Monday, August 13, 2012

Cart and Forklift Dodging

On Saturday we woke up really early to go to the world famous Tsukiji fish market.  In recent months the amount of visitors allowed into the market each day has been limited to just 120.  In order to secure a spot you have to show up really early or else you won’t be able to go through the market.  The market is in walking distance from the Conrad which is really good since the trains aren’t running when you have to show up to get a spot on the tour.  On the way to the market we ran into a guy who was also going to the market.  He was originally from New York and was visiting from Korea, where he now lives and works.  We ended up making it to the market just in time to be the part of the first tour group into the market.  Unfortunately we had almost an hour to wait before being admitted.  The time went pretty quick and before we knew it we were entering the bustling market.  Along the way to the auction site we had to dodge carts and forklifts.  After a couple of minutes we made it to the auction room.  For a while, nothing was really happening – the buyers were just inspecting the fish and we were just standing around.  Suddenly a bell started to ring, this must be the auction!  Sure enough, a minute or so later a guy started yelling quickly and gesticulating wildly.  After a minute or so, the auction was over.  We saw a few of these happen before we were ushered out of the auction area.  We were walked through a little bit more of the market before being left to peruse the outer markets.  Traditionally if you visit the market you go for a sushi breakfast afterwards.  Unfortunately the 2 best sushi places in the market are very popular and by the time our tour was over the line to get in was very long (probably over an hour wait).  We strolled through the market a little bit longer and then headed on back to the hotel.

M went back to bed for a little bit and I worked on blog posts.  Eventually M got up, we ate breakfast, and headed off to Akihabara, or “electric town”.  It has been a dream of mine to visit Akihabara ever since I became very into video games in high school.  This district is the center of gaming culture in Tokyo.  Almost anything video game related can be found here, even games for really old systems like NES.  We walked around quite a bit and went into a few arcades.  The arcades weren’t quite what I thought they would be – the lower floors were dedicated to crane type machines and there were many people smoking, which made the atmosphere a lot less enjoyable.  It was fun to look in some of the shops and I even found a game I had been interested in for a while, but overall I was a little disappointed in Akihabara.  Maybe I had just built it up too much, but it wasn’t as cool and fun as I thought it would be.

After Akihabara we headed back to Harajuku for a more in-depth visit.  I expected there to be a bunch of teens dressed up since it was the weekend, but there were only a few that we saw.  This area was the central point for the 1964 Olympics and a few of the buildings from those games still remain.  There is also a very large 100 yen store in the district (5 floors worth of stuff!) so we visited that and bought a few snacks.  As we maneuvered our way through the main street, we saw a few crepe stands.  These crepes were rolled up with fillings placed in the middle, kind of like a really big, soft ice cream cone.  They had all sorts of topping options, from ice cream and fruit to tuna and other seafood.  We ordered one with cheesecake, caramel, and ice cream – it was delicious!  After a little more shopping and walking around we looked for a place for lunch.  I had just downloaded an app that had all sorts of dining reviews and restaurant locations and didn’t need data so I tried that out.  We ended up finding an okonomiyaki place called Sakuratei that was located in some sort of an art gallery kind of place.  Unlike Tanto in Kyoto we had to cook these ourselves.  I eventually got the hang of mine (at least it tasted good) and M got some sort of soba noodles that she cooked on the griddle.  The place was definitely a local’s place, but as a whole it was a fun experience.

After walking around Harajuku a little more we headed back to the hotel so we could catch the fireworks show that night.  The show was scheduled to last about an hour and a half and take place almost right outside our hotel.  Unfortunately, all of the dinner spots with a view in the hotel were booked.  We tried viewing the fireworks from street level, but the view wasn’t great and smoke kept obscuring the show, so we moved back up to the lobby.  Even though we still couldn’t see everything, the fireworks were amazing.  There were so many different types of fireworks shot off and many that we had never seen before.  It was truly the most amazing fireworks display I have ever seen and I am very happy we lucked into being in Tokyo at the same time as the fireworks show.

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