Settling Into Tokyo

With the famous Hachiko statue at Shibuya Crossing exit.

With the famous Hachiko statue at Shibuya Crossing exit.

Day 15

Apparently Superman is never too busy to hear what the people have to say. There was a protest going on, but I have no idea what it was about.

Apparently Superman is never too busy to hear what the people have to say. There was a protest going on, but I have no idea what it was about.

Because I was out so late the night before, I slept in til about 1pm. I had been hopeful about going to an artists meetup in Shinjuku but as it turns out I got the location wrong and the meetup was actually in Shibuya. I made my way towards Shibuya anyway and then eventually gave up on getting there in a timely manner. But I did finally find the Hachiko statue (read more about the famous pup, Hachiko here). I had seen so many other statues in the area and the Hachiko wall art, but could never seem to find the statue. After getting a photo with Hachiko, I went back into the station and made my way towards Shinjuku. The night before Tetsu invited me to the Golden Tiger for a rockabilly show. So I just sorta walked around until the time Tetsu told me to meet him at Iwamatocho station which has become our midway meeting place. We then made our way over to gig. By the way, this show didn't start at 12am like the last, it was the reasonable hour of 6pm instead. This meant that there would be 4 bands and dj between each set, ending the night around 10, just in time for us to all roll out and hit the last train. I missed the first band, but the second band played a lot of covers like "These Boots Were Made for Walking," "Why don't you love me like you used to do?," etc.. I even danced with one of the attendees. I was able to meet many people who all were friends of Tetsu. It seems the rockabilly subculture is all well connected. I spoke with Jun, who is the event coordinator, and Oshow, the owner of the bar, who just happened to be the bass player/lead vocalist for Asakusa Jinta--the band I saw the billboard for, and happened to live in Sasazuka, where I'm staying. Small world Tokyo, especially for 16 million people. Jun invited me to her next event so I told her I'd probably be able to make it.

Me, Tetsu, Shirrow + Kama

Me, Tetsu, Shirrow + Kama

I understand why we don't have lineups on display here in the US, but it would be nice sometimes to know the name of the band coming on next and when. Then again, people in the US are more likely to walk away from a $5 cover to see one band versus the $20-30 cover for practically all shows in Japan.

I understand why we don't have lineups on display here in the US, but it would be nice sometimes to know the name of the band coming on next and when. Then again, people in the US are more likely to walk away from a $5 cover to see one band versus the $20-30 cover for practically all shows in Japan.

One peculiar thing about being at the show, however, is that rather than speak to me directly, people would talk about me to each other in a conversation mostly like this: "This is Mandy, she's Tetsu's friend. She's from Seattle and plays in a rockabilly band. She plays upright bass." "Oh is that so? Ahh, so cool." All in Japanese of course. So strange to be spoken of but be unable to converse directly due to lack of ability to carry a conversation in Japanese and their shyness at their limited English. The fact is in general, as long as both parties know a tiny amount of each other's language, and added body language, I've found that it hasn't been too hard to communicate. Though it also helps if you have a dictionary app.

Anyways, after the show ended around 10:30, Tetsu, Kama and I grabbed a quick dinner and then headed our separate ways.
 

We had to take this pic fairly quickly under a corridor of cherry blossoms in Shibuya.

We had to take this pic fairly quickly under a corridor of cherry blossoms in Shibuya.


Day 17
I mostly hung out at the house on Monday but made plans to hang out with the Aussies since it was their last day in Tokyo. We met around 6:30pm at the Hachiko gate of Shibuya station. I had thought we could go to a cool lesser version of the Robot Restaurant but it turned out the ad I had seen was just an ad of the Robot Restaurant that Dom had wanted so badly to go to. It was sold out though so we weren't able to make it there. So we kind of did the whole wander around til we see something we like game, which can take forever in Japan because a lot of restaurants look amazing and you're stuck being like "but what if there's something better?" We ended up at an izakaya style restaurant because it had all you can drink for ¥1500 which Sian wanted to make the most of. This is less of a deal for me because don't drink so fast, but you have 2 hours to order as much beverages as you want. I think I drank 4-5 drinks, so a faster pace than my norm. I stuck to umeshu (plum wine) and soda since it didn't seem to affect me much and I enjoy it a lot. The food was good and we share varieties of fried snacks, fried onigiri type food, yakitori, etc.. After hour two hours were up and we were all somewhat buzzed, Sian suggested one more drink before we all head home. There was a bar called Shots they had looked up, but as it turned out, there was a ¥1000 cover. So we wandered into another nearby bar that had no cover, or so we thought. I had just enough money for one drink so I ordered a mojito, and lo and behold! It was actually made with real lime and mint, not just a sugary mix as I had so far encountered. The bartender was friendly and the decor was like an old vintage Hollywood bar, with framed photos of famous actresses and a small tv playing some films. It wasn't til we were about to leave that we found that our bill had about 1500 yen more on it than what we ordered. We came to the realization that there was a cover, albeit less than 1000 each, but it wasn't advertised. In Japan, there are a lot of bars that charge a cover, even though there is no entertainment. I believe this is because a lot of shops don't have tons of business in comparison to what I imagine rent costs in some of the urban settings, so it's how they keep their doors open. At least that's what I'm assuming.

Sian was kind enough to cover it since I used the last of the cash I had on me. We all walked to the station and parted ways. They were off to England where Dom's family is from. I really hope I can meet with them again down the road, especially since my next trip will likely be somewhere in Europe.

A Haystack of Businessmen

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

Apparently I only wanted rice and meat this day since I started with Pork Katsu, and then seared beef slices with panko breading. #NoRegrets

Apparently I only wanted rice and meat this day since I started with Pork Katsu, and then seared beef slices with panko breading. #NoRegrets

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.

Last year at Hanami.

Last year at Hanami.

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.