Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tokyo on Fast Forward

(PICTURE: Onryan and me eating octopus balls in Tokyo.)

I only had two days to explore Tokyo...which is actually one more day than my students in Koryama told me I would need.

I took a twelve hour night bus from Hiroshima to Tokyo and was met my Onryan -- my friend MyongFa's sister -- at the Kokubunji train station at 9AM. Onryan was a fantastic host from the moment she met me at the train station until the moment she dropped me off at the train station two days later. I was pretty tired and told Onryan that on my first day I only cared about eating delicious food.

Onryan took me to a neighborhood that I would best compare with SoHo in New York. Seemingly every few minutes we would stop and eat something which was exactly the right medicine for my lack of sleep.

At night Onryan prepared a delicious shabu-shabu dinner for me and her 14-year-old daughter. Yeah, I can't believe she has a teenage daughter either. I thought Onryan was my age when I first met her. What is even crazier is that I was able to stay at her apartment because her 16-year-old son was at soccer camp!

After dinner we hung out in Onryan's living room where I proceeded to argue with her daughter about J-pop. J-pop for those of you who don't know is Japanese Pop Music. It's basically the equivalent of Britany Spears and Justin Timberlake except in Japanese and with much less rhythmic dancing. Frankly I find J-pop to be hilarious. The costumes and make-up are over the top and just to reiterate, the dancing is awful!

The next morning I woke up early and went to Tsukiji Fish Market (I'll blog about that experience tomorrow). After the market I walked all over the city. First I went to eat monja, an okonomiyaki like dish that Masumi recommended I eat in Tokyo. There is a "monja street" in Tokyo that has about thirty different monja restaurants.

(PICTURE: My monja street map in front of the restaurant Masumi recommended.)

Masumi had recommended one to me but unfortunately it was closed. I then had to choose another on my own and selected the one with the most newspaper clippings about it posted in front. Perhaps this was a bad idea because although it was delicious, it was quite expensive.

(PICTURE: How could I not go into this one? Look at all the press it got!)

(PICTURE: Me with my expensive but delicious monja.)

After lunch I walked across the city to the Emperor's Palace. You can't actually go into the palace but there is one really picturesque view of it that one can soak in for a few minutes:

(PICTURE: The Emperor's Palace.)

I had intended to go to the East Gardens of the Palace but unfortunately they were closed on Mondays (Thanks for the heads up Lonely Planet).

After my failed entrance into the gardens I jumped on the subway and headed towards Asakusa. Asakusa is the most famous temple in is also the most crowded with tourists. When I entered the grounds of Asakusa I realized that I had already surpassed my quota of temples. I think I literally breathed a giant sigh and muttered, "Great another temple." That said, it was a cool temple but it is hard to find peace and tranquility with thousands of tourists snapping away silly photos and buying overpriced souvenirs.

(PICTURE: The tourist path to Asakusa.)

Finally at night I headed back to Kokubunji and ate the only appropriate last meal in Japan -- Korean food. Onryan, her friends and I ate at an amazing Korean restaurant. The coolest part, besides the food, was that we all got to wear bibs like we were eating lobster. Oh, Mom, you'd really have liked this dinner. No, not because of the food but because all three of the people I ate with are occupational therapists (FYI: My mom is a physical therapist).

(PICTURE: Onryan, her friends and me eating Korean food.)