We're in Tokyo and my Japan experience is now finally and utterly COMPLETE. I have now experienced a TOKYO EARTHQUAKE :) :) :) *
We were getting ready to leave our hotel this morning. It was about 10:15. I had just stood up from sitting on the edge of the bed, when I got dizzy and clutched the wall behind me. Randal was standing right next to me, and we looked at each other and I knew right away that I wasn't dizzy...we were having a 'quake, baby! Tokyo gets them all the time. Our hotel was well-built, however, so from our digs on the 10th floor, it was just a swaying, back-and-forth motion. But it went on forever ... about a minute (I timed it).
Checking the JMA, I see there was a REALLY BIG (over 6.0) quake northwest of here... I'll have to watch the news tonight. I hope it wasn't too bad. (I thought it was just a local Tokyo quake - they get those all the time.)
Anyway, so here I am, sitting in a fourth-floor Internet cafe looking down over one of the busy streets radiating out from Shinjuku Station. Today is a holiday in Japan, but the only way in which that is apparent here is that there are perhaps a few dozen less people on the street than there would be on a regular weekday. You know those shots you see on TV of Tokyo where there's just a sea of people crossing at the crosswalks and walking down the streets? Those are all shot in Shinjuku. It is the heart of the town. And for me, Shinjuku *is* Tokyo - it's the first part of Tokyo I saw when I came to Japan for the first time 3 years ago, and it's the first place we were sent when we arrived in Japan with JET last August.
We've had a few good days here. We arrived in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon, after taking a 1:25 shinkansen from Nagoya. When we got to the train boarding area, it was just after 1:00, and to our dismay, some of the earlier trains (eg., 12:47) were still being listed on the departures board with a message that they were delayed. You might remember that there were warnings of delays on the shinkansen on Saturday because of the typhoon. Well, luckily, our train only ended up being delayed about 5 or 10 minutes. I saw on the news that evening that there may have been others that were delayed a much longer period. (The news was in Japanese, so I didn't entirely understand, but that was my impression.)
Our first night, we were staying in a hotel in the Ginza area, which is one of the shopping areas par excellence. If you have the cash, that is. We were tired, and it was pouring rain, so we hung around our hotel room for a while, then headed out to search for some food. We found an out-of-the-way sushi place which was just awesome. It was a gorgeous place - a round sushi bar where the chefs prepared the fish right in front of you. I had a mixed plate of sushi and Randal ordered the chef's sashimi special. It was great!
The next day, it was still quite rainy, so we decided to go to the Tokyo National Museum, which was just incredible. As is our way, we spent way too long there, despite having promised each other that we would not exhaust ourselves and not attempt to read every single explanatory sign. The last part of the museum that we visited was a gallery of treasures from one of the major temples in Nara (where we visited a few weeks ago). One of the rooms in this gallery had a bunch of Kannon goddess statues - there were supposed to be 47, I think, but I counted 27 Kannons and 13 Buddhas, so who knows? Anyway, I will post pictures at some point - or, more likely, Randal will, as he has more pictures of the museum than me - I've made this a very low-photography day.
Last night, we went for dinner in our new area, Ochanomizu. A kind of nondescript area itself, but we stayed at the same hotel we stayed at the last time we were here, the Tokyo Green Hotel Ochanomizu, which we really like (but was full Saturday night). Ochanomizu is near the booksellers' area of Tokyo, which I think is called Nihonbashi (but I could be wrong), and for dinner we found another sushi place! We weren't planning on sushi twice in a row, but this was a kaitenzushi or revolving sushi restaurant, and it just looked so good. It was amazing. The chefs there were great, and we ordered some sushi specially for ourselves (in addition to taking some that was available on the revolving belt).
Today, after surviving the earthquake excitement, we went out to Roppongi and Roppongi Hills, which is a futuristic shopping/entertainment/offices/residences complex. It was only OK. Not our kind of shopping. So after an hour or so of aimless wandering, we hightailed it out to Shinjuku, and, as they say, the rest is history. We've been people-watching, and wandering from games arcade to games arcade, most of the afternoon. Not a bad way to spend a day in Tokyo...
* Elliott, eat your heart out.