While living in China, we only visited Japan once, to ski/snowboard in Niseko—a breathtaking experience that we would highly recommend for any ski enthusiast.
It is also where Dale fell in love…with Japanese toilets and all of their wizardry. Initially freaked out by “the wand,” we’re hoping that Darcie warms up to these gadgets during the trip. Their performance is actually much more, um, effective, and environmentally friendly, than our US toilet and TP routine
Plus we both love Japanese food and were interested in the culture. Since Delta had nonstop flights between Minneapolis and Tokyo, we made it our first stop
We landed Friday afternoon, and asked our sleep-deprived brains to interpret the Japan subway system so we could get to our hotel, conveniently located at Shiodome Station.
We used this map to navigate the Tokyo subway. Can you find Shiodome? (Hint: think pink.)
The map is really intimidating but once you master subtle color differentiation, choose the correct subway line, ticket machine and gate, it's quite efficient. The subways were not nearly as crowded as those in Shanghai, but Tokyo has a train system in addition to subways, so that may funnel off some riders.
After checking into our hotel, we started our week-long mission to sample 5 Japanese food dishes: ramen, sushi, yakatori, soba noodles, and okonomiyaki. We started with ramen at Nakamoto restaurant, an experience which entailed no English words, no other Western customers in the restaurant, and an automated "menu" (self-serve ticket machine with Japanese words and prices but no pictures)! Luckily the owner helped us order spicy ramen, which was delicious.
After dinner, we joined a nighttime tour of the Shinjuku district, home of the red-light district (Kabukicho), the Golden Gai bar area, Godzilla alley, and "love hotels." One of the stops was "Memory Lane," aka "Piss Alley," a winding alley of mostly yakatori (grilled meat skewer) restaurants.
Love hotels are exactly what the name implies, with hourly room rates. We also watched an animated Godzilla breathe fire and light up.
The time zone change caught up with us at night so we returned to the hotel after the Shinjuku tour.
Tokyo Day 2
Since our hotel was a 15-minute walk from the Tsukiji fish market, famous for the early-morning sushi-grade auctions, we started our morning there. Fascinating! There was a warehouse area dedicated to fish; another warehouse area dedicated to produce, and lots of restaurants and tourist shops nearby. We did not get up at 4am to witness the auction. We also learned the hard way that sandals are not appropriate footwear for a fish market!
Afterwards, we checked-off dish #2 on our list and ate soba noodles for lunch. To our Western palates, there's not much different between the soba dishes and ramen dishes, both are delicious and eggs keep showing up in the bowl!
Later in the afternoon, we joined another walking tour of the city, including a walk through the Ameyoko shopping arcade, the Akihabara electronics area of town, the Kiyomizo Kannon-do temple, and Ueno Park.
The tour ended in Ueno park, where an elderly local struck up a conversation with us. She had been to the US only once...to Memphis! She was a huge Elvis fan, visited Graceland, and then proceeded to serenade us with 2 Elvis songs. We are kicking ourselves for not filming that! At night, we met friends of Dale's for yakatori, which is grilled chicken (or other meat & vegetable) skewers. It was delicious, but you will leave the restaurant smelling of grilled meat.