Tokyo: Day 2

The only place i knew i wanted to visit prior to arriving in Tokyo was Tsukiji fish and seafood wholesale market, the largest of its kind in the world. I didn’t go to bed till late the previous night and my back was giving me crap so i could not get out of bed in time.

Statue of Hachiko, the loyal Akita, just outside of the Shibuya station.
Statue of Hachiko, the loyal Akita, just outside of the Shibuya station.

Even the buses in Shibuya are Hachiko-related.
Even the buses in Shibuya are Hachiko-related.

Instead, the first place i visited was Shibuya. Just outside of the Shibuya subway station is the statue of Hachiko. I have been wanting to see this statue for a very long time, ever since i watched the movie Hachiko monogatari back in 1993. This is the first movie that actually made me cry and it opened up a emotional floodgate inside of me. Prior to this, i had never shed any tears in any movie, not even in tear jerkers.

Busiest intersection in the world, during apparently its less busy moment.
Busiest intersection in the world, during apparently its less busy moment. View from the second floor of the Starbucks located near the intersection.

A short walk from the Hachiko statue is what is known to be the busiest intersection in the world. When the lights turn red for vehicular traffic, pedestrians cross the scramble crossing in all directions at the same time. There was a light rain that morning so pedestrian traffic at that intersection was probably lighter than usual. The second floor of the multi-storey Starbucks offered a very good view of the intersection. I bought an iced mocha to get away from the humidity while people-watching from the second floor of Starbucks.

Taking shelter from the pouring rain at a McDonald's in Shibuya.
Taking shelter from the pouring rain at a McDonald’s in Shibuya.

As i walked around Shibuya, it started pouring. I was stranded at a McDonald’s
until a kind-hearted Nepalese employee there offered me her umbrella.

Plastic cover for umbrellas, available at most average size stores.
Plastic cover for umbrellas, available at most average size stores.

Walking around with an umbrella made me realized most average size stores in the Shibuya area offered a plastic cover when you are shopping there to prevent your wet umbrella from dripping all over the place.

As it got close to lunch time, with the rain still pouring, i found shelter in the Shibuya 109 department store. The Shibuya 109 department store appears to cater to more female shoppers. But that not why i was there. I noticed an ad for a sushi restaurant in the same building. I don’t remember the name of the sushi restaurant as its name was in Japanese characters but i could not remember the last time i had such a good sushi. Most of the sushi were categorized as either fresh (never frozen) or live (as in still kicking). I ordered a plate with three different types of tuna, octopus (octopus sushi i had elsewhere tend to be chewy but not these) sushi, abalone sushi (live), king crab sushi (live) and a plate of fried peppered sea bream. This delicious meal cost me less than $30.

Three different types of tuna.
Three different types of tuna.

Tako (Octopus) sushi.
Tako (Octopus) sushi.

Abalone sushi.
Abalone sushi.

King crab sushi.
King crab sushi.

Deep fried peppered sea bream.
Deep fried peppered sea bream.

After lunch, i thought about going to Ginza. But while i was on the subway, i changed my mind and decided to go to Asakusa for some sight-seeing instead. The oldest temple in Tokyo is located in Asakusa. However, i would find out later that i had no luck in seeing the temple as it was under renovation: the exterior of the temple was covered in a sheet of protective material.

The Qigong place where i wasted 1000 Yen to get myself electrocuted.
The Qigong place where i wasted 1000 Yen to get myself electrocuted.

On my way to the temple after getting out of the train, i walked through some stores located underground. One of the stores was a Qigong (氣功) clinic. Since my back was still bothering me, i decided to step into the clinic for a 10-min session. The Qigong practitioner handed me a metal wand and told me to grab on to it, at least, from what i understood him since he could not speak any English and i spoke no Japanese. I pointed to my lower back and he appeared to understand that i needed treatment on it. When he turned on the machine, i could feel my right hand, which was holding on to the metal wand, buzzing as electricity was flowing through it. The practitioner was holding on to the other wand while using his other hand to make contact with my lower back. This continued for probably 5 to 6 minutes. After that, he told me to lie face down and it was then he started applying his Qi on me. In the area of my back where he touched me, i could feel warmth but i think i would have felt the warmth with or without Qi. When the 10-min session was completed, my back did not feel any better but my wallet was definitely 1000 Yen lighter.

I was slightly disappointed with my Asakusa trip because i did not see the temple that i set out to see even though i did see several smaller temples surrounding it. I did not stay in Asakusa for long as it was quite warm and humid. On my way back, i stopped by in Ginza to see what this area was all about. After walking several blocks around the Ginza station, my conclusion is that Ginza is full of luxury branded stores, stores that i can easily find in any large metropolitan cities in the US. I had no interest in them so i hopped on a train to get back to my hotel to get some rest.

Hanging out with salarymen: Higashihara-san and Nakagawa-san.
Hanging out with salarymen: Higashihara-san and Nakagawa-san.

The previous night when the earthquake hit, i was chatting with Larry (the guy from Dallas). I asked Larry the best place to eat with salarymen. I remember watching one episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain where he was eating with some salarymen. I wanted to have the same experience as well. I was told Shimbashi was the place to go if i wanted to hang out with salarymen. As soon as i walked out of the Shimbashi station, i immediately noticed several Yakitori joints filled with salarymen (and women). I wanted to eat in the first place i saw but i was too intimidated as it was completely full and it did not appear to be a place where anything other than Japanese was going to be understood. I looked around for an ATM that would accept my American ATM card but failed miserably. Eventually, my hunger overcame my fear and i went into an air-conditioned joint that accepted credit cards. The waitress sat me down in front of the Yakitori bar, among two groups of salarymen. After ordering a few items from the menu, the guy to my right started chatting with me. Nakagawa-san spoke very very little English so it was quite difficult to conduct our conversation. But we managed to chat for the rest of the evening. At some point, he pointed at the menu and told me i should order an item called Bonjiri. I had no clue what Bonjiri was but i ordered it regardless. When it finally arrived, it was a Yakitori stick full of chicken ass. I don’t think i ever had chicken ass but i ate them anyway. It was not too bad but my preference was the chicken heart Yakitori. As i took out my iPhone to take note of his name, Nakagawa-san noticed the wall paper on my iPhone (it was a picture of Smelly and Mango taken several weeks ago). He pointed at Mango and and then proceeded to take his phone out and showed me a picture of his Shiba Inu called Goro.

Hoppy made me and the salarymen around me very happy.
Hoppy made me and the salarymen around me very happy.

Nakagawa-san and his co-worker Higashihara-san introduced me to a malt beverage called Hoppy. It looked like beer but it did not taste like beer. They let me finished a dish that they ordered so i bought them a round of Hoppy.

I concluded the night by riding the Fukutoshin Line from end to end. More on that in the next post.

1 Comment

BrandonAugust 19th, 2009 at 19:27

LOL, “chicken ass”. You have truly become an un-cultured American.

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