Let's start with the general impressions. How bout a top 10 (or 9 or 11- we'll see).
1. It is nice that the Japanese don't just do what we do when a foreign person doesn't understand us. We shout it louder and slower. We don't understand them and appreciate the fact that they don't make a big deal of it. Of course, they could be making a big deal of it and we wouldn't know it.
2. Conveyor belt sushi is the easiest way to eat. You don't need to talk to anyone. *you get the check by standing up. If you sit there and wait, it makes for long meals.
3. The operators of the DC metro system should come hire the Tokyo guys. It is amazing. Of course, since each line has its own ticket, foreigners occassionaly purchase 2 or 3 tickets before they find the right machine. Oops.
4. Vending machines are cool. Especially when they have 100's of choices and lots of canned type coffee. However, not when you realize that virtually all of them are bottled by Coke or Pepsi it is not as fun.
5. Tokyo must be safe. We have seen only 2 locked bikes since we have been here, and we have seen ALOT of bikes. If you want to get rich, move here and start a Japanese bike lock company. Just hire some bike theives to build you up a market.
6. People in Tokyo are good looking. Everyone- don't know how they do it.
7. There is a certain freedom to travelling in Asia. We already look like tourists, so if we dress bad, walk around with our tour books, or take pictures of our food it is already expected.
8. Picture menus are vital for survival.
Hmm. Only got 8. I guess that is cause the blogs have been so long. Maybe tonight's breakdown will be shorter. ***Please comment on the blog if you would like. We will likely be printing it out and getting it bound for memories***
Today started off with a trip to a shrine. Of course, that trip started with what has come to be the norm on this trip- an hour long journey to find food on the way. First we walk up a street, then we walk back, then around it, then through it, over it, under it. Eventually we settle on something that has other people in it and, as previously mentioned, a picture menu. On todays journey, however, we walked virtually around our intended target. Had we walked to our target, we would have stumbled upon a number of acceptable places. Instead, we settled for a coffee shop with no one in it, and no picture menu. At least it had English menus- who's up for seafood fried rice for breakfast!
After we went to a Buddhist temple- Senso-ji. Under construction, but still amazing. We saw monks chanting, people inhaling incense for good health, people making offerings, and a good-luck buddha! Take a look at the incense. You may notice a something familiar that has been used as a peace symbal for thousands of years.
Then we went to the Nakamise-dori. This was a very long street of souvenier shops. It was most notable for the fried dough with bean paste. Also notable for the gifts purchased (yes Maddie, you may get one or two things).
On our way to lunch we walked by the street Kokusai-dori. This street is known for having anything and everything kitchenware you could ever want. In addition, they are known for their plastic foods. As I (Carrie) promised earlier, a little discussion on Japanese restaurants (at least the budget ones) and how they advertise food. Many restaurants have large boards in front of their stores displaying what types of foods they have. When you go into these restaurants, usually you just point to what you want and hopefully that is what you get. There are also the restaurants that have a small vending-type machine inside. You put in your money and then the selections which are all listed above, light up based on their prices. Once the selection you want lights up, you push a button, a receipt comes out and the waitress takes it from you. My favorite type of restaurant though, are the ones that have the plastic replicas in the window. These can be anything, a bowl of noodles, spaghetti with sauce, even fruits. My favorite though are the sushi pieces. The shops that sell the plastic pieces were really amazing and for the most part, you couldn't tell they were fake.
After a quick stop at our hotel to drop off our packages, we headed out for another hour long
walk to find some place to eat. We finally ended up at the first restuarant we walked by (only on our second loop around) and had conveyor-belt sushi. This place far surpassed the first conveyor-belt place we had gone to. The selection was great and the sushi was fantastic. Plus, at this point, we actually knew and understood the process, so that helped a lot. By the end, we had 13 plates stacked up and we were both very satisfied. What a way to celebrate a birthday! 1600 Yen and we were out.
A quick stop at the vending machine and of course another stop at Starbucks
for that long awaited Jelly(jello) Coffee latte (Dave would recommend it, but only in the smaller size) and we were off to Ueno Park to go to the Tokyo National museum. The museum was terrific. It was a huge building and there wasn't an overwhelming amount of artifacts, but what was there was really exceptional. It included Kimonos, Kibuki costumes, scrolls and works of art, and Dave's favorite, Samurai swords and armor. Very cool indeed. (author change)
Hmm. What to do on your birthday (maybe) when you are in Japan. Buy flowers? No. Shop for kimonos. No chance. Go browse electronics that have menus you don't understand, labeled with signs you can't read, and being offered help by people who don't speak your language (except for the phrase- 12.1 megapixels). Sounds like a plan. The electronics market is called Akihabara. It, like much of Tokyo, is filled with bright lights, loud sounds, and tons of people. But, as a guy who is self-indulgent with electronics, I didn't need anything they had. There are no hoverboards, no robots, no holograms. Just an enormous selection. The only thing I possibly needed was a new camera, since mine is currently displaying Lens Error 2. However, my camera made a plea to live- I haven't seen the error since I pulled it out to take a picture of Akihabara.
After that, we came back to shower and great ready for dinner. I won't go to much into that experience- you know it by now. Walk around, get scared of places, etc. We ended up with Tempura (thought of you Dad) and Carrie tried Saki. A trip to Mister Donut for my birthday donut, and then this blog.
So, we are off to bed. FYI, I just swallowed that beef from last night. Thank goodness.