Too Fast Too Furious – Tokyo Binge

For my 2nd R&R , Suki, Steve and I flew into Tokyo for a week on the town. It was a week of culture, exploration, confusion, and drunken shenanigans the likes of which will echo for an eternity.

The guys flying in from the states arrived a few hours before I did. The idea was for them to wait for me in the Airport. The reality was that the Airport was boring and the cheap buses into the city stopped running before I arrived. So the guys high tailed it to the Hotel room and sent me an email to let me know.

They made their way to the hotel, did their things, and went for a bit of pregame. They stopped by a place called Yoshinoya which is apparently one of the more popular fast food places there. So after enjoying a delicious teriyaki beef bowl attempting to leave through the ever present touch based sliding doors baffled Suki into an embarassing scenario Steve was kind enough to relay to me later on. But I will let Suki tell that part of the story in his words.

“Stephen and I arrived in Tokyo after what seemed like eternity on a plane. Being in such a confined area for 12 hours and not able to sleep is an experience I pray I’m able to avoid in the future.

Once we made it out of the airport and to the hotel, we unpacked a few of our things and began wandering the streets looking dinner.
We found a small waterfall at the rear of our hotel near the Japanese garden and made note to take Dan to it when he arrived so he could see the beautiful coy swimming hungrily along its edges.

We made our way to the subway and quickly decided we had no idea how to get anywhere so we headed back to the street and just started walking. With some difficulty and some daring, we found the Japanese equivalent of Taco Bell, and by this I mean cheapest food we could find, and enjoyed bowls of rice and teriyaki flavored beef. After learning how to open the doors on our way in and out of the restaurant, we headed back to the hotel, detouring up a tall flight of stairs to get a better view and some pictures. After sleeping for two hours, a loud knock came on the door. Dan had finally arrived and made it safely to the hotel (we had been worried since the last bus left right as his plane landed). Not realizing that we were going bar hopping, we headed out in search of food only to have our stomachs filled with booze in the district of Roppongi.” – Suki

Unfortunately, while they were out battling doors and enjoying local delicacies, I landed into an airport that was shut down. Concerned for my friends, I spent the better part of 2 hours searching the airport for them. Starving and desperate I managed to get some money changed and popped into the airport’s internet kiosk room on the nerd intuition that if any complications had occurred there would be emails. Sure enough, I had been abandoned. So a game of “guess what the cab driver is trying to say”, some difficulty with exchange rates, and I was on my way to the hotel.

After arriving and dropping my stuff off, it was already late, but I was not going to spend my first night in a hotel. So I beat on the guys’ door, and convinced them it was time for a drink or twenty. Off we went to figure out where the night life was.

And the party began. Between the guidebook Steve so handily brought with him and the cab driver we managed to find the Roppongi district. The place is crazy. Bars are just that, individual bars, room for maybe 20-30 people each, stacked 5-6 stories high. Each floor is a completely difference scene, different music, different drinks, etc. In the excitement of the exploration I managed to forget traditional food all together and sated my hunger with a surprising volume of captain and cokes, and tequila.

We found a place in the book called Agave, world famous for its selection of tequila. The place is truly that, and its superb atmosphere and selection made it an excellent base of operations. From that point on we declared our nights would begin with Agave. After a few shots and some chat with our server Sebastian, we settled on an “Americanized” bar called Heartland for our next stop.

The place was a little more like home, some room to move, decent music, and captain’s poured double strong. We got properly smashed and met a couple of locals who attempted to show us the hot spots. Their heart was in the right place, but we ended up running dead leads all night. We ended up at a bar ran by a few kiwis called “Geronimo’s” which later became our favorite last stop in the district. Now properly smashed and exhausted, we crawled home just inches ahead of the morning sun.

The guys woke up late, and decided to wake me up as well. After the morning pleasantries were out of the way we hit the pavement once more. Beginning with the beautiful gardens surrounding our hotel.

