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Traipsin’ Through Tokyo

HIDDEN TREASURES

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.

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CHOICES

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.

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FISH FOOD

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.

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FAMILIARITY

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.

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Sakamoto! Sakamoto!

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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.

ESCAPE: ROBOTS

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.

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Average caucasian tourist by day. Robot with cod-piece by night! SHiiiiing! Kee-yah!

ESCAPE: PORNTRONICS

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.

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ESCAPE: COSPLAY

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?

Oh – http://www.kawaiiotaku.com/cosplay-in-tokyo-dome-city/

Cosplay

ESCAPE

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.

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Ye’ Imperial Yard

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Nijubashi Bridge

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)

Image copyEFFICIENCY

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.

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COMFORT

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?

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COZE

Perhaps with some very chilled out spots, with some very good friends.

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FASHION

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.

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You get it, Old Man

Double Damn?

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SURELY, TEMPLE

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A MOMENTARY LAPSE IN COMPANIONSHIP

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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.

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mmmm

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

37 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the wonderful tour!

    April 25, 2013
  2. a great collection of photos. weird and beautiful.

    April 25, 2013
  3. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

    April 25, 2013
    • Excellent! Thank you for the repost, Oyia! Much appreciated.

      April 26, 2013
  4. Fantastic value for money!

    April 25, 2013
  5. Mental! Love your fast-paced account!

    April 25, 2013
    • Barefoot,

      Still reeling from it. More Japan coming soon…

      Thanks!

      April 26, 2013
  6. free penny press #

    Not sure I’ll ever make it that Far east as there is so much of Europe I need to see but having said that, maybe I did just go via your camera..
    awesome shots and love your commentary.. hope you had a wonderful time!

    April 25, 2013
    • Lynne – digging the new site. You’ve got some great pics on there.
      Where are you planning to go in Europe?

      Thank you, it was a blast. I’ll have more pics up the next few weeks. More traditional spots in Japan.

      April 26, 2013
  7. Fantastic Mike! Your overwhelmedness has produced some great writing, imparting a sense of the place — sights, sounds, smells, belly love — with a definite economy of means. Beautiful images woven through as well, as always. So glad you have shared! I think I want to live in that koi pond at the temple…

    April 25, 2013
    • Thanks very much, Laura. Much appreciated, as always…belly love. :)

      Good spot, that koi pond. Just swim around all day with friends, chillin’.

      April 26, 2013
  8. The Imperial Yard looks amazing! Also, I want sashimi for breakfast, now.

    April 25, 2013
    • Definitely wanted to run around the yard, but was afraid to get shot with ninja stars.
      We should open a sashimi ‘n’ pancakes shop. ShimiCakes!

      April 26, 2013
      • Sashimi ‘n’ waffles. It’s a natural. We’ll make dozens of dollars!!!

        April 26, 2013
        • Maple Syrup Nigiri=Handfuls of nickels!

          April 27, 2013
  9. Great photographs! I have heard that Tokyo is an incredibly city, definitely on my list of places to go. The Cosplay photo is crazy….

    April 25, 2013
    • ‘Tis a great spot, amazing food, and infinite photo ops.

      Funny, right after I took that picture, one of the cosplay girls came up and yelled at me for taking it…oh well.

      Thank you, D&A!

      April 26, 2013
      • Perfect – clearly you got the shot just in time! Looking forward to reading more about the trip… or other shenanigans. =)

        April 26, 2013
  10. First time in Asia? You, Mike? I lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong for three years. Visited Tokyo for a weekend. Tokyo’s nuts. So many people! But so are a lot of places in Asia. Loved the photos. Reminded me of my time there. Glad you enjoyed!

    April 26, 2013
    • It’s true, first timer. Focused too much on US and European travels.

      That’s awesome, Jessica. Which did you like more? Taiwan or Hong Kong? Where else have you visited over there? (So many questions!)

      April 26, 2013
      • Hey! Sorry for my delayed response.

        Yeah, it’s funny: Until I had the opportunity to work in Taiwan, I never would have thought to travel to Asia, either. Europe always seemed far more enticing.

