Tokyo Day 1

Continued from Kyoto Day 3.

Travel day! We finished packing up this morning, then we realized that the next time we pack up, we’ll be heading home!!! Counting the days until we get back home. It’s been a really long trip and we are homesick.

Another potentially rainy day. Our shoes were so soaked yesterday that they have not yet dried completely.

Ah, so many bento box choices…Life is tough.

That’s a fascinating bento box. Or really, a bento pot.

Millions of students on field trips descend into Kyoto Station.

In our waiting room. Considering the amount of trains that move through this station, the waiting areas are really small. I guess since the trains are so punctual, everyone just shows up right when their train is about to arrive.

Glad we are leaving Kyoto and not having to fight for space at the sights against the kids.

Our shinkansen arrives.

On this train, instead of 4 across, the seats are 5 across. Still very nice though.

Time to eat.

So beautiful.

Time to eat again.

To think that a bento box equivalent in the US is probably a pb&j sandwich with a juice box.

Spy photo of the ladies next to us. They spent the entire train ride, almost 3 hours, talking and laughing nonstop. They are the chattiest Japanese we’ve come across.

As we were about to enter into the suburbs of Tokyo, the clouds parted for just long enough for us to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji!! We had requested for our seats to be on the North side so that we might get a chance to see the famous mountain.

Now, into Tokyo, and it looks like it’s gonna rain.

Yup, it’s raining. In fact, the forecast for the next few days is nothing but rain.

Arrived in Tokyo Station. As usual, a ride on the shinkansen is a relaxing affair.

Now, time to navigate the labyrinth of the Tokyo train system.

That wasn’t so hard. We only had to connect to one train to get to Shinjuku, where our hotel is located at.

OK, so we’ve reached our stop, Shinjuku station. It is the busiest train station in the world, over 3.6 million people on average go through this station…everyday! There are over 200 exits for this station, and we can attest for it. As I am writing this update, we’ve been in Tokyo for 3 days, and despite our best efforts to go in and out of the same exit, we’ve managed somehow to end up in a different entrance and exit every day. It’s by far the biggest and most convoluted station ever.

Anyhow, the exit that we came out of was the wrong one, so we had to get back into a whole different part of the station, go underground, and try again.

It took us literally another 10 minutes of walking underground across this train station to see daylight again.

Yes, this should be closer to our hotel. It’s raining, and we don’t have rain covers for our big packs…hopefully it doesn’t pick up.

Our hotel is located in Kabukicho, Tokyo’s most famous red light district…now that I think about it…two of our hotels in Japan has been located smack in the middle of the red light district….

There’s a lot of sex related businesses here, but also just as many shops, restaurants, and bars. We have no shortage of options here.

Found our hotel after a short walk…well, kind of a long walk if you include all the time it took for us to just walk out of the station.

This is what $120 a night gets you in a great location in Tokyo.

Definitely the biggest bathroom we’ve had in a while.

Our view outside. We are on the perimeter of the red light district, but our window looks into the heart of Kabukicho.

This is literally right by the front door of our hotel, a banner for a hostess bar. Hostess bars and other sex related businesses literally surrounds us…but, this being Japan, the area isn’t shady at all.

Literally right behind our hotel is the Golden Gai. It’s an usual area of Tokyo in that it’s a bunch of old two story buildings instead of a mid rise. There are over 200 bars here and they are almost all tiny. Tiny as in many of them can only seat 5 people.

Bars bars bars!

Look at all those small bars!

We plan on coming back here later tonight to grab a drink or two. While we were partying in the basement bar in Osaka, our bartender recommended us to go to a couple bars here and look for a guy named J. Alright.

Some of the bars here are members only. Instead of tourists, they’d rather cater to regulars.

Odd. At the walkway between our hotel and Golden Gai.

Just as odd.

Interesting dining environment.

You eat in a barrel booth!

KL points at self.

We are hungry, some sushi.

