Thursday, 10 April 2008

Oki-na Gaijin, Chisai-na Kuni (Big Foreigner, Small Country) #8

March 27 - Tsukiji, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro

Got up a little early and, after a nice breakfast, left for the Tsukiji fish market.

We arrived as things were beginning to wrap up at the fish auction but still got there in plenty of time to see lots of interesting things. Scooters and bikes scurried everywhere with loads of fish earmarked for different places all over Tokyo.

In the actual market, the different businesses were readying their fish, sawing, packaging, and otherwise getting their product ready for further on the food chain.

We did our best to stay out of the way but it was difficult because there was so much activity. We even got honked at a couple of times!

I loved all of the colours, fish, and strong smells. Colleen, on the other hand, thought it was gross but kind of cool. Teenagers...

We left the market and went to a sushi restaurant just down the road where I had, quite possible, the best sushi of my life. It was super-fresh, melt-in-your mouth sushi and tasted amazing!

One cool thing - the chef took a blow torch and seared the top of some of the pieces! Very industrial.

On our way back to the station, we stopped by a shrine where a monk(?) was burning dolls that people had purchased. I think it was either for good luck or to remember departed relatives.

After, we went to Shinjuku and Ikebukuro for some shopping. Even Colleen was starting to get a little bit overexposed to the commercialism that is Tokyo, but I still enjoyed wading amongst the masses of people. Tokyoites make for excellent people watching.

Interestingly, we had a couple of delays on the train. Apparently there were two different suicides where people had jumped in front of the train. This is one of the most common forms of committing suicide in Tokyo. I guess it was a bad day for some.

After, we went to Kinshicho station for Shabu Shabu. This tasty dish is where you have a pot of boiling water in the middle of a table and you plop in meat and veg to cook. The sound it makes gives the dish the name. It was very tasty.

Later on that night, Yoichi and I went out clubbing in his fancy car, an Aston Martin. Very cool. First stop was a Karoke bar with Filipino hostesses. This was quite a large place and the manager was a bit excited that I was a gaijin. I was let in, thanks to Yoichi's influence, and things picked up a bit. The woman I spoke to the most was 32 and was looking forward to going home to hang around her house and chill. She had been in Japan for 5 years out of the last 13 and had the equivalent of a green card.

Singing at this bar was a bit intimidating because of the number of customers, the fact that I hadn't had a really warm greeting, and that I couldn't hear myself really well. You also had to go up on a stage where in other places you could sing from your seat. According to Yoichi, there were pretty cheap with the drinks and expensive with the bill.

We then ended up after midnight at another karaoke bar, this time with Indonesian hostesses. Again, the manager was a little excited about the fact I was a gaijin but the customers seemed generally friendlier than the last one. One hostess I spoke to knew less English than I knew Japanese so eventually another one was found that spoke English. She's only been in Japan for a couple of months and didn't speak Japanese very well so she was quite happy to talk to someone she understood. She was nice enough but I made a point of talking about my wonderful daughters and my loving wife...

The singing was better here - I belted out a few numbers - and the clientèle really warmed up to me, especially after singing a couple of Green Day songs.

As to the hostesses, rest assured that, at least in the places Yoichi took me to, nothing untoward happens. Apparently these kind of places are popular in Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea and many other places around the world. The hostesses couldn't believe that we don't have places like this in Canada (at least, not that I'm aware of).

At around 2 AM, we headed home. A full day, definitely!


Conchscooter said...

Fascinating stuff, to get something more profound than a superficial visitor's view. But, I have to say, it's not my cup of tea. Sushi, cook-it-yourself lunch and (argh!) and do-it-yourself singalong to top off the day sounds like sheer murder to me.Give me bed or give me death! Ah solitude.

Heinz & Frenchie said...

We have read that Japanese men often frequent clubs without their wives or girlfriends. Seems a tradition there. Guess the men go for it and the women tolerate it. Karaoke is sort of passe here in the States, but evidently it has not run it's course in Japan. Sounds like you had a great time.

Dave Dixon said...


Actually, I love Japanese food, so I'm pretty happy with all those strange types of preparing food. As for the karaoke, I kind of like it - guess I'm a bit of a ham. Also, nobody knows who I am in a strange country so if I sing terribly....!

heinz and frenchie
Interestingly, Yoichi sometimes takes his wife with him when he goes to a club but that's definitely the exception.

As for karaoke, I first sang 23 years ago when there weren't any karaoke in Vancouver. Since then, the fad came and basically went in Vancovuer but has been going strong the whole time in Japan.

And, yes, I had a great time! Don't know if I want to live there again but it was great to visit.