Monday, March 19, 2012

Late February in Tokyo

Tokyo. I'd been waiting for years to experience Tokyo! It absolutely did not disappoint. I spent a few days looking over all my Japan tour guides (it's verging on collection-status) and my bucket list for things to see and do during just two days in the big city. Here's a rundown of some Tokyo highlights:

Love this picture! We arrived just before Hinamatsuri, a festival for Hina dolls. These dolls are a very old tradition: made by hand and very expensive. The first daughter in a family traditionally is given a set of Hina dolls by the maternal grandparents.

Visiting a bar called "GasPanic!" didn't sit so well with me after growing up down the street from a Holocaust Museum, but we had a drink there and kept moving:
"If you use the VIP room, you will need to purchase a bottle of champagne." Thank you for the warning!
It was pouring down rain during our time in Tokyo! I promise this isn't a Liam-sized cardboard cutout!

I promise he was there, even though Liam looks like a cardboard cutout.
In the morning, it was time to head to the fish market! The Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the biggest attractions in Tokyo, but we didn't know that it was almost completely shut-off to visitors. Research fail. As we were wandering around ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the massive tuna and other seafood I couldn't even recognize, we kept getting stink-eyed and asked to move out of the way. Later we found out that it's closed to visitors until 9am. We got a few pictures and videos, so we are a part of an elite group now!

Wheelbarrow with tuna on top

Tuna at the end of the auction

Action shot of tuna being carried away.
We also had a chance to experience a Japanese capsule hotel:
Gain +1 for checking off a bucket list item, even at the expense of group bathing with Japanese ladies.
We also saw the famous Hatchi statue (go see the movie if you haven't already!) outside Shibuya Station:

A big version of our little Eddie!

Just another example of the animal craziness in Japan

We headed over to Starbucks and got this great, Koyaanisqatsi-esque video of the world's largest crossing on a slow day:

We also needed to see Harajuku, so we headed over and sat down at a Maid Cafe for a little while for beer and snacks. I think this (very unflattering) video perfectly encapsulates how I feel about Japanese food: "Oh, chicken cartilage? That really sounds delicious, maybe another time.." Just to clarify, at the Maid Cafe, the waitresses are paid to act as though you are a princess and master. It is bizarre and awkward, like lots of things in Japan.

We wandered through cute vintage shops and played games in the arcades like this one: 

Then we needed another caffeine fix. We, sadly, do not have any cafes here at MCAS Iwakuni, so I get inordinately excited when we have the chance to visit places with even a Starbucks. We get stale Seattle's Best here at our coffee bar so I mostly don't bother. We visited City Country City while walking around in Harajuku and indulged in freshly brewed espresso and chocolate cake. Look at these beauties! The whole menu was in Japanese aside from the headings and no one around us spoke English, so I pointed at "Cake Set" on the menu, said, "kohi" and then said "chocolate?" while tilting my head. This is how I ask for coffee and chocolate cake. HA.

Be still!
Other notable happenings: we had dinner in a treehouse in Harajuku and just hung out that night checking out all the great fashion. Earlier in the day I also stopped at H&M and Forever 21! I really miss shopping, so that was fun. Here's a quick example of a girl dressed like Strawberry Shortcake with faux eyelashes just hanging out on the train: 

Check out the girl in the striped tights.

So this was the first, awesome half of our trip to the Tokyo area. The next post will be the *other* half :)