I took a trip around the world (more about that in a later post) and I wanted to end with a bang so my pal Garth and I decided to take advantage of the United airlines rule that the maximum time allowed for an international layover is 24 hours, 23.5 hours was good enough for us.
The the events I’m about do describe took place from February 10, 9:00pm to February 11, 8:30pm 2014. I wasn’t blogging at this time but I’ll have to trust my travel notes and timestamps on photos to put together this wild string of events.
We arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) at 7:00pm. Get luggage go on to customs search where Garth may or may not have had special cookies from India in his bag… OK he did but the agent passed right over them when strip searching his bag.
Get Yen at the ATM. Jam bags in locker that is too small for two backpacks and we each have small daypacks. The weather was cold and it just snowed the day prior to our arrival. Rent WiFi hotspot at the airport so we can connect our phones to WiFi and navigate the city.
Train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku station. 11:30 pm After a brisk run/walk we arrived at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building to get a free view of Tokyo from 45 floors up, but we were 30 minutes late.
Next up was my favorite place in Tokyo, Golden Gai. It’s an area of about 200 square meters made up of about 150 micro bars. First we went for a drink at Albatross because that’s where Anthony Bourdain went and he never leads me wrong, next up we wondered into another bar where we had a drink and tried our best to communicate with the staff and one bar patron, they were all stoked on us, I mean who wouldn’t be right?
After a few drinks we were directed to eat ramen at Nagi, we walked up and down the tiny streets and finally we found it, a door that leads up some narrow stairs where we were greeted by a vending machine that sells food tickets and it had no english and someone helped us out by taking our yen and ordering for us. Tickets go the the chefs and a few minutes later out comes some phenomenal ramen.
We wanted to see lots so the next neighborhood was Shimokitazawa (fun to say), convincing a cab driver to give us a lift was challenging and our short ride was something like $40 US. Anyway we wondered around trying to find a music club called Shelter, we found it and the show was long over, the band members were hanging out so we joined them for a drink and our conversations were pleasant but everything was lost in translation.
After a couple of drinks it was around 3:30am it was time to either rally or find a place to sleep, we chose sleep and I found a Capsule hotel nearby I felt like I was sleeping in an oversized coffin and mine was hot as hell.
Wake up at 8:00 am. We walked back to the subway station and it was jam packed full of people, they even have security people in white gloves on the platform to physically stuff people in the train as the doors close and once the doors close it was damn near silent even with hundreds of people on each car, it was surreal.
Our train took us to the Tsukiji Fish Market or Sushi Mecca, we searched out Sushidai then patently waited in a 2 hour line for our spot in the restaurant that only seats maybe 12 at a time and closes around 2:30pm. It was the best sushi of my life, $40 us for a pre fixe menu and all you can drink tea. Each piece of sushi was created with such focus and attention to details it was incredible to watch and even better to eat.
After Sushi breakfast time was running short, we hopped on a train to Shybua (the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world), some shopping and we started making our way back to the airport, the subway is actually made up of 5 different companies that run different lines it’s so complicated, but with a quick transfer we made it.
At the airport we hustled through first class check in, short security line and immediately to the lounge even though our flight was boarding, right back to the showers and we agreed no more than 4 minutes. Speed showers down we started running to the gate as they were announcing final boarding and asked Mr. Chavez and Garthright report to the gate, halfway there a gate agent had a sign with our name “That’s us!” we shouted as we ran by and we just made it to our seats with a couple of minutes to spare and just enough time for a pre flight champaign toast.
Tokyo was overwhelming, especially the way we did it, it was also one of the least intimidating places I’ve ever been, clean, safe feeling and nice people.