Tokyo New Years

New Years was pretty well ridiculous round here. I went to Tokyo with my friends Ron and Hannah. That was a gong show. We were sleep-deprived and stupid the whole time.

I guess the story really starts last Wednesday, when we all went out for some beer and darts after work to celebrate the vacation time. It seemed like a pretty standard night until people started buying drinks for me and Ron. First there was some plastic surgery consultant who was buying drinks, then a couple African guys at a different club who started feeding us wine. Then afterwards they brought us to what I'm damn sure was a Russian hostess (read: escort, aka whore) bar. We didn't end up getting back home til after 7AM, which meant that I slept til 3PM, which meant that it was extra impossible for me to sleep on the red-eye bus we took to Tokyo on Thursday night. So, there was a 9 hour bus ride to Tokyo, in the dark, so I couldn't read and my mp3 player died about 3 hours in because I forgot to charge it. Awesome.

We got to Tokyo at 7AM on Friday, Ron and I running on zero sleep, Hannah on a few hours. We couldn't check in to our hostel until 1PM, so we had to wander around until then. The wind was bitch-ass cold, and the streets were deserted, so it was a really surreal time to be in Tokyo. I had been told that everyone leaves Tokyo for New Years, but I didn't really believe it. Now I do. I guess how it works is that no one is actually born in Tokyo, so everyone leaves to visit their family in different parts of the country at New Years.

Anyway, we had time to kill, so we wandered around where we could at the Imperial Palace (another bad thing about Tokyo at New Years is that a lot of the cool stuff is closed like the traditional Japanese gardens, the museums, the Palace, and the sumo.) After the Palace we started the trek towards Tokyo Tower, which is an orange and white structure that is modeled after the Eiffel Tower. (I'll be posting/sending round photos when I get the energy to go through them.) On the way to the Tower, we stopped at a Temple. It was the first Temple/Shrine, I'd been to in Japan, and it was really nice. There was no one there, so it was one of the only quiet places that I've ever found in this country. We hit the Tower, took lots of photos, then made our way to the hostel, and passed out for a few hours.

The plan after waking up was to walk to the area that had sumo (at this point we didn't know it was closed.) We had gotten a map from some random blonde woman at Tokyo Tower and it seemed pretty easy to get to the sumo area (Ryogoku.) Unfortunately, that was the trip when we found out that maps are a very unreliable source in Japan. I have a couple theories on this:

1) All maps in this country are designed to be inaccurate in order to confuse foreigners.
2) The streets in Japan are constantly shifting.

Needless to say, we got lost and had trouble finding Ryogoku, not only because the map was no help, but because no one we asked could help either. They would look at the map and be confused, or they'd try to send us in the wrong direction. Anyway, we finally found the place and it was closed, so we jumped a train to Ginza (shopping area and bars.) We wandered around there for a while and the coolest thing we found was something that was simply labeled the "Glass Building." It was awesome and was designed to give you the sense that you were under the hull of a large boat. Super cool (again, pics to come later.) After that, we headed back to the hostel and had a few drinks with some other people staying there before heading to bed.

On Saturday, we all slept until about noon before getting up and heading to the Sensoji Temple that was right next to our hostel (a place where about 2 million people visit between New Years and Jan. 3rd.) It was a pretty cool temple, but too touristy and commercial, I preferred the quiet one we found. On our way back to the subway, we ran into our friend Claudia, who was there with her parents, so that was cool. Then we saw another girl that we knew (or more accurately, I saw her) and we ran away. I don't like that girl.

Anyway, we headed back to Ginza to check out the Sony store, but that was a bust. Cool audio stuff, TVs, and cameras, but no Playstation stuff. After that we took an elevated train to an area called Odaiba, which was freaking awesome. It was billed as a "futuristic area" and there were a bunch of things in the research I did 10 minutes before leaving for Tokyo that intrigued be, so I made that a "must see" spot. So glad I did that. There was a great view of Rainbow Bridge from the train, plus there was a little (~30ft.) fake Statue of Liberty on the island, and a huge mall including Joyopolis (huge arcade). We also saw the Fuji TV Building, which has a crazy ass design, and also had some circus performers and a weird "Symphony & Lights" show (like I've said tons of times, any reason for these people to have music and flashing lights...) There was also a big Christmas tree and a pretty sweet drum band playing. After that we headed to the other side of the island to where there was a huge ferris wheel and a big mall. Next to the mall was a huge car showroom too. We got to do these virtual Gran Turismo driving things, in pods that move as if you were really in the car, plus there were tons of cars on the show floor that you could get into, including a stock car (Kid's pop would have loved it.) Best picture is me in a Cooper convertible, I didn't think I would fit, and I almost didn't. Certainly wouldn't have been able to close the top. Also got a pic of me with a De Lorean. Sweet.

We went to dinner at a Chinese place in the mall next door and saw some more crazy shit in there. There were track suits for chihuahuas, and slut outfits for little girls. It was a gong show, pure and simple. We started heading back for the hostel at about 7 or so, with the plan of going out for an all-nighter in Shibuya (one of the more popular nighttime areas.) Annoying thing number one was that my camera died on the train back, so I didn't get cool pics of Rainbow Bridge at night (when it shows why it has that name.) Annoying thing number two was when we got back and I found out that I had brought my cell phone charger and mp3 player charger, but no camera charger, so I didn't have a camera for the last 2 days of the trip. We went out, but couldn't find anything cool, just a meat market filled with no meat and all frat boys. A bust of a night. Got back to the hostel at 6AM, slept until 2PM and got headed back out around 4.

