Thursday, April 25, 2013

Asia trip part 8 - Tokyo

The next morning we were happy to see that the rain had stopped. We hustled over to the train station and waited for the bullet train to arrive. We were really excited because we have never been on a fast train before. 

 In two hours and twenty minutes we arrived in Toyko and the largest train station in the world. I believe it. It took us a good twenty minutes to get to the subway station we needed to get close to our hotel. We ran into the same cruise couple and learned they were going to the same hotel. So we all figured it out together. It was a little tricky since the street names sometimes have no English. 

Then we hit the streets to explore our neighborhood - Shinjuku. 

We explored the supposedly gay area but there wasn't much going on for a late Wednesday afternoon. Found a cute wine bar and noshed on some cheese and sipped some bubbly. We explored around town some more and then went on a hunt for dinner. We found this great hole in the wall place where chefs were grilling various meats behind a counter. And people were smoking! So Serge got to indulge himself.


All over downtown Tokyo and Kyoto for that matter, there were no smoking signs. The rule was you could smoke on private property, but not public. So no smoking on the sidewalk for example. But duck into an alcove and you are fine. 

 The reason we settled on this place besides it looking good is because there was a small sign announcing English menu available. It was English, but we certainly didn't order the wing with hard packed dirt floor. What the heck?

We kept getting so lucky with the prices too. I thought Tokyo was super expensive. Apparently it was a couple years ago, but the currency has shifted so I didn't find it any more expensive than our own city back home. 

Then we walked around our neighborhood some more. There was an area, a couple blocks where people kept coming up to us and asking if we wanted sex. Some were very insistent. We noted the area and stayed clear of it after that. 

This photo caused some speculation on Facebook. I have zoomed all the way in there and it's black. No I wasn't wearing undies but you can't see anything either. As you might notice, we turned in early that night. We were tired from all the traveling. We had some kind of Japanese sweet thing for dessert.

The next day we headed out on the subway. We noticed all the business men had the same clothes. Basically a black suit and shoes with a white shirt. Later when I asked the natives about it, I learned that it is an insult if you show up to do business with someone unless you are wearing a black suit. Makes shopping pretty easy I suppose.

They had smoking cages outside. You can also see the costume I was talking about.

Next stop Tokyo Tv tower. We stood in line, shopped in the souvenir shop and went to the top. 

Where we had an amazing 360-degree view of what seemed to be an interminable city. Urbanity as far as the eye could see. We were all excited about getting to see Mt Fuji in the background.

We walked for hours. Stopped at a cute cafe and had a coffee and tried to make our way to the palace. Turns out you can only visit the palace twice a year. 

There you can see just a little bit of the palace in the background. As you can see it was a fantastically beautiful day. It was odd though, even though Tokyo is North of Kyoto and Nagasaki, their cherry blossoms were already bloomed and fallen to the ground. Maybe because of the heat island effect of a big city, nay, the biggest city in the world. 

We walked some more and decided to go check out a whole other part of town. Which I can't remember the name of nor can I identify from a list, lol. Good thing I'm blogging this or the memory would fade to nothing. 

this part of town had lots of modern structures. This was a convention center type place. Cool architecture. We went in and had gyoza for lunch with a beer. Yum. Since coming home, we have gone to Chinatown and loaded up on gyoza. I know how to make them but it takes a long time. So much easier to cook from frozen.

I just like this picture. One thing that was very inconvenient in Japan for me was the taboo on blowing your nose in public. The day I got off the boat, I came down with a terrible cold. After getting numerous rude looks as I blew my nose, I checked the guidebook to find that it was unconscionable to do that. The rules dictate, nothing coming out, only in. So you are just supposed to sniff that nasal batter up and swallow. Ugh.

We found a kind of amusement area but didn't hang out to do anything. I did look for pinball but they didn't have that.

Toyota had a showroom there with future models. The one seater looked pretty neat. No doors though, so obviously not for rainy weather.

