Friday, January 19, 2007

Busy Busy Tokyo City

So I wake to discover my laptop is missing. That’s right- I left my laptop computer on the aircraft in Narita. In the mad rush to get the hell off the plane, I forgot to put it back in my bag. I am a complete moron, yes. I spent many hours kicking myself for that one. Plus, the window of time that you can call Narita Airport Lost and Found is between 2pm and 7pm. Since my internal clock is going haywire I woke up at 3:30am. So I headed out a couple hours later to the fish market, which happened to be a couple blocks away from the hotel. On the way I discovered that you can get canned coffee out of the 1 zillion vending machines all over Tokyo. Mmmmm, coffeeeee!

The fish people are up early too and they were the first interaction I had with Japanese people. They stare…a lot. I thought that I would blend since I’m Asian too. Wrong. It doesn’t help when you have a camera either. I noticed when white people walked by, they all smiled and greeted them. I would just get these stares and they would all speak in English to me. I didn’t fool anyone. (Not that I thought I looked Japanese, but maybe I oozed American or something.)

So I stopped into a sushi restaurant for breakfast at the fish market. They seat 5 old Japanese ladies next to me at the sushi counter and the group immediately points and asks about me. I ordered some sushi and some miso soup (which evidently comes with a crab in this gigantic bowl). So I naturally ask for a spoon because the bowl is too enormous for me to pick up and slurp out of and it’s got this big crab in the middle of it. All five heads swivel and stare as I eat my soup with a spoon. I am a friggin heathen. How dare me. The staring is one thing, but it’s the looks of disdain that bother me. Note to self: Don’t ask for a spoon, just slurp it out of the bowl like a dog and ignore big ass crab.

Units of caffeine = 4. Number of stares = 12. Total hours of sleep = 3.5

I went back to the hotel to get directions from the Sayuri, my hotel lady (who doesn’t stare, speaks English, and is really nice.) I pick up a subway map and head out into a full day. I decided to head out to Asakusa which is where the sumo tournament arena is and it is closer (not really) to the airport so when they located my laptop, I could run up there and pick it up. It took me an hour to figure out how to procure a ticket, ask for directions, find the right subway tunnel, ask for directions again, walk around the subway tunnels, ask for directions again, walk a long ass way to said tunnel, ask for directions again, then finally board a train which was a leap of faith. The signs in the Tokyo subway system are not self explanatory. Plus, I don’t ride trains much in Dallas, so it just seemed harder to grasp how it worked. At this point, I gave up on speaking Japanese. No one understood anything I tried say and my pronunciations sucked. It was easier to point to things and hand gesturing. Thank goodness pointing is not rude in Japan (I’m going to have a hard time in Korea).

I discovered a few things as soon as I arrived in Asakusa. Maps in Japan are not to scale and asking directions is useless. So I spent a lot of time just wandering around aimlessly until I found something of interest. It ended up working out because I found the market, saw a temple on fire and some firemen dousing the flames, and some cute little school children. I called the airport to see if they had my laptop. Nope, they didn’t have it. So I headed back to my hotel to get drop off my bags and head over to the sumo tournament. I get all the way back and the airport called and said they DID have my laptop. I decided to head to the airport and then stop at the sumo tournament on the way back.

It’s at this time I feeling like a hillbilly in the big city. Its lonely traveling alone without someone around to say- Hey, look at that temple on fire! Wow, that sumo wrestler is fat! Did you friggin see the toilets in there? I can’t believe that policeman yelled at me! Of course there’s no one around to laugh at me about leaving my stupid laptop on the plane or that I took the wrong train to the sumo tournament. I’m a mess.
I end up catching the tail-end of the sumo tournament and took pictures of the wrestlers on their exit. Sumo wrestlers aren’t short at all. They’re actually taller than I thought. I was bummed about missing the good sumo fun so I decided I would have a much needed beer. It seems that no matter where you go, there’s always an Irish pub around. They’re all over America and I found myself in one when I went to Rome. It’s like a safe haven for wayward alcoholics. I guess the Irish get around? It was there that I ran into a group of Americans that were living in Tokyo. So I did the natural thing any desperate American would do- I horned in on their conversation and invited myself to sit with them. They bought me dinner and beer (score!) and told me where to go when I decided to go on my drinking binge.

So off to bars I go. I walk off the subway and walk around the streets aimlessly looking for a beer. I walk into a couple of bars and end up at a place called Vanilla. It has two stories and has a handful of Japanese people milling about. I walk around feeling uncomfortable. While I was walking around I trip on a step and fall flat on my face. I spilled beer all over me, the floor, and one of the waitresses. Of course the entire club is staring at me. I want to die about a thousand times. I immediately high-tail it out of the bar, hoping for lightning to strike me. I am standing in the street, its freezing, and my coat is covered in beer. The thought of bursting into tears and hailing a taxi passed through my mind a couple of times. I look up and I see a sign that says Geronimo’s.

Ah, Geronimo’s. Tourists, expatriates, and Japanese all huddled into a tiny bar with one bathroom. I know I should have gone to a local bar with local people and tried to get some insight on Japanese culture. Instead, I’ve had a fish and chip dinner compliments of Americans and about to walk into a non-Japanese bar- full of Americans. Eh, the hell with it. I met a Saudi, a German, 2 Australian girls, a couple from Texas, and a group of Navy pilots (2 of them were from Texas too). 2 shots and 7 beers later, I had forgotten about my laptop, policeman yelling at me, my missed sumo match, and my face plant at Japanese club. Good times, good times.

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