Sunday, January 27, 2013

Japan Part Four -...ok still Tokyo. Last one, I promise.

So besides being confused about the language of the country we're actually in, we have another language barrier within our own group. We call it: Steveisms.

This is Steve:

No, not the one in the nightgown, that's Adrian (don't ask). The other one.

He's British but currently works with our friend Sean in Italy.  And he uses many words that need to be explained to us Americans.

Words like "Scrinson" - used to fill in when you can't think of the right word but it's not crucial to the conversation anyway. I.e. "what did you do last night?" "Oh we went to ...Scrinson and we met some friends and it was great." Or "you remember, we had that great fish and ...scrinson, anyway, we loved that place!"

This word no doubt is quite useful to keep a conversation flowing. Unfortunately, Steve broke his own rules with it and occasionally used it in concerning ways. "Look, we just get on the scrinson line and that train will take us there!"

Steve, the name of the subway line is actually the most crucial part of this conversation. Stop using scrinson!

Another Steveism that isn't always helpful is "Dib dobs," or "Spondoolies." As in "oh that ticket only costs 14 dib dobs" or "how many spondoolies do I need to add to my part of this bill?"

*Facepalm* When you are already confused in a foreign land, the last thing you want is to require a translator within the group you are travelling with who actually speak your language. It did add to the humor though.

Another thing that added humor was the fact that I am 5'8 and do not possess a tiny frame. In other words, I don't fit in Japan. Exhibits A, B, and C:

But back to Tokyo. There were a few more places we saw before we left for our ski lodge in Nagano.

First, I was fixated on finding a Capsule Hotel before we left Japan. It was one of weird things I heard about that I needed to see for myself while I was there. First, I heard of one in Shi BOO YEAH! and dragged my friends along back streets until we finally found it --

...and were promptly kicked out because it was apparently only for men. Then I was told the all-women one was actually located in the area our own hotel was in (go figure) in Shinjuku. I set out to visit that one later and finally had success. (After first finding the all-men's part again accidentally. Woops! I walked up to a steamy door, who knew what it was leading to until you opened it?) Here's what the capsules look like:

Like meat lockers. Or a morgue. Exactly what I was hoping for.

When you open one, they aren't as scary, and actually are bigger than the top bunk I slept in on that Bluegrass tour bus several years ago...

I'd totally stay in one the next time I'm in Japan.

Another thing on our adventure was visiting a museum we found in our guide book that was touted as a "Hiptster's dream" set in an old mansion. It was in a random area of Tokyo and we struggled to find it.

Here's a diagram of what we went through only to end up jumping in a cab. And promptly getting laughed at because the cab driver thought we should just walk.

After enlisting the UN above, and enduring the cab, we finally make it.

And were promptly confused.

I'm sorry, what? This is a mansion? This is art?

Here was the front:

Here is the "sculpture garden"

Thank you for that descriptive title of "pylon"

The inside "exhibits" ranged from movie screens to an installation depicting the death of a Drag Queen behind a toilet bowl. I wish I was kidding. Below are some more gems:
Not sure

just a curved room, in the dark, with a row of lit numbers

bathroom looking area where we decided to shoot our next album cover....obviously....
After that, we made our way to Akihabara

(music before the train leaves -- carnival, I tell ya).

Akihabara is the electronics district of Tokyo. This place fulfilled my visions of Tokyo. Aname, crazy arcades, crazy dancing.

Not even sure what this is but it wasn't the only character we saw. I nearly got mowed down as a hot dog ran down the sidewalk later. This place is cray cray.

I saw little girls pouring over anime magazines and grown men fully enthralled in arcades.

It was also here that we encountered a restaurant where you pick your meal from a vending machine with only Japanese titles to help. Fortunately, all of us enjoyed our meals. It was touch and go for a minute though.

After finally getting our fill, we ended our Tokyo time and headed to the next portion of our adventure -- skiing in Nagano.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Japan パート Three - Still Tokyo (It's a big place)

As I said, we had several "what the heck did I just drink??" moments. They play like a comedy reel in my head that I wish I could share but all I can do is post the pics I was able to capture. This is what happens when you can't begin to read a language so you are forced to point to photos and hope for the best.

Supposed to be water

Supposed to be anything but tea, which Steve hates)

Supposed to be coke (was coffee)
Your guess is as good as mine

Mmmm -sweat.

