We arrived and said hello Tokyo a little less frustrated than how we had left HCMC. Spending our remaining Dong on foot rubs and having free Sapporo on the flight definitely calmed our nerves. Who knew Epsom salts and rice beer could be so soothing? After picking up our bags my new sugar mama, who was now supporting me, found she was having issues with her bank card as well. Fun! We carried on Yenless to the train station where we were reunited with Jallision. Hugs and relief followed. Erin showed off her new Vietnamese souvenirs while we waited for the train. On the 45+ min. ride into Tokyo we were surprised to see snow on the ground. This was a bit of a shock to the system as we had just left 2+ weeks of 36+ degree weather behind. Freezing, I changed out of my shorts on the train.
We arrived at our very nice but expensive Asakusa hostel around 8:30 AM. Hello Tokyo prices! We were unable to check in until after 2:00 pm so as tired as we were we headed out to see some sights and get some eats. After some tasty ramen, we made our way through the surprisingly quiet and clean streets of Asakusa. It was eerily quiet. We joked that it was probably because we just came from a country with more roosters and scooters than people. We were also in an older part of Tokyo on a Saturday AM. We would later find that Tokyo is an incredibly quiet and very relaxing city. Japanese people do not honk unless needed, they do not talk loudly on cell phones in elevators and they certainly do not use their iPhones as boom-boxes on the subways…more on that later. Their cars are like ninjas, their cab drivers are like chauffeurs and even Japanese babies are polite, only crying when yelled at by sumo wrestlers. Again, more on that later.
Hello Tokyo Temples!
We strolled the streets and made our way to Senso-ji temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. It was originally built in 645 however the current structure was rebuilt after a bombing raid in 1945. When we arrived it was under construction leading us to believe that it is a 60-year + project. We wandered the grounds for a while then headed down Nakamise-dori which is a long street lined with traditional shops and stretches from the Senso-ji temple to the Thunder gate.
With plenty of time to kill before we had a place to rest, we continued on to Uneo park. Originally we picked our Japan dates to try and catch the cherry blossom festivals but sadly and we were a week or two late. Ueno Park is one of the best places to see the trees in full bloom. This was evident when we arrived to find the paths littered with pink petals. Much like my first girlfriend, there were a few late bloomers here and there.
At the entrance of the park, we were greeted by the statue of Saigo Takamori, the last truesamurai. I was convinced it was a beardless Zach Galifianakis but I was corrected. The huge tree lined park had many shrines, temples and pagoda however the small Flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the most interesting to me. This memorial houses a small flame lit by fires started after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and is surrounded by hundreds of colourful paper cranes.
Exhausted we made our way back to the hostel in time for check-in. At that point, I came in first contact with a Japanese toilet. I can say it was love at first sight. This baby had heated seats, an automatic scent dispenser, audible sounds to cover up your doings, a built-in sink that doubled as a tank filler, and various buttons with Japanese lettering on them. Curiosity set in 3 days later when I pushed the button with the odd bum spray drawing. I’m sure loud giggling could be heard 2 floors down as the laser-guided jets targeted my “no” area. Thinking it would shut off on its own I was too scared to stand up as it would have sprayed everywhere. A few hilarious seconds later I realized there was a cancel button. I promptly put an end to that ride. The next day I could hear Justin laughing in the bathroom and realized that he too found the bum spray button.
The next day we were up and out to see the freaks in Harajuku. Every Sunday people of all extreme fashion styles meet outside the Harajuku station. This was recently made internationally popular when Gwen Stefani captured 3 Harajuku girls and made them her personal dance slaves. When we arrived there were very few in costumes but the ones that we did see were great.
From there we made our way to Meiji shrine which is located in a huge (175 acre) forested area. The park consists of over 360 different kinds of trees and stays true to the peacefulness that we had come to like about Tokyo.
Hello Tokyo cosplay!
After passing through a huge Torri we arrived at the shrine just in time to catch a traditional Japanese wedding. Deciding to pass on crashing the wedding reception (even though I swear overheard someone say “open sake bar”) we circled the grounds before heading back to the Harajuku district. We made our way down the jammed packed Harajuku street stopping in almost every other store along the way. Passing several amazing-looking crepes stands we opted for the healthier Yam on a stick. Not surprisingly it was delicious.
More shops and shopping followed as we made our way back to Shibuya and the famous Shibuya crossing. This is the famous intersection that turns into a flood of people once the walk sign is lit. We played in traffic for a little while and were not the only ones. There were people doing full-on professional photo shoots in the middle of the street. Very cool.
After crossing several times we headed down the Center Gai in search of something to eat. We randomly found a cool restaurant where you grill your own meat/vegetables etc… on your own table grill. Playing with your food always makes it better.
Feeling stuffed we decided to walk off the meal and maybe have a nightcap before putting an end to a looong day. This all changed when we stumbled upon a row of tiny 4-5 seat bars. The novelty of the bar seemed to refresh all of us. A few drinks later we were teaching our personal bartender how to play quarters. Several shots followed. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we literally drank the bar dry. With the keg tapped we took it as a sign and waived goodbye to our hosts and stumbled our way to the subway. Fueled by looser shots I may have become a bit rowdy. Not necessarily rowdy by North American standards but definitely rowdy in Japan. I also became stupid, both in America and Japan. Thinking it was hilarious I would run out of one car door and enter in another while the train was briefly stopped. The others were not impressed. They were less impressed when Justin pushed me as I tried to renter and the doors closed between us. Yen-less and drunk all I could do was laugh and waive as the last train for the night sped away and left me at an unknown and dark metro stop somewhere in Tokyo.
To be continued…