The gardens proved most relaxing, even in a fairly solid rain, but our stomachs were quite unsettled. I was promised food in short order, some burger joint. Emboldened by our successful night on the town and a good days sleep, we felt ready to tackle the merciless and powerful mistress that is the Tokyo metro. Consisting of the subway system, and (as we later learned) the bottom floors of all the major buildings, the underground is capable of bringing your where you need to be faster than imaginable. It is also capable of getting your more lost than you could ever fathom. I am quite certain that in the early hours of our explorations we actually stepped off the subway into alternate realities, the matrix, and passed right by the restaurant at the end of the universe before reaching our destination. The map of the subway system could be compared to some sort of infinite improbability drive. Capable of guiding you anywhere you wished to go, and equally likely to steer you anywhere else.

Our destination turned out to be close enough to the aforementioned burger joint to throw a stone at. However in the return to normality after having walked the ways beneath, we managed to wander for nearly an hour and a half in the wrong buildings and streets before stumbling into the intended destination. This place had to be something special to be so hard to find and yet so popular. Although in hind site, the Japanese seem to be much more vertically oriented than the rest of the world. Thusly, a burger palace being on the 5th floor of a 25 story building would be just as easily spotted by a native as a Subway in a strip mall back home.

The long anticipated meal was most savored. While my cohorts showed relatively meager enthusiasm for the vittles, my desert induced taste embargo was lifted with a riot of delicious beef goodness. The place was calledKua’ Aina”, which quickly became “Big Kahuna Burger” in our minds. The idea was a burger is made Hawaiian by adding a slice of pineapple. So in the end pineapple plus burger = Big Kahuna splendiferousness!

Our bellies full, we set out to find Akihabara, the technology district. After running a few more circles attempting to find the train station, we were on our way. I personally blame the burger induced bliss for the delay, but we arrived in good time. The place was a most interesting combination of shops full of gadgetry and porn. You never really knew what you were going to run into around the next corner, and a move up or down stairs was an entirely new adventure. For such a repressed society in action, they are remarkably less shy than our own puritanical overlords when it comes to their adult entertainment. Porn was ubiquitous and omnipresent in almost everything. Not just a latent under tide of sexuality that pretends to exist for more morally acceptable purposes. I remember reading articles about the massive swarms of lonely women in Japan. The decreases in population so dramatic that as the elder generation retires they will not have the numbers required to replace them. I can’t help but think that its an issue of tradition meets technology. A traditionally repressive and reserved culture, would traditionally be forced to find the outlet through traditional means despite the rules. However, if its easier to just amass a huge collection of porn, instead of playing the games required to secure a breeding partner, why bother? Its a real world example of the moral from Futurama’s “I dated a Robot“. And if I were a gambling man, my money would be on lovebot zero coming from our friends in the east, and their problems continuing to rise. So, women of Japan, women of the world, step up to the plate, don’t let cheap 2 dimensional forays dominate the minds of the youth, show these guys what your made of, stop the robot revolution before it becomes a problem. Get out there and take what is not being given. If all else fails, call on me, if I am unable to assist you, I have a staff on standby for just such an occasion. We cannot let the human race fall like this.

Samurai Darth Vader….no words…

Laments aside, the place was educational, and entertaining. We soldiered on to another train station in relatively straight lines. Once again faced with the endless complexities of the system, we were graced with the gift of a random student who spoke english better than we did who was able to point us in the right direction. My only regret being not having the chance to buy the guy a drink for his assistance. So if you are out there random Japanese student dude, leave me a comment, and the first few rounds are on me next time I am off that way.

Our destination was Ouena, which is about all I can say about it other than it is a temple. A vast problem that began to occur to me at this point, was that I knew so little of the context and meaning of where we were, what things were for, etc. I began to understand the mentality of the snap happy Japanese tourists I had seen so often in Florida. The rule instinctively formed to take pictures of everything, and attempt to sort it out later. For all I know the random stones and signs I am taking pictures of could range from the innocuous “bathrooms this way” to “Please don’t take pictures of me, I hold the spirits of generations of ancestors and the cameras tears parts of us away with every flash”. Luckily ignorance is bliss. My dreams haven’t been haunted by any more half decomposed Asians than normal, so I am not concerned.

We finished our attempt at cataloging and attempting to decipher the mystical shrines we had stumbled upon and decided to skip the mass transit and get an old fashioned cab. Mostly because the arguments for my newly blistered feet were most persuasive. It was about this time I realized that there is a distinct bell curve in the laziness accrued based on rurality of living. Farm goers tend to walk/work alot on the farm itself and drive where they need to go elsewhere. As you approach suburban life, things tend to be effectively too far away to walk to. At the other extreme of the metropolistic overcrowded streets of Tokyo, you walk everywhere, cars are just too bothersome to park/keep/fuel, and the streets are crowded. Walking and mass transit is easier, and more efficient.

