I just realized I hadn’t posted in two days. I also realized that I couldn’t remember what I did over the last two days. Thank god for my pictures. This city is in overdrive and your senses are constantly being bombarded from every direction at every moment. For a slow-paced west-coaster like myself, it’s intense, duuuuude. But fucking awesome, obvs.
Tuesday we went to check out Tokyo tower. It’s basically an Eiffel Tower replica that has an observation deck at about 150meters up. The views were breathtaking. It really allowed me to see the sheer size and density of Tokyo. I stood there in awe, taking in the worlds largest city from an amazing vantage point. You don’t really realize how big the place is, nor can your brain comprehend, until you get high up like this. Well worth the 900¥ ($9ish).
While we were exiting the tower we saw the folks from MariCar. MariCar is this company that dresses you up in Mario costumes and let’s you race around the streets of Tokyo in go carts that do about 50-60mph!!!!! Seriously. The only catch, you have to have your international driver’s license, which we didn’t get. My best PROTIP for you that plan on visiting Tokyo: get your international driver’s license. It’s super simple. It takes like $15 and 10mins at a AAA branch. After seeing their group, I was super sad that I didn’t do this. Oh well.
Afterward we went to Akihabara. My second time, Bill’s first. We popped onto the Taito Hey arcade which is known around the world as the greatest shmup (shoot ’em up – think Gradius, R-Type, Raiden, etc) arcade on the planet. Being a huge shmup player and fan for decades, this was bucket list for me. I was not disappointed. Shmups in Japan are a HUGE genre of games with hoards of extremely loyal and dedicated players. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the shmups make it to the USA either as domestic releases or as region-free (meaning the discs can be played in any region). Mostly they’re region-locked and only released for Japanese home consoles. So as a USA shmup fan, to play the latest and greatest shmups, my options are either buy an NTSC-J home console, or go to Japan. Well, im in Japan. It was f u c k i n g BAD A S S. I got to play games Ive only read about on blogs and forums. Games I’ve been watching on YouTube for years. Arcade versions of games that will never be released in the USA. It was heaven. I could easily spend an entire week there. Seriously. Fun fact about me: I was planning on opening a Japanese-style shmup arcade many moons ago.
After some food and R&R we decided to go check out Bar High Five, one of the top 50 rated bars in the world. Mixologists come from all parts of the globe to train under the master mixologists at High Five. It wasn’t close. If was over in Ginza, which is a good 30mins+ by subway from where we were staying. Much farther than I thought it was going to be. With eager anticipation we entered the elevator and descended to the basement. The doors opened and we were greeted by a friendly staff member who informed us that there were no more seats for the night and that waiting was not an option. Cue sad trombone. Mother fucker. I kind of just stood there in shock not really knowing what to do. I think I thought that if, perhaps, I didn’t move,things would change. Or maybe I was just giving my brains moment to settle into the idea that after a relatively long journey and days of anticipation, it wasn’t happening.
Since this was our plan for the evening, we decided to just cut our losses and head back to our hood for a drink at Bar Flat, the bar we went to when Bill arrived. We had a great time talking to the locals and Shitoshi, the bartender. All was not lost with the evening and we left feeling good about the night.
On Tuesday we found this great Cambrodian restaurant that was so good we decided to go again on Wednesday. It’s delicious and, best of all, I can pretty much eat everything on the menu. It might seem odd to opt for Cambodian food in the middle of Tokyo, but there’s a lot to be said about consistency and familiarity when traveling.
Afterward we again headed to Akihabara to do a little shopping. I could easily spent my entire trip, and entire budget there.
We then headed back over to Shinjuku to fuel up on Yakatori in Piss Alley again before our nighttime activities (read: whisky). We picked a spot at random and proceeded to straight up murder a few plates of meat and veggies. It was great. Again. As expected.
We went straight from Piss Alley to the red light district of Shinjuku for the night’s entertainment. This sentence sounds much worse than it is. We went for Robot Restaurant. I’ve been thinking for hours how to describe this show and it’s impossible. Think everything that is wild and crazy about Tokyo but on a mixture of LSD and meth. Picture a show filled with ominous narration, a light show, pole dancers, an all-lady marching band, monkeys driving tanks, samurais, panda ninjas, glow sticks, robots, robots in rainbow clown wigs, giant robots driven by scantily clad women, dinosaurs, tigers, cavewomen, lasers, motorcycles, and more. It’s like Burning Man — you can describe it with words or pictures, but you really won’t get it unless you go check it out. It was a bit pricey at 80,000¥, but I walked out feeling very satisfied. That is, after I figured out the answer to my initial question of “what the fuck just happened?”
After the show we realized we were just two blocks from Golden Gai, the network of micro bars that we visited two nights ago, so we decided to go check out more bars. We crawled up these super narrow stairs into this attic bar called Narnia. When we got to the top the place was packed with Japanese business men, filled with smoke, and like fate, with two empty seats. We saddled up to the bar and, to our surprise, the cute and adorable bartender spoke almost perfect English. After a few sips of our whisky we both knew this place was a keeper and what started out as cautious uncomfortable environment quickly turned into an awesome time with some super cool locals. We had a great time and ended up staying for a couple of hours. We said our goodbyes and left in search of our next great experience.
We ran into this white guy from Philly named Andrew who was living in Tokyo studying linguistics and he kind of became our tour guide. The dude was a bit weird, but just weird enough that you still wanted to be taken around by him. We all went to a few bars, met some great people, and had a blast. We made it to Shinjuku station just in time to catch one of the last trains to Yoyogi.
When we got off the train in Yoyogi and headed toward our place, I realized I was hungry and needed something to soak up the alcohol. I remembered the highly recommended Yakatori place, the “no seat” place from my first day, was still open, so we decided to stop in for a late night snack and hoping there would actually be a seat for white people this time. There was! We ordered another drink and greedily rattled off an order of skewered meats and veggies. About 5 minutes before our food arrived I realized I had made a critical mistake. I forgot to say “shio”, which means salt. By default, Yakatori is served with a soy glad that’s applied before grilling. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. It was too late to correct, so I just asked for the food to-go and figured Bill could eat it in the morning. I was pretty depressed. Lol. I was so looking forward to that. Oh well. Lesson learned. Don’t order Yakatori while drunk. Just kidding, it’s the only way to order it, but you bet your ass I’ll never make that mistake again. Lol.