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Published: April 16th 2007
and the far away worlds of Asia for good 'ol Seattle. And no, I didn't travel with ALL that. But you can't come home empty-handed! Oh, and yes, K's House hostel was a great place to stay. OH, and I can't find my other pics from Tokyo so I'll update that later.
Tokyo is beyond my grasp. Its size, its population, its lack of grid is nearly overwhelming. No, actually, it is overwhelming. It’s so thoroughly massive that you don’t even realize how little you’re actually seeing. A bird’s eye view would have been helpful for perspective but I never left the worm’s eye view. My whole understanding of the city is based on the main circular path of the metro map which itself is only conceptual. So basically, even after spending 10 days there, my understanding of Tokyo is at best, conceptual.
This vague understanding was dotted with distinct experiences in dining, shopping, and sumo. The udon noodle shops were incredible, and plenty reasonable. The largest fish market in the world was impressively, well, large. Massive frozen tunas were moved about, marked in red paint, sawed up, and auctioned off. Some of these massive specialty fish were sold bit by bit and could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Incredible!
I saw one of 5 sumo tournaments held in Japan during the year. More incredible luck! I watched the famous Mongolian champion defeat a Bulgarian sumo wrestler in the final bout full of pageantry
A reputation for politeness
I think this sign reads brilliantly
and impressive respect for tradition. I was surprised to find that there aren’t too many (or any) dominating Japanese sumo wrestlers these days. The sport has gone international due to lack of interest in the homeland. Now everyone would prefer to be quick and light as Ichiro Suzuki rather than a huge hulk of power, living in a ‘sumo stable.’
The Mongolian champ in himself is worth an entire blog. The Japanese culture is very protective. To be included on the ‘inside’ of this society is a rare opportunity for non-Japanese. (this according to westerners who have spent their entire lives there.) So, when this champion refused an ‘invitation’ to the inside by refusing the offer of Japanese citizenship, it was quite an insult. He reluctantly speaks Japanese outside of tournaments and is considered a ‘showboat’ by sumo standards. (something he is both loved and reviled for of course.) If Americans loved sumo, they would love this guy and all the potential drama he brings. He might not be able to outshine Paris Hilton, but he could give her a run for her money in the gossip rags.
The nightlife in Tokyo is crazy. The options are
dress outrageously, hang out on a bridge, let tourists take photos...what do you do on the wekkends?
limitless. I gave it a fair go but really can’t quite bridge the gap between drink service stopping at 1 or 2am and trains not starting until 5am. The cab ride home would cost like $70 US (minimum) so I stuck it out all night only to fall asleep on the metro home. Uniformed children with their super-happy-fun backpacks were going to school as I snoozed through my stop and did a full circle back to where I began. I struggled to stay awake for 40 minutes in order to avoid a second lap. The Portugese traveler I went out with was so wiped out I practically had to carry him off the train, which is hard when you’re on crutches. Although I did feel fortunate when I learned another American missed his stop too, only to wake up 2 hours outside of Tokyo. D’oh!
Being so close to home I caught up on some Americana one day. I watched the Seattle Seahawks lose a playoff game on a Monday evening in an empty sports bar. (remember I was there in January. These blogs are just looong overdue.) Actually, there was one other person there. He was cheering
maid cafe promotion
you can go drink coffee and chat to young ladies in maid uniforms. A very popular thing for young japanese speakers.
on Chicago. Awkward. I stayed to the end even though the bartender accidently told me who won the game before it was over. (we were watching a day old taping.) What a dope! It should have been happy hour that early Monday evening but because of the game they charged me a full $13 for one beer. I wasn’t having any more at those prices.
In comparison I could have had a private room for 4 nights in Laos for one dollar less. Traveling lends to making totally useless comparisons like that sometimes. It’s the same instinct that makes you haggle over 5 cents when buying life-saving medicine while abroad. Sure it’s no big deal, but you don’t want to set the tone EVERYONE can afford 5 cents to save their life. That just leads to tourist inflation. So don’t be afraid dear travelers… haggle, haggle, haggle! The next penny-pinching backpacker will thank you!
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