Today was good in the beginning and the end, but in between, our crazy schedule began to take its toll. Like idiots, we stayed up til after midnight the night before and then hadda get up at 4:30 or 5 am to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market before the 5am fish auction ended.
So the deal with the Tsukiji Fish Market is, it’s the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. When the top sushi restaurants in LA say they fly their fish in daily, this is where it comes from. And if you get there early enough, you can peek in on the auctions of GINORMOUS fish! But the best part of Tsukiji Market is the tiny restaurants lined up just outside, where you can eat THE freshest sushi you have ever had in your life.
We took a taxi from our hotel, which only cost about $12, and got dumped off right at the subway exit with all the tourists streaming off the train. In fact, it was the most tourists we’d seen in Tokyo so far, and everyone was practically sprinting into the market. I wasn’t sure how to find the auctions, so I figured it was a good idea to follow everyone else. We all moved in a giant group through the market to a big line, which I jumped in while Patrick went to find out what it was for.
It was to view the auctions. By the time we actually got inside the area, they were just finishing, but we still got great shots of the giant tuna that had been auctioned off.
Then we all streamed out of the auction area and ended up roaming the rows of sushi stalls.
Patrick and I picked one that had a line so we’d be sure it was good. It was only about eight people deep when we got there, but still took us 30 minutes to get to the front of the line cuz the stall only had eight seats!
We had SUPER fresh tuna and fatty tuna – the freshest I’ve ever had! Patrick, who absolutely adores sushi and could eat it three meals a day, was SO excited. He kept patting my arm and smooching me and thanking me for researching all this. It was so cute!
After that we tried to find our way out of the market, which was crazy busy, and almost got hit a couple of times by the little mini vehicles whizzing around like self-important robots on the Death Star. And we DID get hit by two different fishmongers who wanted us out of their way!
In fact, the whole place felt like a Star Wars planet—a bustling marketplace, exotic and unidentifiable creatures at every turn, vendors shouting in an unintelligible language…
At last we emerged into daylight and set off in search of the Tokyo monorail to Odaiba… and then took about an hour’s detour trying to find it, only to learn there are two different monorails in Tokyo and we’d just bought $20 worth of tickets for the wrong one!
Finally we found the right one and rode it over the Rainbow Bridge and all around the new Odaiba area, which is built on a landfill in the bay. It’s a repository of some of the most outlandish architecture in Tokyo, along with lots of museums and entertainment complexes. However, on a foggy Monday at 8:30am, it is DEADSVILLE!
I’d imagined Odaiba to be a bustling mini-metropolis just across the bay from the big metropolis, but it felt quite desolate that morning.
This is about the point in our trip where all the go-go-going began to catch up with us, and we could barely keep our eyes open as the monorail gently swayed along the track. The crowd we’d started with at Shin Toyosu Station gradually trickled out, and by the time we reached the end of the monorail line, we were about the only ones left. We moved up to the front of the (unmanned) monorail car and rode back the way we’d came.
I’d been dying of curiosity to see Venus Fort, a “theme park for ladies,” but neither that nor the Toyota City Showcase you hear so much about were open at that hour. However, we were at least able to step out of the cold and inside Toyota City for a few pix…
We decided to go straight on to MeSci (the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation). While we waited for it to open, we had some hot chocolate at the most chic fast-food joint I’ve ever seen:
When we got to MeSci, there was a huge mob of parents and students waiting to get in, and I panicked when I realized we were all working our way up to a bank of ticket machines instead of real people to tell us what kind of ticket we wanted (it was the typical science museum scenario where there were all these combos of admission and various films and activities). Fortunately there were real people standing near the ticket machines who could help us.
We decided to skip the films and just explore the museum from top to bottom.
I dunno… maybe it was cuz we were so pooped, or maybe it was cuz we’d just been to the newly redone Academy of Arts & Sciences in San Francisco, but we just weren’t feelin’ this place. According to my guidebook, all the exhibits’ signs were also in English and there were “plenty of English-speaking volunteer guides on hand,” but I remember being super-bored as we drifted from one dry exhibit to the next. My favorite part was getting to see ASIMO—we never seem to time it right at Innoventions so I’ve never seen him walk.It was pretty freaky!
Toward the end of our visit, we were discovered on the escalator by an American expat who works in management at MeSci and gave us a mini overview of its history. He said if he’d known we were coming he’d have given us a tour. Um, OK! So let that be a lesson to you, readers: Always contact Japanese museums before you go to see if they happen to have any American expats on staff who want to show you around…
I leave you with this last image from MeSci, The World’s Deadliest Bathroom Stall Purse Hook!
Then we got back on the monorail to check out Venus Fort, a cheesy Italianate mall aimed at women and housed in an incongruous bunker (and, really, aren’t ALL malls aimed at women?). It was pretty middle-of-the-road compared to the much glossier malls at Midtown and Roppongi and came off as a sort of poor (wo)man’s version of the shops at the Bellagio in Vegas.
We had a mediocre lunch at a lackluster Chinese restaurant in Venus Fort and then spent 40 minutes on their phone trying to get our credit card company on the line when our card was declined. You know how they always say, “Call us collect from anywhere in the world, anytime of night or day”? Well it’s a lot harder to do than it sounds! Most of our time was spent trying to get the Japanese operator to figure out how to make a collect call. Finally we bagged it and paid cash (which, had we been more than half awake, we would have done in the first place), deciding to go back to the hotel and sort things out on the phone there.
A few last pictures along the way…
Once at the hotel, we spent another 20 minutes getting help from the staff with making an international collect call. At last, we got through (in the comfort of our own room, no less) and were told that there was nothing wrong with our credit card. Apparently there’s some weird bug in the system update at Charles Schwab between 6pm and 9pm (PST) on Sundays only that only affects you if you try to use the card in Japan! Come on, really? Whatever the case, we were able to use the card without incident for the rest of the trip, so I’m still glad I got it.
Although we were pretty beat, we went back out to make one last pilgrimage to 100% Chocolate Café. I wanted to get some exotic chocolate to bring to friends and family, and to introduce Patrick to The Best Hot Chocolate in the World. Oh, and to buy a whole ‘nother box of it to take home!
The rest of my pictures are all just random shots from our subway trip home, so they don’t really tell the story of The Best Night of Our Trip.
This pair of shots was supposed to set up some gag about bonking my head again, but I’ve totally forgotten it now…
Since we were so tired, we decided to grab some food for dinner when we went to the Daimaru Department Store to stock up on breakfast for the next day’s the bullet train ride, bring it back to our room, and eat in front of Japanese TV. It sounds so simple and even dull, but we still talk about how this was the most fun night of our whole trip! We took our showers, got in our jammies, and set up a little picnic on the bed in front of Tamigotchi and who knows what all else we watched. I guess it was the combination of a familiar evening routine with foreign variables (hotel room, food, wacky Japanese cartoons) that made it at once homey and exotic.
At any rate, we had to turn in early so we could be ready for another super-early wake-up call—this time for our mad-dash day trip on the bullet train!