Final days in the mega metropolis
13.09.2009 - 17.09.2009 27 °C
This morning, while I was updating our blog, Mark took advantage of it to catch up on his beauty sleep so when he woke up, he was in great shape to cook his first Japanese meal: Golden Curry!! It’s actually a quite popular meal here and Mark’s version was very successful. After the home cooked meal, we strolled around Ginza which is a high class shopping district. It’s like a whole city version of Holt Renfrew but a thousand times classier. I’m really curious to know what Japanese people do to be so loaded; I’ve never seen such a busy Louis Vuitton ever! So there are fancy department stores everywhere and obviously, I can’t even afford a pair of socks there, but the treasure in the basement of all of them is that they all have a huge market that sells everything from ready made Japanese meals, to perfect looking deserts to things that we still don’t know what they are, and most of the stands let you try their product to tempt you. You can have a whole meal in there. Products are a bit on the expensive side, but who says you have to buy anything when they are so excited to let you try it for free!! But we did end up buying this cake made on the same apparatus as you use to roast a pig, they call it the Baumkuchen cake and it costs 10CAD$ for a 1 person serving (OK, totally worth the price, it was amazing). It was pretty cool to see it being made and Mark was taking tons of pictures when this lovely and polite Japanese woman asks him not to take any pictures of this shop. Really? You, a Japanese person is telling me not to take any pictures? That’s a bit hypocrite don’t you think?…wait til I see one of you in Montreal . We also went up the Sony building which is about 6 floors filled with Sony products, they had EVERY single Sony product on display and it was pretty cool to see some products that are not even out yet. That night we walk around forever to find a restaurant, it seems like all of them were Ramen places and we just didn’t feel like it. So after we what seems like an eternity of walking around, getting impatient at each other, wanting to kill each other, we ended it up in this very unmemorable restaurant really not worth mentioning.
Today, we were pretty exhausted so we just chilled in our miniature apartment until lunch time when we went to walk around the neighborhood in search of a quick meal. On our way, we saw tons of kids pulling this giant pig statue, we didn’t know what it meant, but it made us laugh. So for lunch we ended up going to this Soba/Udon place which you order your meal outside of the restaurant at a vending machine. I pressed the wrong number and got something unexpected; soba curry, it was a pleasant mistake. I then dragged Mark in this teenage girl infected area; the famous Harajuku where you can see tons of chicks dressed in weird costume like weirdo princess, weirdo goth or weirdo 12-year-old prostitute. This place was more packed then Crescent street during Formula One (well maybe not this year…) After walking around for a while, we stumbled on this really cool modern looking mall with tons of I-can’t-afford-anything-in-this-place stores. I’m telling you, it’s really not fun to be broke in Tokyo. After wishing almost-death to all those really rich Japanese people who seems to do nothing but freaking shop all day, we took the ever crowded train to Shinjuku which is a pretty big neighborhood in Tokyo. This time, I knew exactly where to go to avoid the wanting to kill each other from last night; I took a suggestion from the Lonely Planet to go have some Sukiyaki in Times Square building and we liked the idea that the restaurant was mentioned as a “budget” place. Well after spending 230$ for 6 very thin slice of beef and a few appetizers made for midgets, I have to disagree with that mention even though the meal was extremely delicious. Well of course we had to take the “High quality beef” (yes that’s how they mention it in the menu) which is so fat that it just melts in your mouth and the taste is just out of this world. I have to say one thing; even if the waitresses here don’t work for tips (since there’s no tipping at all in Japan), the service is phenomenal, they really treat you as if you just gave them a kidney, it’s quite impressive.
