Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tokyo #1

Saturday early I ventured to Tokyo all by myself for the weekend. I started the morning by waking up at 4am, and I ate my first ever McDonald's breakfast in Korea. There is a McDonald's restaurant next to the subway station entrance that is open 24 hours, so I stopped and ate the healthy (not) and delicious Sausage Egg McMuffin. For this trip I flew to the Haneda Airport in Tokyo from Gimpo Airport in Seoul. These were the International Airports until being replaced by Narita (in Tokyo) and Incheon (in Seoul). After being replaced by the new and larger airports, both these airports reverted to domesic flights, with the exception of this one international service between Seoul and Tokyo. Since I had never flown to/from either airport I decided to give it a try. It was a pleasant experience. Both airports are close to their cities, saving a lot of travel time. Also, they are both relatively small, so they are less crowded and easier to get around.

After checking into the hotel, I took a walk around to some shopping areas and to eat lunch. I first ran across this interesting intersection. That's an interesting way to mount the traffic lights, don't you think?

At this intersection is also this interesting 3D "love" sculpture. I wonder if Tokyo has a similar rule as Seoul, requiring pieces of art at each building?

And just down the street, there was this interesting new building being constructed. It looks like a robot to me.

In the past when I visited Japan alone, I usually was afraid to go alone to Japanese restaurants. It can be difficult for me to go alone to a Korean restaurant, I can understand and communicate in basic Korean. But in Japan, I am completely 100% clueless. I know how to say "hello", "thank you", and "one more beer please". That's all. But, I promised myself that this trip I would not go to places like these:

(Is that guy above trying to sniff his underarm??) Instead, for lunch I chose a Japanese style curry shop. I have been told that each country prepares curry dishes a bit differently, so I thought I would give this a try.

It had a long U-shaped counter, and I sat down to order. That was the first mistake. You are not supposed to order at the counter. Instead, you go to this vending machine:

You chose your meal, pay, and a ticket comes out. You take this ticket to the counter, and the man will bring your meal. There was one other choice - you had to decided between normal, medium or spicy sauce. It was pretty interesting, tasted a little less sweet than the curry in Korea.

I then went searching for the Yodobashi electronics store. This is a huge place, usually 6 or 7 floors, filled with the latest consumer electronics. Since Japan is so far ahead of us, I always enjoy walking around and seeing what the latest gadgets are.

So after visiting a few stores and just walking around, I tried to go back to the hotel for a short rest. Took me about an hour or more, because I got lost. I was too stubborn to stop and take a taxi, so I just kept on walking and studying my map. Finally I made it back, and rested for a couple hours before dinner.

For dinner, I was determined to eat Kushi. This is a food I have eaten in Osaka before. It looks like a bar, and specially trained chefs prepare your food in front of you as you eat. The food is a variety of meats, fishes, and vegetables prepared, skewered and usually fried. But, you are served them one stick at a time, usually each stick is just 2 bites. Each time, the chef will explain to me about the food, how he prepared it, etc. Of course, this place in Osaka the chef he spoke English. So, I asked at the hotel where I could find such a restaurant. They gave me the location and put me into a taxi. I arrived, and at first couldn't find the place. Finally, after getting some help from a kind Japanese man, he told me it was in the basement. I went down to the place, and it seemed to be a real bar, not a restaurant. When I explained that I wanted kushi, the manager told me that they also served that food. So I ordered an assortment, but I was pretty disappointed. This place was not very interesting, and the food was really heavy and oily. I ate 8 sticks. They all came at once, there was no chef explaining the food, nothing. Oh well, as bad as it was, it was still much better than McDonald's!

I finished up the evening my chosing a small bar at random and drinking a few beers. I was trying to talk to a Japanese man next to me, when he learned that I have been living in Seoul. Suddenly, everyone started talking at once - it turns out that a couple next to him was mixed - the husband was Japanese and the wife was Korean. The husband spoke Korean about the same as me, so for the rest of the night we communicated mostly in Korean (their Korean was better than their English I think). It was very weird and unexpected.

That wraps up day 1 of my Tokyo weekend adventure. Today I will check out from the hotel, and take a short tour to something called the "Tokyo Tower", before flying back to Seoul tonight. More in the next post.

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