So a cab ride back to the hotel, exhausted and hunger stricken, we decided to make out nightly sojourn to Roppongi. The sun had set, and drinking time was fast approaching. We were ready to savor both solid and liquid delights this evening. Trying in vain to convey my unquenched lust for animal flesh of the bovine variety, we bounced from street to street. We never found the sushi restaurant the guidebook proclaimed the greatness of. The steakhouse was full of people in suits, we were most definitely under dressed. So we stumbled across a place with a very simple sign. I don’t remember exactly but it was something like “Traditional Country Style Japanese”.

We approached to find one of the tallest locals we encountered during the trip. He asked kindly if we had a reservation, to which I replied “no….but were very hungry” or some such. After he ducked inside one moment, we began to realize something was amiss. He emerged shortly, ushered us inside. We were greeted with screams of Japanese words none of us knew and ushered to the backside of the bar. The bar being the table everyone ate at which wrapped around the two gentlemen who knelt over small grilles where the food was prepared. As you can see in the pictures below, the place was quite small, and filled with businessmen and other people that made it obvious we were woefully underdressed (This became a normal feeling after a couple of days). So our waiter/host (pictured behind us below) ever so kindly explained the process to us after providing us with some delicious Saki in a wooden box. Trying to act appropriately and not spill anything was impossible as the box was filled till the remainder poured onto the containing platter, but the Saki was MOST excellent. The ingredients of the day were laid before us, and our task was to pick and choose the items we liked the most. He suggested a few things, and we basically picked all the remaining options as well. Kobe beef skewers, giant prawns, and various grilled vegetables. So during this whole process there is yelling, yelling of words we don’t know. Every line item is yelled to the guy 2 meters or so away, and everyone barks acknowledgments. There is yelling on various queues I still haven’t figured out. The whole thing was very exciting and involving, especially once the Saki began to take effect. Dinner, a show, and an adventure. Unequivocally, my favorite restaurant in the world, and I will be returning.

Also you may
begin to notice a lot of blurry pictures at this point. In the interest of unobtrusiveness we all turned off our flashes at some point on the first day and rarely thought to turn them back on. So the steadiness of our hands became indicative of our levels of intoxication while taking photos. So you can assume from this point on, the more distorted the photo, the more smashed we were.

See, just a little buzzed from the Saki.

Our meal consumed, bellies near to bursting, the guys started to get a sinking feeling. The glamor and prestige that oozed from the place combined with the large doorman and the top grade food spelled a lofty price tag. Our glorious waiter handed Steve the check, the black man turned white. Steve handed it to Suki, who turned green. I had not seen the hand off of the bill, and so I did not understand the commotion. It was an expensive dinner, the most expensive I have ever had, the most expensive any of us have had, and well worth every yen. I asked if they took visa, and got a hearty laugh and “of course”. Everything worked out fine.

We decided to continue our night of hedonistic pleasure at our base of operations to gather our wits. Agave is host to over 400 different varieties of tequilas ranging from the worst to the best. Our first night in the place we only stopped in and grabbed a shot or two. My previous experiences with tequila was Chili’s “El Presidente” and shots of whatever was on sale. Tonight I was convinced we needed to continue living the good life and see what “good” tequila really meant.

My request to the waiter was to bring out the good stuff, show us the various differences in tequilas. Initially we were introduced to the types of tequila. Your silver or young tequilas are bottled almost immediately. Reposado or Rested tequilas are less than 1year old. Añejo or aged tequilas are 1 year or more old. So we pressed on shot for shot determining our flavor of choice, which quickly became the Añejo. Our clothes once again betrayed our tastes as our waiter was trying to be kind and steer us away from the more pricey choices. Determined in my course to reach the top, we managed to get some delectable selections. When leaving the place Suki said something like “If I puke tonight it will be the most expensive vomit EVER!”

