Japan 2019 – Day 2

(This post is part of a series, you can start here or the view the previous post.)

A few things before I talk about day 2, which I would have liked to note on day 1 but forgot: our bidet-having toilet also has a heated seat which is nice, our Airbnb key is weird:

It’s like a punch card

and apparently we’re staying in Fabric Town:

Yes, there are fabric shops all over the place

Ok so day 2… Like day 1, we woke up pretty early. I got up around 7am but I heard Mikel and Jesse bickering about the impact of TV display lag on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate around 6:30am so they were up at least that early.

We decided to skip breakfast. Mikel and I weren’t hungry, and Jesse said he wanted to be hungry for lunch. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, our plan was Skytree, the tallest tower in Japan (and the world, actually, it turns out). We also figured out that one of the Pokecenters nearby was right next to it, along with another aquarium, so our whole plan for the day was just those three things. I had figured we would take the train, but either Mikel or Jesse figured out that it was an hour walk from our Airbnb, and we all like walking, so we decided to go for it. We left around 8:30am, I think.

We wanted to make sure we had cash so we stopped by a 7-11. We went to the same one we had the day before, though afterward we realized we could have hit one on the way to where we were going, since they’re all over the place. Also notable is that I was able to get out 30,000 yen, higher than I expected to, so that was nice and maybe that’s all the cash I’ll need for the trip.

I also got a pork bun, which was pretty good. I wasn’t hungry, but I had regretted not trying it the day before. The reason I hadn’t was because the cashier did not seem to speak English, and I was anxious about that interaction. So this morning when I tried again, my exact fear happened – the cashier had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe I would have figured it out, but I panicked, and Jesse had the brilliant idea of pointing at what I wanted. That worked. Phew.

The first notable thing on our walk was a no littering sign:

Sorry I can’t think of a clever caption for this one

Why is that notable, you might ask? Because there are no public trashcans. I’m so used to them being around that I find the contrast very odd. On the flip side, with how (relatively) clean things are, this must mean that Japanese people are dedicated enough to carry around trash with them frequently so kudos for that at least.

The no walking smoking is also kinda interesting. I recall (but am not verifying here so don’t quote me) that this was because people were getting burned. As I mentioned, Japan is buddy-buddy with Big Tobacco so I doubt it’s a matter of health. They also have these on the sidewalks:

Isn’t that cute

The other notable thing we noticed from our walk is a time indicator on the walking cross/no cross signals. We’re used to in California having a second-based countdown while crossing, but they actually have a more generic countdown even leading up to being able to walk. Nothing super special but we thought that was neat.

Sorry for the crummy quality

I took pictures of the tower as we approached, and planned to post each of them here to show the approach, but they actually don’t look that interesting so here is my favorite of those pictures:

When we got to the tower, we went to get tickets, and found that the ticket counter did not open until 10am, and it was 9:35am when we got there. The aquarium was open though so we decided to change our planned order and do that before the tower.

I was afraid that a second aquarium would be boring, especially when we are planning on another one in Osaka in a few days, but I actually really liked this second one. Sometimes it wasn’t as photogenic mostly because it was darker, but many of the tanks were bigger, the variety of animal was more impressive, and (to use my friends’ phrasing) the “presentation” was better. Here is the first pretty picture I got:

Pretty fish

This is probably a good place to note that while I lost a lot of pictures to the stupid thing my phone is doing where it randomly turning what would otherwise be (probably) high quality pictures into low quality videos, I did partway through the aquarium figure out what was doing it and turned that crap off. Boo on Android for that being the default behavior, hard to find to turn off, and for just being stupid in the first place (The Pixel camera is known for being very good, turning pictures into low-quality videos is absurd to me!)

Here’s a picture that I think does a decent job of conveying the presentation:

The tanks are beautiful and the environment is simple, drawing your eyes to the actual display

Yet more pretty:

These really make me happy

There’s a pretty cool video (12s) of an eel on the Google Photos album I suggest checking out (sorry I don’t know how to link to the direct video). Here’s an apology shark:

Sayin’ hi

Here are some penguins:

Hypothesis: they’re waiting for food

After the aquarium I saw a vending machine that took our train cards instead of cash and decided to try something. I picked something that looked like Sprite or 7-up and did not bother trying to use Google Translate on it:

Too long of a blog post, not enough clever captions

The flavor was interesting, something like Starburst, and it was very sweet. I liked it but after about three sips I had had enough. Mikel and Jesse split the rest. Next, we went up the tower.

I took a ton of high-up pictures but I’m really not thrilled by them, you can check out the album if you’re curious. It was foggy, which did not ruin the experience, but to me definitely diminished it significantly. Here is a glass floor though:

That was the lower of the two decks. Oddly, the top deck was full of Barbie stuff:

Mikel snuck that pamphlet into Jesse’s hood

Honestly, although I’m glad we visited the tallest tower in the world while we were in walking distance, the fog and the crowd made it not a great experience for me. In retrospect taking full advantage of the aquarium also meant that the crowd in the tower would be worse, which is a bit of a bummer.

