A Weekend in Tokyo

The Tokyo Tower. Lit up for your viewing pleasure!

The Tokyo Tower. Lit up for your viewing pleasure!

Last weekend I was finally able to make it out of Seoul. After whiling away my Chuseok and Christmas breaks, I decided that I needed to take advantage of the Monday and Tuesday I had off for Lunar New Year, so I packed a backpack and headed for Tokyo. Three friends of mine formed a quartet with fairly minimal plans. We were going to meet some friends Saturday night for a walk around the neighborhood and some sashimi, but other than that we were four very flexible people, including a couple informed decision makers to make sure we actually went places.

And we definitely did go places. Saturday evening we had a dinner of more raw fish than I’ve ever eaten in my life, followed by a trip up the Tokyo Tower (basically the Eiffel tower, but slightly taller). We took it fairly easy that evening, because we knew the next day would be busy.

Let's see, we've got tuna, sea urchins, prawns...

Let’s see, we’ve got tuna, sea urchins, prawns…

Sunday we got to see quite a bit of Tokyo. Though much less intuitive, and a bit more pricey, the Tokyo subway system got us pretty much everywhere we really wanted to go all in that afternoon. We hit up Shibuya to see one of the busiest crosswalks in the world; Harajuku to see some of the younger, more extravagant displays of Japanese fashion; Shinjyuku for a taste of Tokyo night life; and I even went to my first hot springs! (I’m hooked, and will be visiting many a jimjilbang in the future). Near Harajuku we enjoyed the comparatively lovely weather of Japan at Yoyogi park, and saw a temple, Japanese gardens, and even some live entertainment! A group of men (and one woman) who I guess are in their late 50s, were dancing in the park. They were dressed up in blue jeans and black leather jackets like greasers, dancing what looks like my father’s rendition of the twist, to some sort of Japanese hybrid of beach music and punk. Words fall short, so I’ll include a video.

The entry into Harajuku

The entry into Harajuku

A friend described Tokyo as a place that did not have a lot of “must-see” sites, but was really cool just to be in. That was very accurate, and after our busy Sunday, we had to try a bit harder to plan out Monday and Tuesday. We ended up visiting a few museums and seeing some more parks and temples. We saw the Asahi building, and crossing our fingers for a good meal and possibly a brewery. No luck. For future reference, that building is a cold, hungry, and tired disappointment (admittedly, being cold, tired, and hungry may have been our own fault).

The Harajuku Lebels, as their jackets say. I'm suspicious it was supposed to be "rebels."

The Harajuku Lebels, as their jackets say. I’m suspicious it was supposed to be “rebels.”

Overall, it was a great trip. Japan is great, the food is good, and the people are very friendly. Though I probably won’t come to Tokyo again, I definitely want to make it to Kyoto and Osaka. With that said, I’m pretty happy to be teaching in Seoul. I’ve been spoiled by the amazing subway system, and I would not want to go back to the expensive and confusing mess to which Tokyo lays claims. I’m also not happy with the $40 cab ride which would have been a third of that in Seoul. I don’t think I can afford Tokyo.

This trip has settled my resolve to travel more. I’m thinking Busan during Buddha’s birthday, Taipei over Chuseok, and I’m still trying to figure out my summer vacation. Any suggestions?

Lining up in front of straw-lined barrels of sake

Lining up in front of straw-lined barrels of sake

A bonsai tree in the making.

A bonsai tree in the making.

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Tokyo at night, from the Eiff-- Tokyo Tower.

Tokyo at night, from the Eiff– Tokyo Tower.

The Asahi building is the one with the "golden object" perched atop the pint glass.

The Asahi building is the one with the “golden object” perched atop the pint glass.

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