Our livers warmed up and ready to go the night took a turn. We tore through the streets bouncing from club to club drinking and carrying on. I was quite determined to make Suki lose his dinner. We hit the normal clubs, we hit the quite clubs, we hit the loud clubs. Most were empty, but all were nice. We even stopped by a very ritzy place with very few patrons who once again nearly refused service of our top shelf selections. Suki being the scotch connoisseur of the group, we took the opportunity to sample the infamous Johnny Walker Blue Label. Turned out to be relatively cheap, but smooth and flavorful beyond compare. I believe it was a first for Suki and I both. Steve had apparently consumed his maximum for the evening, and opted out. He had the crazy idea that he was going to be coherent and make sure we got home. In the end my brash drunken ability to get the cabs attention beat his sober polite attitude, so he no longer got to use that excuse.

And of course we ended the evening in our favorite late night/early morning destination, Geronimo’s. Our second trip was better than the first, as we were now acquainted with the bartenders and more sure of their mixological skills.

The next morning we were up bright and late, busy eyed and bright tailed. We hit the streets once again.

Ran into a Lambo, nice. But I couldn’t help but wonder who would drive in that city, must less a lambo.

Stopped into the Sony building. The highlight of the place is the 3d mapping system in the lobby. A small card is laid on a scanner which displays the building floor by floor and allows you to navigate your options virtually. Very handy and easy to use system. After that its basically a very fancy trip through time. It was nice to see all the old models that used to plague the shelves of the various tech jobs I have held. I recommend a stop in if you in the area, just don’t spend too much time there.
This is a vending machine. Vending machines are EVERYWHERE in Tokyo. We never managed to find any of the crazy ones we had read about on the interweb, only the more regular drink and food variety. There is something to learn about these machines. Depending on the drink it may come out HOT! or COLD! but either one is an extreme so be prepared. Each machine has a tiny trash can attached. It is the little tube to the left. Do not buy a drink and start walking, you will end up carrying that bottle for MILES needlessly. This was also the subject from which we created one of our favored games. We liked to call it “Vending Machine Roulette”. In VMR you select a drink at somewhat random from the vending machine. Depending on your luck you may or may not know what you are getting.
In VMR you select a drink at somewhat random from the vending machine. Depending on your luck you may or may not know what you are getting.
Drink immediately and completely. This is required to determine the full affects of the item consumed, and to precent excess trash from piling its way into your hands/pockets.
And finally the reaction shot. Actually the Boss – Rainbow Mountain blend of coffee was quite nice, my face in the picture is a reaction from just how much sugar the tiny can had in it. And so I survived that round of Vending Machine Roulette.

By now we were quite skillful in deciphering the way beneath and managed to make our way to another park/temple/whatever in short order. It had the trappings of a temple, and in fact is where I purchased my most successful traveling charm. But most it was a walk in the woods. I had not known we were coming here, so I only had my smaller point and shoot. I would love another go at this place with an SLR in hand. It all looked really cool, but I have no idea what ANY of this is for, save for the sign that has directions printed in english.

And, back to the hotel, a vain attempt at a nighttime skysline shot. So we went out and partied some more at the now familiar haunts. Good times. The next morning was to be an early one, we were hoping to get to Mt. Fuji and make the summit. So we turned in early, a bit past midnight.

Up with the sun, we were struggling to get moving. The frantic pace was taking its tole. I was dieing for real eggs, and would not be dissuaded. We walked from corner to corner attempting to find a Denny’s I had spotted mid taxi ride the day before. After miles of wandering without reward, I was forced to settle for a McDonalds breakfast or collapse. It did the trick, but Denny’s and I had unfinished business. After breakfast we made it to the bus station via the underground in fairly short order. However the enigmatic combination of the subways, bottom floors of the buildings, and the bus station proved annoying at best. We spent nearly an hour to find the ticket counter. But our bus tickets purchased, we had some time to look around before our ride.

So we walked around and killed some time. Stopping into a convenience store where we found more peculiar snacks. Including Ice Cucumber Pepsi. Not nearly as bad as it sounds, but not something I would make a habit of.

First sight of our objective.

We arrived at base camp in the early afternoon. A collection of small shops and restaurants. And the most amazing meat on a stick you could hope for after a nearly nutrient free fast food breakfast. After having our fill of stick meat, we purchased some walking sticks. I decided a hoodie might be a good idea with all of that white stuff up there, so I grabbed one. And we’re off.

