Ok, I've been absolutely terrible about updating this after the first week in Japan. I've just been so busy everyday, running to this thing or that thing to see the sights, eat the food, meet the people, watch the events. And throughout my day I think, "Oh, man, I can't wait to show this to everyone" but then by the time I get back to my homebase the only thing I want to do is shower and pass out, assuming I don't have any client work to do. That said, I think I'll be able to update this more often, so in the meantime, I'll spend the next couple days putting up multiple posts to get caught up.
DAY 7: Let's Go To Tokyo
Saturday morning, bags packed, we headed to Kyoto Station to catch our Shinkansen to Tokyo. At last! While Kyoto was a beautiful place, I was happy to go to a city I knew the layout of better. With an ekibento purchased moments before, I was ready to spend the next two hours getting caught up on client projects while Ian napped. When we got to our AirBnB in Shinjuku, it was a little disappointing. We knew it was a sharehouse type place, but we assumed when we purchased a "Private room" that we would have our own room, not a room shared with 4 other people. Even that wouldn't have bothered me, but they didn't even have lockers for me to store my computer which meant we had to carry my laptop in the backpack everyday to ensure its security. That said, our hosts were still kind and we got to meet a lovely couple from Australia later in the week.
Anyways, once we dropped off our non-valuables, we were off to Ueno Park where we had hoped to run into a group of gentlemen we had met the year before during hanami (basically an excuse to drink and eat food under the sakura blossoms all night and day). They said they came to Ueno every year and I told them last year that I would come back. I'm sure they didn't think I meant that, but I figured I'd still try to find them and surprise them. But with no way to contact them it really was a shot in the dark to try to find them in a haystack of drunk middle-aged businessmen.
After walking around for about an hour searching, we sorta gave up/were distracted by the art display of kaiju (big monsters like Godzilla that the Tokyo University of Arts in Ueno had put together. There were two performers playing shamisen and singing traditional Japanese music accompanied by an utsushi-e visual. Utsushi-e was an art form created as a result of Western technology being introduced to Japan. The Japanese were skeptical and believed that photographs stole a part of their soul (horcruxes, basically) but they thought the technology could be useful in communicating visually, sort of like a precursor for the anime we know and love today.
Next up was a rakugo storyteller and although I speak very limited Japanese, between the visuals and Ian translating I was able to gather the overall story. Eventually we made our way back to Shinjuku and decided to stop into a ramen shop called Kuma near our sharehouse and I was delightfully surprised to discover that the strong pork jelly flavor was almost as wonderful as Bankara, my very favorite ramen-ya located in Ikebukuro. We even got to talk to our cook who had spent a year in Seattle for school. And we also got to see a man fall asleep in his ramen bowl after what i suspect was a little too much hanami.