Besides questionable beverages, we also ate more strange things in one trip than most people eat in a lifetime. It started accidentally, when we visited an area of Tokyo called Roppongi. First, I have to say, Tokyo blows my mind because it's so big and there are so many parts of it that are as big, crowded and crazy as Times Square. And yet it's clean and everyone's so polite and reserved (except when grown men start a flash mob dance to a song by young girls in Akihabara. We'll get to that later.)

Back to Roppongi. And questionable food.

Here is a view of Roppongi:
And here is a random spider outside where we ate dinner

And there's the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Who knew Paris and Tokyo were so close together? Why did it take us so long to get here?!

Random pretty building

And here's where we had our first taste of....

I.e. Pufferfish.

I.e. Fugu

I.e. -- lethally poisonous.

Apparently, Blowfish can kill you if not cooked properly. No kidding, you need a license to serve it. We were skeptical -

 Fortunately, we were given several ways to eat it as well, including eating it with the bone, eating it's chin, or eating part of the grill cover.....
Ok it actually said Gill cover, but is that much better?

At least if this was going to kill us, we were in a beautiful place -

We dug in-

and survived!

And the list of weird food consumption continued after that, to include:

-turtle (while not that crazy, it was actually the hardest thing for me to eat -- not a fan)

-more blowfish (because when you find something potentially lethal, you try to eat it as much as possible apparently)

-dried squid in a bag (from 7/11, of course)

and - locust

Surprisingly sweet, unsurprisingly crunchy.I actually liked it.


 Rebecca, not so much.

And besides all the strange food and drinks, we also saw many accidentally hilarious signs and learned some "Steveisms"...which I'll explain next post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Japan Part Two - Tokyo

We left off right before getting on our flight from JFK airport to Narita airport in Tokyo.

First, we had to sign this:

(thank goodness I also forgot my sword, along with my glasses).

Then we settled into our 14 hour flight. When we arrived in Tokyo, we headed to our hotel to find two of the other people on our trip were already there. (this trip included people coming from Colorado, DC, and Italy. Each time we came back to the lobby, we'd ask again if any more people had shown up for us and typically they had. We did this for two days. I'm sure the front desk was convinced we'd taken a flying clown car into their country.)

About that time, we realized we were staying in the Red Light district of Tokyo. Our guide book also noted it was where the "mafia" was. Hooray!

We wandered around the streets aimlessly, seeing a random Sumo Wrestler eating dinner here, a geisha walking out of a building there, and the males in our group were asked several times if they'd like some women. Things were looking very promising and we hadn't even left our immediate area yet!

In fact, all of Tokyo could best be described (as Rebecca noted) as a carnival. They play merry-go-round music before all the trains leave their stations, the whole place smells like funnel cake (glazed nut stands), and  so many of the people are dressed like cartoons. I walked around in awe pretty much the entire time and when my friend Adrian got on the train for the first time and heard the music, he looked around, wide-eyed, and exclaimed -"It's a celebration!!"

Indeed it was.

We spent our first day visiting Tsukiji fish market, eating fresh sushi, visiting Shibuya (which I could not stop myself from referring to as "shi BOO YEEEAH!" ...repeatedly...yes I am ashamed...) and visiting Harajuku. (Fine, Gwen Stefani did play on repeat in my brain the whole time we were there. It was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.)

We were all over the southern part of Tokyo, and all over the railways. Which look like this:

(Photo by Adrian, as I was so busy trying to figure out the subway system, that I didn't think of taking pictures of it)

Simple enough, right? (thank goodness we had people on the trip with orienteering skills, or I'd still be standing in front of that map, blinking...crying....)

It was in Shi BOO YEeeeeaAAH where we found me an eye doctor and I bought a cheap (ish) pair of glasses and where we saw one of the busiest intersections I've ever seen in my life.

We then headed for the famed Harajuku.

Kids in Harajuku look just like I imagined.

Next, we toured one of the many Shrines/Temples in Japan:

We ended the day by eating at a nice Thai restaurant, where Rebecca started practicing her Japanese by telling me the word for "water." For which, I received this:

To which Rebecca immediately yelped "I'm sorry! Must not be the word for water!" But it actually was and apparently they just like to add a tiny bit of Thai tea to the water there. But I was not a fan and this was just the first of many "what the heck did I just drink?!"  moments we had. There will be more to come.