Right about here, I ran into my first PILE of snow. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It couldn’t have been less than 75 degrees, but there was snow. Suki and Steve had a good laugh over my elation of seeing my first snow on the side of a mountain on almost the exact opposite side of the world from home. But it was a minor moment that meant a lot to me. I wish I had taken a picture, or at least made a snowball and pelted someone with it.

We began to feel the effect of the altitude as our short sprint up the first hill ended in Suki and I falling over panting. Deciding that running wasn’t going to be our speed, we continued on.

The pictures may not show it very well, but that is not dirt, its very loose and very sharp pumice. The higher you go, the steeper you climb the more treacherous it became. We were warned this time of year was the worst for climbing. The warm weather and half melted snow was very prone to landslides. The barrier behind Steve is to prevent a complete landslide, when the ground is that loose, the barrier will stop a landslide from building up too much momentum. It was most exciting knowing we were making the trek in peak landslide season.

About this point the sticks became better at telling us where to step than our feet did.

As we approached the final stop before the summit, we were forced to weigh our options. Steve had developed a wicked case of height/oxygen problems. SO, faced with leaving a buddy behind, the setting sun, the plummeting temperature, and being uncertain as to the path down being the one we came up or if there was a different one on the other side. We decided to take the safe route and take our buddy back down.
The path down proved more treacherous when heading in the same direction as gravity.
We ran into this group of freshmen from the bus. They had apparently not seen the not snow covered path on the other soft of that rock behind them. They were nice enough, but we questioned certain parts of their sanity for wishing to make the summit after nightfall and spend the night. We never saw anything in the news about freshmansicles being discovered at the summit, so we assume their plan worked.

Our first sight of base camp, and the sun just setting, we believed we had made great time, and our adventure was wrapping up.

We were mistaken.

The camp was deserted. No one seems to know WHEN the base camp closed. But it had, and completely. No one lingered. So we found ourselves stranded, on the side of Mt. Fuji, with no supplies, no sleeping bags, very little clothing, roughly an hours drive or half a day hike down the mountain from civilization. Our options for sustenance were the few vending machines that never shut down, and THANK GOD they served hot coffee. Not a deadly situation, but definitely a major speed bump in the fun.

As we sat, pondering our methods of escape, others trickled down from the mountain. All of them more prepared than we were, but still not expecting to spend the night. We formed what Steve called “Camp Awesome”. Our company for the evening being 4 physicist students, 2 from France, 1 from India, and 1 from Italy, all very cool, and a guy in town for business from Australia.

So we sat, contemplating possibilities, searching the area for better shelter. We managed to get cellphone service, but were refused service from several cab companies for fear of a prank. To this day I still cannot figure out why, but a middle aged man just happened to be driving by, several other cars had passed through, none so much as pausing to our hails. Yet as we had just begun to accept where we would be spending one of our precious few evenings in Japan, this man stopped, and with a combination of Steve’s limited Japanese and a wallet full of Yen, we were able to negotiate a deal. Our saviors compliance roughly translated as “Someone helped my father on the mountain, its only right I help you”. So in the wonderful circle of Karma’s reciprocal altruism, he accepted a handsome some of yen, to include payment for his trouble, and bribe money for a cab. Two cabs actually, I decided we were ALL getting off that mountain. So off drove a random stranger with a sizable chunk of our cash, into the night.

As we waited, and discussed the chances of ever actually seeing anything come of that particular exchange. The night sank in deeper and the cold bit harder. Sure enough, at just a bit before 11, two cabs rolled up. After negotiating a fair deal, considering the hour and the insanity of the request, we were rolling our way down the mountain back to civilization. The last train pulled out at 12:15 and we were on it by a hair. And soon enough a bottle appeared, and the pictures started getting really blurry.

Our physicist friends could not be
persuaded to join us for an after-party. We headed on back to our favorite haunt Geronimo’s. We placed our now battered sticks in the umbrella stand, slung our packs into the corner and settled in to the bar. Our highest accolade being the comment from the bartender upon our second retelling of the story of the day (the second telling as he rounded up the remainder of the staff for an audience). “Ya know, after something like that….most people go to bed!” to which we replied “Hard days beget hard nights!” and we all toasted a shot with “This one is for Fuji!”.

