Saturday, June 04, 2016

Kabuki and Whale Flavored Ice Cream in Tokyo

Lydia wrote this post and my hilarious yet informative quips will appear in [brackets].

[We started our day with a walk to the nearby Park Hyatt Tokyo to book a bus ticket back to the airport for tomorrow. It was pretty nice looking inside, but I'm glad we used our free nights at the Park Hyatt New York instead. They had a decent view of Tokyo though.]

John was excited to show me Kabuki, a form of Japanese theatre that can be literally translated as “the art of singing and dancing.” The actors (all men) wear thick white makeup and elaborate costumes. The show we saw was titled Tokaiya, Daimotsu no Ura, and to sum it up very briefly, it was about a dead warrior ghost protecting the young emperor from danger. The theater had English translations for rent, so I was able to understand the whole thing. The music accompaniment was also notable with a lot drums and wooden blocks and a singing narrator. Since Kaubki is traditional Japanese theatre, there were quite a few people in the audience dressed in traditional kimonos, which was fun to see. I felt pretty legit when I was talking with John’s Japanese friend later in the day, and learned that she has never been to Kabuki. I’m more legit than a Japanese person.

[The kabuki-za is like the place to see kabuki. I went to a show here once 2007, so it was nice to refresh my memory of the place. This and other experiences on this trip have been like "wow, the last time I did this was 10 years ago" which makes me feel super old. When I was 20, ten years earlier I was just picking my nose and watching Reading Rainbow. But now I've had more than 10 years of being a real person. It's a strange new sensation. Being 100 years old must be so weird in that way.]

[The gift shop had some pretty excellent stuff in it. Having next to no free space in our backpacks is a good way to keep me from buying a bunch of crap.]

[The end of the show we saw had a character dramatically kill themselves by tying a rope around themselves and throwing the anchor on the other end off a cliff into the ocean. The scene is immortalized here by Snoopy.]

[Man kimonos were on sale nearby.]

After the show, we walked a few blocks to Tskuiji Fish Market. There were all kinds of crazy sea creatures for sale – I saw piles of dried squid, buckets of little shrimps, and plenty of fresh fish. John insisted that I try whale ice cream, and lucky for me, it wasn’t too bad. It didn’t have chunks of whale in it as John had hoped; instead it had dried whale powder sprinkled on top. Honestly, it just tasted sort of nutty.

Next stop was Hama Rikyu Garden. For a garden, there were surprisingly few flowers, but after a bit of wandering we did stumble upon some nice bridges and a picturesque teahouse. I’ve become slightly obsessed with the sight of traditional Japanese gardens with skyscrapers in the background. It’s like the ultimate old meets new.

On our way to lunch, we stopped to play a little pachinko, aka Japanese pinball. Gambling isn’t technically allowed in Japan, so pachinko is their answer to casinos. We didn’t totally understand how to play, but the workers were very nice and tried to explain it to us.

We had a ginourmous, delicious lunch at a gyoza restaurant under the train tracks. Of course I had gyoza, and I also had ramen and fried rice.

After lunch, we rode the train to the Harajuku neighborhood. According to Wikipedia, “Harajuku is known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion.” It was a busy neighborhood! I was excited to see another shaved ice store, until I noticed the line was about as long as a city block. Shaved ice is good, but not that good.
The area had a lot of Claire’s-like stores with cheap accessories and clothes aimed at high-school aged people. I was happy when we stumbled upon an outdoorsy store, and I was able to buy new Keens. I bought a pink, blue, and turquoise tie-dyed style that can only be found in Japan. I’m pretty excited about them. Later, while waiting for the subway, John spotted an old man with the same shoes as me. Shoe buddies!

The last must-see on my list was Senso-Ji temple. There was a lot more hustle and bustle here, than yesterday at Meiji-jingu. The temple was pretty, and I was impressed by the gigantic lanterns hanging everywhere.

Near the temple is a long, long row of souvenir stands selling lots of little knick-knacks. A few blocks over we found “Orange Street.” The road was painted orange, and the mailbox even had a little orange man on top. Very strange.

I also found a place selling Taiyaki, fish-shaped cakes filled with red bean paste. So yummy!

We had a few more minutes before meeting John’s friend Yukako, so we stopped at McDonalds to charge our phones, and John treated me to a pork bun from a little stand across the street.  Did I mention Japanese food is my favorite?

We met Yukako at a local bar called D’s Diner and had a few drinks. It’s always fun to talk with a native, and John enjoyed catching up. We barhopped over to a little road called Hoppy-Dori for another round of drinks. Hoppy-Dori has a lot of little bars with outdoor seating, and I liked all the lanterns. It was also fun to watch all the drunk people stumbling down the road.

My trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without a little karaoke, so we met up with one of Yukako's coworkers and her American husband in Shibuya. Fun times were had!

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