Greetings from Tokyo!
At the moment, I am sitting cross-legged on a cushion of the 38th floor of my high-rise, staring out at the hazing mist with an occasional flash from the lightning, illuminating the streets below. I feel as though I am in the sky, eye-to-eye with the roaring storm clouds. Every so often, a crack of thunder shudders across the Port of Tokyo. Yes, through the ceiling-to-floor windows, this is my view of Tokyo. Welcome to Japan ladies and gentlemen.
Today was our first day about town, and we spent the majority of it exploring the Asaka and Shibuya areas – the former because I desperately need to renew my passport (which expires in about 5 days) before I leave on the 30th. Yeah, I know I’m brilliant. Shibuya is a bustling area with TONS of shops, pachinko rooms, arcades, and restaurants. I can’t read any of the street names, but upon exiting either the West exit of the station, you run right into the Tokyu Plaza, and if you meander along those streets and (if you are adventurous enough) smaller alley ways, you will discover a bunch of great cheap eats. My lunch today came to out to under $4.50, pretty impressive for a delicious bowl of seafood udon at a busy Tokyo joint. A lot of the restaurants here have vending machines by the door that display the menu items as well as allow you to order food. After selecting your choice, a ticket is printed and you simply bring the ticket inside to get your food and seat yourself. The service is efficient for a small place and it’s great for people in a hurry.
For dinner, the rain interrupted our plans of going out, and we settled for dinner near our local train station at Shinagawa. Now, this experience was VERY different – the upstairs restaurant is right across from the station and features lots of Japanese small plates. The dishes and prices really let you explore the different items on the menu. And the ambiance really nurtured a dynamic social setting – men in business suits catching up after work. Old friends bonding over plates of edamame and skewered katsu. The environment is busy and loud with conversation and laughter, tainted only by the suffocating cigarette smoke which is STILL allowed in indoor establishments in Japan. It is a bit disappointing. Japan is known for its strict health regulations, and yet indoor smoking is still allowed. It was the only stain on our lovely night at the tapas bar.
That’s it for tonight readers. My first day in Tokyo has gone pretty well, and I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds. The 4 of us will be thrown together in ways we have never experienced before, and see each other clearly for the first time in almost 10 (or more) years. Until tomorrow!