Day 13, Tokyo, that’s all folks!

It is with much sadness that I begin writing tonight's blog.  This is my last blog post since I am flying home tomorrow and as of tonight, my trip is basically complete.  It was without a doubt that best two weeks of my life.  I lived my dream and it ended up being better than I ever thought it could be.  I might do a wrap up at the end of this post but for now, let me keep up the tradition one last time and go ahead and discuss my day.

I woke up in the hostel, about 4 inches off the floor since that’s how far off the ground the bed padding provides.  I didn’t rush to get up because I can hear he rain outside again, I was afraid to see how heavy the rain was.  I finally stood up and saw it wasn’t bad, I realized I was going to be able to have my last day in Japan and enjoy it.

I get an email from my parents to get one last Skype session in prior to me coming back to Seattle, where presumably the Skype sessions will cease to happen every day or so.  My dad thanks me for putting that story about him in yesterdays blog post, I told him he was welcome and I'm pretty sure no one finds that stuff as funny as we do since we know him so well.  Another dad story was his inability to focus the lens on the web cam.  I love my dad, he cracks me up.

Anyways, I wake up and realize I have to take a shower in the communal shower area.  It actually isn’t bad, it’s one shower with a lock on the door with a full bathroom attached to it.  It’s a pain having to go downstairs to use it but once you’re there, it’s not really that bad.  The important part is I was clean because I hate going out for a day not showering and feeling gross the entire time, that’s not fun.

I lock up my room, and swap my Japanese slippers for my sneakers and walk out of the building.  I snapped a picture of the entrance as well as the street my hostel is on.

It looks nice enough from the outside, the inside looks like a YMCA though.

It’s a weird street, especially considering Shinagawa is such a business area, this is very back alley Tokyo looking.  Fast and the Furious probably raced down this street.

On the list of things to do today was go see the Sunshine City Aquarium in Ikebukuro.  Honestly, I am sooo excited to go to this, not because of the aquarium, but because I get to go back to Ikebukuro, that was my home for the entire duration of the 6 nights in Tokyo last week.  It was like going home, it felt so safe and comfortable which is ironic because Ikebukuro is neither of those words if you ask most people but I love it.  I didn’t even know it existed before I booked my hotel there and I fell in love with it.  Here are some pictures I took that make me feel like I'm going down memory lane.

Aww, the Ikebukuro Station, I know this place like the back of my hands!

I bought many a breakfast at the ISP.  Speaking of…

This place looked interesting.  Tough to choose when there are about 75 vendors but it looked good enough to buy food from, so I did…

Hmm, ok, let’s see here.  Fried chicken with sesame seeds and some sort of sweet and sour sauce up top.  Below that is some pickled cabbage.  Underneath that is a teriyaki noodle with shrimp and carrot.  Next to that was the sticky rice.  I love the rice in Japan because it’s so sticky you basically cut it up like a brownie and eat it in slices.  Above that was some egg salad type thing and above that was squid ink pasta.

This is an ironic sign considering the weather outside today was less than sunny but this was actually the direction I was going to.  Sunshine stands for Sunshine City but it’s such a lovely thing to see, this way for Sunshine, I wish every city had this.

I get out of the train station after spending quite some time in it.  It’s amazing, the train stations in Japan are actually places that you want to spend time in, that’s unheard of in America.  Also unheard of in America is food vendors near major transportation hubs that don’t charge you an arm and a leg for food knowing that you will buy it regardless of the price because you don’t have many other options.  Here in Japan, prices are cheap for food in train stations, that’s why I ate there so much, good food cheap!  Sorry for the rant, after the train station I start my walk to the Sunshine City Aquarium.

I get to the Sunshine City complex and have a bit of a tricky time finding the aquarium but that’s because the signs in this place make no sense.  It never said the aquarium was on the 8th floor, signs just kept pointing in all directions on the first floor.  I randomly got into an elevator to see signs for it.  Come on Sunshine City, it’s an aquarium, it shouldn’t be this difficult to spot!  Anyways, here is a few pictures of the Sunshine City mall I walked through for a while…

This is Sunshine City, at one point the tallest building in Tokyo.

