playing tour guide in tokyo

Just a few quick highlights of the part of the trip when my cousin was in Tokyo because I am trying desperately to get caught up.

Christmas, as I mentioned, was a Karaoke Christmas. Before that, we also joined my friends for a lovely dinner at an American military place (I cannot remember the name of it for the life of me). It was amazing. And included Diet Coke.
And then, the day after Christmas, we went and saw Les Miserables. Or in Japanese (spelled American style), Ray Meezahrahburu. I’m not going to give you my review of the movie other than to say I enjoyed it thoroughly for what it was, a cinematic interpretation of an operetta written for the stage. What I do want to share is our funny experience trying to get to the movie.
We had been at my friend’s house which is exactly in the wrong place to get to the movie theater in a hurry. Too close to take the train, but a far enough walk that we weren’t going to make it. So, we hopped in a cab. Cabs, as you may or may not know, are not really my thing in Japan. I’m getting better, but it’s still hard.
So, I told the cab driver (really, I should say taxi driver because there’s nothing “cab driver” like about these drivers) we wanted to go to Roppongi Hills Cinema. Well, really I said “Roppongi Hiruzu Cinema”. The taxi drive repeated Roppongi Hiruzu, but didn’t understand the “cinema”. I knew it was the same word in Japanese, but I doubted myself when he couldn’t understand me. And repeated myself multiple times thinking that the next time he’d magically understand what I was saying even though I was saying it exactly the same way as the previous time.
And then I paused and thought, “How would this be written in Japanese?” and it clicked. So I then said “Roppongi Hiruzu Sheenayma” and the driver, in excitement, says, “Oh, sheenayma!” and all was well in the universe. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Japan. It’s not the easiest place to live for a white girl who doesn’t speak the language, but it sure is a fun adventure.

On Thursday we went to Meiji Shrine. I’ve posted a lot about this place before, so I didn’t take a lot of photos, but it was nice to visit. We barely made it in time, but it was enough for Tanya to see it. And then we headed down to Shibuya (crazy intersection place). Along the way, we passed this shoe store and Tanya suggest we go inside. Big mistake.

While it was Tanya’s idea to go in, I’m the one that was trying on shoes. I couldn’t help myself. I figured I wouldn’t be able to fit in shoes in Japan as the Japanese are just smaller than Americans in general. But, lo and behold, my feet that happen to be just a little on the small side given my height can fit into the largest Japanese shoe size (at least that can easily be found in a store. And so I walked away with these beauties.

Not only are my own trips/vacations expensive for me, but when others are on vacation with me, they’re expensive for me, too. But totally worth it!

Later that night we were wandering around Roppongi and walked by this pet store, which had a number of little monkeys for sale. Let’s just say I was tempted…if it hadn’t have been for the price tag.

And the requisite trip to Tokyo Tower. We got there at the perfect time. The end of daylight, so Tanya was able to see the city during the day, during sunset, and all lit up. To top it off, it was an amazingly clear day so we were also able to see Mt. Fuji.

And then, after getting home, we decided to make a little visit to Don Quijote, this amazing super store just around the corner from me. This is it’s own experience for so many reasons (not the least of which is the food they cell). In fact, I think it could be considered a crash course in Tokyo culture. I’ve been there many times (they have everything–think Japanese Kmart) and I’m pretty used to the weirdness that is Tokyo, but this one caught even me off guard. And I could not stop laughing. I mean, it was just amazing.

The following day (I think) we headed out to Shinjuku to meet my friends for dinner at my new favorite restaurant in all of Tokyo, this little gyoza place that is amazing and so cheap. All they do is gyoza (aka pot-stickers or dumplings). Tanya wasn’t super happy about the smoking in the restaurant that was happening. Coming from California where you can’t smoke anywhere (and where, apparently, there are PSAs encouraging you to tell smokers that they are giving you cancer) it was a bit of an adjustment for her. I don’t like it, but clearly I’ve gotten used to it.

After dinner we wandered around Shinjuku and did some shopping. We found ourselves in what we thought was a regular department store, but come to find out it was the regular department store’s “special styles” store. To say it was interesting would be a total understatement. Unfortunately, I got busted for taking this photo, so I didn’t get any other ones. But, I think this one is pretty awesome.

The departments in this store? You can check them out here. Worth the visit.

And then, as we continued walking, we saw these. I’ve seen pictures of them before, but it was my first time seeing them life. Tokyo is a weird place. Basically, you can rent these and sit in the chair (see the chair?) and then…I don’t know what. And I haven’t researched it further because I’m not sure I want to know what.

On Friday, we headed out to Yokohama (a little farther actually) to visit our grandparents’ home when they lived here in the ’70s. It was pretty awesome to see it. It was clearly abandoned, so we did a little exploring. Apparently, it has changed quite a bit, according to my aunt, but it was still cool to see their house.

And because we were already out that way, we took the opportunity to visit Chinatown in Yokohama. One of the biggest in the world and definitely the cleanest.

There were a number of very cool temples there. And tons of food, but neither of us was hungry and we had dinner plans.

On Saturday, we headed out to Asakusa to go to the Edo museum. Which turned out to be closed. New Year’s is a serious thing around these parts and things close down for the entire week. But it wasn’t a total loss. We got to see the temple (which I had yet to visit) and experience Tokyo at it’s holiday finest (i.e. crowds of people everywhere.

We also wandered through part of Ueno Park–another first for me–and saw this woman feeding the birds. We might have both started singing tuppence a bag.

And Saturday night we went to a fancy dinner for Tanya’s 25th birthday and it was so good and so fun (minus the taxi experience getting there…I’ve never had a Tokyo taxi driver flat out refuse me service, but that’s what happened. But I was stubborn and won and so we got the angriest ride I’ve ever had in my life. If there had been any other option.

Sunday was T’s last day in Tokyo (and it was only part of a day). We went to the Sony Center (which was pretty cool) and then wandered around Matsuya for a bit. I had no idea there was a food hall in the basement. Kind of a painful discovery.

We got Tanya a piece of cake, since she hadn’t had actual cake on her birthday, and she shoved it in her face before we had to Tokyo Station to get her on the Narita Express to the airport.

The End
Coming up…a job offer, apartment hunting, and a mochitsuki.

bueller?... bueller?... bueller?

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