A Travellerspoint blog

May 2018

Tokyo-A Dog's Life with Scarlett Johansson

Yesterday, rather then going to the central part of Tokyo once again-I took a walking tour given by the, hostel in the area where the hostel is located. We took a roughly 20 minute walk to a temple called Nishiari Daishi temple. The temple was beautiful, with a pond in front with large fish. The tour guide from the hostel didn't seem to know that much. i went with roughly 15-20 others from the hostel.

Right by the temple, we sampled traditional rice treats and Japanese candies, which we're pretty good.


Everyone else walked back to the hostel, I guess. i decided to explore the area where I haven't spent much time in. The area is pretty nice, mainly with shops, restaurants and various stores. I spent time walking around, and in a large shopping mall, where i took a nap, and went to a pet store, where there was a sign on a dog cage not to stick your finger in (in Japanese)-and it was right-a dog lightly bit my finger. (just lightly-no blood). i also saw a movie theater at the mall. Posters announced a new Wes Anderson film, with, you got it-the starts from Lost In Translation reunited again-Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson-in a film called Isle of Dogs.


After a few hours walking around, I came back to the hostel. I then got on the metro to the Tokyo Skytree tower, which is only about 20 minutes away. After a short line-i went up to the top of the tower. In line, I found a Scarlett Johansson look-a-like right in front of me-another strange coincidence.


I walked around the top of the tower. Although it was cloudy out, I did witness the sunset, which was beautiful over the city. After spending about 1 1/2 hours watching the sunset, I went to the adjoining cafeteria, which had a long thin place to eat watching the view, and had a beer and some nuts (this dinner cost around $10.00-expensive for a beer and very few nuts). I found a seat next to Scarlett Johansson-who wasn't very friendly. But here I was watching the view of Tokyo with Scarlett Johansson-just like Bill Murray. No kareoke this time-just me, Scarlett, Tokyo, my overpriced beer and tiny bowl of nuts.


i then took the metro back to the hostel-did some work on the computer, and feel asleep.

Posted by DavidPearlman 13:14 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Tokyo-Lost, and Lost in Translation

Yesterday, I left the hostel early to go to the Tsukiji, the fish market here in Tokyo. You can go very early and wait for the tuna auctions, which happen at around 5:00 am-I didn't go that early. I knew that folks can walk around the actual market at around 10:00 am, and view all of the action, but when I got there, I found the market was closed Wednesday, so I just walked around at the various restaurants, shops. I found a guy selling sushi out of a little stand, and had some 5 pieces for around $10.00. The Japanese for the most part are incredibly honest, I thought I was done after 3 pieces and he said two more are coming. The sushi was delicious.


After wandering around for a little more, and having a cup of freshly made coffee out of a french press, I believe, i walked a few blocks over to the next area of town-which is called Ginza. Ginza has a lot of fancy stores, which I walked around. i saw a store called Nissan Crossing-which is a car showroom, showing the new Nissan Electric car, and small toy models of various old Nissans. There was even a Nissan crossing cafe, where you can eat Nissan Crossing Muffins and Donuts.

I went to the world's largest Uniglo showroom, and bought a pair of underwear, and went to a giant toy store. Here they had a huge race course with miniature cars on the racing around, all sorts of models-it was 5 stories of toys, it was fancy.


I was exhausted-but I wanted to get back to the hostel early-to meet others. It was Karaoke Night at the cruise ship hostel. After the first few nights-I haven't been spending much time here (i have been out late in Tokyo-not returning till' 10 or 11)-so I wanted to engage in an activity and meet others.

Karaoke started out sort of slow and boring as it usually does. A few girls we're singing who we're quite good. This reminded me of a film that took place (A) with Karaoke, and (B) also in Tokyo-Lost in Translation. But Bill Murray was bored at the Grand Hyatt. I was at the Emblem Hostel.

As the night continued, beer started flowing, a couple brought whisky down from their room, and the singing got more and more spirited. I sang "Never gonna give you up" by Rick Astley with three others.


Eventually, we went out for ramen at around midnight at a place around the hostel, and then went back to the hostel.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:27 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Tokyo-Boring Museum but Good Food

Yesterday, I woke up, had breakfast and took the metro to the Tokyo National Museum, which is the best museum in Tokyo. I know so because that is what the guidebook says. I have been to a lot of museums-not because I like museums but because I like to learn about countries I am in.

This museum, which was roughly an hour train ride away (after I got on the wrong train), was very big. I saw statutes from a Buddhist Japan. I saw Samurai swords, and the large murals depicting Japanese art. It was actually quite boring-I was looking forward to learning about Japanese history.
The highlight is a calligraphy course, where I paid $1.00, and drew a symbol on a fan-I forgot what the symbol was. There we're about a dozen people drawing symbols, with more waiting. The instructor said I did well. I don't know if he meant that or if he was just appeasing me to get me out of there.