The inside of the mall at Sunshine City.

The fountain at the Sunshine City mall.  I swear, I had to wait twenty minutes for this stupid thing to start being a fountain, but it paid off and I got my picture.  I have an unhealthy love for fountains, it’s ok, I'm ok with it.

I get in the elevator and there it is, pictures of fish on the ceiling.  Yep, the signs didn’t tell me where to go but I figured it out all on my own!

I get to the 8th floor and there I am, the aquarium.  It’s probably been 10-15 years since I've been to an aquarium.  I don’t know why it’s been so long, I guess I'm about to find out.  I’m about to post a ton of pictures in a row, some with and some without captions, just giving you all a heads up that this is how I plan on covering the Sunshine City Aquarium.

Japanese school children are so well behaved.  The girl being spoken to in the front was crying for some reason, poor kid, she probably didn’t want to be at the aquarium, I would soon sympathize with her.

There was a Doraemon exhibit going on.  This is a famous Japanese manga character.  The first few pics have to do with that.  I don’t know anything about Doraemon so I'll just show you the pictures.  This first one is Doraemon in a water tube.

That's water over my head at the Doraemon entrance.

Don’t all aquariums have scrubbers and fake bars of soap?

The fish are inside the glass, outside the glass it’s a waterfall from the top to the bottom.  It sorta looks like a transparent wedding cake.

I couldn’t read the sign cause it was in Japanese but can someone confirm that this is a blowfish or a puffer fish?

This little jerk wouldn’t turn around for a picture.  Come on man, you’re in an aquarium, do your job and make me happy!

I never understand the joy people getting in this being their jobs.

Sting rays look so harmless, especially when they do their Roomba impersonations on the ground, but it’s not just a clever name.

This is a seal that is alive but was in this position for about 10 mins.  It was weird so I took a picture.

I saw this huge giant crab and all I kept thinking to myself was “I wanna eat that!”.

Ok, this picture is gross and was the moment I first realized why it’s been so long since I've been to an aquarium or zoo.  These are two animals, not sure what kind, but they were fighting pretty hardcore.  They were gnawing at each others faces and really struggling to get away from one another.  They actually went into alligator like death rolls at some point.  It was gross, I thought I'd see blood, I took this picture and walked away quickly.  I don’t care if it is the animal kingdom, it’s disgusting.

There's that scuba person again.

I thought turtles were supposed to be slow, this little bastard wouldn’t stand still for a picture.  I guess under water they get super powers!

I see you’re not so fast outside of the tank you little turtle you.  Doug 1 Turtles 0.


Ok, after walking around a bit, I realize that I am completely grossed out by the fish and animals I’ve seen.  Unless it’s a dog or cat, I don’t want anything to do with it.  I walked by snakes, fish, some in open cages, some in closed, I was officially grossed out.  This is why it’s been so long since I've been to an aquarium or zoo, I hate them.  I hate wildlife.  I spent money on this but at this point, I just want to leave so I run through the rest of the aquarium and do drive by picture taking.  Here are the results of the frantic pace…

A petting zoo, my nightmare.

Penguins in an open area, lovely, they could jump out and attack me.

Same goes for these guys.  Ok, I'm done here and I'm terrified, where’s the exit?

Ok, after running for the door, I finally get the heck out of there.  I spent 1,800 Yen to be terrified which stinks because not only do I hate wildlife and ocean life, I hate being scared, double whammy!  I walk out of the building and I'm still in Ikebukuro.  There is one last thing I want to see in Ikebukuro but I have no cell phone service to look on the Internet to see where it is and the tourist maps don’t show it and no one speaks English to help me out so I'm on a hunt.  I spend about 2 hours looking for what I'm looking for and end up stumbling on it accidently.  Some stuff happened before this, that was just my teaser paragraph to keep you on the edge of your seat.

