Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Oki-na Gaijin, Chisai-na Kuni (Big Foreigner, Small Country) #3

March 22 - First full day in Tokyo! Haircut, Good Eats, Electronics, and Karaoke

Started off with a hair cut as I remembered the excellent scalp and shoulder massages that you get from a Japanese hair stylist. Yoichi arranged a hair style for all of us so we went en masse to the stylist.

It started off with a wash and conditioning. The chair I sat in electronically reclined for the wash. Cool! Then off to another chair for the cut. The girl was very careful - almost examined each section of my head - as she cut my hair. Pretty impressive, considering I’m balding - about 5 or 6 times as long as I usually spend in the barber chair at home!

She then washed my hair again and did the massage. It was the most awesome head and neck massage that I've ever had. I was truly in heaven! I’ve no idea what it cost us as Yoichi insisted on paying.

Lunch was Yaki-Niku - Korean Barbecue! A very nice meal but I was quite full after we finished. I was glad that I had skipped breakfast.

The restaurant was at Kinshicho station which has really grown.

After lunch, we headed to the Electronics town at Akihabara. It was tricky buying the train tickets as the place names on the map where you buy tickets are in kanji - Chinese characters. Although Yoichi is no longer a fan of the trains or the subway, I think it is a great system. We only had to go three stops but it only cost a paltry ¥150.

As we left the station in Akihabara, many young women dressed as maids or girls of the future were hawking different stores or products. It was a real carnival atmosphere as there were bright neon lights, loud music, and people everywhere. For the first time since leaving the airport, I saw other gaijin!

After wandering around for awhile, we ended up in Yodobashi Camera store which carries a lot more besides cameras. There are seven floors of electronics including cameras, video, TVs, computers, and a whole lot more. While the prices don’t seem any cheaper than Canada - maybe a little more, actually - there is the latest technology factor. I ended up getting - receiving, actually, a video and still camera courtesy of Yoichi.

The Japanese system of gift giving is pretty wild. In anticipation, I had brought over a number of presents because I knew that Yoichi would buy gifts and pay for things as I spent time with him. The art of trying to pay for even simple things like subway tickets is very tricky.

After a short nap in the early evening, it was time to step out into Tokyo’s entertainment - the night club - but first we had sushi. This was real sushi - no California rolls or Dynamite rolls - just fish, fresh and raw on wonderful rice. There was sushi that I recognized like tuna, salmon and egg but there were lots or fish I didn’t recognize as well as some spices or flavours that were quite odd. As usual, Yoichi just ordered dish after dish and I was absolutely stuffed at the end of dinner. We then met up with a bunch of Yoichi’ friends and headed to the Star Karaoke bar.

As with many Karaoke bars this one was small - think someone’s bigger living room - with lots of low seating, six or seven tables, two flat screens to see the lyrics, snacks, booze and six Filipino women to meet your needs such as talking, lighting cigarettes, offering food, mixing drinks and even dancing. It’s all pretty innocent and quite common in many countries.

In a karaoke bar, customers sing along to music with the assistance of lyrics on a screen, usually with some arty videos in the background. Lots of English songs are now available to sing in stark contrast to when I first visited when there were only 6 songs (Country Roads, Love Me Tender, and a few more).

I sang quite a few songs and was very well received but I’m not sure if it was because of my singing or the fact that I was someone kind of different. All of the singers were excellent and I even enjoyed the traditional Japanese songs (enka).

Unfortunately, one of the strange sushi pieces I ate disagreed with me during the first part of being in the bar. I sang and slowly sipped my chu-hi (Japanese vodka and fruit juice) until my stomach settled. I was probably a little jet lagged as well but was thrilled to be in such god company. By the time we left (about 2:30 AM) I was more than ready to pack it in. Overall, an excellent day!

1 comment:

Heinz & Frenchie said...

We have always heard that Japan was very very expensive. So we imagine your haircut might be on a scale with John Edwards.