Health and Sports Day – aka the day Al got sick

Stephen: This was our last full day in Tokyo, and one which saw us divide the threesome. It was a national public holiday to commemorate the Olympic games being held in the 60s – ‘National Health and Sports Day’, and ironically, Al didn’t feel too great, so decided to have a rest to try and make sure he was in full health for the next leg of the trip.

Grace and I ventured out, to find much of Shibuya closed off for various sporting events to mark the day, which was pretty cool to see.

I felt a bit like I wasn’t making the most of the time in Shibuya, and didn’t want to go too far on the train in case Al felt better and wanted to meet up, so we decided to hang about the area and shoot some pictures.

There’s so many interesting things to see here; so many cool people and places that make for interesting scenes that no matter how many good pictures I get, I never feel like I’ve quite scratched the itch or captured quite what I want. That’s probably a blessing and a curse. Luckily, I have both Grace and Al’s pictures to look back at as well, which is awesome. Seeing your day from a different perspective later on is pretty cool – even and especially if you aren’t all that happy with your own expression of things.

We soon found ourselves treading over the same ground in Shibuya, and ending up a bit frustrated, so we decided to just grasp the thistle and jump on the train to a different area. It might seem silly, but sometimes you can end up feeling overwhelmed by choice when you are abroad, and end up sticking to something that you know is a cool place rather than just diving off and making the most of the time you have. In the end, we headed towards Shinjuku.

Shinjuku felt like a totally different place to where we’d already been in Tokyo; far more ‘downtown’ like in US terms, with skyscrapers and tall buildings. The proportion of young people was also a lot lower as well… but more on that later, as it’s where we are staying after we visit Kyoto and Osaka.

We were taking a picture of the above view (and sorry for the lens dust spot; I can’t fix that on my iPad without a huge pain in the arse), and an older Japanese man started chatting after he saw my Leica. He told us that he comes to this spot every night to take pictures (with one of his own Leicas), and it turns out that he used to live in Ohio years ago. It was such a nice, unexpected interaction that kind of sums up how a lot of Japanese people have been towards us; friendly and genuinely interested in who you are and where you are from. Despite being acutely aware of our foreign nature, there hasn’t really been any time where we have been made to feel bad because of that. There have definitely been people taking our picture at times, but usually pretty slyly, unlike in Greece where folks would openly sit and stare on the tram. It’s an interesting contrast – and I think everybody should experience being a foreigner; having the shoe on the other foot.

I hope I dress as stylishly as him when I am older. Hell, I wish I was that stylish now.

After a wee walk, we went to Piss Alley, which is an area of tiny restaurants and bars near Shinjuku Station. We’d hoped to get a drink, but it was mostly full of people eating… and we’d already wolfed down some huge bowls of ramen earlier in the day. I had a look in some of the used camera shops to try find a Canon 7 rangefinder, but they were all too pricey… so we decided to just jump on the train again and head to a totally new area rather than use up Shinjuku, since we’d be staying there later on. We headed over to Koenji, which is where I thought a particular restaurant was. It turns out that I was wrong, and it was actually another area entirely, which coincidentally also had a K in the name. Oops. It was a happy accident though, as Koenji is apparently a centre of alternative culture, with lots of artistic stuff, rock bars, etc. We found one under the train tracks which served an assortment of different home-infused spirits like raspberry tequila and coffee vodka, and spent a while tasting our way through…

For 300 Yen you got ‘endless nuts’, which showed us up as we had no idea how to crack them properly. Oops. We had fun trying to communicate with the barman and other folk there with a language barrier though. As usual, everybody was really nice, and put up with our photo taking.

I was pretty disappointed to find that there were some stools in the Stand Up Please bar though, it has to be said.

We went a bit further down and found a bar to grab some food and a few drinks for the road. It was a cool place full of locals who turned around to look as we came in – but not for too long – Japanese politeness prevented that. Plus, I’ve always found that if you spend enough time in a bar drinking around people, the surface differences tend to melt away. It just confirmed that we’d stumbled across a good area to explore, as there was literally no other Westerners around. Unlike other areas, where people handing out flyers and so on wouldn’t give them to us as we are obviously foreign, here people just assumed we must speak (or at least understand) Japanese, which was nice. 

 

Seeing so much of the Japanese language has reminded me of when I was a wee boy in Athens, fascinated by the different letters, and desperate to know what they meant. I’m really curious to understand a bit more of how Japanese works, so that’s something I’ll need to look into later.

Grace: 

This night was fun because of the randomness of it.  We missed Al, but we’ll go back to this area because we both liked it, and want to take Al back!

Also, I was being sort of lazy and didn’t take too many pictures.  Stephen always picks up the slack on that, though. 

We found a great bar with tons of different infused liquor.  Being the lady that I am, I go straight for the tequila these days, ergo, the raspberry infused version. It was delicious.

What did I try after?… Oh yeah, lychee tequila. And then some bourbon.

I was so happy to see they had Old Crow.  It’s nostalgic for me because  it was the drink of choice for me and my Denver friends in our 22’s and 23’s.  That actually doesn’t seem that long ago.  I miss it.  

My mom also told me one time that my grandfather wasn’t a big drinker, but every now and again he’d pour himself a glass of Old Crow.  High class drink.  Did I mention that the other bar patrons were nice?  Everyone is nice here. 

We wandered into a place not too far from the bar for some beer and food. We had sapporo, and skewered meat. 

Next up: Kyoto 

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