homeJapan travel guideJapan travelogues > crouching tiger, hidden tourist..
Japan guide
Regions
Traveler café 
Travel directory
 
Last updated : Nov 2009
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tourist..
Rating: ( 5.0 ) ( 3 votes )

Tokyo, Japan
Feb 16, 2004 22:47


Pros: many things to do and see
Cons: none

While most of Tokyo drank Asahi and tended to Monday Morning's clothing ensemble, two poorly dressed Americans arrived under the cover of a cold japanese night....

but wow...what a great city...Hip, Cool and so crowded! Normally, this is a big turnoff for me but the people here are just so Cool!!! Without a doubt the most hip and best dressed that I have ever seen. As we explored some of the most eccentric parts of the city, we encountered looks that were more thought out than a State of the Union Address.

It all started with an early morning wakeup which did not do justice to the full dose of melatonin that I ingested upon arrival in Tokyo. At 3AM, as I stared at the Ceiling, I thought, "Isn't this about the time that Bill Murray hits the bar in 'Lost in Translation'?" Santori Time!

Considering our quarters at the enormous Keio Hotel, I had plenty to keep me occupied all night long...TV, Radio, Computer.... and the ever popular Japanese electronic toilet (it's like a sanitary video game), But alas, I wisely chose to do the old toss and turn.

So after some hours of negotiating shut eye with the Californian managing my REM cycle, I was finally saved as Nina stirred and we arose to the sweet ambrosia of dry Granola that we lugged from Whole Foods in San Francisco. Hippies.

Descending from our super sized tourist digs has become somewhat of an event as we are so high up that the ear popping is enough to warrant Trident. So we packed the gum, pushed the button and pinched our noses. Outside, it was a windy winter.... Colder than a Jewish Mother at a Catholic wedding. But we brave explorers moved head-on into the frigid Asian air, and followed our highly sensitive instincts towards a most unique spot in Shinjuku...Starbucks. As much as it is a cheesy way to start a day in a foreign country, I will say that a visit here is very important when traveling with a closet caffeine addict. Walk in with a shivering zombie, walk out with a glowing girlfriend. Say no to drugs Kids!

Refueling accomplished, we explored our new home in Shinjuku, the most internationally recognized part of Tokyo. Here we found hundreds of electronics stores, lots of shopping centers and TONS OF PEOPLE....a reoccuring theme in Tokyo. For lunch we studied The Lonely Planet guide like a college Freshman and learned that while in the states most Japanese restaurants serve a variety of culinary options, most establishments in Japan actually specialize in one offering ie: Sushi or Tempura. After some negotiation...ie...walking around in circles... we picked a notable Tempura Restaurant in Shinjuku called Tsunahachi. Here, as the only English speakers, we were treated to a special course of Tempura that is no doubt rolled out for the occasional honkey who wanders into this very local spot. Regardless, we somehow managed to figure out what was going down the hatch and happily consumed that which was (continually) placed before us. It kind of felt like dinner with my grandmother...."here try this. oh try this now. oh did you have this yet. oh how about some more of this." (Reader: please note that none of the prior statements are actually questions, rather commands constructed as questions to which you really don't have a choice)

After another dose of Shinjuku, Nina and I decided to avoid the Shinjuku Railway Station, which sees more than 2 million commuters every day, and walked towards Harajaku, a hip and trendy neighborhood to the South of Shinjuku. Here we (read: Nina) stopped in many trendy shops and boutiques and experienced all that the natives of Harajaku had to offer. The people here were definitely the most hip in the city. While it would be impossible to generalize a group of amazingly unique people, there were some interesting trends that we saw which all seemed to revolve around multiple layers of clothing for every body part. For girls, it was fashionable to compliment white 80's style short boots with skirts or shorts over jeans. Shirts were off the shoulder and Hair styles mostly resembled Pat Benetar. Somehow, they pulled it off.

The guys had interesting things to display as well...but most amusing were the Austin Powers style slim pants and jeans with multiple shirts packed under a blazer or jean jacket. For some reason, the prevaling hairstyle amongst most hip young dudes recalls Rod Stewart circa "If you want My Body." Not quite a "Business in the front, Party in the back" style 'do, but you get the picture.

In the evening we kept walking down to Shibuya where we were almost swallowed by throngs of people leaving work. It was crazy, like Times Square on speed. The cool thing was being able to see over everyone's head. You see, in Asia, I'm a power forward.
Fascinated with the masses of Tokyo-ittes, we spent many moments standing on the corner marveling at the sight. No doubt, we were cursed by many a walker as we blocked precious walking lanes. But no matter, we can't speak the language, and they can't speak ours...so we have a sort of symbiosis. One thing we still can't get over is how long it takes people to say hello or goodbye...or anything really. It's almost as though the words really never end. With greeters at the door of every shop in Shibuya, by the time they had finished pronouncing the infinitecimal number of syllables which translate into, "Hello and welcome to our store", we had already walked in, scanned the store and tried on two shirts. I don't even know if they've finished saying goodbye to us yet. We only left there 2 hours ago.

Dinner in an udon house and a trip on a crowded subway car back to Shinjuku capped off what was a great day and 12 straight hours of sensory overload. After a trip back up the Mt Everest Elevators I am comfortably relaxing in our room...and Nina is dead asleep. So I guess I will leave you with a much shorter goodbye than my new friends in Shibuya could possibly muster and make my way back to the Melatonin.

Goodnight.
-Ari