Comin' at ya live from Japan this time! We've actually been here since Monday, but we've been doing the proverbial "family stuff" since then, and not much of it's really worth writing about. I'll probably break out the few things you might find interesting in a later post. This is going to be a shorter trip report than the last one, though, if only because we're only here for half the time.
Tonight's our first night in Tokyo, and also our first night with internet access. We're staying at the Grand Prince Akasaka this time, which is a new hotel for us, and it's pretty cool so far. The location is great - it's walking distance to Roppongi, notorious Roppongi, which I'd never been to before tonight. Of course, it's also near all there is to do in Akasaka, which itself has a lot of nightlife. This is a great area for young people.
It's also a really nice hotel. The other Prince hotels that we've stayed at before have been nice, but not in any really spectacular way. But the Akasaka Prince is really nice. Every room has panoramic windows with a corner view. The rooms are big, with enough space for a built-in sofa along the windows. Of course, everything is ultra-modern, but with that weird, stark pseudo-80's decor that all Prince Hotels have - you either love that or you hate it. I think it's really neat. The lobby of this hotel looks totally Kubrick-esque - white and minimalist and riddled with marble. I'll take a picture of it and post it later.
We don't really know much about Akasaka and we got here pretty late, so the first thing we did tonight was just go out wandering around. Of course, like jerks we ended up eating at Dennys. Not that Dennys in Japan has any relation whatsoever to Dennys in the USA - it's a completely, 100% Japanese menu - but still.
We both agreed afterwards that it was a mistake; it wasn't even very good for chain diner food. We'll be a little more adventurous from now on.
We walked to Roppongi - a neighborhood I've managed to avoid in all my previous trips, amusingly referred to officially as "High Touch Town" - and wandered around a bit more.
The humidity is still pretty stifling here and I was pretty drenched by the time we got there, so I was actually almost embarrassed to go in to any bars or clubs. Roppongi is infamous for its "piano bars", which probably doesn't mean what you think it does - whatever your perspective. These are neither dens of prostitution nor are they innocent Billy Joel-inspired clubs where downtrodden piano men play. No, these are bars where stressed-out salarymen go to talk to beautiful girls. That's all they do; talk, for money. I know it's a difficult concept to understand, but it's a fact. Oh, I'm sure there are places where more goes on than that. But that's not a piano bar, that's something else, and that's a rarity even in Roppongi. In piano bars, as you see in most of Roppongi (and to a lesser extent in a lot of other places), the girls just sit there and talk.
Roppongi is also where a lot of the foreigners in Tokyo like to hang out at night, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Honestly, we saw some foreigners there, but most of them were obviously tourists just like us... not ex-pats. Ex-pats don't walk around in large groups with cameras hanging around their necks. I didn't really see any more resident foreigners there tonight than I have in any other neighborhood; most of the people hanging out seemed to be Japanese businessmen or couples just getting off from work. I think this ex-pat rep is probably pretty overblown, though I could believe that things might be different on different nights of the week.
Roppongi's also got a probably undeserved rep for being "dangerous". Now, I admit, I've spent one night there. But I'm from New York; I was born there, and I lived there through the bad old days when there were more than 2,000 murders per year. I know dangerous. And Roppongi is not dangerous. In fact, I didn't see anything that would make it any more dangerous than any other Tokyo neighborhood. Lots of tourists, lots of young Japanese out having a good time. Where's the danger? This is not the Tokyo equivalent of Tijuana, which is what Roppongi's made out to be so much of the time. (Yes, I've done Tijuana too.)
After hanging out a bit in Roppongi itself, we headed on over to Roppongi Hills, a fairly new, upscale development that mixes high-end residential along with commercial and retail space in a pretty gigantic complex. I've always wanted to see it, and I wasn't disappointed - in fact, we decided to go back in a couple days while the stores are all still open, and when I'll have my own camera with me (these shots were taken with my wife's pocket cam). It's really huge! And with a lot to do. The architecture is really fantastic, too; it's very organic, and makes you feel like you need to explore every little nook and cranny.
There's no real rhyme or reason to the layout; it's a maze. Sometimes it feels like walking through natural caves. There's also an observation deck at the top of one of the buildings, and some sort of "skyline aquarium" that's got us interested, so I'll make another Roppongi Hills post in a few days.
That's about it for our first night in Tokyo. Tomorrow, we're finally going to take the Himiko cruise that I was so disappointed about missing last time, and we're going to spend a full day at the Sega Joypolis. Then, we're hoping to catch Evangelion 1.0, which you either already know the name of or it's not worth me explaining it to you. I'll hopefully have time for another update tomorrow night!