The next thing on our list was the Pokemon Center, which was for me and I appreciate Mikel and Jesse being patient (the proximity probably helped). We had a little bit of a hard time, didn’t realize for a bit that it was on the fourth floor, but we eventually got there:

Detective Pikachu freaks me out

I was a little bit disappointed in the Pokemon Center, to be honest. I wanted to want something, but I was trying to be real with myself and I really think I was more likely to regret having bought crap than I would regret not getting anything (this holds up, several hours later). Jesse actually got some Lego-like things, which are composed of ~100 pieces. That said, I thought these Ditto Eeveelutions were cute:

I love their stupid faces

After the Pokemon Center we were ready for lunch. Before I go on, I really liked this picture:

I was trying to get a picture of what I thought was a park, but overall I thought this came out well

Next up was finding a place to eat for lunch. We went to the third floor where the food court was supposed to be but we couldn’t find it. We had seen a sign that the sixth and seventh floor so we decided to head that way. Fortunately, Mikel noticed this sign:

Notice anything notable about this sign? I didn’t either, but Mikel noticed the third and seventh floors allow smoking (ugh), so those were out. Sixth floor it was.

We decided on a sushi place, but after Mikel saw it was boats he didn’t want a repeat of the previous day. I asked him if he would be cool with it if I checked the reviews, but I ended up not being able to find anything. So we picked a second place, stood in line for a bit, and left after they told us they were out of beef and pork and only had “one chicken” (we didn’t ask for clarification on that). So we found a place to sit and Jesse started searching for other sushi on his phone. He picked a place which was 1.2 miles away, but we were all fairly tired of walking right then so he found a closer place instead – Yoheezushi.

That place was great. It was a bit of a hole in the wall, very little English (enough to get water though which was great). They had three tiers of quality, Jesse and I took the top one at nearly $25 and Mikel took the second tier (he’s a cheap bastard). Here’s a picture of what I got:

The tuna was “fucking great” to quote Jesse. I concur.

One of the most fun moments of the trip so far came up at the end of our meal. The meal total was 6,800 yen, and Mikel was paying in cash. He put down three 1,000 yen bills and then a 10,000 yen bill, at which point the hostess made a kind of awkward “oh” sound, we all realized the accident, and we all burst out laughing. It was really great to share that moment with someone who we did not share a common language.

From there, we decided to walk back to the Airbnb because we were all tired. We definitely felt better having eaten and gotten off of our feet for a while but we were still feeling it. While we were walking, we saw a small temple and got a bit closer to check it out, saw a nice park, and started walking through there instead (so much for being tired, eh?). Here are a few pics I thought were really great:

After that, we started heading back again and noticed another temple which we had seen in the morning and decided to make a second pit stop. Here are a few pictures from that:

We ended up walking through that big crowd of people. Not my cup of tea but Mikel and Jesse have been accommodating for me so of course I returned the favor. Here’s a random funny:

We’re super curious how intentional this is

We kept walking, and eventually found a vending machine that had more of the soda we had earlier. Jesse decided to get a cherry flavored can instead of what we had before. Mikel and I both thought it tasted like medicine, and at the time of this writing Jesse has not yet finished it.

We made it back to the Airbnb at 3:20pm. At the time I’m writing this part of the blog post, it’s 6:20pm. We have been hanging out, talking a bit, but I have been pretty focused on this blog post. I know it’s a doozy because I took so long to write it!

During this time, Jesse worked on trying to book some fancy food. He was interested in Jiro, a famous three Michelin-star chef here in Tokyo. Unfortunately that guy is booked up at least a month in advance and we haven’t really been planners… Instead, he tried to book something with one of Jiro’s sons. He found out that apparently you can only make an appointment through concierge services (supposedly this is because they hate no-shows but I have absolutely no idea how those two things are related). We thought we were screwed, since we aren’t at a hotel, but Jesse realized he has that service through one of his credit cards and made that call, we’ll find out the result within a couple days (because it’s Sunday, when a lot of sushi places are closed apparently, and Mondays have a similar problem). Also notable is that in the followup email to the phone call, Jesse was addressed as “Ms. Jesse Lira” in spite of being a dude (this is a common problem for him).

We hung around the Airbnb for a bit longer and headed out to dinner around 7pm, planning to go to Ramen Yoroiya. Unfortunately, after leaving the Airbnb we realized that it was a 50 minute walk or a half hour on public transit, and either way we would arrive within an hour of closing, so we decided to punt going to that place (though we do intend to later). Instead, we walked 20 minutes to Banninriki. I forgot to take pictures, but it was amazingly delicious and I was delighted that they had a no-smoking sign prominently posted!

I was afraid this trip was going to be stressful, especially because planning had been stressful, and I was stressed out for not having planned things enough. Things have gone great though, I feel rejuvenated rather than drained, and I’m looking forward to the rest of this trip!

Fitbit step count for the day: 27,789

Next: Day 3

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