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We had worked up a pretty hefty appetite after 3 hours of roaming the Tsukiji Fish Market, so we decided to get sushi for breakfast – I mean, it’s not going to get any fresher! There is a famous sushi restaurant, Sushi Dai, but our guide recommended we go to a lesser known, but equally as good place called, Daiwa-zushi. I personally hate waiting in line to eat, so going to a lower-key place that could accommodate us right away made total sense to me.
We were immediately seated at the counter in the small, crowded sushi shop. We were the only non-Japanese people, which made me wonder – is it normal to eat sushi at 6:30am!? The chef welcomed us with open arms and before we knew it, delicious fresh sushi pieces were being handed to us. My digital camera had run out of battery by this point, so these pictures are courtesy of TPG reader Erin:
After our sushi feast, I decided I needed to get back to the hotel and take a major nap. Waking up at 3:00am Tokyo time did not help me adjust to the 13 hour time difference from NYC. Instead of taking an expensive taxi (at rush hour), I decided to try out the subway, which I had heard so many fun things about. The Tsukijishijo Station connects nonstop with Shinjuku in about 20 minutes, so that was a no-brainer. I paid my 260 Yen ($3.22) and got my one-way ticket.
I don’t think I was on a busy train-line, because I actually had a seat on the comfortable padded bench, but when I stood in the car, my head didn’t hit the ceiling (unlike the London tube), so I was impressed that the cars could handle the vertically enhanced. Even NYC subway cars can be dicey – I usually have to stand in the middle section, because the ends have lower ceilings and my head barely fits.
I was back at the Park Hyatt before I knew it and took an awkward 5 hour nap and ended up walking around Roppongi (the big ex-pat neighborhood complete with a Hard Rock Cafe), which I found pretty uninteresting. I walked from Roppongi to Shibuya and then ended up going back to the hotel to rest for my final night on the town with my Tokyo friend.
For dinner, I told my friend that I was sushi’d out. Within 12 hours I had eaten a huge sushi dinner and then sushi for breakfast and while it was all amazing, I just couldn’t bear the thought of more. However, it was my last night, so I did want an authentic experience. We decided on tempura.
We ended up going to another department store complex, Lumine Est, and ate at their tempura restaurant, “Rin”, which he highly recommended. We got a seat at the counter and once again I let my friend do the ordering. Since he paid for dinner the night before, I made it abundantly clear that this check would be mine.
I loved sitting at the counter because I was able to watch everything go down. The Japanese are obsessive about fresh food, so almost all of the seafood served at this restaurant is alive until minutes before hitting your mouth. It was incredibly entertaining to watch the chefs stick their hands in the big tanks and pull out the next patron’s meal.
For our meal, they showed us our soon-to-be-tempura fried food on a platter before they actually killed the creatures. The picture of the platter below is a bit out of focus because the shrimp were bouncing around. Poor things.
Overall, it was a really interesting meal. I have to say that I wasn’t a big fan of everything, but in general I like being put outside of my comfort zone, so it was a success on that front. Perhaps what I loved best was the Japanese beer – a Suntory Malt’s Beer. I also love Kirin and Sapporo, so I think I’m officially a Japanese beer fan – which you don’t hear too often.
Towards the end of the meal I used the restroom and my sneaky Japanese friend PAID THE BILL, so I have no idea how much all of this cost. It wasn’t cheap, but also wasn’t super expensive, so I assume each tempura dish was about $10 per person, so the whole thing was around $150 for two. Well worth it for a quintessential Japanese meal on my last night and a nice base before a boozy night on the town. My friend capped the meal off with some special pills which he swore help with hangovers. Luckily, I don’t get terrible hangovers, but considering I had to fly 13.5 hours back to NYC the next day, I figured it couldn’t hurt to take them – when in Rome!
After dinner we walked through Shinjuku’s Red Light District, which seemed crowded to me, but he said it was dead compared to what it used to be before the earthquake. I did feel like the only tourist, which I guess isn’t the norm.
The Red Light District was only mildly seedy, with lots of strip clubs and even a row of clubs for women who needed affection from men. Apparently the clubs for women are all about “sensitive” men talking and spending time with the women – not stripping. What an … interesting concept.
My friend ended up taking me to a couple bars in the gay district, which were pretty dead on a Tuesday night. The most fascinating part to me were how small they were. A lot of them were in small apartment buildings and there were multiple tiny bars on each floor. My friend said he normally calls ahead to make sure there is room since they are so small and all it takes is one group of friends to bring the bar to capacity.
After a bunch of Sapporos and tequila shots, I remember karaoking to random 80s songs and by midnight, the mixture of tequila and jetlag had me losing steam quickly and I called it an “early” night. I was still full from our deep fried fiesta, so I didn’t partake in one of my favorite activities, drunk munchies, so I’ll have to save that for another visit. Overall, I was pretty much the only tourist out at the bars, but at no point did I feel uncomfortable. While the language barrier is evident, I always felt welcomed and comfortable while in Tokyo – whether in a restaurant, bar or simply walking on the street.
I retreated to my king-sized, splendid Park Hyatt bed and tried to sleep off my night out on the town so I’d have a fresh day for my trek back to NYC. To be continued…
Full disclosure: My flights and hotels were comped by Delta and Hyatt respectively but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.