Saturday, January 3, 2009

Holy Crap

Tokyo has completely blown me away and gotten me more excited about traveling and just life in general. It wasn't just one characteristic of Tokyo thats inspired me, but everything about what the city is. Huge buildings, massive crowds of people, and tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, and places to shop. We were there for four days, and we barely scraped the surface of what that place has to offer. Even if we revisited an area, the same place felt fresh and full of energy. I highly recommend trying to go to Tokyo sometime, it really is a unique city that's safe and incredibly fun.

Even though we only were able to do a few things in Tokyo, what we did do was awesome. We spent the first day just wandering around Shinjuku trying to get a grasp on what was around us. We went to the 54th floor of some building and had coffee and cake, a common snack for us on the trip when anything went wrong. The view was really cool because all you could see was buildings and they just kept going all the way to the horizon, finally becoming hidden in the fog somewhere in the distance. At night we hopped around to a few restaurants and bars, and then while we were looking for a club, some hustler guys from Ghana started bugging us and asking if we wanted to see a live sex show. It was really funny but the guys were creepy and followed us for a long time for absolutely no reason. One guy was pretty good at what he did, and somehow managed to get us to go to some bar that he guaranteed a good time. Well, there was a sad bunch of people in the bar, and there was a twenty dollar cover, so got a few drinks to feel like the cover was somewhat worth it, and then went to Shibuya to try our luck there. We wound up at this bar in a basement that played American rap music, and while at first we were a little apprehensive about staying, we ended up dancing there for a long time. There weren't many people dancing, but there were some black guys that were doing some real old school moves, so it was a lot of fun just getting down and trying to mimic the people around us. We left around four or so and got a taxi back to Shinjuku to our pod hotel. On the way, hookers constantly asked us if we wanted massages and hooked there arms in ours. It was funny because by the end of the walk, they just gave up saying massage and just straight up asked us if we wanted sex. We settled for some potato snacks from the convenience story that are my favorite snack here, and we felt satisfied for only a buck. Who needs "massages" when good food is around? Haha, especially from some haggard forty year olds. Even better was getting into the pod hotel, changing into the provided outfits, and climbing into our washing machine of a room. We were pretty drunk and it was wild walking through rooms lined with circular holes in the wall filled with snoring businessmen.

The next day was New Years Eve, and for me, the best and craziest day we spent there. We decided to go to Akihabara, commonly known as Electric City for all the electronic stores and trinkets sold everywhere. It's also known for all the book stores, but sadly, since it was the New Year's Holiday, a lot of the smaller stores were closed so I didn't pick up any new art books or Japanese prints. We checked out a bunch of other things though, and then for dinner we chose some Korean barbecue place. So, I've learned to read katakana and hiragana, and while I can read some things, the whole kanji thing makes any kind of alphabet completely useless. This can be a problem sometimes when it comes to ordering things in a restaurant. We ordered something that looked like chicken and some other things that we wanted to try that ended up being really good. But the meat came out and we cooked it wondering when it would be finished. We both picked up a piece and were very hesitantly moving it towards our mouth until Joe just popped his in. I bit down just a little bit and immediately said," I don't think its cooked." When I looked up at Joe, his eyes were wide and looking around for some place to deposit the food. We came to the conclusion that it wasn't chicken, but we still weren't sure what it was and since we had a huge plate of it and we were hungry, we forced some of it down. It came to the point where it was just plain nasty, and I tried checking out the menu to figure out what it was. Luckily or unluckily, I could read the katakana for guts, so I think we ate a bunch of intestine or something like that. Even worse, since they brought us a big plate of it, we got charged twice as much as we thought. We couldn't believe what we just did, so we decided to clean our palates with some coffee and cake. We had heard about the maid cafes so we picked one out of our guide books and ended up at @home cafe, one of the more famous maid cafes in the city. There was actually a line to get in, and when we finally got inside, it felt like we were in some thirteen year old girls room. All the maids were dressed in costumes that looked like they were made of plastic and were all smiling and laughing with the customers trying to please them. This really wasn't me and Joe's kind of thing, so we made fun of a lot of the people there and ate some cake called Chocolately Sweet Mr. Bear Cake that was actually really good. Every guy there was getting his picture taken on the stage in the front of the place, so we thought we should probably do it too. They asked for our nicknames so Joe became Waffle Jack and I was Pipeline. It was awesome listening to our maid call us up to the stage, and then even better that she wrote the names on the photos. You can check em out down below. It was a strange crowd in there, and even weirder were the little things that they had. Apart from some of the crazy hats some guys were wearing, people had photo albums of them with girls from the cafe. Not just a few pages, but an entire album of them in a variety of poses, and they flipped through the pages with a wishful look in their eyes whenever their maids were away doing something. I think some of them believed that the girls actually liked them, and Joe got a nasty stare from some guy when he got caught staring at one of the girls. Haha, it was absolutely rediculous, and then we discovered the card system that they had in place. I scanned it so you guys can see it for yourselves, its pretty hard to put into words.

