10.09.2009 - 17.09.2009 25 °C
After a 10 hour flight with a huge headache and not enough leg room, we set foot at Narita Airport. Japan has always been a dream destination for both Mark and I and we were beyond excited to finally make it to this island country they call Nippon. Mark was also excited since he took a year of Japanese and was eager to apply his knowledge. Our excitement got cut short when I met up with the rudest immigration officer and Mark got detained at immigration for 30 minutes with a guy from Congo who was apparently escaping his country for fear of execution. Apparently they found it suspicious that Mark didn’t know by heart the address of our apartment in Tokyo and also that he wasn’t travelling with enough cash and relying only on his interac and credit cards. Oh my god, the weirdest is only beginning…
As we walk out of the airport, we met Tokyo’s biggest devil: the train system. Are you kidding me? Is it even supposed to be easy, user friendly or even logical? Well after 3 long hours, we miraculously made our way through the maze to get off at our station Nishi-Ogikubo. We met up with our “landlord” who showed us to our rented apartment; it’s this tiny but almost perfect orange-themed 1 ½ fully furnished with everything we could need for our stay. It’s also 30 seconds from this amazing supermarket Seiyu that sells everything from clothing to so many varieties of foods that we could never taste it all. We ventured our way through the aisles of the supermarket and bought our first Japanese dinner: obviously, some sushi & sashimi. I don’t know if we were bias because we’re in Japan, but it tasted soooo good.
We woke up the next morning at 3AM due to the stupid jet-lag, chilled for a couple hours and then made our way to the famous Tsukiji fish market; this is where they apparently trade 20 million dollars worth of fish daily! We arrive around 7AM so we missed all the action which usually happens between 5AM & 7AM and it’s apparently crazy. Surrounding the fish market are tons of counters that you can go and have the freshest fish ever. After waiting in line (with mainly Japanese tourists) we sat down to devour this huge bowl of rice topped with the thickest, freshest pieces of tuna, salmon, crab, scallops that we’ve ever tasted. We then made our way to the Tokyo Dome which is home to the Tokyo Giants and I’m telling you, Mark was in paradise. He not only enjoys the sport, but also loves attending sporting games all around the world. So after we went through a couple merchandise stores (Mark bought some Giants chopsticks), toured the Baseball Hall of Fame, we managed to score some amazing tickets to next Wednesday’s game. On our way home for a much needed afternoon nap, Mark had his first Japan’s Mc Donald’s meal.
That night, we went to crazy crowded Shibuya with all its thousands of neon, shops, restaurants, coffee shops, it was quite the spectacle (oh yah, Times Square has got nothing on them). We walked around to soak in the madness but also to find somewhere to have a traditional Japanese dinner. Well even though this neighborhood looked like it could never run out of restaurants to try, everything was booked!! It was Friday night and after walking for what seems to be forever, we stumbled on this Isakaya joint that was owned by a bunch of friendly young guys, the cook looked like he was probably in his early 20s. We were told to remove our shoes at the door and took our place along the bar. That night we had some Korean inspired dishes, but also summoned the courage (well maybe just me, Mark didn’t need courage at all) to try some chicken sashimi (oh yeah, that means that it’s raw!) and some whale meat. The food was amazing and it seems to me that eating barefoot just added to the experience.
So after only 2 days in Tokyo, these are a few things I’ve noticed:
•They have a very complicated train system, but after a couple days, we finally got the hang of it.
•The trains get so crowded at times , there’s men with white gloves ready to squeeze people in.
•Everyone either play game on their phones, or read or sleep on the train. We’ve seen people sleep while standing up and holding on to absolutely nothing. We’ve also seen people miss their stop because they were sleeping.
•Japan is the land of sushi but also of tempura (they love everything fried), ramen, soba & udon noodles (which you order from a vending machine before stepping in the restaurant), curry, vending machines and crepes (stuffed with fruits, whipped cream, ice cream, cheesecake….)
•Guys here have better haircuts and better waistline than me.
•Girls here love to dress sexy in a school girl gone bad kinda way (Mark has been loving it) and they seem to be obsessed about looking Caucasian.
•I think Japanese people think they might die if they eat a sandwich with the crust since every sandwich sold is crustless.
•Every restaurant has their menu displayed in the front in the form of plastic food model, I have to say, I love this idea.
•People here are extremely polite. If you enter a store with 10 staff member, they will ALL turn around and welcome you. Yes, it’s very weird when you’ve been accustomed to Montreal’s borderline rude service staff.
•They are sickenly law abiding citizens. Would it really kill you to throw a piece of garbage on the ground? or to steal something? come on...By the way, it’s impossible to find a garbage can anywhere.
•People seem to be rushing all the time, where the hell are you running to at 11AM?
More of Tokyo to come…
Mark & Thanh
GO HABS GO!!!