Monday, May 22, 2023

3 Days In Tokyo

I'm sitting in the airport waiting to board our ANA flight to Singapore and I might as well sum up our time in Tokyo. 

We were here just over 5 years ago so we didn't feel like absolute newbies. We also didn't try to replicate that earlier trip, except for getting very confused in the subway system. We were just getting used to it by the time we left for Haneda Airport a couple of hours ago. 

Our ride in on arrival was our first epic so we ended up in a taxi for the last portion. Being tired from the flight made us cranky and impatient. So, it cost us. 

Anyway, our hotel was a good clean modern one and fairly well situated. It was just steps away from a metro station, Higashi-Sinjuku, and on several useful bus routes. The area has lots of Korean restaurants which suited us just fine. 

Our typical travel day usually involves waking early and wandering for breakfast. Some shopping and sightseeing follows, plus more food, relaxing in a park or exploring a shrine. Later more food and with luck some music. Change the order a bit from day to day...

We checked out a couple of huge Daiso stores which have incredible deals with everything at 100 yen (about $1), plus a 7 story warren of consumerism called El Quijote. It has everything you need and most things you don't and is a riot of colours and sound (practically everything in Tokyo yells at you). Tower Records was on the list plus UniGlo. UniGlo in Vancouver (actually Burnaby) supplies me with some of my favourite graphic t-shirts and the home country stores are no different. 

On Sunday we went to a large park hoping for a bit of peace and quiet, but so did half of the citizens of Tokyo. It was still nice to get off the pavement for a while but we ended up in an absolute crush of people leaving the park at the same time as us. It actually took us about 20 minutes to travel one block!

We found a much more relaxed park in the form of the Meiji Jingu Shrine the next day. It was cool(ish) and a nice change of pace from the bustling city.

Conveyor belt sushi was fun and pretty affordable so we did it twice. 

Jazz was also cool, as jazz is of course. 

We found 2 interesting venues for music. The Japanese love their jazz and do it well. The first we went to on a Sunday night with a show at 6pm. It was tiny and in a basement and quite far away from downtown in Edoka. There are only 6 tables and a few stools at a counter. When we were there there were only about 10 other people. Snacks provided in the form of mason jars of peanuts, banana chips etc. The cover charge includes one drink but it looks like the regulars tend to buy a bottle and keep it behind the counter.

The band was a young trio of trumpet, bass and piano and they were good, with mostly original material.

Getting there was pretty easy but going home not so much. We screwed up by taking express trains that didn't stop at our station so we went went right through it...twice! We eventually got home though.

Monday we also went out for jazz but this time it was a matinee show at a larger venue right in the core of Shinjuku, the Pit Inn

Larger means about 100 seats in theater arrangement and entry also includes a beverage. This time it was a quartet of saxophone, piano, bass and drums and they were a bit more experimental and louder than the other group.  Both this band and the other were fronted by women. 

I'd recommend both venues unreservedly. 

By the end of the 3 days we were starting to get the transit system worked out, including the buses which we found convenient as we had useful routes going right past our hotel. The payment card named Suica was handy for this and it is accepted in a lot of stores too, sort of like a rechargeable gift card. 

A few hours after our show at the Pit we were off to the Haneda airport. Best part there is the outdoor observation deck. Food service sucked. Only a few places were open and they had massive lineups and even the vending machines were terrible. In the land of "you can get anything in a vending machine" it was pretty disappointing.

That pretty much sums up the Tokyo portion. Obviously we did more than this but I have to wrap up somewhere. 

Next stop: Singapore 

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