Sunday, 6 November 2016

Love Hotels, Sashimi, Temples and Karaoke!

Tokyo days 3-5.

So our 2nd day, Taka had to work, so we had the whole day, from 9am to 7pm, to wander around. We decided the first thing to do was head to Shinjuku, as A. We wanted to see it as we had heard it was a very famous area for eating and 2. To try out a Love Hotel. Yep, we had to. It was just calling our name, and as we had a day to ourselves we thought - why not! We probably couldn't afford a whole night in one, so we would just do a few hours for cheaper but the same experience. Now, most of the themed ones have been tamed now, as they are labelled as 'tacky' so instead most of them are very plush. For this who are unaware what a Love Hotel is, they are hotels with a 'Rest' or 'Stay' option. Mainly for business men hooking up with their lover, couples wanting privacy from their families (as houses in Japan are renowned for their thin walls) or expensive one night stands. It's basically a chance for couples to have, yep, some fun. It was too tempting not to try. So we found one which was within our price range and we went in. It's a weird concept. There is a screen with all the different rooms on, the prices for either 'rest' which is 6hrs or 'Stay' which is for the night. And the ones which are vacant are lit up, and the ones in use are in red. You then choose which room and package you want and press the screen. Then you go up to the counter and hand your money to the waving hands (yep everything is anonymous, you don't see them, they don't see you.) They hand you the key and off you go.

All I can say is the room was pure 5* luxury for around $50. There was a Japanese toilet with all the buttons (though by now these were a nessecity more than a luxury), you can wash your bum, play music, dry your bum, wash your girly parts, deodorise, electronically lift the seat, warm the seat - they really are amazing and you can spend way longer than you need to in a bathroom pressing all the buttons and being either pleasantly surprised or shocked.

Then there was a hot tub bath, a steam sauna shower room, lotions and potions, free tea and coffee, TV, and even a karaoke system! You could dim the lighting on different 'mood' settings. It was awesome. And of course, I stole everything I could fit in my bag - mum and Auntie Linda would be proud!

That aside, we then went for a late lunch down a famous Street food area, known for its Yakitori (grilled meat on sticks) however, Yakitori can actually be very expensive. So instead, we went into a very very local eatery, which had room for 8 people and was cooked in front of you by two old ladies, and had fried noodles with fried dumplings.

We also went to Akihabara, which is known for its video gaming community and shops - had a try at VR (virtual reality) gaming and then spent our evening in Odaiba, an island which overlooks the Tokyo skyline and Rainbow Bridge (it even has a mini statue of liberty) watching the city lights.

We met Taka for dinner but it was too busy to eat inside this tiny little local restaurant so we took the food home with us. It was a traditional meal from Taka's home city of Hiroshima. Okinomiyaki. Something that not many people have heard of and which you can't really find outside of Japan as it's such a speciality. It's basically a pancake, layered with cabbage and vegetables, your choice of fried or crispy noodles, topped with an omlete and your choice of meat or fish (normally pork) and then a special sweet soya sauce and mayonnaise over it all. It's definitely something different!

The next day we woke up semi-early with the intention of going to the famous Tsujiki fish market. Normally your supposed to head down for around 5am to witness the fish auction where massive tunas and salmon's are auctioned from the wholesalers to restaurants, however, there is no way we would be up for that, instead, we went for the second best thing it was famous for - the best fresh sushi/sashimi, probably in the world! We walked around the market which was 15mins away from Taka's apartment tried a few fishy/eggy breakfast specialities of Japan and then waited in line - a full hour - for the best sashimi restaurant in the world. Fish caught fresh from the sea and served on your plate. It was well worth the long wait.

For those who are unaware what sashimi is, its raw cured fish, mainly salmon and tuna, thinly sliced (plus things like salmon eggs etc,) placed on a bed of rice. And the proper way is to eat it with pickled vegetables, cockles, wasabi (super spicy green mustard), miso soup (a cloudy salty broth) and Matcha green tea. I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I have ever had, and that's saying something. It was worth the money and the wait.

We then took the train to Tokyo Station and walked around the Imperial Palace Gardens (you can only tour the actual Palace by pre-arranged tour or special permission) and headed to Ueno district for a snack down another famous street food Street (where I had a strawberry cheesecake and cream Crepe, with an actual slice of cheesecake in!) and to Ueno park for sunset views of the skyline and a very picturesque temple. That evening we met up with one of Taka's friends (Alex from Valencia) and with one of our Japanese friends Yosuke (pronounced Yos-keh), who we spent Christmas with on the Stray Bus in New Zealand.

We went to a Yakitori chain restaurant where we all chatted and got to know each other. Then as it was our 2nd last night in Tokyo, and a Saturday night. As is tradition for a night out, we, Yosuke and Taka all went to a Karaoke bar! However, in traditional Japanese style, it's not an ordinary karaoke bar like in Europe. It's a private booth, sing your heart out, table-service, cheesy music/videos, complete with maracas and tamborines fest! You can chose whatever music you want on a tablet which plays it on a big screen TV with cheesy music videos, you can turn up the microphones as loud as you want, dance, laugh, play some musical instruments (tamborines, maracas) I tell you, it's a perfect night out. Rather than go to a club, you go for your private karaoke booth, play whatever music you want (no shitty dj's unless your friends music isn't your taste) sing your lungs out, get drunk and not even have to wait at a bar (it's brought to you), dance away with your friends with no unwelcome attention from guys - it's PERFECT - girls when I get home we are going to a Japanese night out! Yosuke said that he and his friends never go to a bar, they always go to a Karaoke joint as it's more fun and I agree! I think it's even a girly family thing right girls? it was a great way to end the night even being sober!

The next day Taka went hiking and we decided to spend some more time in Tokyo on our last day. We visited Harajuki for the Meiji Jingo shrine, where we witnessed a Japanese wedding and saw many families dressed in traditional clothes. This was a shrine where the first emporer of Japan and his wife are enshrined and is a big wedding venue.

 Then Asakusa for the Sensoji temple - predominately Buddhist. Asakusa is also one of the oldest districts in Tokyo.

 Then we viewed sunset from the top of the Tokyo Tower - basically a bigger Eiffel Tower!

That evening we just had a meal from family mart as we had already spent a lot of money and said goodbye to Taka as we would be leaving in the morning for two days at the Mt Fuji area. Thanks for having us, it was awesome. Tokyo, we'll be seeing you again before we go but bye-bye for now!

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