Started off our post-birthday day with Starbucks at the Mini Shinjuku again. This time I got a creme brulee frappucino. Just keeping it real. We followed that up with lunch at a ramen stop just down the street from our hotel, where we had to order via a ticket-dispensing vending machine. I guess this is pretty standard ramen protocol although we had thus far avoided having to use them. The ramen was good. Very good.
The Sony building was a little disappointing. It’s several stories full of yet-to-be-released gear, which sounds great on paper, but there wasn’t anything ground breaking or super futuristic – it’s hard to get excited about a new digital camera model or overproduced Playstation game. They had 3D tvs that you could test out but I thought they sucked pretty hard. You had to wear 3D glasses (I already have glasses…) which were surprisingly heavy on my face. There is no way I’d want to wear them consistently. Besides, I already have enough trouble finding the remote! The picture isn’t even really 3D at all. Instead of ‘continuous’ 3D like in the real world, where you can tell the relative depth of any object, 3D tv only has a few levels of depth. There are the main actors in the foreground 3D level, crowd scenes a level behind, and the background behind that. Just three planes of 3D. Lame.
The nice part of visiting Ginza on the weekend is that they shut down some of the streets to pedestrian traffic only. And the area is ‘nice’ in a Santa Monica/Beverly Hills sort of way – not necessarily my cup of tea but fun to look at and pleasant for a while.
We were approached by a group who wanted to take pictures of us hugging for a website called – wait for it – hugs-wave.com. Hilarious. A dude took like 12 shots of us hugging rapid fire. They gave us our card and we were pretty excited to see shots of us hugging. However I’m sad to say that it’s been a whole year and Hugs Wave Vol. 2 never made it to the web.
Then we took a train to Koenji, in the western suburbs of Shinjuku. We had no idea where to go or what to do, we just knew it was supposed to have more of a traditional small town vibe… relatively speaking of course, since we were still firmly within the Tokyo metropolis.
We found a small pedestrian street lined with shops and sauntered down. At the end of that street was another shopping area, and at the end of that one was another… and then another. And then we were in the midst of a huge outdoor mall with loads of shops and restaurants and people milling about. So this was Koenji! It really did feel completely different than most of Tokyo – it was like a world removed. But still really cool. We found two ‘Mexican’ restaurants that featured… interesting tacos, to say the least.
We passed on those and ate kaiten-zushi, aka conveyor belt sushi. We had a ton of fish and when they tallied up our plates I was stunned to see the bill come up to only 850 yen! I totally did a double take when I saw that. The whole meal was around $10, incredibly cheap for Japan!
We walked around some more and saw a curious sign advertising some sort of music store. It was in the basement of a small shopping complex so we walked down the stairs to find out it was a band rehearsal space. There was a desk at the bottom of the stairs so we awkwardly said hi to the employee, stood there for a few seconds saying ‘gee… so it’s a rehearsal space, cool’, then left.
We crisscrossed through some tiny alleys and found a bar with loud, entertaining waiters. They were yelling at us to try to get us to come in… well not really ‘in’ since it was open to the alley. It worked. The place was packed and there was no English but all Japanese people seem to understand ‘Yebisu BLACK!’ and we actually used our guidebook to translate the romanji menu to words we could understand. I don’t really remember what we ordered aside from the alcohol and some yakitori, but I know we had yet another great time, pretty much the norm for Japan.
We spent some time playing the awesome taiko drum banging video game which we had been playing at every possible opportunity – and we got our highest scores yet. Great fun. Koenji is pretty awesome and felt a little bit like home – aka a bit of a hipster paradise.
We finished the night by stopping at a McDonald’s for soft cream sundaes before catching the train back to Shinjuku. It felt like three AM but it was only 11, yet some of the McDonalds customers were passed out in their seats with cell phones and cigarettes still in their hands.
It was a great last night for Jacquie. Yep, unfortunately the next day she was leaving for LA while I was staying in Asia for two more months. I was regretting that plan more and more as the time for her to leave grew near.