I’d booked a tour at the fish market for Monday morning since Lina is here and all. We show up at the tourist office at 9 am and our guide Toro sits us down to watch a video about the tuna fish auction which normally goes on at around 5 am. It’s quite interesting actually, the wholesalers each get one bid only and the only thing they have to go on is a flap cut at the tail of the tuna. It’s a huge gamble since the actual value of the tuna is mostly determined by the amount of toro it has – the fatty part of the belly that yields the very best sushi you can eat. But usually the amount of toro correlates with the size of the fish, so the largest ones fetch the highest prices. Today the highest price was 5500 jpy/kg, with a large tuna fish weighing around 200 kg!
At about 9:30 it’s time for the tour. I was getting a bit antsy since I knew that the market usually begins winding down after 9:30 so I was glad when we we finally on our way. But Toro has a slightly different plan and starts out by taking us to the vegetable market that is right next door. WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU, HOW CAN YOU THINK THAT WE WILL BE JUST AS INTERESTED IN TOMATOES AND FREAKING WASABI AS IN ALL THE AWESOME FISH?!!1 (needless to say this wasn’t the actual conversation we were having, being polite and cowardly Swedes we just made a fist in our pocket and quietly endured). Once in the actual fish market, Toro gives us a cursory tour and after less than 10 minutes he’s ready to leave. We talk him into staying a while longer but since it’s getting late they’re mostly packing up anyway. The rest of the tour is more regular market stuff; dried fish that looks like wood chips, huge lobsters, crabs and so on (obviously the salesmen are friends of his but we are unimpressed and don’t buy anything). The tour ends at a sushi restaurant where we’re served a set menu. It’s okay I guess, but I’ll take a Kaiten Sushi any day of the week.
As I get off work I meet up with Lina at Hamamatsucho station and we head for Tokyo Tower. The tower is really lovely at night and Lina is just smitten by it. We get tickets for the top platform which is 250 meters up and a really great view! Too bad the lighting is so harsh in there, making photographing hard with all the reflections.
Tuesday evening we dress up and go to Park Hyatt (The Lost in Translation hotel). We slowly sip on our excellent coctails as we stare at the fog outside. Tokyo is almost entirely covered from up here on the 52nd floor today, bad luck I guess. Wise from experience we leave just before seven, before the cover charge goes into effect.
Wednesday night we go out to the artificial island Odaiba and the giant ferris wheel. Lina is all over the place as we go around while I’m more stationary, concentrating on survival… The wheel is almost as big as the London Eye actually, so it’s one of the world’s largest. We also swing by my favorite thing, the Gundam Wing robot and watch it light up, blow smoke and do generally heroic stuff (mainly turning its head and blinking with the eyes). We also wander about to try and get a good nighttime view of the Tokyo skyline, but don’t do very well, there are surprisingly few good lookout spots on Odaiba.
Thursday we run around Shibuya with the famous scramble crossing and the plentiful Neon Signs. For some reason we end up at the really cool megastore Tokyo Hands that is 21 floors (if you count generously) of crafting supplies and a lot of other great stuff. Sadly I am unable to locate a Tonkatsu place to treat Lina to so we end up eating at a mediocre Korean Barbecue place.
I wave Lina off Friday morning and head to the office we’re treated to an afternoon earthquake. Just big enough that the screens are gently rocking (those are the best ones!). An After Work has been arranged at a place called Ghengis Khan. To me it seems like a regular Yakiniku place, but the difference is that they serve lamb instead of cow. Then apparently they don’t call it Yakiniku anymore (even though Yakiniku means exactly ‘grilled meat’), it’s called Ghengis Khan. If you ever find yourself in Japan, keep your eyes peeled, because it was delicious!
Since the week has been so hugely busy I spend Saturday just chilling in Harajuku, looking at people and working on my stitches. Come Sunday however, me, John and Henrik have decided to go see the last day of the Sumo tournament currently in town. So had a lot of other people though and as we wait in the long line for cancellations we in the end find ourselves without tickets. While in line we stumble on this aquiantance of Henrik’s named Henry, he’s a British guy who speaks a spot of Japanese and we decide to team up and go see if the festival currently in Asakusa is any good.
First order of business though is to get some breakfast. After asking an elderly Japanese couple they lead us several blocks (they are nothing if not courteous the Japanese) to a very Japanese breakfast establishment. This means that you select the breakfast you want from a vending machine, get a note which you give to a waitress and then sit down and wait. The breakfast is the usual; rice, raw egg, natto, soy sauce, fish and pickled greens. Not really a fan, but it fills you up I guess.
The festival seems to be mostly pantless men carrying around shrines on their shoulders while chanting. Not terribly interesting really so we decide to go check out another festival Henry says is happening in Hibya park. It turns out to be an Oktoberfest, in Tokyo, in May… We are met by a conga line of very enthusiastic Japanese, cheered on by an equally enthusiastic German guy up on a stage. The beer and snacks are customarily expensive and we settle in pretty fast. We are joined by Henry’s friend Ian and we have a rather good time hanging out with the Japanese who dare strike up conversation with us. As the night draws on Henrik and John drops off, leaving only me, Henry and Ian to take part in the late night Chicken Dance that signals the end of the festival. The Japanese are of course loving it, and with that kind of mood in the air it’s hard not to get caught up! Since it isn’t super late, Ian suggests we move on to Roppongi to go to a salsa club. I’m not really up for it but decide to tag along anyway and I’m glad I did!
We criss-cross between very insistent barkers and finally find the club in a back alley. Its 2000 jpy cover charge is a bit steep for the measly hour we planned spending there though, so Henry, being half Mexican, breaks out his best Spanish in an effort to get us in for free. That dog won’t hunt though and we need a new plan. Luckily Ian knows yet another place, maybe not as fancy, but it has a nice vibe to it. Plus, the cover charge is only to have a drink from the bar! Now I don’t really know any salsa, save from what I’ve gleaned off my friend Niclas, but just studying the people on the dance floor and just going with the flow actually gets me pretty far. I end up having a great time even though I didn’t even feel like tagging along! A very fitting end to a really eventful week!