Our australian friend showed up a while later, and we migrated around to some of his favorite haunts, learned some new places we had not seen, drank a few more too many, and tied a few dozen on as well. In the end, a well deserved chemical obliteration after a long day of physical and mental abuse.

So the next morning we slept in. We set out to do something, I am not very sure, but we found the Pokemon store. That was exactly as fun as it sounds. I remember contemplating suits for all us. Everyone seemed to be wearing suits, figured it might help us blend in. If I ever return getting a nice suit will be my first stop. However, on this day we decided against, and I split from the guys and crashed back at the hotel.

MMMM Shrimp Burger!

The next day we were off to visit the Zenkō-ji temple in Nagano. Reading the article would give some perspective on the pictures, as I had none when we visited. I was bound and determined to ride one of the high speed trains I had heard so much about, and so it was our method of choice to reach the city.

They turned out to be quite comfortable and spacious, especially consdering the vast majority of its passengers need far less leg room than we did.

And a long day of wondering if we were once again offending any spirits with our presence drew to an end. So it was back on the train and back to Tokyo.

Next we decided to hit up the Sega building. It is a fantastic arcade that I highly recommend for the nerds in the crowd. Nice linked play robot combat. Never a bad idea.

Especially when it comes with a “Dan” model of robot.
And the big brother of that game is an AWESOME combination of Mechwarrior and Tribes. You play in the pods around the room. These pods are apparently housing people with no life who arrived early that morning with their paycheck or had it direct deposited. No one entered or left the pods in the time we were there, and there was a line of those waiting for an opening.
So we just watched the game on the handy overview monitor.
And of course other wonderfully titled options were everywhere.

Oh and in case anyone is wondering, this is what you can expect for a toilet in Japan.
After a long day of temples both spiritual and technological, we were starving. Heading back into the playground we wandered around till we found the yakitori that inspired the set for the scene in Kill Bill with the Crazy 88. Meat on a stick and movie paraphernalia? IM IN! So after learning that an order of meat in a Japanese restaurant is mean to go with a giant bowl of rice, we basically killed our waitress with orders. “No No Just the meat, 4 orders of Chicken, 4 of beef, 4 of lamb….”, You get the idea. Some strange looks but we managed to leave stuffed with protein. No small task in the land of rice and veggies. And so we were off for a night of partying, our last night partying together infact. So we hit all the places from before, had a few drinks at each and moved on. We figured out the visualization played on the wall was from a camera, and of course Suki had to play with it.


There ya go!

For our 2600 fans….

The next morning was goodbye for the guys. They got all fancy and headed out for the airport.

And while they were flying, I went back out onto the town. Wandered down the road wondering what I had not done. Saw a turtle, thought about soup. Headed to get some food.

Was walking down Hitotsugi St and saw the giant puffer fish hanging off the front of a building. FUGU! Of course, how could I have almost forgotten. SO I entered and found that once again I had accidentaly settled into a place where I should have been wearing a suit. The girl at the counter led me upstairs to the dining area. Most seperated rooms where you would dine “traditionally”, knelt in front of the low table with shoes removed, I looked to the booths in the corner. When the waitress appeared in full kimono, I knew I might be in trouble. The menu was entirely in Japanese, and my waitress spoke no english. Undaunted we managed to have a conversation by the greatest stretch of the definition, mostly consisting of me just handing her the menu and shrugging alot. I wished for a sampler, “bring me the best!” “Show me what fugu is all about!” and various forms of sign language attempting to convey my needs. Her patience was indomitable, and she was unwilling to settle without every detail being figured out and understood. In the end I still had no idea what was coming my way, but I had managed to convince her it was what I wanted. This is more difficult than you can imagine, as the “customer is always right” philosophy is stronger in Japan than anywhere else I have been.

The meal began with a fugu skin salad. The skin was very chewy and acidic, a wonderful combination with just a touch of citrus. Followed by fugu sashimi with a delicious soy and citrus sauce. There was also a paste I could not begin to explain that complimented the sashimi well.

