- NOTE: This post is based on my original blog entry.
While this was my third trip to Tokyo, this was “technically” my first time there for vacation. My first trip in 1999 was for “studies” (heavy emphasis on the bunny-ears) and my 2006 trip was work-related. And while each trip rocked much and for their own reasons, this was probably the best one yet.
I flew from New York with my friend Dano and landed in Tokyo late afternoon on Saturday. My friend Jane was already waiting at our hotel, the Villa Fontaine Shiodome. During my last trip, we passed by the Shiodome complex every day on our way to the Tokyo Big Site along the Yurikamome, and I thought the area looked pretty nice. So I looked up the hotel online and found that not only was it highly rated, but was relatively cheap when compared to other hotels of the same quality. After checking in and dropping our luggage off, we met up with the rest of the crew (our other friends had already been in Japan for a week) for kushiyaki in Ebisu. Free-flowing sake made for a potentially bad first morning, but hmm, I didn’t seem to feel a thing. Weird. In that case, it’s a good first morning!
We started our second day in Tokyo with a foot massage in Shibuya. This was both a nice treat and problematic, since it promptly put everybody to sleep by the end of it. After slapping ourselves awake, we did some shopping around Shibuya. A few of us picked up new glasses from Zoff in Mark City; can’t say no to cheap glasses. We headed to Freshness Burger for some lunch while we waited for our glasses to be made, then roamed some more around the neighborhood. We all met up again later at night for some home-cooking at a friend’s place in Ryogoku.
Monday was a free day, so a few of us took the Yamanote north to roam Ginza and the Tokyo Forums. We grabbed ramen at Jangara, then wandered aimlessly thru Urahara. After getting pooted out from all the walking, we took a break back at the hotel before meeting up with the rest of the group in Nakano for dinner. We headed to one of our friend’s favorite spots that we just referred to as “Master’s“. Master himself served us every kind of chicken dish possible; grilled, roasted, even as sashimi. We even tried out his custom shochu drinks. The first batch, mixed with coffee, was pretty good. He ran out of that though, so we switched over to his other shochu batch, which put me to sleep. Like seriously; not trashed, just sleepy. The rest of the night’s a bit blurry…
Day 4 – Yokohama
Tuesday was Jane’s last day with us, so we got an early start to Akihabara, since my friends Jane and Dano had never been before. We roamed through the arcades and electronics shops, and ended up going thru the eight floors of the Akihabara Mandarake. Jane left us at Tokyo Station in the afternoon to catch the Shinkansen back to Ishinomaki. We soldiered on and met up with rest of the group in Ebisu to take a day-trip to Yokohama. Yokohama was a short ride south, and we visited the piers first, called the Osanbashi and designed by Foreign Office Architects. We then roamed up and down the frighteningly clean streets of Yokohama Chinatown. For those that haven’t ever been, imagine your typical Chinatown. Now take away all the filth and garbage on the streets and the smell of fish in the air. That’s Yokohama Chinatown, a surreal super-clean version of the Chinatowns you’re used to. We had a nice big Chinese dinner, then hopped back in the car to head back to Tokyo. We stopped by Odaiba on the way back to scope out the night views of the Tokyo skyline.
Day 5 – Amagi-so Onsen
Wednesday was our long-awaited onsen roadtrip out of Tokyo. Our friend Gina had booked us a relaxing day at the Amagi-so Onsen three hours outside of Tokyo. We had a huge kaiseki lunch when we got there; sashimi, boar meat, grilled fish, the list goes on. We rested a bit after lunch before going to get changed and head out to the outdoor springs. Amagi-so is a unisex onsen that also lets you wear swimsuits, for those of us that are a bit prude, or just want to hang out with our friends of the opposite sex. We went through the range of temperatures, from lukewarm to holy shit. The holy shit didn’t actually feel too bad since we had been hopping from spring to spring. But after relaxing next to the waterfall for a bit, then going back in for a dip, the actual temperature became apparent. Holy shit hot. We rested a bit after our dip, then started our three hour ride back to Tokyo, with a brief pit-stop at a wasabi center. But then we got back to Tokyo! Yea!
We dropped our stuff off at Gina’s parent’s place before heading out for an Italian dinner at Capricciosa nearby, where we ordered a pizza, three pasta bowls, and a bunch of other dishes we probably shouldn’t have. We were stuffed. We continued on afterwards for an end-of-the-night drinks at an izakaya in Omotesando.
Coming down to the last two days of the trip. Thursday started with haircuts for Gina and Dano. Gina needed a trim and Dano wanted a super-Japanese haircut. Some of the styles he was looking at in the hair-style magazine were pretty frightening, ranging from Glay, to emo anime character, to Jesus hair. Those of us not getting trims headed off to while away the time.
We caught a nice Japanese lunch, then went sneaker shopping in Daikanyama. After everyone got a pair (or two), everybody decided to go rest up back at Gina’s house in Shibuya, and I decided to continue roaming Daikanyama (one of my favorite neighborhoods). I roamed a bit, checked out the various stores, then grabbed a late afternoon snack at the Mermaid Cafe before hustling over to Shinjuku to meet up with the crew again. We wandered into the Golden Gai area for dinner reservations at Cha Cha Hana. After dinner, we roamed Shinjuku and hung out at Advocates Bar.
Last full day in Tokyo…sigh. We started it off with a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Not for the auctions or anything. Sorry, I can’t do 5 am. It was more like 10 am. My friend Chika needed to do a bit of shopping and offered to take Dano and I around Tsukiji; she was familiar with the market, having shopped there numerous times before as a chef. The fish (and various aquatic species) area was still pretty busy, even at 10 am. When we weren’t dodging giant fish heads on the floor, we were dodging the carts that darted up and down the aisles. And it all surprisingly didn’t smell fishy.
We headed back to the hotel to rest and eat lunch, and then I headed back out to Akihabara for some last-minute perusing. Friday was the release date for the new DVD of the Evangelion reboot, so I went looking for it. It wasn’t exactly that hard to find; the shit was all over Akihabara. But when I finally did check out the special edition DVD, I found out that it didn’t have any English subtitles. Damn. I continued roaming around some more, then roamed Shibuya for DVD’s and music. I rejoined the crew at my friend’s house for some home cooking with her family. A nice way to cap an amazing vacation.