This is an 8 floor store dedicated to anime and manga.  I went in and didn’t understand a thing.  The Japanese kids who were in there seemed completely happy there and that's all that matters.

Toyota has offices here and on the first floor is what they call the Toyota Auto Salon.

Here is one of the things on display at the Toyota Auto Salon.  Pretty ironic isn’t it considering recent events?  Toyota – Moving you forward…whether you like it or not.

They had this big ball type thing hanging from the ceiling so I took a picture of my reflection in it.  I have a very similar picture taken in Rockefeller Center several years ago that I can show anyone if you want.

During my hunt to find what I’m looking for (not the U2 song), I see this crepe store being ran by a bunny.  I’m gonna miss you Japan.

Aww, my home for the first 6 nights I was in Japan  Hello, how are you, I miss you.  The thing with me and the hostel is just a fling, it won’t last I promise.

This just sounds painful.

I didn’t give up on what I was looking for but I did get to one of the places I wanted to go to, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space.  This is not a full museum just a collection of art exhibits that I am really looking forward to seeing.

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space.  I’m pretty happy to see it because I’ve done a lot on this trip but I haven’t done anything artistic and this really is going to be good.  I walk inside the building and holy crap, look at what I see…

This is it!  This is what I was looking for!  The worlds largest escalator!  I had no idea where it was and anytime I asked someone where this was, they just thought I meant the closest escalator to wherever i was at the time.  I was looking for this and I stumbled on it, major win for me!  It took me 2 hours to find this and almost wasted my last day in Japan not finding this.  Here is a video of me riding the entire thing.

So I tried verifying this online but couldn't find any hard evidence but the people around here keep saying that this is the worlds biggest escalator. I want to believe them because I was on it.  The girl in front of me wasn’t planned, she hopped on right before I did.

No matter what I do, I won’t be able to show you how big this thing is.  It’s 5 floors tall!  It takes 90 seconds to ride to the top!

At the top of this amazing escalator is the actual art space.  Here are some pictures I took from it along with some descriptions of what each one is and why this was an amazing art exhibit.

This is an amazing exhibit.  This is work done by patients in Tokyo psychiatric hospitals for mental illness.  They aren’t doing this for therapeutic purposes but instead they are doing it so that the world can see what the creative mind of someone with a mental illness is capable of.  The most interesting thing is how similar it looks to other art we see by people without mental illness.  The next two pictures are from this display so they are all done by people with mental illnesses.

After this I turn the corner and hear spoken word poetry next to a guy playing a guitar.

Around these people are some other art pieces I decide to take pictures of.  Most don’t need comments.

The TV was showing the pictures of the hand scanned into a computer and put together to form a movie of the hand opening and closing.

I love seeing the old man reading manga.  Manga definitely belongs in any art museum in Tokyo.

The bottom left part of this piece was made out of chicken bones.

After this, I leave the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, I leave very happy because not only was the art exhibit fantastic, but I found the escalator!  My checklist of things to do and see in Japan should be all done now.  I’ll have to make a new list for next time!

At this point of the day, I realize it’s time to start souvenir shopping for people.  I go to Harajuku because they have some great shopping and I was right, I find most of the items I was looking for there.  There are a few other things I still need to get and the airport better have them or else I'm coming home empty handed and will have to apologize to these people.  I really don’t want to do that so I'm putting a lot of faith in the airport.

I took this picture on the subway to Harajuku.  I think this is my favorite city name in Japan.  I love hearing the overhead speaker lady say it, I smile each time.

I felt a little weird taking this picture but come on, he’s in a school uniform including the hat, I'm from America where you just don’t see something like this on public transportation, it’s awesome!

Ok yes, the name of this store in Harajuku is creepy, but trust me, they had some great stuff in there and I got a lot of souvenirs from here.  Oh, and they took American Express, you don’t understand how rare this is in Japan.