From Tokyo

We couldn't take any more of the maid cafe, and it was getting closer to midnight, so drinking. We weren't sure what club we wanted to go to for New Years, but some Australian kids we met earlier in the day called me and told us to go to Womb, Tokyo's most hoppin club. It sounded good to us, so we headed for Shibuya and got lost for about an hour before we finally found the place. The entrance was a tarp covered box with a guy standing outside. There were no signs or anything so it took us a while to find the place, and we finally got inside at 11:57. We checked our coats and got to the dance floor right at midnight, and I was amazed at what we saw. Hundreds and hundreds of people filled a massive dance floor with lasers shooting all over the place, fog machines going full blast, strobe lights going crazy, and a bunch of confetti showering the crowd. It was awesome, but there were so many people there for the countdown that we were just getting pushed around so we decided to get some shots before we went back down and danced. Randomly, in the mix of all the people, we found one of the Australian kids from earlier on. He just got out of high school, and wasn't too bright, because he was swallowing one yen coins for money. The guy ran out of money, and started telling people he would drink a penny for 100 yen. He did that for a while, and then resorted to just stealing stuff from the counter. At one point in the night, he stole a Smirnoff Ice and the glowing stand it was on. Even better was that he was trying to hide the stand in his pants along with a sign that said Banana that he thought was hilarious.
Quick note: everybody drinks Smirnoff Ice and Zima here, even the guys. It makes no sense.
We talked to a lot of people from all over the world, but the best part of everything was dancing. We got really drunk and started getting all crazy on the dance floor, hooting and hollering and just getting into the whole scene. At one point, we got Jag bombs and they gave us the whole Red Bull for some reason, and on the dance floor, during a burst of light and fog, Joe screamed out and launched his half full Red Bull across the room. It really was an amazing experience, and one of the best dancing nights I've ever been a part of. We left the club around 5:30 or 6 and somehow made it back to the pod hotel for round two. We did pretty good, but Joe slept in the wrong pod.

The next day we were in pretty rough shape, so we thought doing a little shopping and eating some good food would be the best idea. So, off we went to Roppongi, a place known for high fashion similar to Ginza to spend some money. A lot of places were closed since it was New Year's Day, but we still found a really cool store called Zara where we both got jackets. My sense of money is kind of thrown off right now, simply because the cheapest clothes you can buy here are around 60 bucks, so when I found a really cool jacket for 120 bucks I thought it was the best deal ever. I really like it though, and I found a good hat to wear with it, so I'm pretty happy with my purchase even though I have to live on a pretty strict budget for the next week and a half. We walked around Roppongi for a while in our hungover daze, and then figured we should probably take it easy for the night to save up energy for our last night. We stayed in a hostel in Akasuka that was really cheap, but everybody that stayed there wasn't out doing anything. The front lobby was packed full of people doing homework and crap like that, so me and Joe just went out to a yakitori restaurant that had a really nice vibe to it with some jazz in the background and then called it a night. And of course, the three other people in my room all were in bed when I got back, and each one had a unique snore that they timed so it was a constant buzz of nasally sounds.