After a few hours at the museum, and taking a nap on a bench, I walked out, and wandered around the surrounding neighborhood, which was interesting. It was more of a traditional Temple neighborhood, with narrow streets, and temples on the side of the street, along with stores. The temples had cemeteries with traditional Japanese graves.

When I was in the musuem-I was looking for something to do for later, so i used the museum's free wifi to sign up for a $70.00 food tour. Although it was expensive-i was looking at meeting others. I was nervous that I would be the only person on the tour-so I wouldn't have the opportunity to meet others. i even emailed the office saying that if I was the only person-please tell me and i could reschedule.

So I made it to the meeting point right at 7-the start of the tour. which was in Shibuya-the neighborhood I was in the day before. I found the guide. i needn't of had to worry of being the only person on the tour-there we're two of us (and the guide). When we met-i asked the other guy on the tour-a math professor from Oregon who was in Japan for a conference-if he wanted to maybe do it another night when others might show up-he seemed to indicate he was fine-so we decided to go on. And I felt sort of like a jerk for suggesting another time.

The tour was pretty good-it exceeded my expectations. We went to three restaurants-the first one served us beers promptly-but the food never came. After waiting 45 minutes-it seemed-the waitress said the food would come in 20 more minutes-and we had to get to the next restaurant. The tour guide said he would speak to the restaurant, about what happened. (I am not sure how that would help me, and the other participant on the tour).

We went to two other places-the first served some type of sushi with meat and dumplings, and beer, and the next chicken, and sake. It was a good time, and I learned about Japanese. It was nice conversation.

I made it home on just one subway train-(the trains are majorly complicated-it's hard to find my way around).

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:10 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Tokyo-Curiosity Must Have Killed The Cat

Yesterday, I broke the filter for my camera when I was cleaning the lens here at the hostel. So the first thing I did was take the metro to the freak area of town with camera stores (in addition to anime and other stuff) to buy a new one, which is called Akihabara. I saw an inexpensive new lens I liked as well, when I was there the other day (around $60.00), so I meant to go there anyway.

The store opened at 11:00, and I was there roughly around 10:30-so I wandered around the street, looking in different stores. Again I found the capsule machines, aka the gumball machine look-a-likes that have stuff in them. I found the one I was intrigued with-the cat with the pineapple cap. It was roughly $3.00 for this little kitten. So curiosity got the best of me, and I put the money in.

Out came the little capsule-and there was no cat-just a cheap pineapple hat. I didn't know the cat was separate. i thought I would get a furry little pet-I could take as a souvenir to my own cats. Just a hat. I'm not sure if the hat was for real or fake cats. In my experience, cats aren't always willing to try on new hats.


The store did open, and I bought the lens which was fine. I then took the train to one of the busiest corners of Japan, if not the world which is called Shibuya. The corner was sort of like Times Square, with lots of stores, lights, etc. I had an issue of Time-Out Toyko, which listed some interesting stuff to do in town, one was a Hedgehog cafe, where you get to play with hedgehogs for 1/2 an hour or an hour. I thought the guy at an information desk, which i found, told me it was $2.50 to play with the hedgehogs for an hour, or $1.60-but I had the conversion rate wrong-it was $25.00 for an hour and $16.00 for half an hour. I wasn't about to pay that to pay with a rodent (or lookalike)-but I was able to look around. it wasn't very exciting.

When I got back out, Time Out Tokyo said there was a large information center with lots of brochures in the gigantic subway station. When I got
there-I noticed there a concert was coming up in two hours, complete with flyers. I was always up for free-so I decided to come back.

I walked around more, and looked at the various stores. There was a department store with a large book department, electronics stores I looked around, and other stores. I then took a nap in park and fell asleep.

I then went to the giant station looking for the free concert. It was by exit 13-which I had trouble finding. Eventually I found it and where the concert was. This wasn't the usual subway station concert. There was a roped-off section, with chairs. Guides wore suites and ties. Programs we're handed out. A well-dressed woman announcer announced the concert-I guess. She didn't use English. The performers came out-a string quartet performing Mozart, and other classical. They we're dressed in suits and gowns. They we're very very good. What i noticed, in addition to the performers, was the audience. They we're following the performance-actually watching and listening. Nobody was filming with their phones, I only saw two people take out their phones to look at. It was incredible.


After each piece, the performers talked for a while-then people handed back a perforated portion of the guide, and they wrote things on there. I guess we we're encouraged to give money-but I will never know for sure since all the talking was in Japanese.

After the concert, I left the station, and it was dark out. I looked at all of the lights and walked around some more. I found a sushi place with sushi for less then $8.00. Then I took the metro back to the hostel. I am beginning to know the metro a little better-so I got back a little quicker. At the hostel, it was movie night-so I saw the middle to end of a silly flick called Housebunny.


