Japan is an intriguing country for us outsiders. Very few Japanese people speak English, and very few foreign tourists understand even the basic words of Japanese, so it makes for an interesting experience.
A few days in Tokyo, and I realized why I felt a little spaced out. Billboards screamed at me from all directions, announcements were made, people chatted, and I understood…nothing. It was all so much background noise that it became silence.
I was able to see the people from afar, to note what they wore, how many times they bowed to each other (I counted a refined-looking gentleman bow at least 14 times while parting from his colleagues/ bosses at a station), the way they smiled, how they pretended to fall asleep in metros, avoided eye contact.
The first evening in Shinjuku, we took the subway to the Tokyo station, from there to Yarakucho, and walked out of the station to Ginza, where we met a friend.
Metros are convenient, yes, but they are also a complete puzzle for newcomers, all the stations on the station maps are written in Japanese, and the counters look like complicated video game consoles.We had to ask a few people (who spoke only Japanese, of course) before we managed to figure out (with lots of gestures and bows)how to get our tickets. I did manage to get my hands on a English Tokyo Subway Map, and I stuck to that for dear life for the rest of my stay.
Ginza is the shopping high street of Tokyo, where 1 sq m of real estate is worth 300,000 USD. All I bought were bread buns from Kimuraya, because our friend told us it was famous, and though I mostly did not understand what they contained other than the obvious ones like cream and cheese, they were all delicious. Cost about 5 usd each. Big price shift from KL.
Spotted a woman walking in a kimono on Ginza, and when I asked my friend she said that Ginza had a restaurant or two where the women who served wore kimonos. Some of the nicer restaurants in Ginza start from 10,000 yen per person, which is about 115 usd, so we strolled back to the Tokyo station, and following our friend, walked into an out-of-the-way restaurant.
All was hushed, and since I could not be the tourist and click pics of the food, all I have to say is the Tofu in Japan is very different from everywhere else. It is creamy, flavorful. Later I discovered this one was especially flown in daily from a different island. Hah, no wonder.
I also learned that Soba is better had at the end of the meal, and one has to make a slurpy noise at the last bite to show one’s appreciation. Had some potent Sake’ afterward which means that the memories of dinner turned rather hazy. Oh, yeah, we had Tuna gills roasted. Tasted meaty, not like fish at all.
The bill came to 22000 Yen for 5500 Yen (63 usd) per person, and I developed a fresh appreciation for Malayasia, where you can gorge yourself at a good restaurant for about 20 usd.
Too tired to navigate the Metro (and knowing we had to wake up early to go to Mt. Fuji the next morning), we figured we’d take a taxi back to our hotel, not more than 10 km away. The fare came to about 4000 Yen (46 usd).
I did not take another taxi in Japan.
End of Day 1 in Tokyo, on to Day 2, and the trip to Mount Fuji.
I have scheduled the rest of the posts to appear in the next few days, so stay tuned!