Day 2 in Tokyo
We started the next day by torturing ourselves with ice cold showers to prove we’re still badasses. It only kind of worked. The water was still REALLY cold.
We left the apartment en route for the Tsukiji Fish Market. These are the docks that are right up against the Tokyo Bay where people can wander in to get fresh fish at one of the many shops, or, real early in the morning, people can buy large quantities of the fish (likely to sell as the “fresh catch” at their restaurants).
My first impression was that something like this would never work in America. Workers are driving around heavy machinery right next to where all the customers are walking, half of it doesn’t have a sidewalk or designated walking area, and the people and machinery are zipping by each other like balls in a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Megs was excited to eat some fresh sushi and sit down at one of the many restaurants to get it. As we were looking for an ATM (many smaller places in Japan are cash-only, including most of the places in the fish market). We stumbled into a three-story building that we thought might have an ATM, some bathrooms, and other random stuff like that. Instead, we found an indoor portion of the fish market. The hallways were lined with all kinds of different things, half of which we had no idea what they were.
We ended up on the third floor where an organization was sponsoring and offering free fish to anyone. Megs kept asking if I was nervous to try “real sushi” because what we had back in the States isn’t real sushi. I really didn’t expect any difference from what I was used to, sans rice and whatever other toppings would be on our rolls. We got to try two different fish and there was definitely a difference. I’m not sure if it was because I let Megs get into my head or because the slice of fish was about two or three sizes bigger than what a normal piece in a roll would be, but regardless, it was a bit much for me. I finished it but I wouldn’t say I loved it.
After wandering the madhouse that is the fish market for what seemed like over an hour, I think Megs could tell I had hit my wall with the crowds, the fish smell, and not eating anything substantial. We decided to make a move away from the fish market. She made a few subtle comments about how she didn’t get to try as much fish as she would have liked but walked with me away from the market. Before we left, she caught a glimpse of something that she couldn’t resist – fish on a stick. That’s all it took for her to perk up, feel good about eating some fish, and be content moving on to the next part of the day.
A short walk from the fish market are the Hamarikyu Gardens. It’s a big green space located with one side up against the Tokyo Bay and another along the Sumida River. Inside the Gardens, there were a number of flowers like the yellow rapeseed blossoms, a 300-year-old pine, and a traditional tea house in the middle of one of the ponds.
Of course we had to stop and get some tea at the tea house. Before entering, we were asked to remove our shoes. We found some space on the floor and sat there while we waited for our tea and sweets to be brought to us. In keeping with tradition, we also spoke very quietly which was kind of a nice change of pace from most public places were used to. There were at least 20 others in the tea house and a majority were speaking in a whisper. The tea house itself had exterior walls made of glass which made for a very scenic experience. Our next destination was based on a recommendation from the owner/bartender at Zoetrope the night prior, a place called Popeye’s. Popeye’s is a craft beer bar that boasts 70+ beers on tap.
We took a roundabout way to walk there. Rather than a 2-mile direct route we took a 3-ish-mile path that would go by the Imperial Palace. We were underwhelmed, mainly because we thought we would be able to see more than we actually did, and were at Popeye’s around 5pm.
We checked the operating hours before we left to make sure it would be open (since so many places seem to shut down for a few hours in the late afternoon), so when we got there a few minutes after 5 when we thought it opened at 5, and it was already packed, we were a little confused. The hostess said they could seat us at the only open table until 6 when a reservation was coming in. We figured a little time is better than no time so we took it. At some point near 6, a table opened up outside so we were moved out there. As Megs was saying how cold and uncomfortable she was going to be sitting out there, the hostess brought over a blanket for her to use. Between the blanket and her barleywine, Megs was a happy lady.
We headed back to Shinjuku to walk the town one last time before we left the next morning. Apparently on a Saturday night, that town becomes another beast. It was nothing like the quiet streets we had seen every other time we passed through. This time, all the buildings were lit up, there were crowds of people everywhere, it was loud… THIS is what we expected in Tokyo. We walked around looking for a place to eat, being somewhat selective, as usual. After about 20 minutes, one of us started to get hangry. We stopped at one of the next places we saw, despite there not being any English on the menu. We managed to get by pretty well and we enjoyed our meals. On our walk home, the food started to settle in… but not in a good way. The night ended with us both racing for the bathroom.
We still didn’t have hot water on our last morning in the apartment, not that we had time to shower anyway – it was 3:30am and we had to be out the door by 4am to catch our flight. As we were leaving the apartment and heading towards the Shinjuku Station, we were surprised that there were a few others walking the streets, too. It was 4:15am at this point. Were they heading home after partying all night or heading to work (what day is it, again?)? When we got to the downtown Shinjuku area, the neighborhood was completely lit up and there were people everywhere. Promoters were on street corners pushing After Hours spots. This town was a lot more bumpin than why we saw when we first arrived. Despite the urge to go and grab a late night/early morning drink, we made our way to the station and eventually the airport.
Next stops, Sapporo and snowboarding in Rusutsu!