This is post #10 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip: Saturday, November 11, 2017.
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Yes, it’s now that time in every tourist’s life when they have to do their laundry, if they are not lucky enough to have multiple suitcases or an expense-account travel budget. We locate one south of our hotel, and head back towards Tsukiji, where the fish market is located (but not that far).
When we arrive, about mid-morning, nearly all the washers are being used. Dave starts to analyze whether we should use the combo washer-dryer or just the regular washer, then regular dryer, but someone comes in and we hurry and claim two machines and start throwing our clothes in. I’ve never seen red appliances in a laundromat before, but hey–this is Japan. I laugh when the Dave opens the door to the washer dryer and it greets us: a little voice saying something, maybe Welcome? We hope soap is included, and by using Google Translate, it appears to be.
Doing laundry in a foreign place gives us a chance to meet others. We meet a black guy who runs a soul food resturant, where “mac and cheese fly out the door.” A young couple with their baby are on holiday from Taiwan and of course, speak perfect English.
In spite of the fact that the dryer heat didn’t work on one unit, we finish up and head over the temple we’d glimpsed on the way in, hoping for a stamp for our book. Only do-it-yourself stamping here, and it really looks more like a convention hall inside. We drop off the laundry, hanging up the damp clothing then head out again, making a beeline for Itoya’s annex as it’s our last day in Tokyo.
We start at the top of Itoya and make our way down the six floors, buying some bird letter openers on our way.
Back out on Chur-dori street, there is a strange sound: no traffic. They close the main Ginza drag on weekend. It would be fun just to walk around, but we are headed to the glass building, shaped like an oblong that I glimpsed from the Tokyo Main Station.
Lo, and behold! A Shake Shack, but since we will get a sushi meal together later on, we pass.
Walking in puts you at about the second level of this building. We buy our entrance passes, take the escalator down to the lowest level, then catch the elevator up to the very top of the oval glass-atrium.
We spend some time looking around at the top, with a view overlooking at the trains gliding in and out of the Tokyo Main Train Station. This is an amazing building. In the outside courtyard below, we see the canopies of the trees turning red and gold. It’s been so warm here, that the fall colors haven’t emerged.
We walk along one side of the oval to the glass catwalk, then across this bridge to the other side, dropping us down one level. Through a series of catwalks, we slowly return to ground level, leaving out the opposite side of the building.
We head toward the main train station.
The main Tokyo train station, from the outside, is a brick colonial-looking building, and it’s obviously been refreshed recently. Dave was interested in the interior, in the cupolas, and took several photos of them, getting them just perfect. It’s interesting how the first time through here I was so disoriented and turned around and confused, but now I knew to head to the tunnel under construction, walk for several minutes to end up in the food section.
We were heading to have sushi, one of the food items on my list left to try in Tokyo. Dave had already had sushi, but now it was our turn together. We were shown a place to sit at the bar. I don’t know why I always feel in such a hurry (maybe a strange place?), but we just sort of picked the special from the main menu, a fixed array. We sat at the sushi bar, took the requisite photos, then the food started to arrive.
The first was some edamame, and a great little salad with shredded cabbage, lettuce, some thinly sliced radish, seaweed and bits of octopus, but I’ve learned not to be afraid of that food item here in Japan.
Then the main dish: sushi. I looked it over and decided to go with the most disgusting looking stuff first—one of the pieces had what looked like little eyeballs peering at me, but Dave said later that that was their antenna.
Okay, I feel so much better now. The other pieces were good, but I was working so hard on not being freaked out by eating eyeball sushi, that I’m not sure I really enjoyed them. I also realized I’m more of a “roll” type sushi eater, which my brother Andy says is more of a California approach to sushi. So be it.
We went there because of online recommendations but as we turned the corner we saw the conveyer belt sushi place, and wow—do I wish we’d eaten there instead. Next trip.
I take Dave around and show him the Character Street underneath Tokyo station; he’s not that impressed, but he did agree to take a photo of me at the Totoro shop. We saw a vending machine for a kitty hat (for a cat) along the way. They do have a thing for cats.
We decided to head to up to Akihabara Station to see the neon lights of the electronics section of Japan — aka Electric Town. We’ve tried to hit all the major sections of Japan, and this one is our last. At one subway station, we changed lines, and it was time for a bathroom break. As I waited in line, I could hear lots of waterfall sounds, but it wasn’t until I got in there that I realized that it was all the toilets making the water sound. I guess they want you to do your business quickly, so they help you out. (I’d also heard that at the Bamboo Shrine.) When many of the Japanese woman would get to the mirror to wash their hands, they would dip their fingers in the water and groom their hair.
We change train lines and head towards Yodobashi Department Store—nine floors of fun. I still have some hopes to find Molly Qee toys—almost unavailable in the U.S. and maybe here? We walk around and under and around to get to the Yodobashi-Akiba department store, walk in the door and feel assaulted. We pick a floor at random, wait interminably long for the elevator (typical) but we didn’t find the escalator until later. We end up on the toy floor, trying to grab onto something that will anchor us here, but it’s all so overwhelming, and we see several children, sitting on the floor, crying; we feel about the same way.
Finally we find the Star Wars figures—some about three feet high. We pose, and then find the silliness of the electronic marching figurines. Turns out to be a real hit with my Instagram followers, with many funny comments.
Overwhelmed, we head downstairs, and leave out the side door, find a teeny café and pause for an orange juice and a bun or two. We watch some live “performance” of store employees grabbing walkersby, and getting them to play along, perhaps a form of engaging the customers. Some of the employees are in Santa Claus get-ups, and everyone once in a while, they all cheer and people laugh, then they have a winner, and then it starts all over again. We watch slightly dazed from our place in the corner, then when we finish, we walk past them on onto the streets.
We begin to see “maids” or girls dressed up as little French maids, human billboards for the Maid Cafes. I’d read about them—it’s basically an okay meal, a little floor show, all done by these girls. Not on our agenda. (And the young women HATE being photographed.)
Electric Town is overwhelming, with lots of people, lots of lights, huge buildings. I wonder if I could find a Molly Qee blindbox toy, and we ask, trying to find out way there by kind people who give us strange directions in a heavily accented English, while we don’t speak their language. We wander around, find the shop—no, no Molly Qees, and then decide to head back to the Ginza area.
Ahhh—back to familiar ground, as we enjoy the lights and sounds and crowds of the Ginza.
Unbelievably, we hit Itoya once again—our final time.
We then head to that same place we started at: Tendon Tenya, where I had the bowl again, Dave had tempura, rice and miso soup.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this place. Especially since we are headed to Korea tomorrow, I still am photographing small details as we walk home: gutter grates, manhole covers, whatever. All the details are fascinating.
We walk across the street to our hotel, as we need to pack. From Tokyo, we head to Korea, and I find I am throwing a lot in the Blythe bag, hoping it will be okay as a carry-on. We’ll find out tomorrow!