Then there was an upscale mall place with a very Vegas like interior. Reminded me of the Venetian as the "sky" changed color and morphed.

I made him pose for that. Will I ever grow up? That was another mall that we didn't go into. What we did do but didn't get any good pics of was go to the science museum. There were TOO MANY KIDS, as there usually are at such venues. The most interesting thing for me was the space station replica and the toilet contraption. A guide was explaining it in Japanese so I couldn't understand, but there were suction cups and clamps which would be necessary in zero gravity. What a long day! We started the journey back to our hotel so we could get ready to go out to dinner with my former students.

They took us to a great Japanese restaurant and then for a nightcap at a hotel rooftop. Their English was awesome (I'm such a good teacher, ha!) My favorite moment was when I asked the kids (now 18 and 20) what they missed most about Montreal, and without a moment's hesitation, they both said POUTINE! 

The next day was our last day in Asia. Although that brought a certain sadness, we were also feeling ready for home again. I decided I wanted to check out the Rappongi area of Tokyo where the expats are. Yes, there were more white skinned people but also more Western chains like the Hard Rock Cafe. No, thanks.

We came into this place because I thought the yellow picture was okonomiyaki, but as it turned out, it was tonkatsu - a breaded fried port filet - which was the final thing on my list that I wanted to eat in Japan. Ah good fortune, how sweet it is. This was the hardest time we had ordering because the waiter didn't speak any English. 

We were in the area of the famous spider sculpture so we made the detour to see it. 

Then we headed to an area my students had suggested we check out, again blanking on the name, where there was a huge street market and temples. It was crowded! But we found what we were looking for, yukatas (thin fabric robes) to take home. 

We enjoyed a coffee and the view and felt satisfied at our successful visit to Tokyo. The Tokyo tree is in the background, the tallest structure in Japan. We didn't go up it. Maybe on a future visit. By this time we were just enchanted with all things Japanese and though we want to do South America first, we definitely will come back to Japan in the future.

We chilled for a few at the hotel and then dressed up for our final night out. We got reservations at Nobu, easily our favorite place to dine out. 

The first course was a trio. The first thing was fugu. You know the fish that if it is cut and served wrong, you die? Yeah, we ate it. We didn't die. Crossed it off the bucket list. Don't get why all the hubbub though, it was kinda chewy. But the meal was fantastic as usual and included 8 courses. It turned out to be the most expensive dinner we have ever paid for ourselves. $550. But, you only live once right? No regrets.

Then we got home and tried our new yukatas. They will be delightful to wear in the summer here. The next day went swimmingly well, no trouble getting to the airport and we slept on the plane. However, the jet lag was really bad when we got back and took us nearly a week to adjust. It was easier going than coming back. I hope you enjoyed tripping along with us. I'll try to blog a little more frequently. It's still a fun hobby and unlike facebook, I don't feel like I'm shoving my thoughts in your face. XO tout le monde.


Anonymous said...

I so can't wait to go in July.

anne marie in philly said...

THANK YOU for sharing your marvy trip with us poor underlings! glad you and serge had a good time!

NOW it's time for some georgie pr0n pix! who looked after him whilst you were gone? did you come back to snow in montreal? said...

And the nicest thing is I didn't gain any weight from all the food you posted. What a wonderful trip. Thank you so much,

Anonymous said...

Awesome pix! If I ever get to Tokyo I want to visit Akihabara - that's the tech sector. I'll likely have to use 20 foot container to ship all the goodies back to the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I love the bathrobes! And the foodie stuff! And the architecture stuff! And the fact that your former students miss poutine! And that you blogged this all out for us.

Blog if you want to (no pressure) and know that when you do, I'll be here reading.


Anonymous said...

I finally got around to reading about your trip even though I saw some of it on FB. Thank you for posting about it. I hope to get to the fatherland someday along with other parts of SE Asia. BTW, the new tallest in Asia is a project by our office. We almost moved to China to join our team there (before moving to YUL). Thanks again for sharing this.