Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy Year of the Tiger!

Due to walking-based exhaustion and a bit of a plum wine stupor (they sell it in jars in the convenience stores. JARS!), Ryan is unable to find the energy to write tonight’s post. Instead, you’ll get a little less reverence for food, a few less elegant turns of phrase, and hopefully a little bit more humor from, Travel Partner #1, let’s give a warm Blogger welcome to Mr. Phil Katz.

When Ryan last left us, we were headed to Roppongi Hills for some New Years revelry. In what has been a recurring theme in Tokyo and particularly the last 24 hours, we were not the only people with this plan. Roppongi Hills is a brand new condo, mall, shopping center, art museum, and general purpose metropolitan domination center. For New Years Eve, the entire top floor (one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo) was converted into four separate clubs and bars, each filled with wall to wall people, for an approximate total of 14 kajillion people. When we did manage to elbow our way towards a window, the lights of Tokyo extended as far as the eye could see in every direction. As the clock approached midnight, the crowd counted down in Japanese, but when the moment arrived, the cheer of choice was “Happy New Year”. These are the things I feel you should know.

This morning, we made it out of bed at least 4 minutes before noon in order to join a few dozen or so Japanese pilgrims at Meiji-Jingu, Japan’s largest Shinto shrine. Ok, I’m exaggerating, it was more like a few million Japanese pilgrims. But before visiting the shrine, we made a quick stop at the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, where we had a rare Mt. Fuji sighting. We followed that up with a quick lunch and then a quick second lunch with the street vendors (Ryan had takoyaki again, this time with cute baby octopi inside. At one point he pointed out the face on one of the octopi, and then flagrantly broke my “never eat anything with a face” rule).

After all that, we were ready to naively wander into a crowd of Japanese people significantly larger than the population of Utah. Meiji-Jingu is really a very nice shrine, but the biggest impression it made on me was that it was important enough to the Japanese people that they would come stand in line for hours just to make a quick offering to their ancestors.

The rest of the day was a blur of back alleys and shopping. We found our way to an Okonomiyaki restaurant (Osaka-style griddle cooking) for dinner. I purchased a shiny, puffy coat after deciding that the Japanese know something I don’t about fashion. We found our way to the legendary Golden Gai neighborhood by following a small wooded path between two back alleys in the neon district of Shinjuku (no, really. We were a little lost, and were like, why are there trees there? A few twists and turns and a rabbit hole later, and we were surrounded by tiny little bars and Japanese locals).

Ryan just started twitching and whimpering, which I think is my cue to let him post this entry without further ado.


  1. Twitching and whimpering? What IS in that food you've been eating?

  2. I can completely identify with you, Phil. Oh the tiny screams of baby sea creatures! Somehow I just cannot get over the texture of "raw". Of course Ryan's Papa would be fooding right along with his son if he was there. Happy New Year from both of us!

  3. So what's with the year of the tiger? Is that the latest food you tasted or have you adopted Chinese New Year?

    And I like that ancestor reverence. Keep it up.

    PS We spent two hours today trying to find that orchid farm and when we got there the gates were closed. Apparently, the north side of Maui is a black hole for iphone GPS.