        I loved them both. Taiwan is dear to my heart because I went there first, and it was, in many ways, a far more difficult cultural transition than going directly to Hong Kong would have been. Hong Kong is full of ex-pats and tourists, and certain portions of it feel quite Western compared to Taipei.

        I’ve also visited Tokyo (as I mentioned), Thailand (Bangkok and Chang Mai), Cambodia (Siem Reap), Laos (Vientiane), the Philippines (Manila and Angeles City), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Halong Bay), and Macau (just south of China; technically owned by China now). I never made it to Mainland China… There are so many more places I want to go! The more you see the more there is to see.

        I was only in Tokyo for a few days and want to see more of Japan! Asia truly is a shocker when you first arrive. I’m glad you liked it. This post was great!

        April 29, 2013
        • Holy goodness – you have CRUSHED Asia! Have you blogged about these experiences? Have any links I should check out?

          Vietnam was the #1 pick this year, but got swapped out for Japan because we had an insider. How was it? Vietnam?

          April 29, 2013
          • Oh, and I forgot one, actually–Busan, Korea.

            Nah, I haven’t crushed it. Asia is HUGE!!! I soooo want to see Mainland China as well as Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia—and to revisit many of the places I’ve already been. Oh, and India! I really want to go to India.

            I blogged about some of my experiences a while back on a separate blog, but was new to blogging at that time and only had one follower—my dad. Haha. My current blog is a way to relate many of the experiences I’ve had abroad to my current life. Gradually I am touching on a lot of this stuff.

            I LOVED Vietnam. LOVED it. I don’t even know how to describe how awesome it is. Ho Chi Minh is a thriving crazy place with millions of motorbikes. The city was destroyed in the war and today there isn’t much of a public transportation system (no subway, anyway). Very few people can afford cars so everyone drives a motorbike, and it’s nuts! Crossing the street is like taking your own life in your hands, but eventually you just have step out into traffic and dodge bike after bike after bike—because otherwise you’ll never make it across! I also got to go south to My Tho and Ben Tre along the Mekong where fishermen live on their boats. Talk about a colorful life.

            Hanoi was cold while I was there and had a much more reserved feel, but it was equally interesting. And Halong Bay is must-see for anyone. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Vietnam has many many other coastal cities that I would LOVE to visit… So, YES! You should go!!!

            April 29, 2013
            • really impressive, Jessica. You have a great start to all that is Asia.

              India has been dipping in my top 5 list for the last few years. Any idea on where you’d go?
              One of my old professors is from Goa, looks very, very inviting.

              Will definitely hit up your blog now. Been crazy around the Roam About HQ, haven’t been able to enjoy all the great blogs out there.

              Sounds incredible. I’ve been sold on Vietnam for a while, your amazing description just about sealed the deal. I think it may be #1 on my wish list.
              Did you ride a motorbike over there?

              May 1, 2013
  11. Ultraman couldn’t have asked for a better partner!

    April 30, 2013
    • Thanks, Hook. I can be his sidekick, Not-So-Ultraman.

      May 1, 2013
  12. What a cool place! Literally. Was it humid and about 55 degrees all the time? Loved the photos and the tour. More, more!!

    May 2, 2013
    • It was cool. Tokyo was in the 50’s the whole time, then dropped to the high 40’s, rained. Pretty cold/sloppy. Compared to the shitty 30 degree weather in Columbus at the time, it was fantastic.
      Digging your new avatar, susie!

      May 2, 2013
  13. Loved Nara! Visit Miyajima if you have time

    May 7, 2013
    • I will indeed visit Miyajima, Skycastles (post next week, I hiked Mt. Misen :)
      Thanks!

      May 7, 2013
  14. Reblogged this on Resort & Luxury Real Estate, Co. and commented:
    If you have ever watched Godzilla, then you can appreciate why I am sharing! I am also a balloon artist (thing about me #2 you didn’t know about me!) and I can totally see making Godzilla in this video from balloons! 360’s, 260′ & 160’s to be exact…adding a couple of rounds of course!

    May 11, 2013

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