Friday, October 30, 2009

Tokyo

And here I be, back in Tokyo with now less than a week before our flight back to Canada. It's strange how almost a month has gone by both quickly and slowly, maybe depending on whether I was traveling or trying to stay warm around the kotatsu at the in-laws place.

We had a blast here in sleepy Osawa on Wednesday night. Through Mixi, a Japanese social networking site, Yoshiko had reconnected with someone she used to play with in a band some 10 years ago. The group is still together, minus a drummer who went pro, and they setup a jam session at a tiny little bar near Yoshiko's parents in our honour. We spent the evening having beers and food while listening to some tunes and Yoshiko got to catch up with the gang. To make sure we weren't the only ones there, they invited a bunch of friends, who ensured the bar didn't lose any money for putting on a show on a Wednesday night. The band was hilarious on stage, very self conscious of playing in front of a native speaker, which made for an ongoing joke of them insisting they weren't signing in English but in Scandinavian. They even tried to play me up onto the stage to sing with the band, but my mind wasn't able to put more than a couple of words together from the oldies they were signing so I declined with a promise to be prepared for our next visit. It was just a great evening, in an intimate venue, with some fun people who know how to let loose. As hard as the Japanese work, they certainly party with a certain amount of gusto, for example when the male lead signer disappeared during a solo and came back out in a short, silver sequined dress and a huge Afro wig in which he spent the rest of the set. It was a great evening out to be sure.

Thursday morning, I hopped on the Tobu line from Imaichi down to Tokyo to meet up with Doris and Andre who were arriving in Tokyo after visiting Hiroshima, Kyoto and Hakone after I left them last week. My first stop was the Kebob place in Ueno's Ameyoko where I grabbed lunch. After checking in to my hotel, we hopped on the trusty Yamanote line and headed a couple of stops down to Akihabara, Tokyo's electronics mecca, where I was looking for a camera case and new ear phones for my ipod.


Unfortunately, the case I was looking at was way overpriced at more than $80, so I'll stick with the one I've got now. Managed to find some comfortable ear phones though, and Doris and Andre got to experience the massive Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara, so a good stop all 'round.


We then headed to Shibuya where we crossed the famed crossing multiple times before wandering around immersed in the crowds of evening shoppers. Ended up at an Indian restaurant for dinner, since we'd all had quite enough of Japanese for now, and then headed back to Ueno for the night.

Friday morning, we'd hoped to make our way up Shinjuku's Tokyo Metropolitan Government building before the haze set in. The day looked great as we made our way out there, nice blue skies everywhere. Here is the behemoth of a building, which is essentially Tokyo's City Hall.


And the view from the top, with the Park Hyatt on the left. Unfortunately not as clear as I'd have liked, but better than some of the times I've been our there.


Every time I manage to get up somewhere and see the city, I'm amazed at the sheer size of it. An endless sea of buildings, houses, streets, train lines... and almost all built in the last 60 years, with very little having survived the fire bombings of WWII.


The TMG Building has observatories in both towers, on the 45th floor, and it's free... on a clear day, which I guess would mean mostly in the winter, you can get nice views of mount Fuji from up here.


And that was basically it for me. Headed on back to Ueno to pick up my bag and I was off to Utsunomiya for a well deserved nap.

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