I hate to say this, but this rotating sushi was just ok. It was really cheap, but the quality was also not that great. We just ate a few pieces and left.

Of course, it’s started to rain again.

There’s a 7 Eleven and a Lawson right under our hotel. Nice. No shortage of snacks!

Many of the buildings in this area looks like this, no windows. Most of the business are actually not located on the street level, but instead on all the different floors of the buildings. It’s like taking a leap of faith, opening that door to an establishment that you don’t know much about other than their banner outside.

Since it’s raining, we spent the rest of the afternoon just taking a nap inside our hotel and to save up some energy for tonight.

Golden Gai, literally right behind our hotel. This was taken from the window in our elevator vestibule.

Looking for dinner. Notice the girl in blue. No, not RL, the other girl in blue on the left. Well, you may have noticed that’s no girl at all, but a cross dresser. Apparently, there is a cross dresser host/hostess(I guess they are not really either) club literally right next to our hotel. Earlier there were several of them out on the curb chatting and shrieking like little school girls…but in their baritone voices.

Then a few doors down from the cross dressers club, there’s a sign on the street for an underground izakaya. OK, time to take a leap of faith and go down there to see. Can’t hear voices, can’t see in, let’s hope it’s good.

Well, this is already a good sign. We got sat at a table and this little statue was right next to us. It looks to be some sort of animal sitting on his own giant scrotum while holding an abacus.

There are only a few other patrons here right now, hopefully the food will be ok…

Before we order anything, our waitress brings two plates of this appetizer out to us. We thought it was tofu, but no, it was actually huge chunks for fried fish!!! YUM!!!

$2.50 beers!! YUM!

Asparagus wrapped in bacon and fried, very good!

So, this place was a huge hit! Drinks were cheap, and the food was amazing. By the time we got done eating, the whole place was packed with people.

Now, we are going to find another bar to do some more drinking so that we can pregame before we go to Golden Gai.

Interesting decor for this restaurant…

Since we’ve had pretty good luck with basement establishments so far, we figured that we’ll take another gamble on another basement.

Empty kegs, always a good sign.

This is perhaps the best sign of all indicating a good time.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. We went down to stairs into a full and happening bar, only to be told that it was all reserved tonight for a private party. Bummer.

Back above ground, and the search continues.

Bright lights galore.

The famous sign for Kabukicho. We decided to go into Kabukicho to look for a bar. Yes, regular bars also exist in this area.

So many sex related establishments here. Host/hostess clubs. DVD viewing rooms, etc. etc.

I wonder what kind of fetish club she works in.

Interesting room choices there, and look…FREE SHOWER!!

Go visit some sort of sex club, then buy an sandwich at the convenience store downstairs.

Believe it or not, this is actually one of the raunchier banners. Most of them are just head shots of girls or guys. That or a cartoon drawing of some sort.

So many of them. How do you pick?

After a while of walking around in the middle of Kabukicho, we came upon a small building that seems to be occupied by several bars. Let’s hope that jazz bar literally means jazz bar and not something else.

We headed up these grimy stairs to the 4th floor to find a actual smoke filled jazz bar. Cool!! It was early in the night, and not too many customers are out here.

Look at that record collection!! Japan is filled with big time music collectors.

While chatting with the owner/bartender, we told him that we met swing dancing. His response was to clear the tables and chairs to make a dance floor for us. Then gave us free reign on his computer to pick a song to dance to….Alright…I guess we’ll dance and have our own small private audience!!

After our dance, the owner turned to RL and said that his friend dances jitterbug and would she dance with him. And indeed, he does dance the jitterbug. Impromptu swing dancing in a small jazz bar with in the premiere red light district of Tokyo. Too cool!

A few drinks at the jazz bar then we left in search of other bars. There are just too many places to drink here.

You too could be with one of those girlie men…for a fee. Seriously though…what’s up with these hosts trying to look as feminine as possible?

Cool little drinking spot.

We figured that since we’ve had decent luck with going down random basement establishments, we’ll give this basement bar a try.

