The thing that sticks out most it my mind about Tokyo is just how immaculate it is. According to Wikipedia Tokyo is the world’s largest “urban area” in the world and I am telling you there is no trash on its street. Not one piece of gum, cigarette butt, loose straw, nothing. I almost wanted to throw something on the ground just to see what would happen. I imagined if I did someone would pop out of the wall slap me with a $300 fine and make me pick up my trash. Or maybe I would just be stoned by the locals, who knows. But I tell you this there is no trash in Tokyo. And this very fact also is symbolic of the way Tokyo felt in general. Tokyo was clean, polite, polished, and orderly. As much as I loved it, it made me a little nervous and helped me further appreciate Japan’s more unruly and less organized neighbor, Korea.
Our journey began when we arrived in Asakusa, Tokyo, and many locals went completely out of their way to help us navigate the small roads to find our hostel. Our hostel [Retrometro Backpacker] was small, quaint and just what we needed. The woman who ran the hostel was very polite, helpful, and soft spoken. She recommended the wonderful “standing sushi” place that we ate at twice [no idea the name, but here it is on Google Maps] and showed us how to get to all the places we wanted to go on the map. That night we set off exploring our area and were not disappointed.
The next morning we got up early to start sightseeing. I mean, we only had two days so we needed to get a jump start! Davo and I went for a run, ate some breakfast, and we were off. First we went to the Tokyo government municipal building so that we could get a great view of the city and see Mt. Fuji. It was a little hazy so our view of Mt. Fuji was not exceptional but as Davo said, “we got to see ALL the city for free!” And we did, it was beautiful and a great way to start out our trip. Turns out Tokyo is pretty big!
After that we headed to Tokyo’s Harajuku area to check out some of the strange new fashion trends and the shrine to the Emperor. Davo and I sat and ate some street food on a bench to take in the very high heels, bright colors, pastel colors, spiky black leather, piercings and whatever other fashions we saw. After which we went to the shrine and had the pleasure to observe some Japanese religious practices, which actually looked much different than Korean practices.
The rest of our evening consisted of hanging out in the area near our hostel, experiencing some authentic Japanese tempura. And drinking real beer! (Japan is known for being one of the only places in East Asia with decent beer. Davo was very happy. )
The next day we regrettably did not go to the famous Tsukiji fish market, because it was closed for the Lunar New Year. Instead we got up and went out for sushi again, got some green tea ice cream and moseyed around our neighborhood.
Later, we set off on a quest to find a “maido” café. This experience was quite possibly one of the most interesting I have had in a long time. At “maido” cafes (or maid cafes) young, attractive Japanese women dress up as maids and serve their “madams” and “masters” cute food. You can pay to play games with them, take pictures with them, and they even draw your animal of choice with syrup on top of your coffee or drink. What exactly is “cute” food? You can see the pictures below. We were not allowed to take pictures of the servers but this is the best I can do to show you what was going on here.
Needless to say knowing me, I was fascinated. I love a good social situation to analyze especially one that was as foreign to me as this one. And for those of you thinking this is some strange sexual fetish, I am sure you are partially correct. However there were also families there, and it did not feel inappropriate. The boys were good sports about my quest to experience this fascinating social phenomenon.
That evening we saw a few more temples and said goodbye to Tokyo. We slept at the airport because it was the only way to catch our early morning flight and not pay $300 for a cab. And as we were leaving Tokyo we had a small mourning session. Japan is the last new country Davo and I will visit for quite some time. It is somewhat an end of an era for us, but now it is time to rock out our last five-and-a-half months in Korea! Stay tuned.