Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 2 - Shibuya rock bar and Golden Gai

Before I get started on Day 2, let me upload the purikura photos from the night before...
these were from the arcade we went to... Carey's camera is much better, so she took macro shots of the itty bitty little pics.

Kawaii, ne?

So Day 2 started with breaky... we did the "Western" style buffet breaky at the hotel. It was nice that they made the effort... but powdered eggs, ew. One thing to take from it though, was that they had little things of natto.

Just wait. It doesn't look scary now. But it hasn't been unleashed yet.

Natto is a love-it-or-hate-it snack in Japan... I've tried it before (and didn't like it) while in Canada, but I thought I would give it another go since it was bona fide. In a nutshell, natto is rotten soy beans. They add a bacteria to it to make it ferment, and then you eat it. Willingly. It has a slimy stringy texture, and the proper way to prepare it is to actually accentuate the slimy/grossness of it by stirring it. You add either mustard or soy sauce (or both) to help it get super frothy. Yep. Sounds great, ne? Here's some pics:

Mmmmm, my favorite breakfast treat! Rotten beans! I love rotten beans!

To be honest, it's not horrible... the taste is relatively mild (hence the soy/mustard) - it's just the texture that throws you. I actually finished about 2/3rds of it... and it did taste better than the one I've had in Canada.

After that, we planned out our day and I wrote a blogpost for Day 1. We took a walk and had lunch at a nearby place. It was called "Kyushu Ramen", but once we got inside we decided that since we're going to Kyushu for the real deal, we'd try something else. Carey got scrambled egg w/crab in a nice sweet sauce, and I got eggplant stirfry.

Not bad for a random walk-in.

One thing that really stuck out was that Japan is not a place for non-smokers. EVERYONE smokes here, and smoking is standard pretty much everywhere, in all the buildings. Even in restaurants. So just going out for lunch means that we stink of smoke for the rest of the day. Hehe, I guess you get used to it... but it was weird to see people just light up at the table next to us while we ate.

We walked around a bit in Shinjuku after lunch... the area is so different during the day. We came across a shrine, and Carey showed me the proper way to pay respect to the spirits. This one was devoted to some kind of fox kami, because there were fox statues all around the shrine. Very neat. I would be interested to see just how involved the average Japanese is with their spirituality, especially the younger people. While we were there, we saw a younger guy pray, and I get the feeling it's not the same kind of attitude we have over here. Hmmm, something that would require more investigation. Still, very neat to see a nice serene shrine in the middle of a bustling urban centre.

You wash your hands and mouth out with water that's provided, before calling upon the kami.

We came home and napped for a bit (I'm still a little jetlagged), and then got ready for the evening! Tonight it was Shibuya, to meet some of Carey's friends from her school. While walking to the subway station, I grabbed a couple of nightlife shots of Shinjuku.

It's hard to really capture how lit-up and flashy the area is, because the streets are so narrow. I'm on the lookout for some truly represenative shots of Shinjuku at night. It feels straight out of the movies Akira or Blade Runner.

We got to the subway station, almost got on the wrong train, and made it to Shibuya station. It was nuts. Toronto subways have nothing on Tokyo. Huge. Massive. So confusing. Just people people people people people people. And the train lines are nuts... the overall map looks like a plate of spaghetti.

We get to Shibuya station, and it's just as crazy. We find our way out, and we get to Shibuya crosswalk, which is one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. It was Saturday night. It's really hard to describe. I had to take three pictures to get the entire mass of people crossing into the field of view - and even that doesn't really capture how busy it is. I could never live in this city.


We met up with Carey's friends, Mike from California and Alex from France. We finally settled on a bar in the neighbourhood. While we were walking, I managed to grab a shot of the neighbourhood.

"He say you Brade Runnah!"

The bar was rock themed. We got a table at the back and drank and people-watched, mostly. It was kind of weird to see Japanese people get into stuff like Nirvana and Offspring, and wearing totally 90's styles of ballcaps and hoodies. But when the j-p's are into something, they're really into it, so the kids went all the way with it. Heheh, image is such a big deal here. I'd like to see more theme bars while we're in Tokyo.

Mike and Alex left to catch the train to their neighbourhood, and we went back to ours. The night was still young, and Carey was feeling brave after a couple drinks, so we took a pitstop at the hotel and researched for some foreigner-friendly bars in the Golden Gai. We found a few names and went for it.

On this Golden Gai alley alone, there's about 50 or so single-room bars, on the ground floor and via walkup stairs.

The first one we found, Champions, was a little too gaijin-friendly. It was roomier than most (still no room for tables and chairs, though), and there was a group of 4-5 very loud and drunk Americans karaoking to bad hip hop, adlibbing between verses with obscenities. Ugh. Now I understand why foreigners have a bad name in the Golden Gai (and Japan in general). Leave it to the Americans to ruin it for the rest of us polite Westerners. We had a drink, and then headed out to try again.

We found a walkup called Akura, that was run by an Australian who loooooooved K-pop (Korean pop music, usually girl singer/dancers). He hung out in the corner of the bar on his iPad, while Carey talked up the sweet Japanese bartender. The girl and her barback helper were very cute and friendly! Very nice experience! We stayed until they closed up. Would definitely go back, but I'm pretty sure my liver isn't going to let me have another night out in Tokyo while I'm here.

They liked us enough to "forget" to charge us cover when we settled the bill!

We still had a little bit of juice left in us (and a lot of alcohol, heh), so we braved Champions again... it was more tolerable this time around (I wonder why, hehehe)... the baka gaijin were still there, probably more rowdy, but we managed to stay for another drink. Carey chatted up this hilarious salaryman type who was completely wasted. He's been away from his wife and family for 2 years now, because of work. That's apparently normal, they just ship off the salaryman to wherever he's needed for the company, and they go without fuss or bother. Hrm, to be a Japanese salaryman means to be married to your job first, and your family second. Dunno how I feel about that. Seems a little too..... something. Anyway, we said our konbonwa's and he kept saying "tomodachi, tomodachi" as we left. He didn't mean those little computer pets, I found out later... it means 'friend'. Awwwww.

Newest toy from Bandai! Tomodachi Salaryman! Feed him drinks and watch him grow up! Super happy fun time!

Well, another mega post. It's already noon and we're doing Roppongi and Yoyogi park today, so time to go! Here's today's vendo!

Yes, dear. I'm done blogging now. :)