Tokyo gave me my first impression of Japan, and what an impression it made! When I arrived in Tokyo, I went east to Chiba, an area outside Tokyo where I met up with a guy from Dothan, AL and some of his friends. I stayed with them for a few days. One day in Chiba I walked inside a supermarket, and was simply amazed at the extensive varieties of cold coffees, packaged in cartons and cans and displayed just down from the milk. Supermarkets in any country grab my attention! I love to eat and consume anything that's yummy. That, being from a small town and possibly having some OCD or ADD, can all make a supermarket a source of incredible fascination. And, I must say, when it comes to products and food items, from the packaging to the contents, the Japanese do it quite well! Here's a cool video of the inside of Japanese supermarket. Look familiar?
Tom (the guy from Dothan) and his friends me into Tokyo, where I got a soft introduction to the mammoth city, if doing anything softly in that city is possible. I got my first authentic Japanese meal, gyoza. Of course, I was intrigued by the whole experience - the food, the fact my friends had to use Japanese and the fact we the only Westerners in the restaurant. On another occasion, the guys took me one evening to a very fashionable, neon-lit area of Tokyo for dinner. I believe we ate Italian!
As luck would have it, I had a relative in Tokyo - one I didn't even know! Should have known her. Turns out our family is a pretty close one, genetically anyway. I was certainly thrilled to know that my cousin Carol and her family, who had once lived in Malaysia and Thailand, were now residing in Tokyo. I met Carol the first time at a yakitori restaurant in Tokyo. Is it just the high from traveling, or was that not the most delicious grilled chicken I'd ever eaten? And we do chicken very well in the US!!! I ended up staying with Carol's family for a couple of weeks, using their home as a base to explore other parts of the city and country.
The family is all back in the USA now. Carol is on the right. She and I stay connected to this day. Lindsay, behind her, actually lives just 15 minutes down the road from me! And, Lindsay's husband and my brother work together at the Inn on Biltmore!
I went to one of the observation towers in Tokyo. The view was mind-boggling, but what was even more interesting were the photos of a fire-bombed Tokyo, smoldering towards the end of WWII. So, as you stood on this upper floor, you could view photo of a region of the devastated city 55 years ago (then) and then immediately look out the window and see how spectacularly rebuilt it was. And you could follow this around, 360 degrees, and see every section of Tokyo the same way.
This is the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world. I believe 2 million cross here every day. Several times I went to the Starbucks overlooking this intersection. I ordered my coffee, maybe a muffin and then sat at the counter with an unobstructed view of the mass of people walking back and forth. I was bedazzled! Click here for a view inside the Starbucks. Around the corner from the Starbucks was a Tower Records. They had a great selection of music, of course, and their books (an extensive English section) were phenomenal. It was also a place for people-watching! The thing that stands out about Tower Records is that I got on crowded elevator once - and you know how high-tech the Japanese are. There was a camera up above, in the back, looking down on the tops and backs of our heads. And then there was this monitor where you could view the scene. As we were ascending, I looked up and saw a growing bald spot, right on my crown. I was 29, and expecting it to come at some point, but to see it, in all its glory, made me feek a bit self-conscious. My face got red and body grew warm! Only four months later, in Malaysia, would I experiment with head-shaving for the very first time!
In time I will come back and add some more stories, and even pictures, to this post. There were three or four Japanese ladies I hung out with at different times - seeing a movie, grabbing a coffee, going to a club, having dinner, etc. So, as a traveler, I was getting a taste of the "wares" that are available, especially to young, single men. I would also say 'white' as well. On down the road, I may blog some about these experiences, and share some things I learned about the expat/traveler dating lifestyle.
I do want to add here that one of the purchases I made in a gigantic electronics market in Tokyo is a micro-cassette recorder, which I have to this day. I got it so I could record my daily thoughts as I traveled for whatever time I was going to travel. Turned out to be six months. I have 15 tapes of recordings! One day, when I die, someone is likely going to have a good time listening to them!