Tokyo Day 4
Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
209Trip End Ongoing
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We finally made it into the vendor area, which was enormous, pungent, cold and wet, and we found that we were in the way no matter where we stood. It was crammed full, with narrow rivers of space left for aisles. Everyone was in a hurry. This was business, not a leisurely stroll through the market to see what produce inspires the evening meal. But the hussle-n-bussle is understandable when you consider that Tsukiji sells 2,000 tons of seafood daily. It seemed like the entire ocean's contents had been sucked up and put on display. I couldn't begin to speak of all the different types of fish I saw (because I don't really know anything besides salmon and catfish), but I can say that I was amazed at the variety. And it wasn't just fish. There was octopus, squid, caviar, crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, and dozens of other shellfish. In fact, they average 450 different types of seafood offered every day. But what I found even more surprising was how much was kept alive and how much blood there was. Many fish appeared to be swimming in tanks of blood rather than water. It was quite disconcerting. The coolest thing to me was probably the giant tuna. They were as big as me, and we watched some being cut up with a butcher saw. I felt a little guilty being at this market though. For one, I constantly felt like I was in someone's way, but also because I was there as a tourist. This is their livelihood. And I'm casually strolling around, snapping photos, scrunching up my nose in disgust, and mainly not buying anything. But what am I going to do with whole fish? That's not exactly a souvenir I can haul around in my backpack for the next 12 months. So the best I could do was try to stay out of the way as much as possible and keep my "eeews" to a minimum.
After we left the fish market we headed over to the Imperial Palace. This is usually the first stop for most tourists, but somehow we hadn't gotten to it yet. The Imperial Palace is the home of the imperial family, and it resides on the grounds of the former Edo Castle during the 17th and 18th centuries. The palace is situated on top of a hill, surrounded by gardens and a moat. It makes for a nice photo, but its only open to the public twice a year. But the day had warmed up so we were content to take our photos and withdraw to the surrounding area: some fountains, statues, and an outer garden, which is really more like a park with some grass and cool evergreen trees.
One thing did happen that I think is worthy of mentioning. Dane and I were taking some photos in the park area when an older Japanese man came up to us and said, "I can show you a spot for a really nice picture." He led us up the sidewalk a bit to a location where the Imperial Palace was visible in the background and the foreground boasted some pretty fall foliage.
This was our last evening in Japan. And the view from the Park Hyatt the day before had made such an impression on Dane that he had to go back and see it by night. And so we did. I felt self-conscious enough during our first visit when it was nearly completely empty. Now add the dinner crowd (dressed in evening attire) to the mix, and watch me squirm in my orange fleece and tennis shoes. But I thought, what's the worst that could happen? We could get kicked out in a humiliating fashion. But I never have to see these people again so what does it matter! Well, we did not get kicked out. And it was the perfect conclusion to our Japan trip. The view was incredible and well worth any embarrassment my orange fleece caused me. And the Japanese hospitality amazed us once again. We soaked in the 41st floor view for the second time, and then decided to venture up to the bar on the 52nd floor to see what sort of panorama it offered. As the elevator doors opened, however, we were greeted by hosts and hostesses in black-tie attire. We tried to remove ourselves with the excuse that we were not suitably dressed, and the host actually argued with us and encouraging us to stay! There was no judgment, no pretension, and no disdain in his eyes. At one of the most expensive and elegant locations in Tokyo, Japanese decency and magnanimity still prevailed.