Part 2 of my mini adventure
7/31/13 - 8/1/13
Let me begin by saying two things:
-Sorry for the delay. I just got back last Wednesday and then started my new job on Monday. Just a bit exhausted!
-Looking back at my last post about Tokyo, I realized I provided all of these pictures and no explanations! So, I updated that post
Here is the second part of my adventure. It covers the evening of July 31st and the morning of August 1st. I still have lots of pictures and stories to share, so please stay with me. I'll hopefully catch up by this weekend. My goals for the weekend are sleeping and posting. Oh, and maybe find somewhere to live.
Manga hunting and butler cafes
After leaving the Meiji Shrine, Kristen and I wanted to explore Japan manga culture, but with limited time, we decided to go to Ikebukuro. It is closer to Harajuku. This neighborhood is focused on female fans of manga and is smaller than its male counterpart, Akihabara. We wandered for a while hunting down the street where the stores are all located. Either they hide them well or its smaller than we thought.
Manga is a Japanese comic style. It has a very specific style and it enjoyed by almost everyone in Japan, no matter their age or gender. We walked into one manga store, and we got the least friendly welcome I received in Japan. There aren't many tourist in this neighborhood and they are very protective of their culture. Kristen and I were really impressed and wanted to learn more about it, I hope that came across. In addition to going to a manga store where they sell the comics, we also went into a store that sells the outfits. Many manga fans dress up as the characters they read about. This can be done for fun or worn every day. Remember how I mentioned that on Sundays in Harajuku people dress up? Sunday would also be a day the manga fans dress up.
We also tried to find a butler cafe, which is similar to a maid cafe. A maid cafe is where the customers are waited on by waitresses dressed up as maid characters from Manga. The dressing up is also called cosplay, which is short for comstume play. See here for a better explanation. The butler cafe is a version dedicated to female customers. All of the men are nice looking and well dressed. The best part? They treat you like princesses. Unfortunately, it was a two month wait for a cafe called Swallowtail, so we missed out! Here is a video if you want to learn more. Sorry it's in Japanese, but you'll still get a good idea of the experience.
As the night went on, Kristen had to return to her husband, Ed. So selfish! So we parted ways in Ikebukuro. This meant I was on my own as I attempted to find my hotel in Ginza. I just had one small problem, my cell phone was almost dead. You would think it would be easy to charge your phone in the country that is known for designing phones...think again. As in America, I ran over to the Starbucks thinking I could charge there...nope! It was so packed you had to wait to be seated by the host. So, I rushed over to Ginza and hoped I would make it before my phone died. I didn't make it before my phone died, but I went old school and used a map...yeah that's easier said than done.
So, that is the Tokyo subway. Despite what it looks like, I find it easier to use than the NYC subway. The trains don't change schedule and everything is in English. I think the biggest obstacle is confidence. If you are not confident, you wouldn't survive. Also, I had my Suica card, so I avoided buying tickets for the exact amount of each trip. There were a lot of tourist staring at maps trying to figure out how much they needed. I just breezed through. Best thing I ever did.
I needed to get from Ikebukuro, which is in the upper left to Ginza, which is south west of Tokyo. Between all the guidance Kristen, Ayako, Jun and the Japanese teacher gave me, I actually made it with no mistakes!! Of yeah, and I cheated by looking up a route before my phone died. When I arrived in Ginza, I had no idea where to go and did not have a detailed street map. I figured out the general area and then decided to put my Japanese to the test. I had heard that very few people spoke English in Japan, so I made sure I knew how to say, "Where is..." I carefully selected this gentlemen waiting around. I said, "Dori doko desu ka?" and pointed to the street name on my map. I followed that by saying, "Koko, soko, asoko," which means here, there, over there." Could I make it clearer that I don't speak Japanese? So what happened? In perfect English he says, "It's over there." Have to say that was a bummer.
I quickly checked into the hotel and showered. Tokyo is so humid that I took several showers a day and changed my clothes at least three times a day. Feeling refreshed, I headed out to look around and find dinner at the local 7-11. Ginza is to Rodeo Drive of Tokyo. All of the stores were closed by the time I got there, but I did some window shopping before turning in for the night.
In addition to the shopping, Ginza also has a Kabuki theater. The season did not start until August 2nd, so I just missed it! Guess I have to go back!
After wandering around a for a bit, eating more 7-11 and watching some very strange TV shows, I went to bed. Early morning ahead!
Tsukiji Fish Market
I woke up at 3:00 am and caught a cab at 3:30 am to get to Tsukiji by 3:45 am. So what is Tsukiji and why did I get up so early to visit it? Tsukiji Fish Market is the fish market in Japan, maybe even the world. It is the largest wholesale market in the world and only allows 120 people a day to visit its famous tuna auctions everyday. I was around the 40th person to show up and all 120 showed up by 4:00 am. The first group doesn't enter the fish market until 5:20 am, so we hung out in our safety vests for a while. Plus, we had to watch the orientation video, which outlined where we were allowed to go and to remind us that it is a place of business, so stay out of the way or you'll get run over by the carts.
Here is me in my safety vest! Thanks to my new friend Roberto from Italy, I got a couple of pictures of myself.
At 5:20, we walked into the auction. We watched as the purchasers checked out the tuna. When a seller is ready, he'll ring a bell and step on a box. He'll auction them off until he is done. Then the next guy goes. We were only in there for 25 minutes. Then we moved out for the next 60 visitors to enter.
After the auction, Roberto and I went looking for the sushi place Ayako recommended. Finding it was a lot of fun. We wandered down these side streets full of stalls that selling different food products. There were things that I not only could not name, I could not tell you want animal they came from!
Here is some of the sushi I ate. I also had some eel, but it looked so good I ate it before taking a picture shame! Roberto and I shared our Japan stories and he showed me his Fuji pictures. He booked his climb two months in advance! He stayed in one of the cabins so he could be at the top of at sunrise. It was really cool.
I helped Roberto find the subway station he needed and we parted ways. He was off to Brazil for business. I headed the opposite direction to go meet Ayako and Jun! Along the way, I found this guy heading either to work or heading home. Not sure.