopping in Japan for a couple reasons: 1). It broke up the westward flight by making it a 12 hr puddle jump with an intermission followed by a 6 hr second act. 2). Japan is a cool place filled with natural beauty and tons of short people that are quiet and well-behaved.
Amy and I landed and like any long trip into a different culture you are immediately thrown into the mixing bowl.
Similar to the last time, we stayed in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. It is familiar, good for people-watching, and specializes in ramen. We had a day and half before returning to airport for flight to Bangkok. We walked up to hotel right as Japan was playing Ireland in the World Cup of Rugby. This tournament happens every 4 years and for the first time it was taking place across Japan. Japan was a mid-tier team, playing the number one ranked Irish. There was a roped off common area outside hotel where everyone was drunk watching game on big screen. Japan pulled the upset moments later and chaos broke out
We checked in and dropped bags before heading over a couple blocks to Omoide Yokocho, AKA“Memory Lane”, AKA “Piss Alley”. It is pitched as Old World Japan. A tight alley where you grab a seat on a bench and eat Yakitori (meat skewers cooked over coals) while sharing beers with drunk Japanese businessmen.
We lasted about an hour before succumbing to the need for sleep. The next day we went over to the museum district. We were up at 5AM so we had to wait a few hours for Tokyo to wake up.
We toured the Japanese National Museum
It wasn’t bad, but I was hoping for more Samurai outfits, but I later found out there was a separate museum for that. We walked through a few street market areas and ended up in a restaurant equipment district
Every restaurant in Japan has a case outside with elaborate fake food displays of all the offerings. We found the shop that they all buy the fake food from.
I thought it might be interesting to decorate the living room with bowls of Tempura Udon and seared Mackerel.
We hit a Buddhist temple or 2
Came across a wedding party. Check out that outfit on the bride. I felt like it was a filming of Star Trek
Hit a couple more neighborhoods that were on the list of places to check out. Unlike most blogs I don’t waste time with names and descriptions. If you are expecting a detailed guide, check out Lonely Planet. I provide local color and comic relief.
On this trip, like all trips, there is rarely ever a food I refuse to eat. “When in Rome…” is the way you should embrace local offerings, but this food stall peddling fish on a stick at 10 in the morning was too much even for me.
We were covering a lot of ground today. Primarily just dipping into the subway system and resurfacing at random points around the enormous city. I had nightmares about the Tokyo subway system. I remember from our trip last year that it is a surly beast that must be respected, lest it decides to sink its teeth into your pathfinding manhood, leaving you whimpering in the corner clutching your Lonely Planet book, looking like the classic confused tourist that you are. I wanted to hit the ground running and avoid the first day jitters, but I couldn’t remember the secrets. I will relay them to you. If you already live in a city with a decent subway system you may think you will have no issues. Be warned. Although you can skip past the bunny hills, you are not ready for the black diamond that Tokyo presents. Things you need to know:
- There is soup-nazi-like ticket situation.There are electronic machines, with lines queued up in front of them (Japanese and there queues are a thing of legend). Do not dare get in one of these lines until you know what you are doing. You need to know your station and cost in advance. You got about a 20 second time limit before you feel the mob behind you, leading you to start muttering and bumbling with your selections, before you finally just peel off and return to the map and the back of the line.
- Always remember that there are multiple companies who have lines in the subway system. I think there are 6. So when you are looking at these intricate cobwebbed maps resembling a bulletin board from an unsolved serial killer case, and you can’t seem to find the station you want. It might be because it is in a different tunnel. I mean each station can have 5 levels of tunnels and there are over 100 stations.
- Just because you found your destination and how to get there, it does not by any means mean that is the route you want to take. If you are going anywhere that is more than 5 stops, make sure there is not a rapid train that services the destination in half the time. Multiple times we jumped on a train car because it left the earliest, but realized later that another one that left 20 minutes later still beat us there, cause they skipped half the stops.
Walked around the downtown area near Tokyo station. They had lots of promotional displays for the Rugby World Cup
That last picture is not a Rugby display, but I was forced to take a picture of Amy next to it. I can’t complain too much. She does not make me take many pictures. I mean walking around on my trips watching the pictures these guys are forced to take by their girlfriends…you would not believe it. I am talking about full on professional level magazine cover fashion shoots. Tossing things into the air, wind blowing hair, pointing to something far off that makes them chuckle. It is crazy. And the selfies....the selfies! If you are in anything remotely considered a tourist spot, it is a madhouse of picture taking. It could be a rat in a dumpster and people are clambering all over themselves to get a peace sign shot with it in the background. Every day you hear of a least one person falling off a cliff, boat, building trying to get that perfect Instagram shot. You want to just shake, slap, and dump a bucket of cold water on them like you would the town drunk in the morning before his court date, yelling at them, “get a hold of yourself! You look like a complete jackass! Do you realize that!? Do you?!!!!!!”
Next up we hit a park in Shinjuku. Everything is well-manicured in Japan, as you would expect.
I like the above scene so much I even recreated it in my kitchen!
We went down to Tsukiji Fish Market for lunch. It used to be the biggest fish market in the world until it closed earlier in the year and moved to a new location. Although the inner market is gone, a lot of the cool food stalls and shops still remain and seem to be surviving ok.
On our last trip we stopped here and had the best bowl of Ramen in the world. If you click link and scroll half way down.
We found the stall again and ordered/enjoyed a couple bowls, showing the same husband and wife, pictures of our last stop there. They were so impressed (Sarcasm)
That night we went to the Golden Gai district of Shinjuku. Last time we hoped to stop there and have a couple drinks in another classic throwback drinking area of Tokyo, but we passed out in hotel room. This time we had a couple drinks just to say we did it. I am sure I mentioned this last time, but Shinjuku is a marvel. It does not matter what day of week it is. People will be fall down drunk in the streets until 8 in the morning the next day. I walked by this one bar and had to snap a picture. Look closely. It has all the artifacts of a night of debauchery.
- Tons of empty beer bottles/glasses: check
- Pack of Cigarettes: check
- Condom wrapper on table: check
- Pile of puck on cement in background: check
I did not find a pair of women’s panties or a joint in there but just like Where’s Waldo, I know they are in there somewhere.
And another stop in Piss Alley
A long day. We pretty much exhausted Tokyo for all the PG-rated activities, which is good since we were headed out for Thailand in the morning,
(Click "Next" Below to continue with more Japan-only trips or Click Here to read more on this trip as it moves into Thailand)