Barely functioning.

We’ve been in Tokyo for about 28 hours, give or take a few, and have had a number of exciting adventures and trials already. However, I’m really barely functioning given the amount of sleep I’ve had and the amount of jetlag that I’m dealing with.

Let’s try to detail some of what has happened so far. Lessons learned: Do fly Malaysian Airlines. They offer free wine and beer, which makes any flight, especially trans-pacific ones, go faster. Customs is much more casual here, as compared to China. Or even compared to our border crossing in Vancouver, Canada. Nevertheless, it took us an unexpectedly long time to reach our Couchsurfing host, Ken, by JR Railroad and Tokyo Metro, which are two of the rail networks here. We crashed last night, and this morning, got up with the sun, feeling remarkably fresh after 5 and 1/2 hours of sleep. We set off to Shibuya this morning, where we enjoyed breakfast at McDonald’s and internet at Starbucks, took some pictures of the famous Shibuya Scramble, and then set off on the road to investigate Tokyo.

Good morning in Shibuya. This is one of the busiest intersections in the world.

We spent the entire morning in Akihabara, which is well known for its electronics and gaming. We visited both the Sega and Taito Towers, which each have 5-6 levels of arcades and video games. I played a game of DDR, and for everyone who knew me back in those days, I can still pass V (extreme) on heavy! We had an absolutely scrumptious lunch of just 500 yen each at a small out of the way downstairs spot. The kanji for this place translated to “Sky Dog” in Chinese, so knowing next to no Japanese, we referred to it as such. The miso soup was really quite excellent.

Arcade in the Sega Tower.
Steve and I contemplate our excellent repast.

The highlight of the day, for me, anyway, was visiting a real CAT CAFÉ. I think everyone would agree that this has to be in all caps. I think I’ve been in love with the idea of a cat café since I heard about it. We found Neko Jalala in Akihabara through wikitravel, and visited for a lovely half an hour this afternoon. Because of the short amount of time we were there, it felt more hurried and busy rather than relaxing and leisurely, but that’s pretty much the only complaint I had about it. It was incredibly neat in there, and we petted and sat among a good dozen different cats.

Cats and their adoring worshippers.
One very content denizen of the cat café.

To sum up the rest of the day, we walked all around Harajuku, the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park, and then met up with our host Ken again in Shibuya. We went to a yakitori joint that was literally a hole in the wall and up some stairs, but a well-known and excellent restaurant as well (think Violet Hour type of entrance). Highlights included skewers of chicken heart and liver as well as skewers of zucchini and cherry tomatoes (which were deeelicious). We had some beer and sake, and for me, an all-too-long walk back to his apartment. A plug about Couchsurfing here – it is a fantastic way to meet  new, interesting people, and be exposed to other cultures in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily choose for yourself. Our host Ken has been very thoughtful and fun to talk to and pretty much game for anything. He’s also made us learn a few words of Japanese, including “excuse me” (sumimasen).

The crowds in Harajuku, a popular shopping district.
Ken, our host, and Steve make breakfast sandwiches. Our original plan was French toast, but this country doesn’t have cinnamon.

Here’s to hoping we’ll have some time to upload photos tomorrow, get a bit more sleep, and figure out how the second part of our Japanese adventure, a few days in Kyoto, will work out!!

Domo arigato to everyone for all the well wishes!


P.S. As a reminder to myself, as well as to whet your appetite for more posts, I’ve noticed a number of interesting things about Japan. Hopefully, I’ll get to write more about smoking in public places and indoors, walking on the other side of the street, footwear, train surfing, social norms, population density, Shiba Inus, and inside jokes.

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