Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day Two - Around Tokyo

Day Two and it was up bright and early to go meet the others at their hotel for a whole lot of Tokyo sightseeing. First up was the the Ikebukuro shopping district to check out the electronics markets. Well despite Japan being the home of so many famous electronics companies, thanks to global free trade agreements the prices of cameras, laptops, and PC parts were about the same as what we would pay in NZ - in fact it seemed even more expensive than in NZ. Yay free trade! So none of us bought anything.

While we were in Ikebukuro we headed to Namja Town which was a weird theme park but all indoors. It was pretty much empty cos it was a weekday which was fine by us, but I imagine that on a weekend it would be packed with schoolkids. The only reason we were going there was to check out the Miracle Fruit Cafe. I knew nothing about this but Mike had told us about it and it sounded worth checking out. The promise was that after eating the miracle fruit, it changes your tastebuds so that sour things taste sweet. Apparently they would give you lemons to chew on and instead of being sour they tasted sweet.

The Miracle Fruit cafe

So we rolled up and bought a miracle fruit each, which turned out to be a tiny red berry almost like a nut.

The miracle fruit
To accompany the miracle fruit, we also bought a platter of lemons, limes, strawberries, grapefruit and pickles(!). A pre-miracle taste of the lemons etc confirmed that they were sour, as lemons should be.
Our instructions were to chew on the miracle fruit until it disappears. It was quite pleasant to begin with and took a couple of minutes chewing to dissolve it. Towards the end it started to taste horrible once we started chewing on its seeds.

Getting ready for a miracle
As for the results... well they were varied. In my case, if I were to chew on an unripe lemon (which these were) I would screw my face up and shiver cos of the sourness and the tartness, bleh. With the miracle fruit the sourness was replaced with a really strong sweetness, but the tartness was still there, so I was still screwing up my face and shivering, bleh. Twas the same for the lime and the grapefruit. The strawberries were much improved.The pickles actually tasted worse post-miracle - instead of having a mild pickly flavour, they seemed to taste even picklier. Of our group I think my reaction was possible the strongest when it came to rejecting the unripe lemons cos of their tartness - wheras Alexey was fine with it. He was happily ploughing through the lemons without complaint. Wikipedia.

The Windows 7 whopper at Burger King

From Ikebukuro we headed right across town to Ginza, the rich part of town where all the luxury shops are. Gucci, Dior, Armani, they all have outlets here. While the girls went shopping we went and sat in a bar and people watched.

Dior's outlet in Ginza

As with electronics, according to the girls luxury goods were on a par with NZ prices.

Finally we headed back across town to Shibuya. This part of town was famous for shopping, fashion, and it's scramble crossing. Once again, while the girls went shopping we were happy to sit and people watch in front of the crossing watching all the people, like a good bunch of tourists. It's funny cos I've seen Asian people photograph the scramble crossing on Queen St many times and now we were doing the same thing here.

I confess - not my video
Shibuya was my favourite part of Tokyo, with its huge TV screens blaring ads and music videos, scramble crossing, people everywhere, and energy. After a few more hours of people-watching, we ended up going to a yakitori bar and hung out there eating chicken skewers and drinking beer while sitting on beer crates, as you do. It felt like the start of a good night - but unfortunately the main thing preventing Tokyo from becoming an all night party city is the fact that the subway trains finish around 12:30am... so you either have to leave at that time, or pay shitloads for a taxi home, or stay out all night til the subway starts again in the morning. We opted for the first option and were lucky enough to catch the very last subway train back to our hotel, after a very long day. Boring huh. But we had ticked off many of our to-dos for Tokyo.

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