Traipsin’ Through Tokyo
Early morning run through Akasaka area, first time running in a foreign country — a liberating, smile-inducing experience. Sun charges through revealing some lovely, veiled shrines. Run around the (unfortunately) walled Togu and Akasaka palace; ancient meets modernity, apartments against shrines; Palaces vs. McLaren Showrooms.
Madness at the Tsukiji Market—the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. Are we in the right spot? We snake through an artery of vendors at the outer market; a sliver of the 2,000 tons of aquatic dwellers sold per day. How is the ocean not empty? Seafoods, and wafting broths from ramen stands, curries, and…and…hunger strike force.
Tuna sashimi for breakfast in Tokyo? Tuna and Fattier tuna sashimi, scallions, rolled egg, rice, a skosh of wasabi and a minty leaf that may have been a maple leaf that snuck into the bowl. Don’t care, still eating it.
Tokyo feels so familiar, just different…
Ginza looks like Fifth Avenue, with a sprinkle of kanji, but shuts down during lunch so people can walk around eat at the benches set up in the middle of the street. Stacked floors of department stores filled to the nooks with housewares, kitchen wares, underwears, with a basement full of pastry shops, delectable grub, and sake/whiskey. Gas Station Sushi? Nay.
The San Francisco Giants are the Yomiuri Giants here, yet the COACH is the most revered “player”. Pizza Hut is delivered via scooters. Petrol hangs from the ceiling at Gas stations. The Tokyo Tower is Eifel-esque. Even an Old friend from London’s Tate Museum finds a new home at the Mori Tower in Roppongi.
Familiar, yet different. Better, even. Things just make more sense from a socially-aware standpoint…then, they (the things) don’t make sense at all, and Danny gets asked ‘WHY?’ for the umpteenth time.
Robots kick-ass, and Japanese TV/cinema have plenty of robots. Japan is the tech capital of the world (they have heated toilet seats, argument over), so it makes sense superheroes are robotic, power rangers, karate zaborgars, and ultramen.
Akihabara: location of subculture gaming nerd (otaku) sexery. Where the cripplingly introverted slobber over pretend girlfriends at Maid Cafes, go play with their joysticks/chain smoke at one of the seven-levels of the arcade havens; then buy porn at one of the seven-levels of the porn shop; scurry home.
Weird place. Loud, active, shiny at night. Like moths to boobs. Still clean, yet, feels dirty.
Tokyo Dome hosted a Cosplay convention in 2003, and it stuck. A decade later teens dress up in character, act out their characters’ fantasies by taking pictures with other Cosplayers, and scolding Americans for taking pictures of them taking pictures. Odd. At least Live Action Role Players fight ‘n’ stuff…
Where are all these pictures going?
Speaking of emotional escapism, there are geological pockets in Tokyo for reflection/ponderance whether face-tattoos or cosplay are more destructive to the psyche.
The Imperial Palace is not one of those places to ponder. Didn’t know this, but the Imperial Palace closes 99% of the year, only open on January 2nd, and December 23rd (the emperor’s b-day). Still, while pretty mobbed, the grounds are tremendously beautiful, and impeccably kept — one of the few icons in Tokyo not destroyed by unabashed US bombing during WWII.
The walk to the Meiji Temple on the other hand is a tremendous place to just breath and reflect. (Bottom pictures, rowing lake on the Imperial grounds, and the backyard of a traditional tea house, habutae and matcha inside)
Imagine a NYC or London where trains are only late an average of 0.6 seconds/year. PER YEAR! The efficiency of Japanese trains makes this blogger weep with joy. Precision, punctuality, a benchmark so close to perfection, they might as well be conjoined male twins, attached at the scrot.
If a train is 5 minutes late, you get a written apology from the conductor. 10 minutes late, and he (she?) will commit seppuku on the platform.
Tokyo on Tv: frantic shots of Shinjuku crossing, commuters shoved into rush hour subway trains, Yakuza sprinting down alleys in 50′s black and whites, and pure insanity. Yes, Tokyo is a megalopolis, with one of the highest population densities on the planet and a constant pulse, but it’s the safest, cleanest, and arguably, most polite city on the planet.
With all these people, how do they do it?
Perhaps with some very chilled out spots, with some very good friends.
And expression through fashion. Tokyo is the fashion capital of the world. This blogger looked like a schlub compared to the put-togetherness of Tokyonites. Damn.
A MOMENTARY LAPSE IN COMPANIONSHIP
EVERYBODY LOVES RAMEN
Danny made the mistake of taking us to a Ramen shop the second night in Tokyo. The entire trip was a search for more, more, more Ramen.
Weeks after I took the photo below, and I’m jonesin’ hard for thick, hearty, tonkotsu (pork bone ramen). Willing to moiderize someone for it.
Tokyo was a bit overwhelming. So much so, I had a hard time piecing this together going with imagery over detailed accounts. It was a four-day crash course in, not only Japanese culture, but Asian as well, first-timing Asia (not counting Russia). It was a sprint through a city full of sensory overload, limping through language handicap stitches, and learning once again to just soak things in. Still soaking it in today. Tokyo, wow.
Next up: Satte, Nikko, and Nara — Mike