It took nearly two days worth of travel time to get here, but my sister and I made it to the capital city of Japan! I’ve learned a lot of things in a short period of time, so I’ll list a few and show off some great pictures.
It’s been overcast since we first arrived, which is good and bad – it’s great that the sun isn’t beating down on us all day, but the humidity is absolutely terrible. Despite the hot, humid weather, the larger Tokyo population dons suit jackets and long sleeves – today I wore a tank top under a sheer cardigan with shorts and I was miserable in the heat. I am so obviously American here.
Another thing – and, yes I knew this coming in – people don’t have tattoos here. In a city of about 13.5 million people, I’ve seen a total of ONE with visible tattoos. Again, totally American out here.
Quick list: toilets play music for privacy, meals begin with a wet towel to wash your hands, surgical masks are a fashion statement, no loose change on the ground (more on that later), no shoes in dressing rooms, indirect staring is a thing (think reflections), public laughing is not a thing, and the city is SILENT.
A quick walk through downtown makes it very clear how quiet people are in Tokyo and, in contrast, just how friggin loud we are in the U.S. In the middle of the day, you can walk through Shibuya crossing (comparable to Times Square) and there is virtually no talking, no car horns, no public music…nothing. It’s very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that I think twice before even whispering most of the time. Walking down the street, it’s probably fine to chat quietly. But on a train? Nope. That’s just not okay here.
So far, my favorite activity has been eating. I have eaten SO much since I’ve been here. It helps that food here is very cheap, yet super high quality. This morning, we had a traditional Japanese breakfast of eel and rice. I paid a total of 700¥, which is about $6.50USD.
Later, I ate these amazing soba noodles at the Tokyo Tower and paid 680¥, which is about $6.25USD. Okay, yeah, we did the Tokyo Tower thing, but I was more impressed with the shops and the food than the actual tower.
Here’s the tower, if you’re curious. It’s cool, I guess.
Skip past the boring train-walking-train-walking parts. Eventually, I came across this really cool slot-machine arcade.
The machines were labelled in Japanese, so I just pressed buttons and twisted knobs to my little heart’s content. AND…I won the jackpot! Woo hoo!
To be honest, I have no idea what I won. I think it was something like 100¥, but I didn’t really understand the winning part, the paying part, or the collecting prizes part. Given that Japanese people are ridiculously nice, I’m going to assume I left that place with my fair share of winnings. Dunno.
On that note, I want to add that on MULTIPLE occasions, people here have been helpful and accommodating when I’ve been confused and/or lost – usually both. When I first arrived with my AirBnB address in hand, I didn’t realize I didn’t have the whole address. So, I took the info I had and walked into the only shop I could find (a car repair shop) where the front desk guy was more than happy to point me in the right direction – literally, he walked outside and down a block with me to make sure I was on the right path. On another occasion, I walked into a restaurant to order take-out and the cook make me a cold lassi drink while I was waiting. When I offered to pay for it (I dunno how it works here. I drank it, so, I figured I’d pay for it, right?), the guy said that it was a courtesy for guests who elect to dine in hot weather or bad weather, and today it was both. Other awesome people: the train guy, the other train guy, a train woman, a sales guy who made me an origami crane when he realized I was waiting for a restaurant to open, the AirBnB host who Facetimed with me to help me navigate through a tough spot in the city, and the waitress who prevented me from overpaying for a meal by a factor of 10. People are AWESOME here.
Back to food – this take-out order was 600¥ and was absolutely AMAZING. I eat dumplings all the time – this is South Asian momo – and these are something special. Note the little sauce at the bottom of the picture, which is offered in a miniature resealable and reusble bottle for take-out orders, rather than a plastic lidded cup as in America.
And just look at those desserts! (And the prices. For quick reference, just add a decimal, as in 100¥ is roughly equal to $1.00.) I’m eyeing that long chocolate tiramisu treat on the bottom row for 480¥…
I didn’t get anything from here this time around, but I plan to go back when I’m hungry. Over the course of the day, I picked up creme-filled wafers, green tea, and grapes – not just grapes, but the most amazing grapes ever. (I’ve had them before, but they’re hard to find in the U.S. Think grape-flavored things and you’ll get an idea of what these grapes actually taste like. American grapes just taste like water.) Things I did not buy: the 800¥ peach, the 500¥ peach, the 400¥ peach (I really wanted a peach, but damn!), the 3000¥ piece of cake (really?), and the 200¥ cup of ice.
We’re kinda winging it out here, so there’s not much in the way of an established itinerary. Depending on the weather, we might visit some shrines tomorrow and hopefully check out a museum. I’m also looking forward to checking out the mountainous areas, so keep an eye out for posts on check dams and Fuji.