Fake Ice, Narita And Shoes: My Weekend In Tokyo
December 21, 2009
I visited Tokyo this weekend. Since I’m an hour away from boarding time and I really want Subway before I get on the place, I’ll focus on a few highlights. Special thanks go to my friend and Tokyo-resident Eri who acted as my tour guide for the weekend.
– The last time (also, my first time) ice skating happened three years ago at Millennium Park in Chicago. I fell…a lot. I made my return to the ice this weekend…sort of. A big mall in Tokyo set up a small skating rink in the basement of their building, except this wasn’t just another frozen pond. This was an “ice skating rink without ice,” some sort of weird environmentally conscious deal for a very affordable rate. Neither Eri nor I could figure what the faux-ice was made out, but the experience was definitely different than your traditional skating experience. The room and the “ice” weren’t remotely cold, for one.
How did I fare on the phony ice? Pretty well…when we actually were skating. Unfortunately, most of our allotted 30 minutes were spent figuring out the proper size of ice skates I should wear. The original pair I chose ended up being too big (though they felt really small to me, but then again I try to avoid ice at all costs) so when I tried skating my left leg bended in a way I only thought Gumby could pull off. After trying to fix the problem by properly lacing the skates (big reveal – I don’t know how to lace up ice skates…thus by extension shoes. I seriously should not be teaching children anything), I went one size lower. My leg remained straight, and I finally got to flail around the rink like a duck for whatever time remained. On the plus side…I didn’t fall! Small victory.
– The Tokyo train system is terrifying. So many different lines.
– A few exciting culinary developments: I ate a lot of sushi for lunch Sunday, including various things I’d have left at the exotic pet store back in the day. Highlight: some sort of shellfish, various types of tune and, the pleasant culinary surprise of the year, sea urchin. It tasted really good, slightly sweeter than you would expect a freaking sea urchin to be.
Not every piece of sushi went down so easily though. I ate salmon roe, better summarized as “salmon eggs.” My big mistake was eating the entire thing in one bite – salmon roe boasts a texture best summed up as “swamp slime,” so having a lot of that at once nearly made me cry. Still, I ate it…that has to count for something.
– People in Tokyo stand on the opposite of side of the escalator than people in Osaka. This took some time to get used to.
– Another big difference between the two cities – the amount of Christians trying to convert the masses. I haven’t seen any of these people in Osaka, but you can’t escape them in Tokyo. They drive around in vans equipped with big speakers, so they can blast out their message (all in Japanese) to the masses. Sometimes two rival fire-and-brimstone speakers end up competing against one another to see who can out-annoy the masses.
– Ever wondered what the equivalent of those really boring cities surrounding O’Hare Airport are in Japan? It’s the city of Narita, home of Tokyo’s primary airport and not much else. They’ve got enough to keep you entertained – bars, McDonald’s, stores and shady-as-hell “gentlemen’s clubs” – but it seems like a really lame place to occupy for more than 24 hours. The big attraction is a mall that…wait for it…is very similar to Old Orchard: lots of hype, even more disappointment.
– Rap CDs in Japan are really, really cheap.
(Japanese Fun Fact #34: I don’t know if this happens at all hotels in Japan or just mine, but when you turn the TV off a small message pops up saying “please put out any naked flames.” Also, they keep a book about Buddhism next to the Bible.)