Published: July 22nd 2010July 22nd 2010
7/20/10 to 7/22/10
Tokyo is noisy.
Visual noise, electric noise, and earfuls of loud, synthetic audial annihilation.
It is a city where every square inch of space is used for advertising, while cell phones and intercoms blare music, beeps, commercials and announcements. I like the sounds of thousands of wooden shoes and high-heels on the city pavements and escalators, however these rhythmical beats always seem to be interrupted by one woman in the crowd who uses her cell phone like a megaphone and has the laugh and nasally pitch of a ten-year-old who inhaled too much helium.
With Temperatures close to 100 degrees and humidity exceeding 60%, the noise and heat have made sight-seeing in Tokyo quite tiring--but fun and exciting nonetheless. Thankfully, the subway and train systems are easy to manage, clean and well air-conditioned.
For my first six days in Japan, I am traveling with Billy, my partner from October 2002 to August 2009. This is our first trip together in over a year. It has been nice reconnecting with him as a friend and travel buddy. We travel well together, but I have learned our eating habits differ greatly.
While my vision
Tsukiji fish market
Hacking up the tuna
of Japanese cuisine mostly consists of sushi, his eyes light up at every KFC, McDonalds or 7-11 selling fried chicken-on-a-stick. I like to go into a restaurant, point at some Japanese words on a menu, and see what arrives. He won't walk through the door unless the menus have pictures accompanied by English descriptions. I crave fruits and veggies, he craves fried everything with cheese and mayo on top.
That being said, Tokyo seems to favor Billy's tastes. I was surprised by the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables and the over-abundance of fried food. I am hoping his pallete leans toward fresh seafood for the rest of our time together.
(Billy is mortified about this inclusion in my journal and wants me to make a disclaimer: that he is in great shape and I exaggerate. (But I'm betting his friends reading this will say I hit the nail on the head).
The one thing we agree upon, however, is a nice, cold Japanese Beer after a hot walk around the city.
We started our sight-seeing early enough to explore the Tsukiji fish market. The rows and aisles of vendors hauling and chopping their daily catch was
An outdoor market
near the fish market
quite neat. I saw so many interesting sea creatures; from live eels, turtles and urchins, to giant tuna, prawns and squid. Venturing through the market was a bit hazardous, as hundreds of carts resembling metal chariots zoomed through the narrow aisleways, splashing fish blood on all who stood near its' path.
I felt the gardens and markets we visited in Tokyo were less impressive than some of the others I've experienced in Asia. The Senso-Ji temple complex, on the other hand, was a beautiful and spiritual place to enjoy an early afternoon.
Outside the main temple were opportunities for me to gain purity, luck and good health. This included rubbing incense into my body and clothing, ladling water on my hands and finding my fortune with fortune sticks (pick a numbered stick, find corresponding fortunem make a wish and tie the fortune to a rack). I wished for the strength and guidance to be a warrior for peace.
Inside the temple, I listened as buddhist monks worshipped and chanted. I embraced the moment with prayer and meditation, and by lighting candles for my loved ones. The first candle was for those who came before me, the other
for those who seek improvement by overcoming that which stands in the way of their growth and development. Even without the smoke, water and fortune sticks, I realize I am already blessed with luck and good fortune to have so many wonderful people in my life who nurture my soul and fill my heart with love.
To learn about the way of life in Tokyo before WWII, we visited the Shitamachi Museum which recreated the business and home life of the plebeian downtown quarter of old Tokyo. The museum was completely interactive, and I was allowed to enter the various displays and touch all the stuff. I went from being a candy vendor and a copper smith to a kid playing with Japanese toys. The museum showed how WWII and the American occupation that followed really changed Tokyo, not only bringing electricity, but western influences and values to the culture, government and economy. (I will return to Tokyo by myself next week and visit Yushukan war memorial and museum to further explore the Japanese war experience).
On our final night in Tokyo, we went on a quest to find Gwen Stefani's back up dancers in Harajuku. Harajuku girls are
Pre-WWII way of life in Japan
teen girls who are bedecked in goth make-up, punk kimonos, nun habits and cartoon nurse exaggeration. Unfortunately, they only gather on the weekend, but the trendy area was an enjoyable place to stroll and take-in nonetheless. (I did spot one Harajuku girl in the subway earlier in the day, but I wasn't quick enough to snap a photo. I guess we'll have to wait for Gwen's next single).
All-in-all, our time in Tokyo was adventuresome and interesting. I am however, looking forward to a much quieter and traditional experience of Japan in the city of Kyoto.
There are more photos below