Having visited Tokyo horizontally for the past days, we decided to go vertically today by going up to the observatory of the Tokyo Tower. After taking the elevator up 250 meters, we got to see the whole city of Tokyo which is quite impressive. This is the densest city I’ve ever witness; from up there, everything was so tight that you couldn’t even see the cars or people in between the building. We had lunch there; Mark got McDs & I ordered the wrong thing again and ended up with ice cold noodle soup. I’m cursed. We spent the afternoon in the Akihabara district which is filled with tons and tons of electronics, comics & videos games which also means tons and tons of geeks with tons of time in their hands since they don’t have girlfriends. We ventured our way into some arcades and Mark got to try a few games including this one soccer game with only Japanese instructions. After spending 30$ on something he barely understood, he scored a goal and was happy. After being sick of laptops, cell phones and geeks, we grabbed some sushi & sashimi on our way home and spent the night watching episodes of Seinfeld.
I wondered how long it would take, but Mark is officially missing the Canadiens today. The pre-season games are about to start and he obviously would love to be part of the action and enjoy his season tickets. Well letting them go to explore the world is not too bad of a trade especially that he found a dozen of website to watch all the games live so I doubt he’ll be missing any of the action. So after he’s caught up with all the Canadiens news, we went to the Tokyo National Museum. I’m not a big museum person, but I was quite impressed with this one. I love how Japanese people display their items, it’s as if each and every single one of them deserve a spotlight. It’s not like all the other museums that I saw that they just put a gazillion items in one display and after you’re done with the museum, you feel like you’ve seen 10% of it. I can say that I have admired every single thing on display at the National Museum and it was quite memorable. We had a quick soup lunch and then went to shop at the only place that I can afford; Uniqlo. Yes I ripped my jeans (Nooo it’s not due to all the food we’ve been eating) and since GAP jeans sell for 200$/pair in Tokyo, I decided to go with a cheaper alternative, which is actually not bad at all. Well the jeans ripping didn’t stop us from having fast food (from Lotteria) for dinner along with a banana chocolate whipped cream crepe for desert. On our way home, we also grabbed some salty snacks & beer to go along with another Seinfeld marathon. Ok, so today I made my first subway mistake, I’ve been so good for so long…damn express train that doesn’t stop at every station.
Everyone is weirded out by us here since they all assume that I’m Japanese (yes, because I’m yellow) so they talk to me in Japanese and then they think I’m a retard cuz I have this dumb look on my face since I don’t understand a thing. But then Mark turns around and answers them in Japanese and then guess who has the dumb look now…hehe.
So today is our last full day in Tokyo before we make our way to Kyoto so we had to do the dreaded cleaning, laundry, packing… But then Mark got a very special visit; Shuhei. Shuhei used to be an exchange student at Mount Allison University and Mark used to tutor him English. They became really good friend and haven’t seen each other in close to a decade. Shuhei now lives in Akita and made the special 6 hour trip down to Tokyo just to visit Mark which made him totally ecstatic. Now we were really excited since we had an insider who can show us the really good places. First he brought us to eat at this yakitori place which was so cool, it was filled with only locals and the food was super cheap and super good. After about 20 chicken meat, intestines, livers and hearts brochettes downed with a few beers, we stopped by this place to try the very popular beef croquettes (beef, potatoes, battered & fried…mmmmm). Then after a bit of shopping where Mark finally found his pair of Ray Bans, we stopped at this place where you can go in a booth and take silly sticker pictures a la Japanese style. It was so much fun just to goof around and imitate those ever popular Japanese Hello Kitty poses. That night the boys went to the Tokyo Dome to enjoy a baseball game between the Tokyo Giants and the Kyoto Tigers (Shuhei’s team). I swear I haven’t seen Mark so happy in a long time; he came back with the biggest grin on his face and the biggest alcohol smell on his body. He couldn’t stop talking about the game, the crowd, the chants and the feeling of having witnessed it all, it was totally magical for him. He took so many videos of the chants and forced me to watch them all. It was quite something, but did you really have to take 12 videos of it? Well if you’re interested he did post the best one on his facebook page. That night, the slightly intoxicated Mark dragged me down the street to try Japan’s famous MOS burger, I really loved it.
So that’s it for Tokyo, tomorrow we will make our way to Kyoto…
Mark & Thanh