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I didn’t know much about Japan when I decided to go there. All I knew was sushi, sumo wrestling, and well, not much else. I did know that it was pretty weird though. At least that was the rumor. It was confirmed the first two days when I caught myself repeating “today is weird.”
I did that multiple times. Both days. It really was weird. First things first, sushi. I had never had sushi.
That’s what everyone said when I told them. And then they probably told me I had to try it and its soooo good.
The first thing I did, besides nap, was get sushi. We knew where we wanted to go, but how to get there was beyond me. I got lost in Japan a lot. And thank goodness I had a 3 day subway pass because I went through the wrong train things a lot. And I mean a lot.
After eventually making it to Shibuya we had to find the restaurant. Well, first we had to get out of the subway station. We picked an exit and hoped for the best, which ended up wrong. Thankfully everyone is helpful and we got directions that we sort of understood. We understood which direction we needed to go.
From there we had to ask again and we still almost missed it. Tucked in a little side street right by a Taco Bell was Uobei. The sushi express train. That’s what I call it at least.
You chose what you wanted on the little menu, choosing up to three things at a time. Put your order in and wait. Before you know it your little plate of sushi or gizzard shad will zip out to you on one of three levels. Simply take your plate and push the button to send the tray back to the kitchen.
And fear not, if you accidentally send your food back it will happily return a few minutes later.
All I knew about Shibuya was that it happened to be the home of the busiest street crossing in the world. Everyone crosses all directions at once and now I call it the Shibuya people scramble.
I preferred watching it from the second floor of Starbucks over actually walking through it. It was cooler to see it all from above, then you really got to see how busy it was.
Oh, and we saw a Mario Kart tour. Whaaaaat? Yeah. People driving go karts through the city dressed as Mario characters. That was my first taste of the beautiful weirdness that is Japan.
Then there was Akihabara. This is the anime, technology, maid cafe capital. If you like any of those things, this is the place for you. There are also a few animal cafes here, if that’s your thing.
And of course, the sumo wrestling. Ryogoku is the home of most of the sumo stables where if you wake up early enough and don’t get lost every time you try and find anything, you can watch a sumo practice. Since we were terrible at getting up early and got lost all the time, we decided to just go to the sumo museum and luck was on our side again, we saw some guys leaving practice and stopped them for pictures.
Were not sure if it was the polite thing to do because they didn’t speak English and we don’t speak Japanese, but we managed to convey the message and it all worked out.
And then Ueno. This was the most baffling. Ueno park was the goal. Pachinko was what happened. Or tried to happen. Let me start at the beginning here.
Like usual, we didn’t know which exit to take to get to the park so we picked one and hoped for the best. Instead of a park it looked more like a market. Cool. It was cold and rainy, like usual. We saw a store that same games and videos. Sounds innocent, right? Wrong.
It looked fine when we walked in and then I turned the corner and realized we were actually in a store full of porn. Spoiler alert: it was weird.
And last of all, on that weird day, we decided to visit a pachinko parlor. They were all always blasting music and so bright we had to try it at least once. The key word here is try. We both sat down at machines and pushed a button where they immediately started blaring even louder music at us. Good start.
I mentioned earlier that we don’t speak Japanese so we had no idea what to do. We pushed more buttons and the screen changed, but nothing really happened and it sounded like we had to put in a lot more yen than we wanted to lose on the first try. Overall it was weirdly fun even if we didn’t have a clue what was happening. I would highly recommend a visit to Tokyo.
An honorary mention (or two) here, would be the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku and the Hospital Prison themed restaurant. Please go to both of those for me and report back.
Have you been to Japan? Do you think it’s weird? Did you like it? Did you see sumo wrestling? Do you know how to play Pachinko? If so, how?
Also, if you know what Gizzard Shad is, I would love for you to share that.