Sunday Escapades

Tokyo is indeed exceptionally vibrant, featuring an exponentially comprehensive rail and subway system, which (thanks to my experience in Osaka) I learned how to use pretty easily as well—despite everything, including the ticket purchase machines, being in Japanese (except for the JR Lines stations and ticket purchase machines, which are bilingual). It was an early start for me this morning, primarily because I, once again, fell asleep last night at around 7:30 p.m., and woke up at midnight. I kicked myself for doing that again since I really wanted to experience the Ginza and Shinjuku districts on my first evening in Tokyo. I went out anyway and discovered that Tokyo actually does sleep—at least, the part of the city where the hotel is located. Hence, walking around Ginza at 12:30 a.m. didn’t prove useful. Plus, it felt as if the temperature was at about 40°F with an equally low wind chill factor. Hence, I went back to my hotel room to try to get some sleep. I ended up Yahoo! Messaging with littlebrownbrother in California for a bit, thanks to the time difference and my being awake in the wee hours of the morning. I learned from the Front Desk Clerk that the Yamanote line begins at 5:30 a.m., so I decided that I would visit a few places early this morning, just to get my bearings.

I stopped over first at Shinjuku to see what all was there (and ultimately will be there upon my return in the evening). At around 8:30 a.m., I started to feel incredibly sleepy, so I headed back to the hotel for a light nap. (I asked for a wake-up call from the hotel operator in order to avoid that particular nap from turning into hibernation.) At 11:00 a.m. on the dot, my phone rang. Sleepily, I listened to the operator tell me in English-but-with-a-strong-Japanese-accent, “Good morning! It’s time to wake-up!” I thanked her, and was about to ask for a 15-minute follow-up call, when she suddenly repeated her initial statement of “Good morning! It’s time to wake-up!” It was then that I realized that it was an automated wake-up call message. (I am so not used to that anymore…)

After a quick shower, I was out the door, and my destination was Asakusa, which is dubbed “Riverfront District” and is home to the famous outdoor marketplace called Nakamisa-dori, which leads visitors to the Asakusa Kannon Temple complex. I forewent my plans of going on the Asakusa-Odaiba River Tour when it began (and continued to) rain in the city. Instead, I hopped back on the subway and went to Akihabara, and, in particular, an area called “Electric Town,” which is home to store-after-store of merchants hawking all kinds of electronic equipment from razors to DVD players to iPod nano—all at pretty reasonable, competitive prices. I was so close to buying this personal DVD player, which one merchant was selling for ¥9000 yen (or approximately $75 USD) until I decided that I really didn’t need one. Man, that took some self-talking out of! Then, I wandered into a “mall” called Yodobashi, which turned out to be like a CompUSA-on-steroids. It was clearly an electronics specialty “department store,” with eight levels of categorized shopping areas, plus a café on the rooftop. Yodobashi is an electronics-junkie paradise, wherein techno-geeks and otherwise alike can meander through a myriad stalls of gear, media, and Japanese-style toys (i.e. mecha, Hello Kitty, etc.). It was at Yodobashi where I learned about yet another perversion that can only come from and happen in Japan—hentai made to be viewed specifically on the Playstation 2 console! There was literally approximately six back-to-back stalls of titles available for easy purchase. Some of them were actually games! (Yeah, I bought one…) A quick trip back to the hotel followed the Yakihabara stop in order for me to drop off my wares.

Again, my sleep-deprivation habits have caught up with me, so I took a two-hour respite. When I awoke, zaa-zaa wa ame ga futte imasu (loosely translated: it was raining cats and dogs). Hence, I did what most Tokyoites do on a rainy day: I sat in a coffee shop and read a book. There is a surprisingly large number of Starbucks locations in Tokyo; however, I went to the Tully’s, located about a block from the hotel, for my java fix. Tully’s is a coffee shop chain that is mostly west coast USA-oriented (primarily California). So, imagine my surprise when I saw one here in the Ginza district! I had my obligatory chai tea latte, and settled into a window-side table, from where I can periodically look up from my Tokyo Guide Book, and look at people rushing to and fro despite the rain.

An hour later, my ADD/HD got the better of me, and I headed to the Higashi-Ginza station, hopped on the Hibiya line and headed toward the Roppongi neighborhood (specifically to Roppongi Hills), which is locally called “the expat’s playground” because this is where Americans living/working in Japanese tend to live and hang out due to the familiar mercantile and services landscape. This is also where “classy” strip clubs are located, and I can certainly vouch for (at least one of) them. (ahem…) There was upscale shopping everywhere—from Louis Vuitton to Zara to Armani (from the likes of which I stay away and for which I generally am not interested)—so I mostly did some window-shopping. I had a drink at a nice-looking bar called “Maduro,” but forewent dinner until I returned to the Ginza district’s “Yakitori Alley” (where I consumed a heaping bowl of ramen from one of the merchants—sorry, littlebrownbrother, but I had the pork!), and returned to the hotel at a pretty decent hour. I’m going back to Roppongi Monday afternoon (when the weather forecast is supposed to be partly sunny) to take some pictures of and from the Tokyo Tower.

Unfortunately, the little naps did affect my sleeping habits again, and I am now still awake at 3:00 a.m. But, that’s okay; at least, I can keep up on my blog. Ja mata ashita (see you tomorrow).

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