Posted by DavidPearlman 16:31 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

2nd day in Tokyo, expensive lunch, lottery winners and sex

Yesterday I went to a different part of Tokyo again-for another walking tour. This was an expensive part of town called Harajuku-which had lots of expensive stores and restaurants. Although I had breakfast at the hostel, it was afternoon by the time i reached the tour location, which is near all sorts of expenisve stores, and I was early, so I looked for a place to eat.

I found a cheap noodle place, but i would have had to wait for a spot to eat, and pay first, which I didn't feel comfortable with, so I kept walking down the street, and found a small shopping mall with some restaurants near the top floor. On the top floor, I saw what must have been at least 20 people waiting in line-for Starbucks. I asked people on line if Starbucks was giving away something for free. The one non-Japanese person said "no-we're just thirsty".

There was one other place to eat. I waited on line here as well-but only about 15 minutes. I was talking with the folks in front of me on line, an African-American couple and their young daughter. The man, who was in his 20's or 30's, said he has been in Tokyo since December, travels all the time, and when i asked what he did for a living, he replied something like - "I won the lottery. I aint workin no more". I guess he was telling the truth-it didn't seem like he was joking.

After the short wait, I had lunch at the counter. It was a typical place for tourists (1) Small artsy-fartsy lunch of smoked salmon, grapefruit on a piece of fancy bread, and (2) Stupidly expensive-around $15.00. But I was hungry and couldn't find a place without a look wait.

Then came the walking tour, run by Dai, same tour guide as the day before. I didn't seem to learn as much. It started at a place called Meiji-Jingu. Meiji was a ruler who came into power at age 14. Under his leadership, the capital of Japan was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, and the government became more westernized, and more democratic. The Shinto shrine was dedicated to him. The shrine was large and impressive. A couple of weddings we're going on there as well, with long processions. The shrine also had many Saki barrels in front, as a lot of the saki brewers sponsor the shrines/temples. We had to wash our hands the traditional way-with left hand first, than right, than washing our mouth with water from the left hand,


After the shrine, we took a walk down some other streets.including Takeshita-dori, which is a street crowded with teens. The tour guide who was in his 30's mentioned that when he was young-there we're lots of small locally owned boutiques and restaurants, and it was a place to hang out. Now the local places have been driven out by high rents, and big chains like Mcdonalds we're occupying the street. But crowds of teens from all over the country still walked over the streets, hoping to be discovered by agents to become actors and actresses.
Dai also talked about the Olympics come to Toyko in 2020, how he and lots of young people didn't think it would have any economic impact.

Then the tour ended in park-where I watched some Elvis impersonators dancing, and I took a nap.

After a little while, I took the train to a place where the night free walking tour was due to start, a few stations away-Shinujku. First of all, there was a
parade going on. The folks seemed to carry around a large chariot or something. i'm not sure. Nobody would tell me. The tour started at 7:00 at the Shinjuku train station-which is a busy station. Actually the busiest station in the world, with millions of people using the station, to exit but also to transfer to connect to other trains every day. We took a look at Tokyo nightlife.
I learned-
There are many bars around

- which are just small enough for 10 people to sidle up to each other, namely friends.
- Couples generally meet each other by special parties, where 3 girls will hang with 3 guys, set up by two of the people.
- There are lots of bars around, again only 10 folks can sidle up, that cater to special interests, such as Godzilla enthusiasts, American Jazz enthusiasts, etc. There are alleys and alleys of these bars.
- There are 5 types of illicit services in Japan, although prostitution is strictly illegal. These range from message parlors, where everything but intercourse is ok-places which will wash you up and down to escort services (or escort service look alikes). There are "information counters", which are clearly marked In Japanese, which will direct you to the service you would like.
- There are host/hostess rooms, where people will go to be with cute boys are girls. These boys and girls won't have sex, but treat you like their boyfriend and girlfriend. They will go out with you for drinks and dinner, and charge you thousands of dollars for the privilege. Hiroshi, the tour guide, mentioned that people have gone broke being led on-because folk fall madly in love and think the next step is definitely coming up. There were billboards all over Shinjuku advertising these host/hostess rooms.
- Finally, there we're love hotels-hotels where folks rent a room for as little as 2 hours. Because of the high housing prices of central Toyko, taking someone home which could be an hour away was out of the question. The love hotels we're there. Contrary to perception, these places actually looked quite nice, and almost like regular hotels-but didn't have windows. Hiroshi mentioned that many rent costumes, and have hundreds of movies to watch.


After the tour-it was about 9:00 pm. I went back to the hostel-which took about 1 1/2 hours on the confusing,convoluted metro system. I was planning on going to bed early-but upon walking into the hostel-one of the woman i met at the meet and greet the other day was-one who was Japanese, and she insisted I sit with her and others and have a drink (we got some type of grapefruit alcoholic drink and seaweed from the supermarket. She went home, and I played a card game with some others. Then I got to bed around 12:30 or so.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:04 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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