22 January 2009

japan, day five

have i mentioned that ten days is a long time?  and that we still manged to fill those days to the brim?

after our late start, we energized with kebabs in asakusa.  visiting tokyo really took the piss out of coming back to america, mostly, because of the real food.  that and the adequately sized beds.  it was almost too much to bear at once.

next up was shinbashi... not another shopping mecca, but yet another city center.  there was some wild architecture in this part of town, including this straight-out-of blade runner nightmare.  judging by the hanging laundry, i would guess that people live here.

another crosswalk, another view.  more dramatic lighting today.  my favorite billboard, upper left "Better road and better life."  

one of the nearby malls held an advertising design museum.  after a little struggle to find the place, we were rewarded by a very professional and concise exhibit on the history of japanese advertising, dating back to the 1800s even.  it was at once discouraging and encouraging to learn that even then, even in japan, product placement existed in theatre.  the more things change...

however, as a history nerd, i was most taken by the japanese wwii propaganda posters.  above, japanese rosie the riveter.  rosai, perhaps?

and here, a poster encouraging japanese citizens to grow their own liberty gardens.  i guess most things really are universal.

afterwards, a stroll though hamarikyuteien, an old imperial garden and duck hunting grounds.  naturally, lots of nature, including many trees sculpted over the decades, full size bonsai

and beautiful flowers.  in the dead of winter.

i couldn't resist some cheesy exposure tricks.

or this adorable fire hydrant cover.  for being a bunch of samurais they sure like cute stuff.

a long walk (there were many) followed the park, then a trip to the tsukiji fish market.  as in, the fish market.  500 lb frozen tuna as far as the eye can see fish market.  tokyo's fish market.  the sushi quest was on.

after wandering the small alleys near the fish market and surveying some of the recent catch, including crabs as big as manhole covers (absolutely terrifying), we found the perfect restaurant for our sushi feast.  our sushi chef was an old pro who complimented my chopsticks technique --- after i accidentally split a piece in two.

we ate no rolls, just fish on rice, the real style.  and to cap it all off, two pieces of the infamous fatty tuna, the king of all fish.  with good reason.  "melts in your mouth" is usually empty hyperbole.  not this time.

then, it was time to head back for asakusa.  we had no idea what was in store for us.

on our way down to the hostel lobby, we ran into a pair of brits, one i had met the night before.  they were headed out on the town, and after, ten second's deliberation, we decided to join them.  the evening started off mild.  our two new friends got dinner, and ryan and i watched them fumble with their chopsticks.

we then prowled the dive bars of the neighborhood.  one of the brits, a rather cute and precocious girl, would open the door to a small bar and, after being greeted warmly, would quickly and nervously slam the door shut.  the fourth time, we pushed in. 

inside this bar, there were only four people: the barkeep, a middle-aged businessman, his sidekick and his girlfriend.  we sat down.  shortly, the barkeep arrived with menus and snacks.  i thought we'd beat feet in the next 15 minutes, tops.  i decided on the mispelled "wild tukky."  the bartender came back over and said that the other gentleman in the bar wanted to buy a round for us.  great!  within a minute, he greeted us warmly, announcing that he was "gentleman!  gentleman!" pointing to himself, also peppered with "japanese."  

within minutes our friend, named tomo, waved us over to join his party at their table.  that's when the party began.  turned out that tomo was a very generous, and very successful, businessman, who was delighted just to have new company in this bar.  what started as one round of drinks became round, after round, after round of tequila shots.

tomo then taught us this japanese phrase: "non-DAY-an-ay," which means, "what are you talking about?" and is to be said while hitting your friend, playfully and aggressively, on the shoulder.  to which one replies, louder, "non-DAY-an-ay!" and hits back, harder.  this goes on until someone gives.  this carried on for hours.  the british guy complained about the violence and whined that he "bruises like a pear."  the chick refused to drink.  lousy brits.  thank goodness for tomo he had the americans.

tomo also had a thing for armwrestling.  armwrestling his friends, his new friends, making his new friends armwrestle... tomo threw down US$50 on a match i had with the brit.  meanwhile, tomo's girlfriend served as translator.  tomo would ramble on for a few minutes, and she would say, nervously, "tomo is, very glad to meet you... and... he wishes you all the best... and... and, he is very drunk."  

finally, after i won a game of darts, tomo started taking his pants off, then passed out at the bar.  we got in a cab and went back to the hostel.  

this was easily the highlight of the trip.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Hi! I’m the Community Manager of Ruba.com. We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about Japan, and we think that yours is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from blogs like yours (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at erin@ruba.com.
Thanks! :)