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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The final days

From Hiroshima, we took the train to Tokyo, where we would squander our last three nights in Japan on cheap booze and fast women. It was a 5 hour trip, made even longer by the fact that we could only get seats on the smoking car for the Osaka-Tokyo half. Smoking is ubiquitous in Japan; even the non-smoking sections of restaraunts are more like "nobody is smoking in this section right row". Nonetheless...

We got to Tokyo and miraculously found a way out of Tokyo station, where we hailed a cab to the hotel, which the cabbie couldn't find on his own:

Sony P7

The hotel was really just the top 7 or 8 floors of the 40 story building on the left, so it was pretty small by Tokyo standards.

Went to our room, opened the window and got the reverse view:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Or, looking out instead of down:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

So, that was cool.

That night, we ate at a little noodle shop up the street. No English speakers there, so we just pointed at the display items in the case and hoped for the best. Display items? In Japan, restaraunts will often have a little display case on the street with plastic replicas of the food they serve. They're often quite well-done and not as tacky as you might think. So, my wife took the watress outside and pointed at what she wanted and I pointed at the bowl in front of guy next to me, "suppu" (soup). The place soon filled up with black-suited businessmen who drank many liters of sake.

Then we found a little club up the street and hung out there, ordering drinks by randomly picking them from the all-Japanese menu. Good fun. Then we ran back to the hotel in the rain...

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Next day, breakfast at Denny's! No, really. Denny's are everywhere in Japan, but they're not much like the ones in the States. Here's the menu:

Sony P7

You can't get salmon, or rice and miso soup, or eggs and salad, at Denny's in the US; and a side of sausage in Japan is a single sausage - though "mini hot dog" is a better description than "sausage".

Then we went to Shibuya, one of Tokyo's many shopping districts. Like Ginza, it was filled with big-name stores (a 3 story Gap) and huge malls. What we saw wasn't as high-end name-brand as Ginza, though it was still expensive ($80 for T-shirts in a little biker store that may or may not have been from the Rolling Stones' 1975 tour). We only stayed for a while, but we ate lunch at an El Toritos (right next to TGI Fridays), where we had the worst Mexican food I've ever had:

Sony P7

They were playing a Miles Davis concert from the 80's on a huge plasma TV in the corner of the resaraunt, but they were playing Mexican music on the P.A.. So, I got to watch Miles stalk around the stage in his silly 80's clothes. I just imagined he was playing La Cucarracha. Ole!

Then we left for Harajuku, a place I had previously known only from Gwen Stefani. First we went through the back-alley-esque pedestrian district, which was chock-full of girls in schoolgirl outfits, even though it was early Wednesday afternoon - don't they have school?

Sony P7

It was crazy. This section was definitely more youth-oriented than Ginza and Shibuya. T-shirt and sneaker stores (there are a lot of Chuck Taylors in Japan), alternated with old-school punk, goth, biker, surfer, skater and rock stores. All your teenage fashion fantasies can come true, in Harajuku - though the crepe vendors seemed to be doing more business than many of the stores - they smelled awesome. I bought a bunch of T-shirts. We went to a store called Snoopytown - all Peanuts stuff.

Then we went to the other section of Harajuku, which is more upscale (Louis Vutton, etc.). It was super-crowded:

Sony P7

It's a bit hard to tell, but the crowd of people on the sidewalk stretches as far as we could see - a solid mass of heads. It was like the most crowded day at the State Fair. We walked up and down the block to see what's what - but it was just more gigantic multi-story malls filled with high-end designer stores. The Japanese must spend gigantic amounts of money on clothes to keep all those shops in business.

One nice thing about those huge malls, though, is that the bottom floors are often food courts. But they aren't the McDonalds/Panda Express/Taco Bell food courts in US malls; for one thing, you almost never see seats - I guess you're supposed to buy the food and take it home; for another, the variety of foods is vast. Instead of a half-dozen fast food places all serving greasy fast food, there will be 30 different places serving everything from fresh bread to French pastries to candy to coffee to sushi to teriyaki to grilled veggies to noodles to fried everything to soups and salads. Most of it is made fresh, there. Sometimes there are multiple floors of food vendors. Ahh... delicious.

More to come...

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.