Tokyo Day 4

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Our second attempt at visiting the Tsukiji fish market was successful. However, we decided seeing the tuna auction wasn't worth getting up at 4:30 A.M. again. So we got an extra hour of sleep and arrived at Tsukiji around 6:30 instead. It was still insane. First we had to snake our way through a loading zone that felt like it was on perpetual fast forward mode. Trucks, van, fork lifts, some sort of flatbed scooter thing...everything whizzing by in a frenzy of activity. Dane described it as analogous to a game of Frogger, and I think that is a very apt description.
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. Only problem was that a large van happened to be parked right in the center of the frame. We thanked him for his kind efforts, but he was determined that we would leave Japan with this shot in our cameras. He walked up to the van, whose driver was still inside, and I suppose explained that he was blocking this desired photo opportunity. And then the van cranked up its engine and drove up! We couldn't believe it. As we took the photo, this good-deeder made his way back to us, and asked to see the image in our camera. We showed him, and he nodded and smiled approvingly. He explained that photography was a hobby of his, and he had some time to kill while waiting to meet a friend in the park. What better pastime than to aid tourists in acquiring nice memories of Japan! This was the epitome of Japanese hospitality.

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.
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Comments

rbond
rbond on

Awesome
I so enjoyed your writings and digital diary. Your pictures are far more than mire photograph's, they're a reflection of your soul. Your choices of what to immortalize and how it should be framed speak non-vocal volumes. The Japanese traditional wedding, not isolating the bride and groom on their special day, but keeping the entire family in the photo, forever a family group and a special day for all was truly touching. Your photo's show so much of a variety of emotions going from the serenity of the day of umbrellas to the fast pace of the light of Shinjuku. Simply amazing. Your photo of Fuji, with the quiet still dark city being over shadowed by this beautiful, almost mystical mountain silently spoke to me. As I read your story and admire your photography I feel as though somehow I have been transported to a land beyond reach, never leaving the comforts of my home. I still miss you. Miss not being able to hug you, but magically, sometimes I feel as though I'm there, absorbing it all with you. Love, Daddy

v_cantu
v_cantu on

Agree
Linz...

Apart of me is envious of you and the better half of me is exuded with happiness that you are experience all of this first hand. This adventure, like the one in Mexico, will open many new windows for you and your perceptions of life. Reading your entries, I find myself there (like your Dad), walking through the wet streets and feeling the sense of urgency with the surrounding hussle and bussle of a foreign land. Absolutely amazing. I look forward to your stories to take me away from my current reality.

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