Yesterday we went to the Shibuya section of Tokyo, akin to Times Square in New York I’m told.
Our main reason for going – aside from seeing Tokyo – was what else? – coffee.
We took our bikes for the first time and rode to the train station, about 15 minutes. For ¥100, they’ll lock your bike up in a lot for safe keeping.
I had a very hard time communicating with the man running the bike lot. An older Japanese man, he didn’t speak a lick of English. As I stared at him talking and pointing to the bike I desperately wished I studied more before we came (I’ve make a conscious effort to learn katakana, the Japanese alphabet for foreign words). Turns out he was trying to tell us to leave the keys in our bikes, walk them over, and lock them. Who knew that could be such a difficult thing to grasp.
The train, of course, is beautiful. There are helpful signs with times and schedules and maps, and, the best part, a heated waiting room with seats. We would’ve made a video but there was a woman napping in there.
The ride itself takes about an hour and 20 minutes. Sadly, that’s about the same amount of time as the train, ferry, and subway at home to get to Manhattan. I saw my first sort-of ridiculous girl on the train. She had long “blonde” hair, giant sunglasses, and was wearing a black hoodie with a gigantic gold cross as the zipper, a puffy fur jacket, denim shorts, and black boots with fuzzy black legwarmers.
After locating the “you are here” arrow on a map, we head out to No. 8 to get some much-needed coffee. Mike will be sure to write a lengthy review, but to suffice it to say that the coffee was great and the staff, like most coffee people, were nice, helpful, and totally awesome.
At the suggestion of No. 8’s coffee enthusiast cashier we headed to Tokyu Hands, a large Japanese department store. I was thrilled because I thought we’d find postcards there, but I still haven’t found anything that tickles my fancy yet. I did buy a cute little tomato timer, though.
We also saw an enormous Tower Records which, when we were heading back to Shibuya station around 7:30 to go home, had an expansive line of people waiting for …something. Judging from the amount of women waiting on line and the girls I saw giggling and making a glittery sign, I’m going to guess it was a (boy) band.
I feel like Jack in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m surprised and in wonder of nearly everything. Here are a few more of the interesting things we saw along the way:
I felt like I was going to die of hunger at this point, so we stopped to eat at a Korean place. My good friend Klarika studied in Korea for several months at the beginning of the year and I, much like you, would sit at home and read about all the interesting places she was going and things she was eating. One of them was bibimbap – a Korean dish FILLED with lots of delicious things.
We ordered one along with a stewed beef, potato, and carrot dish (essentially Korean pot roast) that came with a heap of steamed rice and a delicious salad of thinly-sliced cabbage with Caesar dressing. My dish (the beef) was tender and delicately flavored with spices, but also a bit sweet. The salad was amazingly refreshing, and you can’t go wrong with steamed rice.
Bibimbap is like an organized explosion of flavors in your mouth. At the bottom was some kind of spiced mixture, on top of that was a generous serving of rice, topped with onions, peppers, bean sprouts, some whitish vegetable that tasted like vinegar, slices of what I think was romaine lettuce, and a sunnyside up egg to top it all off.
It also came with a small bowl of seaweed soup which I thought went IN the bibimbap. Very wrong. When Mike asked the chef/bus boy he gasped and ran to get utensils. The woman who seated us came over with two very large spoons and mixed up the bowl for us. Thank goodness Japanese people are so nice and helpful.
Speaking of which, we encountered some English-speaking Japanese today. I never thought I’d be so relieved to speak English. The first was the cashier at No. 8 who we promptly questioned for 10 minutes. She was a sweetheart and very helpful. The other was the hostess at the Korean restaurant. It may not seem like much, but simply saying, “we’re done, thank you” is a lot easier than spastically trying to motion that you don’t want to eat anymore and would like to pay. It doesn’t happen often; at most Japanese restaurants you pay at a cashier at the front, not unlike the Dakota Diner at home.
We also did a bit of record shopping and walked around Shibuya:
Right before we went into the namco arcade I saw a sex shop, gasped, and said, “Oh my GOD” to Mike because of the amount of blow-up dolls they had outside. Only there was a man walking in right as I did that. He heard me. I don’t know if he understood what I said, but he definitely thought I was talking about him because he stopped dead in his tracks and stared at me. I stared back and felt terrible.
We eventually decided to head back to our starting point to buy coffee beans (or “beens” as Mike’s receipt says). As a New Yorker, I like to think I can handle crowds and commotion well. Let me tell you, there is nothing like a Japanese subway station around rush hour. There was an endless flow of people coming to and fro buses and subways that, for the first time in my LIFE, I held on to Mike’s arm so I wouldn’t get lost in a city. Not a proud moment for me.
After trying and failing to purchase a train ticket (we’re starting to get the hang of the ticket machines), we decide that taking a train with all those people is too much. At rush hour they actually shove people into the trains. You’re quite literally packed in.
We walked back to No. 8 to get some coffee beans and decided to get dessert: a chocolate bomb and a chocolate shake.
Read Mike’s account & see some new photos on his blog.