Saturday, June 11, 2005

More Than Just Good Sushi

We're back from the edge of the world. After being stuck in Tokyo for 4 extra days, we're back in Daegu. What a ride. By Friday we had run out of underwear (the old rumour that you can get extra wear by flipping them inside-out is true), clean clothes, and patience. We showed up for our flight on Tuesday and were running behind. We were there nearly an hour before our flight left but we were too late. I've never heard of anywhere closing the gates an hour prior to takeoff. We couldn't believe it when they told us that the next available flight was on Friday. We tried to get on standby and of course, couldn't. By the time we got in line for our Friday flight they were offering voluntary bumps because they had overbooked the flight. So we took it. After being in Tokyo for that long, what did an extra day matter? The airline put us up in a fancy hotel and fed us all you can eat seafood and breakfast buffets. And gave us a free flight voucher. Not a bad ending to a long trip.

So, lets get to the good stuff. Tokyo is by far, the coolest place I have ever been. As the world's largest city (34 million people - can you believe that!? That's 12 million more than Mexico City) I expected it to be crowded. It wasn't. It was beautiful, modern, exciting, easy to navigate and unbelievably clean. I fell head over heels in love with the city. The food was delicious and we saw so many cool things. Here are some of them:

1. Asakusa: The area where we stayed, first in a guesthouse and later in a capsule motel. Capsule motels are what they sound like, little pod-like things arranged in rows and columns. They are cheap and you check-in by buying a ticket for the night. Very futuristic but cozy.

Asakusa is also home to Kappabashi Street, 800 metres of kitchenware and fake plastic food. It was awesome. I bought more ceramics (gulp) and some neat binto boxes. I could have stayed there all day, but Brian dragged me away while I was still flinging money at the merchants.

Senso-ji, Tokyo's oldest temple, was just around the corner from our pod. It was really beautiful and much bigger than its Korean counterparts.

2. Harajuku: The fashion district is famous for it's strange trends and "out-there" costumes. It was really amazing to see all the girls dressed up in goth gear (including blood and trailing bandages) standing next to other girls saturated in pink lace, ribbons and parasols.

3. Shibuya: Home to the world's busiest intersection, where every three minutes the lights turn green and the crosswalks are flooded by pedestrians. Also home to the Lost in Translation Starbucks, where you can watch the madness from the second floor. We also hit the world's biggest Tower Records where I managed to scoop up some English magazines. A small but missed luxury in my life.

4. Tsukiji Fish Market: Wow. This was incredible. You have to get there early, but it was well worth it. This fish market is the world's biggest (noticing a tend here?) and was more chaotic, exciting and visual than anything I've ever seen. Everywhere I turned there was a picture, and someone pushing me over so that I couldn't take it. It contained every kind of fish, eel, tortoise, crustacean and squid you can imagine. And many more that you can't.

We also visited Ginza (the haute couture capital), Shinjuku, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Tokyo Tower (a copy of the Eiffel Tower). The people were unbelievably friendly, the subway was incredible, and not once did I feel swarmed or overcrowded. It also wasn't nearly as expensive as I had been told. Most of the prices were comparable to Canadian or American prices, which is a shock after living in Korea, but they weren't prohibitive.

I want to move to Tokyo and I would highly recommend that if you get the chance, you should visit. It's like the cool comic-strip cities of the future only it's cleaner. And it's real.

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