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.

BBB

Day 14 (Bye Bye Boyfriend)

Saturday morning of Ian's departure had come. Although I wasn't allowed to check into my next sharehouse until 4pm, I still woke early to see Ian off from Tokyo Station. Waking at 8am wasn't so awful so much as the fact that it was hard to sleep the night before because our new roommates were two couples with partners that snored horribly loud. One was loud but has a consistent snore whereas the other had signs of sleep apnea with varying levels and speeds of snoring. In any case it was a miserable night of sleep. I accompanied Ian from Shinjuku to Shinagawa (where Tokyo Station is located) and it wasn't until he got on the express line to Narita airport that I realized I hadn't gotten a goodbye photo with him. 😭 I was pretty sad to see him go because I knew the next month would be packed full of excitement and while I was glad for that, I also knew I'd be sad I couldn't share the experiences with him.

I got sad when I realized I never even got a goodbye photo of us together. Also, I found Ian in cartoon form in this poster (He's the one with the DS and headphones for sure).

I got sad when I realized I never even got a goodbye photo of us together. Also, I found Ian in cartoon form in this poster (He's the one with the DS and headphones for sure).

Once his train took off, I drearily walked up to the main floor of the station and since I had nothing better to do with the next few hours, I spent about 20-30 minutes reading the display of history that was in the station. Interesting facts include that the Ueno station was once the main station and two political figures were attacked at different times, one ending in death and the other severe injury ending in death about 8 months later. The Tokyo Station was once a posh hotel, the first train station to ever have a hotel for convenience of travelers. A couple years ago it was revamped into a hotel again. And there are currently many stations undergoing construction in preparation for the 2020 Olympics.

Anyways, there's a breakdown of the more interesting facts. I then grabbed a snack at Andersen, my favorite train station bakery in Tokyo, and finally I dragged my way towards Sasazuka, the area I'd be calling home for the next month. Once I checked in I passed out in order to catch up on sleep from the night before. I have to admit, I was pretty bummed about my room. The ads for the Airbnb showed tatami mat rooms for a traditional home experience, my room however was just a box with white walls and two windows with bars. So basically a prison like room. In order to make it less droll I used cute paper shopping bags as decor on my window sill, as well as a handful of gashapon.

After settling in and getting in touch with my clients, I took another nap because I was going to have a very long night. I was going to meet my friend Tetsu for the first time at the venue he was playing that night. Tetsu and I met via FB about 8-9 months ago when I was browsing folks in Tokyo area with similar interests (music, rockabilly). We began conversing about music and have stayed in touch and he's been nice enough to put up with my attempts at learning to write in Japanese. Haha

Anyways, I left my place around 10:30 or so to make my way to Koenji where the venue, Club Missions, was. I admit, that without Ian around, I forgot to really eat that day, and many days following. 😖 The show that evening was actually a reggae show, and while Tetsu's band, The Discovers, doesn't really play reggae, I think they have a couple ska-ish riffs that made it match enough.

Just a restaurant I passed by with neat art in Koenji and the poster for the show.

Just a restaurant I passed by with neat art in Koenji and the poster for the show.

My friend's band, The Discovers, is the top right. Click the image to see video, or here for their YouTube Channel.

My friend's band, The Discovers, is the top right. Click the image to see video, or here for their YouTube Channel.

This was my first experience at a live show in Japan, though it wasn't necessarily the common show experience in Japan. For example, most shows start around 6pm, but this one started at 12am. I know, 6pm sounds sooo early, right? but that's so that the shows are over in time for everyone to catch the last subway train home around midnight. This show was an exception and I was a little concerned about how I'd get home. If I wanted to walk, it would probably take me an hour assuming I didn't make any wrong turns in an area of Tokyo I was unfamiliar with. If I wanted to take a cab, I'd have to fork over about ¥6000 ($60)!! And if I wanted to take the subway, I'd have to wait til 5am. Or hope my friend had friends with a car--most people don't have cars here in Tokyo because there's no room to park them anywhere and if you do want to park one it costs a zillion dollars.
 

Party on, my friends.

Party on, my friends.

When I asked my friend about how he and everyone there expected to get home, he said the subway. So staying up late it was! Now the two things I think I enjoyed most about the late night experience was the fact that because many people were tired as is reasonable at 3,4,5 in the morning, people were passing out on the floors of the venue even though music was blaring.

The second part I enjoyed was seeing the 'zombie walk' to the station in the morning as people from many venues and areas of Tokyo shuffled sleepily into the station at 5am. It was interesting to see who showed up at the time of morning, anyone from rock 'n rollers, clubbers, bartenders and businessmen (not sure if they're going home from a late night out, or getting an early start for work). In any case it was an experience I wouldn't have been able to have otherwise. I only wish I had gotten photos of it.

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.