Fresh fish, urban monotony, and buddhists


Today was another day of walking a ton, but Ken and I are very similar in finding it a great way to get to know a city. We first set our sites on the Tsukiji Fish Market, and walked from our hotel down there, about an hour’s walk through parts of Tokyo we had not yet seen. We then headed over to the oldest Buddhist shrine in Tokyo, which sort of dates from the 7th century, except that it was destroyed during WWII and subsequently rebuilt. Along the way we experienced block after block of the urban monotony that makes up the area of Tokyo in between, punctuated by a few interesting buildings here and there. We still can’t get over how quiet the whole city feels, it is really eerie. Aside from that, I have a few more impressions:

– There seem to be almost no homeless people around. We have seen a total of two so far in this city of 13 million.

– Far louder than the people are the crows, which are everywhere crowing.

– For all the traffic, we have not heard a horn honk even once.

– There are not very many foreigners around anywhere we have been. We can count on two hands all the ones we have seen in two days.

– If you should need to find a public toilet in Tokyo, look for a park. Every park seems to have one.

– There are surprisingly few public places to just sit down.

Click the image below to go to the album of today’s images:


Tokyo first impressions


Ken and I walked the shit out of Tokyo today, and I can tell you that so far, Tokyo is a fascinating place. Here are some notes and impressions from our first day:

– Dealing with Japan Rail pass exchange (for real ticket) and reserving seats was a total breeze, the people at the JR office at Tokyo Station were super helpful and spoke very good English.

– Speaking of being helpful, everyone here is very nice and really wants to help, whether or not they speak your language.

– Things don’t generally seemed to be open very early. We could not find any restaurant and only a few convenience stores open before 11am.

– In one of those convenience stores (named Lawson) we had a lot of fun buying unrecognizable things in cute packaging to make a sort of breakfast for ourselves.

– The streets are eerily quiet at all hours. No one ever makes a peep anywhere. Ken and I have taken to whispering to each other while we are walking around.

Ginko trees are everywhere, and this must be the season where they drop their fruits. And if you know anything about these fruits, you know they reek of something not at all dissimilar to human vomit.

– I somehow expected Tokyo to be insanely crowded and chaotic, but it seems very calm and tranquil everywhere we have been at least.

– Architecturally, if I had to reduce the entire place to a short description, I would say that Tokyo is all about the juxtaposition of very large structures next to very small ones, and the tension this creates. There is also a lot of attention to small details, which I like.

– These people love things sold in vending machines, and will stick one just about anywhere they can.

– Probably because we don’t understand the language, but twice now when in search of Japanese food, we have mistakenly gone into a Chinese restaurant (last night) and a Korean one (today). Although to be fair the Korean restaurant was inappropriately labeled “Japanese Grill”. Still, it was delish.

Click the photo below to see the whole Tokyo album: