Yesterday was our first full day in Japan. I woke up at 4am in our tiny but stylish hotel room after getting only 3 hours of sleep to recover for our over 24 hours of travel. Jet lag hit me harder than expected.
When the rest of our party finally woke up from their full nights sleep we headed out to explore.
We ate at Tempura Tsunahachi for lunch. We sat at the small counter and watched the preparation, with small bites from our set course of fried fish and vegetables arriving as they were ready. The prawns were served in two pieces, one being the body and tail and the other being their fried cluster of legs. The prawn legs were crunchy and surprisingly delicious. We were informed of the proper way to eat tempura before we began. A young Japanese man next to us did not eat correctly and the elderly cook in front of us got flustered and took his plate away. We all did fine, though.
Afterwards, we headed to a huge department store and went to the basement floor. The basement floors of Japanese department stores are basically giant food markets with many vendors selling their pastries, sushi, candy, and pretty much any other kind of treat you can imagine. It was overwhelming and everything looked amazing. You could go there to eat every day and never run out of new things to try. The fact that we had just eaten mixed with the massive crowd kept us from getting much beside a few sweets, which we took to the Shinjuku Gyoen Garden to eat.
After eating too many sweets in the park we headed back to town to check out the Samurai museum. A small but very nice museum that displays authentic samurai armor and weaponry. When we arrive we were told a show was about to begin. We took off our shoes and sat on our front row floor mats to witness a samurai sword fighting display.
We were then guided through the museum and were allowed to try on some replica armor.
We had some time to kill so we decided to pop into an arcade. It was 5 stories tall. The top floor was full of the most amazing photo booths you'll ever see.
Then it was back out into the city for dinner.
Our first choice for dinner was full so we ducked into a busy izakaya, or Japanese pub, to drink and eat small plates of pickled mackerel, fried tofu, yakisoba, tonkatsu, and more. After a while we went next door to Teppan Baby for some Okanomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake.
Once well fed we decided some serious drinking was in order so we headed to Golden Gai. This is a cluster of small alleyways that are packed with tiny bars that sometimes seat only three or four people.
There are over 100 bars in this area and finding one that could seat 4 was hard. Luckily, up some steep stairs in a stairwell so small I had to turn sideways to avoid being stuck, we found a whiskey bar that seated 7. It was us plus two Japanese women and a Japanese man. We ordered our whiskey and chatted with the bartender who spoke good English. This was my best opportunity to practice my Japanese as well and I was pretty successful. Eventually, with the help of our bartender, we were talking with the other patrons and having a great time. After a few rounds, one of the women help up some slips of paper she had been drawing on.
Turns out she was a Manga artist. We all chatted for a bit more but then it was time to move on.
We then stopped in at Godz, a heavy metal bar. At this point it was pretty clear that the night was coming to an end though, so after one drink we headed back to the hotel. I expected to finally get a full nights sleep, but I started writing this post at 6am...
So that's it for this first update. We have a bunch more pictures not shown here. And this was only ONE DAY!