Friday, June 03, 2016

Lydia's First Day in Japan

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

Thanks to jet lag we started the day early.  We began with a stroll to the Meiji-Jingu temple. Along the way we stopped by Yoshinoya, a Japanese fast food chain for breakfast. Yoshinoya is known for serving Gyudon, a bowl of rice topped with beef and onions. It was the best.

The real fun came when it was time to pay. Despite having an Apple Pay sign, they only took cash. Well guess what? We didn’t have any. John left me at the restaurant as collateral and went in search of an ATM. He came back about 15 minutes later still without cash. Turns out most ATMs in Japan don’t take foreign cards. Lovely. We did a little research, and found out 7-Elevens typically have foreign-accepting ATMs. So John set off again, and this time he returned with a pocket full of money. We paid the man, he did a little bow, and we were on our way.

Meiji-Jingu, according to Wikipedia, “is the Shinto shrine dedicated to the defied spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.” As we entered, we watched a man cleanse himself in the purification temple. John did a little demonstration for me too.

Inside there was a temporary display of really old Bonsai trees.  If I remember correctly, one was 500 years old. Dang that’s old!

We also spotted some girls in traditional dress. John says they were the equivalent of alter boys.

We also checked out the wooden plaques you can purchase as prayers.

On the way out of the temple, we passed by a big collection of sake barrels and another of wine barrels. I think they were supposed to symbolize that Emperor Meiji ushered Japan into an era of westernization. The wine barrels were from cities all around the world.

We learned more about the emperor at the Imperial Palace. Thanks to my awesome planning skills, we were able to go on a walking tour inside the gates. The original palace was burned during WWII, and the one that stands today was completed in 1968. It looks very 1960s with its green-roof and ranch style build. There’s a large plaza outside of the palace where people gather on New Year’s Day and the Emperor’s birthday to wish the royal family well.

[The tour started off in this little control room looking visitor's lounge. Luckily they had audio guides in English].

[This very excellent exercise video was inexplicably playing in the room.]

[That green metal tree thing reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright a whole lot, especially Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma which was like on big metal tree. I know that Wright had a lot of Japanese influence though, so I'm not sure which came first.]

There are also picturesque gardens, bridges, and moats on the palace grounds. According to the audio guide the Emperor’s hobby is growing rice and the Empress’s hobby involves silk worms.

[Lydia was obsessed with the little kids in their little uniforms. I taught her that child kidnapping is a sign of respect in Japan.]

After all that walking, we were hungry, so we headed for the Mitsukoshi department store in the Ginza neighborhood. Japanese department stores are known for the cafeterias in the basements. This one did not disappoint. There were stands selling everything from fancy bento-boxes, to sesame chicken, to fruity parfaits. We did some sampling and then John did some buying. We had kabobs of weird meats, pumpkin, melon bread, and a delicious fruity parfait.

One fun thing about the department store was the huge hat section and the huge umbrella section. Japanese people don’t like suntans, and they take every measure possible to prevent them from happening. I also saw a lot of ladies wearing gloves to keep their hands nice and pale.

The department store had a lot of cute babies too. I just wanted to squeeze them.

Our next goal was Japanese shaved ice. John tracked down a little restaurant, but unfortunately when we arrived they told us that shaved ice was out of season. We settled for Japanese tea. It was served in a little room sans tables. Instead everyone sat on a bench, and the plates and cups were just set in between us. The first course was thick green tea. It was so thick, it was hard to get it out of the cup. We also had Japanese sweets, basically fancy rice pastries, and ended with ‘thin’ green tea. Not what we’d hoped for, but awesome nonetheless.

Next stop was the Yanaka neighborhood. According to the Good Book (1000 Places to See Before You Die), Yanaka is a residential area where “you’ll find small temples and shrines, picturesque wooden houses, and sturdy traditional storehouses turned into galleries.” It’s one of the only places in Tokyo where you can find anything of old Edo, the name of Tokyo prior to 1868. We first took a stroll through the cemetery. I was interested in the tall collection of wooden sticks behind each headstone. Turns out they’re called sotobas and they indicate who’s buried at the site.

[Cutsiest traffic cones evar!]

As we wandered out of the cemetery, John noticed a sign for shaved ice. We followed the arrows and ended at a little place called Himitsudo. The line was out the door. I looked through the window, and I could tell the wait would be worth it. People were being served huge mounds of ice covered in fruit puree. When it was finally our turn, the shaved ice did not disappoint. My ice was covered in yogurt with a side of pineapple puree. John’s was half milk, half strawberry. It was better than ice cream.

[I tried to tell Lydia this sign said "shaved ice this way is poison, also the store is closed" but she wouldn't listen to my Japanese wisdom.]

[They were using these antique Japanese hand powered ice shavers that were really awesome.]

We walked off our yummy dessert as we wandered down Yanaka Ginza, a pedestrian street lined with small shops selling everything from chopsticks, to Japanese pastries, to slippers. If I lived in Tokyo, I would want to live in Yanaka. It was lively, but cozy.

After a quick pit stop to charge our phones, it was off to the Robot Wars. Robot Wars was the craziest, most awesome show I’ve ever seen. Just the walk to the auditorium was enough to blow my mind.

[I think I should build one of these for the apartment.]

The first part of the show was sort of like a parade of crazy, colorful floats and costumed people. The floats came so close to our heads that we had to duck at certain points. The floats were all controlled by Nintendo-like remote controls, which was pretty cool.

 [I feel like this thing was awesome enough to warrant the zillion videos I'm posting.]

The next set was a war between the robots and the forest/sea. My favorite line of the whole show was a forest lady saying to a robot, “You evil, I beat you.” At the end, the forest/sea win the war as a giant cow comes to save the day.

There was another fun act where guys dressed in glow stick suits, danced and flipped around the arena.

[These poor clowns didn't light up at all. Womp womp.]

The next time you’re in Tokyo, go to the Robot Wars. You won’t regret it.

We ended the day in Tokyo’s electronics district, Akihabara. We wandered the streets a bit, and I got to experience a Japanese arcade… so many claw machines.

We also strolled through Yodobashi Camera, an 8 story electronics store. And I saw the many anime stores lining the streets.

It was a jam-packed day; according to my FitBit we walked 15 miles!

No comments:

Post a Comment