The Land of the Rising Sun

On our first morning in Tokyo, we woke up, grabbed breakfast at an Indian restaurant, and headed straight to the center of the city where the Imperial Palace is located. We wanted to see the palace but started out in the gardens. It was amazing to see such a beautiful park in the middle of a bustling city! It definitely reminded me of Central Park in NYC.

During our walk there, Joe received a phone call from his friend. It was pretty funny to hear him say “Hey man! I’m good, just walking down the street in Tokyo…. no… really!” It reminded me that I was so incredibly lucky to be traveling halfway around the world!

We wandered around the garden and watched everyone gawk at the cherry blossom trees. After snapping a few photos, we were ready to go, but couldn’t find the exit! We trekked all over the perimeter of the park and couldn’t figure out how to leave. It was frustrating but hilarious at the same time. During our journey we saw a giant group of 100-200 elderly Japanese people dressed in all white who appeared to be trimming the grass by hand. We assumed it was some sort of botany volunteer class and it was very interesting to watch!

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We followed the map to the Imperial Palace, but all of the entrances were blocked. I speculated that perhaps the grounds were private, but we weren’t sure. After an hour of walking through cherry blossom lined streets with the crowds, we gave up. We ended up making our way to the Tokyo Skytree to purchase tickets. I had heard that there was a long wait and you typically were given a ticket for several hours later. To our surprise, we were allowed to enter immediately! I’ll never understand the price of these tourist traps. When I went to Dubai, we had to pay $80 to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa and the Tokyo Skytree cost $25! Just for an elevator ride and a view! It’s crazy…. but what’s crazier is the sprawl of Tokyo!

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After the Skytree, we spent a little bit of time shopping in the city center complex. We each bought a couple postcards and wrote them while sipping on matcha green tea lattes. I also purchased lemon milk! It was absolutely delicious – maybe the best milk I’ve ever had! During my trip, I made an effort to try every weird flavor of milk I could find.

After shopping, we made our way across town back to the hostel for some down time before dinner. We also had to charge our phones! After we had an hour of relaxing, we headed across town again to Roppongi where Joe had heard of a secluded sushi restaurant and a secret rooftop bar. This was the point in the trip where it felt like ALL we did was sit on the metro. Each trip took around 30 minutes due to the sheer vastness of the city. Plus, each station had massive crowds, loud turnstiles, and 3-4 flights of stairs that you had to descend and ascend each time. Getting to the train was major work and it was becoming exhausting! I snapped this photo of our reflection on the subway because I thought it captured our weariness perfectly. It also shows the surgical masks most people in Tokyo wore!

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We made it to the Roppongi metro stop and Joe led us to the address on his phone. I was definitely skeptical. We were walking down residential back alleys through peoples yards! But sure enough… there it was. This was certainly hidden and NOT a tourist trap!

We walked into Macchan and we were the only foreigners there. We were given a table and it became clear this would be another difficult encounter due to the language barrier. As this would be our first Japanese sushi experience, we each ordered a small platter so we could get a sampling. It was only $25 per person which was a great deal for the amount of sushi!

The waiter seemed to understand our order and quickly brought our drinks. After 10 minutes, he brought out a platter and set it in front of me. Then… we waited. Another 10 minutes passed and it became clear that the second platter was lost in translation. However, unlike America, waiters don’t check on you periodically. You have to press a button on your table that sets off an alarm and alerts them. We pressed it, explained that we were missing a plate, and waited another 10 minutes for Joe’s. In the end, it was frustrating but totally worth it!

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The shrimp were SO tender – they melted in my mouth. I thought it was interesting that the table had soy sauce on it, but no wasabi. However, when I took a bite, I distinctly tasted wasabi. I thought maybe they infused the soy sauce with it. Joe quickly realized that they put the wasabi INSIDE the sushi! Crazy. This seemed brilliant until I took one bite that had so much wasabi, my eyes watered. Definitely no quality control! My favorite part of the platter were the two yellow squares. They tasted like egg but had the consistency of tofu. I wish I knew what they were!

We headed down the street to Roku Nana for drinks. It was still in a slightly residential area, so we had to walk up 4 flights of stairs in an apartment building before we reached the bar at the top. We were seated on the roof next to a group of Japanese business men and a couple on a date. It definitely felt authentic and the decor was amazing! The tables were translucent cubes with bright chandeliers inside.

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We were pretty exhausted after another day of walking 10-12 miles, so we headed back to the hostel and went to sleep around 2am. The only downside of being in a hostel is having to be quiet while getting ready for bed! My locker squeaked so much and I felt bad opening my plastic bags of toiletries. I wrote my nightly Facebook status from my capsule and quickly fell asleep with big plans to go to the Tsujiki fish market in the morning!

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