Sunday, March 9, 2008

Weekend in Tokyo

It's Sunday evening here in Yokosuka, and Phil and I are sitting in our room in utter exhaustion, trying to recover from the weekend. This was Phil's first opportunity to really travel since we arrived in Japan last week (we've already been here a week!!!) so into Tokyo we went.

Let's just state for the record, right here and now, how incredibly huge Tokyo actually is. There's really no way to see everything there is to see in a weekend, so we basically tried to dabble our way through (a little of this, a little of that).

We left for Tokyo bright and early Saturday morning, where our first stop was to the Ueno district, to visit a Shinto Temple. From there, we visited the Ameyoko market, a huge outdoor market that seems to have grown out of the railroad track. It's busy with people and little shops (think Flea Market, multiplied by 50, but with 10 times less space), and you can find anything there from fresh octopus to designer jeans.
From there we had decided to visit the Tokyo Kite Museum. Those of you who read regularly will remember that Phil is quite the kite enthusiast. We took the subway (which is surprisingly easy to figure out, it's so well organized) to the appropriate stop, and that's when we hit our first snag of the day. The problem, you see, is that Phil had forgotten to pack the map of the area he had printed out which pinpointed the exact location of the museum. By a stroke of luck, one of our guide books actually mentioned the museum, which narrowed it down some, but it was still really hard to find. The problem is that Japanese addresses are quite difficult to understand. It's kind of like this: a regular street address will have 3 numbers and a neighborhood (ex: 3-15-24 Roppongi, Minako-Tu, tokyo). Minako-Tu would stand for the neighborhood, Roppongi the general street area, 3 the group of blocks, 15 the actual block or building, and 24 the street address. And the numbers aren't consecutive on the street, so number 24 isn't necessarily next to 25.

Still with me?

Anyway, long story short, we finally managed to find the place because I had written down the address, and by following various street atlases that are interspersed throughout the area (because even the locals can't make sense of their own system), we managed to find it. A one minute walk from the subway took us an hour. But still! I had the knowledge. Who da man?????
Phil has asked me to let you all know that more pictures of our museum tour can be found here.

After the visit, we had lunch at a Korean restaurant in the area, then we walked around the neighborhood (Nihonbashi) and visited Takashimaya, a high end department store that sells, well, everything. It's the kind of store that you just don't see in Montreal. I mean, there are elevator girls, for crying out loud. It was pretty amazing.

It also provided us with the answer to that question which has been plaguing philosophers, theologians and physicists since time immemorial: How many Japanese does it take to change a light bulb?By this point, we were pretty much zonked, but we had decided to have dinner in Tokyo and head over to the Shinjuku district, which has quite the nightlife reputation. So after a quick stop at Starbucks for some much needed refreshment, we took the subway again and headed over to Shinjuku.

It was still pretty early when we got there, so after locating what we thought would be our restaurant that evening, we headed over to the Kinokuniya bookstore, which spans 8 floors and has a respectable foreign books section as well.

Now, Shinjuku at night is all about entertainment. We're pretty tame by local standards (we wanted to catch the 9:13 train back to Yokosuka), so most of our frivolous spending was in one of the many, many, MANY arcades in the area.While walking around we stumbled upon a sushi restaurant where you sit at a counter and the sushi travels in front of you on conveyor belts. You pick what you want, and they ring up your bill by counting your empty plates. The place was packed with locals, and it was just delicious. Makes our sushi back home taste like Alpo.
Shinjuku was pretty amazing. The lights, the people, the noise, the ambiance. Really spectacular.
But after all that, we still had a long train back, and it had been a long day, so we bid Shinjuku Adieu and headed back to Yokosuka.

This morning we were back at the train station (though not quite so early). We headed to the Ginza neighborhood, and to the Hamarikyu park in particular, to meet up with a Water Bus that cruises up the Sumida river to Asakusa. It was a lovely boat ride, and gave us a different perspective of the city.We disembarked from the boat a few minutes away from the Kaminarimon Gate, the Thunder Gate, and the Senso-Ji temple. Ah, temples. Areas of quiet reflection, right? Weeelllll...

While there, we found a stand which specializes in these Octopus ball thingies that Phil had read about and wanted to try. They were OK (a little bouncy), but mostly they were HOT!
From Asakusa, we took the subway to Shibuya, another high end shopping district. And I mean High. End. Dolce&Gabana, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Missoni, Chanel, Emporio Armani, the works. We counted 3 Ferraris in a 2 block radius.
We did some souvenir shopping at the Oriental Bazaar, then headed back to Yokosuka.

It's now 9:15 PM, and I've been blogging for about an hour and a half (lots to cover!). Tomorrow I'm off to Akita to visit my girlfriend Nadine, who's been teaching English there for over 2 years. Akita is quite far from here, so I get to take the bullet train! I don't know if I'll be able to blog while I'm there, so my next post may not be until Thursday.

Stay tuned! :)


Anonymous said...

o hahahaha. Lightbulb joke. Very funny.

Also good pics - Philippe has a very expressive face :).

Safe travels - KTE

Jennifer said...

What a weekend!
1. how's the rest of the food? eaten anything crazy?
2. can you read the language? (Ie: are the video games in English?)
3. Shouldn't you have bid "sayonara" to Tokyo, or something?
4. octopus balls?

Mrhide said...

1-nothing "crazy" ... Pepper steak, Japanese curry, yummy sushi.

2-nope! in Japanese

4-they are called takoyaki (google!)

Knit & Purl Mama said...

Wow - what a weekend.

I'm with Jenn - Octopus balls? Sounds gross!!!