Looks ok…

Then we were promptly shown the door. As we entered and was about to sit down, the waiter came over and uttered, “Japanese only.” We had read about this online about the xenophobic bars and clubs around here, but it was still a shocker to experience it. Me, not so much, but RL took it kind of hard. She’s never been turned away from a bar before, being a cute white girl.

Japan has always been wearily of outsiders, and this incident is the perfect example. I can’t imagine a bar in the US saying, “Americans only” and turning away foreigners. I mean, it’s not like we had signs that said, “Whites Only” or anything like tha….oh wait…Nevermind.

Well, since we couldn’t get into that basement bar, we decided to head onto Golden Gai and check out bars there. Maybe they’ll be more accepting of our non-Japaneseness.

In front of our hotel on the way to Golden Gai. Let me guess…she’s probably a working girl. Look at those heels!!!

OK, all the bars in Golden Gai are open for business. It’s 9:30pm, still relatively early.

Our first bar, recommended by M the bartender in Osaka. The super narrow and super steep stairs that Golden Gai is famous for. Actually, after traveling through much of Asia, we are kind of used to these small steep stairs.

Once we reached the second floor, we found ourselves as the first customers inside this tiny bar. This photo shows the entire bar since I have my back to the wall. There are only enough seats in here for maybe 7 people, 8 if they are all really skinny and liked one another….or you could fit 5 average sized Americans…

Again, quite the music collection. We asked our bartender if he was J…he was not. However, J, who is for Osaka, works for him as a bartender. Unfortunately, J is not working tonight. So, we just asked the owner to pass the word that we come bearing greetings from M in Osaka.

All night, I sat next to this little window that looks out onto the little street.

As kind of a custom here in Japan, with our cover charge, we get a little appetizer dish. This is chicken.

Right in front of us sits this digital photo frame displaying various photos taken in this bar…right now, it’s a very tame and chill time, but as you can see from the photo, some nights it gets bat shit crazy and wild in here…I had to censor this photo myself.

Photo of our bartender working the bar.

Hah! He’s wearing the same shirt tonight!

Another photo to pop up on the photo frame…Hmmm..

Anyhow, we were feeling pretty chill, so we sat here and listened to the music and drank our drinks.

We were the first customers, but not for long. One by one, customers streamed in here until the bar was full…well, only a few people had to show up to make it full.

RL gets hungry and orders a “canned food” from the menu. It’s chicken…actually not bad.

This was a much more chilled experience than Osaka, but we weren’t looking to get crazy tonight.

As small as the place was, they also had a toilet up here in a little closet. I’ve wanted to get a photo of this in Japan for a while, but I don’t always have the camera with me in the bathroom. You’ll see that above the toilet tank is a faucet with a sink that acts as the lid for the toilet tank. As you flush the toilet, the faucet will start flowing, and you can wash your hands under it, and the water that you just washed your hands in fills up the tank for the next flush. Ingenious water saving idea executed with simplicity!!

OK, down those steep stairs in search of our next small bar.

Look at these tiny bars, and they are all like this.

Found our next spot. This place was filled with Westerners. We didn’t get to talk to others at the other place since they were all Japanese. We wanted to come here to be able to chat with others.

Sat next to a guy from England who lives here in Tokyo teaching English. He was out with a group of friends who were here in Tokyo to visit him. Anyhow, he told us about Shochu, which is another alcohol popular here in Japan. Sounds like soju from Korea, but shochu is not the same. Soju is multiple distilled and also weaker than shochu. Anyhow, I need to try shochu before I leave Japan.

The bars here also don’t close until very late…but we didn’t have that kind of energy tonight. Just weren’t feeling it, by 11:30pm, we are ready to take the really short walk home.

Hah, there’s a washer sitting out in the middle of the street here in Golden Gai. How strange.

About 30 seconds away from Golden Gai on this path is our hotel. Sure is nice to be so close to the establishments.

To be continued at Tokyo Day 2.

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