November 8, 2014
We started our first tour day in Tokyo in the afternoon, and our first stop was Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.
The first time I saw Sensoji Temple was in a photo of my mom with the instantly recognizable big red lantern.
We ate staple temple food (yakisoba paired with chicken karaage), before exploring Sensoji.
As we were walking around the temple, we saw a gathering of people dressed in different Japanese costumes: men wearing kimono-like worker coats, women in kimonos, and children in those same worker costumes.
More onlookers and costumed locals continued to gather so we hung around to see what was about to happen.
It was a lantern parade. The men carried or pushed big, intricately-designed paper lanterns while shouting a battle cry. The women held fish-shaped paper lanterns. And they had a marching band of drums, flutes, and tiny cymbals.
It was dark when the parade ended, so we got to see Sensoji Temple and the Five-Tiered Pagoda lit up. It was beautiful.
We then shopped for souvenirs at the line of stalls just outside the temple. We weren’t on a tight budget, but we were still hesitant to buy stuff thinking that since this is a tourist spot, they might price their goods higher.
I bought some “lucky cat” magnets and the wind chime my mother wanted.
At some point during shopping, the guys walked too far ahead and I was left behind. Luckily, I saw Allan stepping out one of the stores and followed him to see if he would turn back to look for me. (He didn’t.)
Then we went to Akihabara for some duty-free gadget shopping. Allan bought a fancy leather case for his new camera. I bought a waterproof pouch for my phone so that I could take selfies while submerged in water.
There were buildings housing floors of arcade games, and we went inside one of them. We tried our luck at those claw crane machines, but we weren’t able to grab any prizes.
We did find a hilarious game involving flipping tables though. It’s like those games where you hammer or punch something as hard as possible to get a high score except this one’s flipping tables, like the meme. The game starts with you choosing a scenario. (Ours were a family dinner and a nightclub scene.) Then it will play a story where the character slowly gets pissed off. You slam your hands on the table to release your building agitation. And then, once you deem it the proper time for an outburst, you flip the table. The graphics are hilarious. It even shows a slow motion, 360-degree view of the scene once the table is flipped.
We went to Akiba Achi to look for a place to have dinner and decided on a restaurant specializing in unagi or eel. One of the servers there was so cute. He had a serene face and soft features like a girl’s. He moved quickly and gracefully. I wanted to take him home.
Some people like fatty fish, but I don’t, and the unagi was really fatty. I think, for unagi, being fatty was supposed to be a virtue, but my mouth hated it. Still, I finished my bowl.
We then went to Golden Gai. The walk from Shinjuku Station to Golden Gai was interesting, because we found ourselves in another red light district. We were reminded of home and our world-class entertainers when we saw an establishment named Manila Boom Boom.
Golden Gai was the type of seedy place that Allan likes with its graffitied walls, cramped bars with yellow incandescent lighting, and a constant haze of cigarette smoke. I think it’s because of his Tony Leung and Wong Kar Wai aesthetic obsession. The speakeasies looked intimidating for the uninitiated. And when we chanced a glimpse of the barmen (and women), they seemed like characters with gripping stories to tell.
Anthony Bourdain featured Golden Gai years ago in No Reservations, so maybe that’s why there were a lot of Caucasians.
We wanted to drink, but we were too tired and still had an early morning for Meiji Shrine tomorrow. We’ll just go back another time. Hopefully, it’s not demolished by then.