After getting the souvenirs, I decide to walk to Shibuya because it’s early and I want to see Shibuya one last time and it’s not far at all from Harajuku, just one train stop over.  Once I'm over there, to get out of the rain for a bit, I go into a mall near the train station to stay dry and get a quick bite to eat.

My comment here is that this is the kind of place where in America, soccer moms would frequent.  Another comment is that it’s Friday night, I am the only guy here and there are about 15 women there alone.  Remember what I said about people eating alone in Japan, it happens all the time!

Alright so, miso front and center, to the right of that is pickled cabbage, above that is my green tea, next to that is a shrimp salad with watercress and sesame oil.  Next to that almost tastes like an antipasto.  The rice was bad, it was brown rice with no flavor and this place didn’t have the soy sauce containers sitting there so I couldn’t add flavor  It wasn’t good but I finished it because that’s what I do.

After this dinner, I start making my way back to my hostel and debate pulling an all nighter (spoiler alert, I'm still writing this at 7am so I'm on my way to making that dream a reality).  I realize this is the last day to go crazy and not care about my diet.  With that in mind, I eat the following foods.

Chicken, scallions, rice, and egg.  I love cracking the egg and mixing it in with all of the ingredients, really makes them all come together in an eggy goo.  The things to the right are something I don’t know but they were sweet and tart and have a pit in them.  Kevin, any idea?

The egg and rice dish above was in a restaurant, the Japanese corn dog you see directly above was from Family Mart and eaten in my room.  It wasn’t good, I don’t know why I got it.  It was very sweet and I forgot I don’t like corn dogs.  I love the dog part though!

Here is the inside in case seeing the outside didn’t gross you out enough.

This was a raspberry cheesecake desert, it was decadent and delicious!

After this dessert, I squat down in front of my computer to kill some time.  I am in no rush to start this blog post because it’s my last one and I know that I can’t go to sleep until I do it so basically I'm forcing myself to stay awake by not writing the blog.  Oh, the reason for staying up all night is so I fall asleep on the plane.  The plan is taking off midnight Seattle time and lands at 9am.  If I can sleep during this time frame, I think I will adjust to Seattle time instantly, making jet lag a non-issue.

Anyways, at about 3am I realized I needed some fuel to keep me going.  There is a McDonalds near my hostel but unfortunately it’s closed, what is open though is an Italian restaurant that’s 24 hours.  Note to anyone traveling to Japan, do not eat Italian food in Japan.  Here is what I got, hopefully you can see it through all of the oil they used.

This is possibly one of the last thing I will be eating in Japan.  This means that in the morning (or now I guess since it’s 7:29am), I need to eat something good, so I can go out on a high note.  I wish I could go back to Sex Machine in Osaka and have some prime short ribs, mmm…

And that’s it, tomorrow is a travel day and I won't be photographing or documenting it so that’s the end of my blog.  It was a lot of work making this blog but I have no regrets.  I have an incredibly detailed journal of the vacation of a lifetime.  I can read it whenever I want and relive the entire thing like it’s happening all over again for the first time.  I also got to share my vacation with those close to me.  I never felt alone over here even though I was here all by myself, I feel like I took you all with me and you shared everything I shared and for that I thank you all for reading this and commenting.

This trip has changed my life, I can’t wait to see all that comes of this once I adjust back to life in the states.  It might have only been 2 weeks but it feels like I've been here forever.  I won’t be a new person, I'll just be an improved version of myself.  I want to take a lot of what I saw in Japan and apply it to my life and maybe the lives of others as well.  Leaving Japan will be incredibly sad, everything I saw here I loved.  I am not happy about going home, the good thing is Japan will always be here.

Thank you to Japan for being more than I ever wanted you to be and constantly amazing me with your beauty and excitement and contradictory lifestyles.  You are amazing and we will meet again.

That’s it for me, this is Doug signing off.