Thursday, June 11, 2009

The longest day that ever was

First off- a question. I was born on June 12th at 3:00pm EST. When is my birthday? In 8 minutes it is June 12th here. But it is June 11th back home. And when it is June 12th at home, it will be June 13th here. Did I find the nexus of the universe? Do I not exist? I don't know. I do have a guess that they sell a laptop here smaller than Carrie's hand that do the calculations for me. Regardless, I appreciate the 4 birthday cakes before I left (technically 3 cakes and a chocolate cream pie), but I am going to do the easiest thing and just skip my birthday. I will now be 30 next year. Someone tell my gray hairs.

So, the alarm went off at 3:45 this morning. I definitely thought that without Starbucks, I would never set my alarm for that time ever again! Of course, thanks to jet lag, Carrie had been lying restless before that so we got up and out quick.
What does one do in Tokyo at 5 am? The same thing that happens on the Mass turnpike when you first move to Boston- we got lost. Fortunately, I purchased the Garmin Carrie 500 and she navigated us thru the mean (friendly) streets of Tokyo to Tsukiji (Ski-gee).

Tsukiji is the famous Tokyo fish market. The most famous part is the Tuna auction. However, to get to said Tuna auctions you need to walk through the stalls of wholesale sea food (live eels, sea urchins, and enormous clams oh my!). The Garmin Carrie 500 however took us through the delivery entrance that was bustling with carts and trucks, none of whom paid any attention to our safety. When we made it past the hazards, and past the stalls, we encountered (along with the Californian couple that followed the Garmin Carrie 500) a smallish door labeled visitors entrance. We walked in to a very cold warehouse and found enormous frozen tunas on the floor. Men were walking around poking and prodding the fish, cutting a section of the tail off to see the meat, and writing in the frost that was covering the fish. Then the auction started, which consisted of a long bell ringing, one guy shouting a bunch, and a few Japanese cooks trying to appear disinterested while bidding on the fish they wanted. Take a look at the video...

We neglected to mention that it is 50 or 60 degrees, and with a steady rain. We packed for (and were dressed for) 90-100 and humid. Hmm. Cold, wet, and smelling like Tuna. There is no place like home, no place like home, no place like...Starbucks. We needed someplace warm with caffeine, and truthfully, there weren't any Japanese original coffee houses around, so we went to what we know. And we needed to wait near the fish market till 8:30 for our breakfast sushi place to open. I must say that if Starbucks USA was more like Starbucks international, my stock would be more like it was a couple years ago. But enough about that.

We didn't find the sushi place listed in our Japan tour book (note to self: don't bring books that are 4 years old). Instead, we found some random place with 2 Americans sitting there who told us what to order. Good thing, since without help we stood a good chance of eating nothing. (ok-changing the typer). Food was great and luckily we didn't do anything too stupid this time. Who knew raw fish could be so tasty at 8:30am.

After, the Garmin Carrie 500 (ok, last time this joke will be used, but remember, it came with us everywhere, thankfully) navigated us to the Hama Detached Palace Gardens nearby. The most amazing tea house was located here, along with gorgeous flowers and birds. Amidst the busy city, this place ws extremely relaxing and as Dave would put it, ''very zen''. We wondered around here for an hour or so, stepping in mud and navigating around huge puddles, but taking great pictures along the way.

We continued our tour of Japan's gardens in the rain and walked back across the area to the Imperial palace gardens (with a brief shopping stop - no mom's, haven't bought anything yet, but the stores were great). We saw a small portion of the imperial palace as well as the famous double bridge. Guess that's the closest we'll ever be to an emperor.
(author change again).
Lunch came next in Shijuku (Tokyo Times Square- except they have a lot of Times Square type places). A completely disorienting experience. Add 1 part jet lag, 1 part exhaustion, 1 part foreign country, 1 part hunger, 1 part expired book = bad time finding food. But, eventually we found a random place, got help with the ordering system from a random guy, at some random ramen noodles, and had a randomly great lunch. We mastered the art of eating with a spoon in the left hand, chopsticks in the right.

Post lunch was the most relieving experience of the day. We went home and napped. Got home and asleep at 4:30, turned off the alarm by mistake at 6, woke up at 7, got up at 7:15, and went off to dinner in Shibuya.

Dinner stunk. Ok- didn't stink- but was an 'experience.' Ordering food here has to be the most intimidating thing we've ever done. The menus are rarely in English, the staff doesn't speak a lot of English, and half the time you can't tell what the pictures are. What to do? Order beef and chicken. Can't go wrong. Or can you...

Let's start with the environment. We went to Amber Cafe by recommendation. Apparently there are two floors because the website mentioned a beautiful seating area, etc, and we sat in a 5 table space with mismatched seats and filled with smoke. Then the food came. The chicken was actually ok by my measure, really good by Carrie's. The beef. The beef. How to describe the beef. Rare. Seared on the outside. Barely. And rare. Did I mention rare- it took almost 5 minutes to chew one piece. Didn't finish it. And I always finish my food (otherwise I get sent to my room with no dessert). When we were done, the waiters came over with a Chinese menu, said something to us that we didn't understand. We looked at them, they looked at us. We think we had ordered appetizers, and they wanted us to order dinner. No clue. Still chewing beef. Check please.

Dinner part two was sad. I was so hungry, and didn't want to waste a significant portion of our budget on a second dinner. So I went to McDonalds and got a quarter-pounder. Don't judge me. I love Japanese food. I just needed something to fill me up. Stop staring.

And now we are done with the day. We are tired, and slowly realizing that our idea of fun is coming home and writing in a blog. A lot. But, you won't see the episode of Locked Up Abroad staring Dave and Carrie (knock on wood). So there. Random Pics of stuff we saw (a shrine happened upon)...



    Hope you are enjoying your special day. Yes, you are 30-you can not escape it.
    What a great place to celebrate this most important occasion.
    Mom and Dad Gordon

  2. Your blog is wonderful! I laughed so hard while reading it! It sounds like you are having wonderful adventures already! Please don't starve!!!
    Cody is doing very well! He and I survived 1 day and 1 night alone while Dad was in Orlando!! He really is a sweet dog, if you disregard that he had gotten ahold of some underwear and socks! Oh, how he loves socks!!
    Love Mom Rubin