First we went to Harajuku, which has a huge shopping street (really nice) and usually on Sundays, all the high school kids gather there and do "cosplay" where they dress up like anime characters and in different costumes and whatnot. I don't know if we got there too late or if that wasn't happening because it was New Years Eve, but the only costume we saw was a foreigner goth girl. On our way to wander the shopping street some dude started telling us about this religion that is all about loving both sex and Jesus. It was weird as hell. He gave us a poster which had: a woman being licked by a tiger, a man holding a sheep, and and two children kissing next to two kissing rabbits. I asked the guy if his religion was all about sex with animals, but he claimed it wasn't. After reading the back of the poster, I'm not convinced. I think it was touting, not only bestiality, but some pedophilia too. Anyway, we wandered the shoppings street, and ended up having to duck away from that same girl we ran from the day before. Fun times.

After that, we went on a scouting mission to Roppongi (another supposedly sweet night spot in Tokyo) so we could find a place to go and not get screwed like we had in Shibuya. We saw a bunch of crap and finally found a place called Vanilla. 3 floors, a techno space, a hip-hop space, and a mixed space, 3000 yen to get in which included 2 drinks. Couldn't ask for anything better. Went back home and rested a bit before heading back out. Got to the blub at 11PM, which turned out to be just in time. We only waited about 15 minutes to get in. That place was ridiculous. the bottom floor was open to the outside, there was a DJ, a bunch of lockers and a bar. The second floor had a bar and a dance area (the mixed music area) which could hold a few hundred people, and around the back was the hip-hop area, with a huge bar and that area could probably hold about 500 people, at least. Then on the 3rd floor was a crazy dance (house music) area that was just wall to wall women, including a bunch of platforms all around, covered in women dancing.

There was a lot of alcohol, some dancing and craziness. Ron and I started to crash at about 2, but we kept going (because the fucking trains don't go all night in Tokyo, even on New Years, though they do in Osaka for that one night.) Eventually, as per usual, Ron and I just started stealing. It wasn't even really stealing at first. I ordered a couple drinks and instead of rye and ginger, the bartender just gave me straight ginger. When Ron went back to straighten it out, there was a communication failure, so Ron just grabbed the bottle of Captain Morgan and poured it into our drinks. From then on out, if we wanted drinks, we just grabbed a bottle and poured it for ourselves. The only time that was a problem was with one of the girls at the mixed-music area. She was on our case all night. She caught Ron, and ended up taking 1500 yen from him for one shot. Not to mention, for some reason there was no photography allowed in the club. So, needless to say, we were told at least a dozen times over the course of the night to stop taking pictures. And at the end of the night, that was our ticket out.

Hannah was just dancing all night, and at about 4:15, Ron and I had had enough, so we wanted to take off, but Hannah was super wasted and loving dancing with J-girls, so it was hard to get her going. Cue Ron's camera, and the club staff girl who hated us. She told him to stop taking pictures for what was probably the 4th time. He didn't stop, she got a bouncer, Ron got a picture of that staff girl, plus a video of getting kicked out, plus a photo of the bouncer who booted us giving him a thumbs up. Perfect end to the night. After some Maccers, we hopped the train back home. The whole time, Hannah was raving about how awesome Japanese girls are, and how nice they are and how much fun they are to dance with, and it was impossible for Ron and I to explain to her that we did not have the same experience being that we have big threatening penises, and she is a harmless girl. We found out the next day that Hannah had blacked out for the end of the night there.

Monday was some more touristy things. We left our stuff in a locker and hit up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings (Japanese version of the Twin Towers, though it's really just one building.) After that, we wandered through the Park Hyatt, which is where "Lost in Translation" was filmed, that was cool. Then we wandered down to Kabukicho, which incidentally doesn't have any kabuki theater. It's considered the largest red-light district in Japan, though it's mostly bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment. Maybe we weren't in the right spots, but we didn't see too much red-light happenings. By this time we were pretty well beat and just looking to kill time before the bus anyway. We ended up going to see "Eragon" because it was the only movie that fit our time constraints. All I can say is that I knew going in that the movie was a rip-off written by a 15 year old kid and that's exactly what I got out of it. It wasn't horrible, but it was definitely written by a 15 year old geek who loves "Star Wars" and "The Lord of the Rings".

From there it was a bus ride home, during which I actually slept for a couple hours, though a lot of the time I listened to music and watched the Japanese countryside slide by under an amazingly bright moon.

All in all Tokyo was exactly what I expected insofar as it had a lot to see and do and it was definitely a grade-A metropolis, but it was lacking too. It seemed to be all surface. It was all style and no substance. No heart. Maybe that was because of all the people leaving town, but I really couldn't say. And the other thing that was lacking was the hottie population. Tokyo is an older population it seems, but just in general Osaka is a much better looking city. Again, I had heard rumors to that effect, and it turns out that they were true. Other than the club on New Years, the place most densely populated with cutie-pies was the bus back to Osaka. No joke.

There were a lot more little moments that really made the weekend, unfortunately because of the sleep-deprivation, they were mostly hilarious conversations that were lost to the river of memory. I remember laughing a lot. I remember having a great time wandering with Ron and Hannah. I guess that's really all that matters.

Holy crap. Was not expecting to write all that. My fingers are all cramped now. This was actually a message in response to Kid's last e-mail, but there's no way I'm typing all this again, so this is gonna get sent round to everyone. Gotta love the cut-and-paste.