In the morning we went to Senso-Ji, a huge temple in Akasuka, where there must have been at least a thousand people in the complex, then even more in the surrounding streets. It was insanity, you really couldn't do much of anything but go with the flow of the crowd. In the temples, there's usually a little wooden box to throw money into and then pray, but at Senso-Ji it was a massive structure where a huge crowd was launching their money across the room. It was fun, and on the way out I dragged some woman 50 or so feet because my camera cord got stuck on one of the buttons on her coat. I had no clue until I heard a desperate "Sumimasen!" from behind me, and when I looked she looked absolutely terrified. Haha, a good way to start the day. We ate at a little tempura place and then tried our luck at the Imperial Palace, where the royal family was supposed to come out and greet the public. It was all closed up though, and while it was cool just walking around the moat and guessing what was inside, I really wanted to see the inside. Another sight saved for next time. We got some coffee and cake to deal with our troubles, and then headed to Ueno to check out a shopping area that sold trinkets and cheap clothes. This place was packed for blocks and blocks, and the stuff they were selling was really funny, mostly English phrases that made absolutely no sense at all. Another thing we really wanted to do was take the ferry Hibiki down the river. This ferry was designed by a famous manga artist and it looks crazy, but being me and Joe, we arrived twenty minutes after the last one left. It was fine though, we just took a different ferry that was pretty cool and sipped on some coffee, ate snacks, and watched the skylines of Tokyo pass by. We didn't really know where we were when we got off, but after walking for a few minutes we ended up on the Ginza strip. That street is amazing, filled with high fashion, lots of lights, and some great restaurants. We ate at a place that reminded me what good Western cooking tasted like, and accompanied with a nice glass of Shiraz, its probably been the most satisfying meal I've eaten since I've got here. Feeling good and optimistic about the night, we thought we'd try the other big club here called Ageha, a warehouse on Tokyo Bay that you have to take a bus from Shibuya to get there. But, for some reason, there was nobody at the bus stop and no sign whatsoever of any activity, so after waiting for a while, we thought going back to Womb would be the best idea. But, Womb was closed too, so we settled on this other club that had quite a few people outside. This place was filled with guys dressed up like thugs drinking Smirnoff Ice and trying to dance and look hard. The first time we went up to the bar, some guy asked us if we wanted E through some really bad gestures, pointing to his forehead and saying "Blam!" but we settled on beers instead. Our plan for the night was to pace ourselves, stay at the bar until 4:30, get some gyu-don at Yoshinoya, then hop on the first train to Tokyo Station and get on our Shinkansen at 6 something. But since the club was kind of lame, we thought we should just make the best of it but it took a little booze to make that happen. It ended up being really fun though, just dancing on the packed dance floor and yelling stupid things getting the people around us pumped up. Some guys gave us high fives and looks of approval, while some offered us sips of their Smirnoff Ices. I felt honored. Our plan worked out perfectly, and we made it all the way back to Okayama without any hangups.

And now being back, I have barely enough money to get by, but I feel much better about everything going on here. I was just staying in Okayama and working for about a month and a half, kind of getting in a routine, but now its apparent that I need to just go and see Japan. I have three days off a week now, so it'll be easier to go places and still have time to relax. Also, Joe has his two days off during my days off, so I'll actually have someone to travel with.

Well congratulations if you made it all the way through that post, here's a few pictures and a few sketches. I didn't take nearly enough photos, and I want to color some more sketches so more will come when I can afford to come back to the internet cafe. Happy New Years everyone.

From Tokyo

From Tokyo

From Tokyo

From The Beez Neez

From The Beez Neez

1 comment:

FullaLove said...

The fact that you somehow found a Zara store in the middle of that massive city is HILARIOUS to me. There are Zara's all over the world...I visited the one in Florence quite often.

I was overwhelmed by Tokyo while just reading this entry. I'm glad you had fun, but next time you should go somewhere with a more zen like feel to balance out all your energy.

Will your liver be shot by the time you come home? Also, no pictures of the pod hotel? Happy New Year bro, baci e abbracci.