I'm at home! More Japan pics! No such thing as too many.
Saturday was a great day. We started at Ueno Park, it's probably the biggest for hanami parties and it's where they keep the panda, too. (In the zoo, though).
We were there early, but not as early as some, who were saving spots for the afternoon (or late-morning) drinking and eating...
Love the sake bottles and the lack of worry that someone might steal them...
Normally you separate your trash at home as burnable and non-burnables, but there is some serious segregation going on here:
The happy orange juice both scares and amuses me.
We hit a really decent 100 yen store (they're so hit or miss) and got lots of trinkets and souvenirs for back home. Then we walked through the shopping arcade of Ueno, which lines the train tracks and took us to Akihabara, which is more Alex's side of town. It used to be electric town (and still is) but since Shinjuku and Shibuya are so competitive it's now also the place to go for manga. I would have been clueless, so I didn't try!
But in Ueno I did buy two pairs of very bitchin' shoes--one pair is red velvet and the other is black and white and hard to describe but they have a nice 40s vibe. I'll take pics one of these days.
We hit a Thai restaurant in Akihabara for lunch which was decent but not as good as I'd hoped considering it was a bit out of the way. (Not counting my also passing it the first time).
We then foolishly decided to go to Harajuku for Yoyogi Park since it was sitting time and/or beer time. Now, we'd gone earlier in the week but today was Saturday and it was prime cherry blossom time and Harajuku continues to be considered the happening place to be. And the train station proved it.
I don't have pictures, but the tunnel (which was an overpass and thank god, caged rather than walled in) to get out was packed solid all the way down to the platform. As soon as you got off the train, you had to stand in line to get out of the station. I have never seen it like that. It's a small station with two major exits, but no matter how you went, you had to shuffle along at a mouse's crawl to get out. It was actually less smothering than I expected.
We finally got out and passed up the convenience store for beer as it's a shoebox to begin with--now picture the line running outside and you'd opt for the park's gouging beer prices, too. But we finally made it to the park to people-watched and drink...
Inasmuch as I am not a dog person, this was a really cute (very excited) puppy.
Lots of picture taking, obviously.
I thought this was cute.
It was late in the afternoon and getting cooler, so we finally headed out.
And oh holy jesus, you'd better hope you don't have to wee RIGHT THAT SECOND. There are two stalls in there.
We then went to Takondanabba (which is totally fun to say) for dinner and music. This was really frustrating because Lonely Planet FUCKED UP their map of the neighborhood. They got the Italian restaurant's address WRONG (which we stumbled upon anyway) and they put the jazz club in the weirdest spot. It was all A HUGE FUCKING LIE when you got down to it and made me very bitter toward the Lonely Planet people, as little else is more frustrating than trying to find your way with a FUCKED MAP.
First we hit the Italian restaurant, which we hadn't planned on doing but it had a good reputation and the owner was very nice, even though his Japanese and Italian were apparently much better than his English (and I presume, his listening skills). Ran into some friendly ex-pats who could have been more helpful if we'd been looking for a pub, which I really loathe in Tokyo, actually. Really overpriced and usually full of annoying fuckwit apes. But anyhoo.
We attempted again to find our little jazz club, and had to ask directions (ok, more than once) and the Family Mart people win for Most Helpful People Ever, the guy even taking me out onto the street and pointing out the way to go. Turns out it's on the main street, just a few blocks from the station. Like, the easiest location ever. We would have found it faster if we had never used the map at all. (But how would you know??)
Despite the hassle, it was so totally worth it. It's a place called Jazz Spot Intro and I hope to go back each time I hit Tokyo. I think Saturday night is really the only night you know they're playing. The room is the size of a one-car garage (and then put a BAR in and a BABY GRAND PIANO. Now try to fill it with PEOPLE!) and it was already pretty full when we got there. Luckily, they were in-between sessions because if you think my Japanese-listening skills are bad, they're even worse when tested over loud music.
And I'm not saying the jukebox went off and the crickets set in upon our arrival, but it was definitely noticed. There was nowhere to sit--even sitting at the bar would have been tricky, but the owner (who runs the bar and joins in many of the sessions with his saxophone, always hanging from his neck) scurried around and all of a sudden, two people "were just leaving" and there was a table for us. I felt bad but I was also not going to argue.
I'd say there were initially about 12 people in there (and it was full) and 9 of them were there to play. The other three were girlfriends? Who knows, but it's a huge place for musicians and it was so much fun to watch and listen. Definitely really cramped--which was part of the charm (as long as you get there early--it somehow got even MORE crowded as the night went on and I was so glad we'd arrived when we did), but it was such a great experience. Everyone took turns playing music, and I was also happy to see a couple women on stage, one on flute and one on piano.
Great night, but still pissed at the Lonely Planet wanks.