Then things began to get complicated. The table featured an induction cooktop, and the cool wicker basket with wax paper is something I didn’t expect to see in a restaurant, very neat.
A plate of various fugu parts was delivered, and I was instructed to boil the parts before eating. So I dug through the bits and boiled them up. Using the pastes and sauces for flavoring. The flesh of the fish had a subtle taste, a bit sour(which explained all of the citrus), and very chewy for a fish. All in all, tasty. At this point I was beginning to feel the venom the chef so precisely leaves in the food. A bit
of a tingle in the mouth, and a tiny bit of tingle everywhere else, slightly relaxing. A plate of various ingredients was brought to the table. Seeing the bewildered look in my eye, the waitress brought the girl from the front counter upstairs to translate her offer to prepare the next part for me. I graciously accepted, though I consider myself handy around the kitchen, watching the woman work was most educational. Should I ever return I should be able to put on quite a show for my friends preparing the soup portion of the meal. Rice, veggies, egg, all whipped up in the boiling water that was now fugu broth from the previous cooking. A very delicious and filling soup.

I consumed my fill, and prepared to leave, wondering where I went to pay, I found the check hanging on a hook next to the table and headed to the front counter. I was met by my now nearly distraught waitress who I managed to ascertain was under the impression I was unpleased. Apparently this was a 5 course meal, and I had 2 to go. Oops! I assured her I was quite pleased and returned to my seat. Shortly a plate of fried fugu parts was delivered to the table. Be warned, they look bit sized, but the crunch of bones and all greeted me upon mastication. SO I picked the meat which was much nicer than the boiled version from the bones and continued with my now lengthy meal. A few minutes later a bowl of ice cream arrived. A variety of red bean ice cream that had pleasured my palette previous in a particularly nice sushi bar in Brandon. Still not sure if I was done with the meal I waited for the waitresses go ahead that I was done. I praised the chef and my waitress for her assistance. I went downstairs to pay and found the bill to me not nearly what I expected given the ambiance and decor of the restaurant. I left a healthy tip for all of the trouble I know I had been and departed. In a country where tipping is optional this is especially appreciated. So I managed to survive my encounter with the FUGU. Check that one off the bucket list.

Now full of fish and venom, exhausted from translating, and ready to relax in the best way possible before I left, it was time to hit my usual haunts, the places I didn’t have to think.

I headed down to Roppongi, and into Agave. Apparently Sebastian worked every day as he was there yet again. I told him of my friends departure and my desire for one last shot in my base of operations. I requested the wonderful shot we had a couple nights ago. The convorsation went like this.

Me- “I think you know what I want.”
Sebastian – “Oh….I think I know….you want… The Real Deal.”
Me – “The Real Deal? Is that what he had the other night?”
Sebastian – “Oh no no, this is our best!”
Sebastian – “Oh yeah, but its a bit pricey.”
Me – “Really? So was the other stuff, how much more can it be?”
Sebastian – “I don’t know, we will have to check.”
The bartender went into the back and brought out a book, after rummaging and calculating they came up with a figure.
Sebastian told me the cost, and had the bottle pulled down. On the highest shelf, in a dusty case, came a bottle I would learn to love.
Me – “If I didn’t flinch at the last one which was outrageously expensive and this is only $15 dollars more. Why wouldn’t you bring this out when my friends where here?”
Sebastian’s face flushed and he tried to explain he didn’t want us to think he was trying to roll us. I guess people don’t just walk in and say “I want your best” and mean it. I had them pour a shot for me and Sebastian, it didn’t make sense that a spirit so fine should be consumed alone. We saluted to Tokyo and fond farewells, and took drank. The most wonderful flavor engulfed my senses. Until that moment, I never understood what flavor was in Tequila. I always considered the best tequila to be the one that burned the least, but had no concept of what it should taste like. This was pure agave flavor, smooth and almost sweet. This was a moment worth every penny, to know this kind of liquor existed was a glimpse into a world I had never known. I was only saddened that Suki and Steve would not be able to share in this moment. We said our farewells, and I headed out to visit my last stop, of every nights, and this night was no exception.

Flying high on the world’s best production Tequila, I flew into Geronimo’s and settled up to the bar. Me and the bartenders shared a few shots and toasted to Tokyo and Fuji before I said my farewell and headed back to the Hotel for some well deserved Sleep.

Tokyo will forever be highly recommended as a pricey but worthy destination for the eastward bound. I will see Tokyo again. I will eat Fugu again. I will see the cherry blossoms in bloom. I will make the Summit of Mt. Fuji.



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