Slideshow

Tuna and Baseball!

Saturday, June 17

A pretty sleepless night; jet lag (to be expected), and knowing that we had to get up at 4:45! So we were in the (very quiet) lobby at 5:30 waiting for the rest of the group. Time to visit the Tsukiji Fish market. The bus took us past the Ginza area. The market is unbelievable!!!!! 17,000 trucks per day come and go. They auction off these 5 foot long solidly frozen tunas.  Little carts are zooming every which way - watch out! - you can get injured. There are 1,700 stalls!  Eels, squid, octopi, still flapping fish, beautiful shrimps...amazing!  We spent about an hour there and got back to the hotel at 7:00.

Time to eat. Then we still had about 2 hours to kill before the tour actually started. Finally on the bus with the whole group. First, we drove around the city a little and stopped at the Imperial Palace, where we walked the grounds - an impressive compound.  Then back to the Ginza shopping district for a quick (!) 15-minute teaser.  Then we stopped at Meiji Shrine, a very important Shinto shrine.  Shinto is not a religion - it is more of a way of living. No "Bible", no rules, no pictures of holy creatures.  And, of course, as always happens on our trips, there was a wedding going on! By this time the sun was out and with the humidity, the bridal party must have been really shvitzing.

Then at 2:00 we headed for lunch. This time it was at another hotel where they gave us a delicious salad and steak with French fries!  Nothing mysterious here. it was very tasty.

Then back to our hotel where Wendy took a nap, while Wayne went back across the street to the Hibiya Garden. No rain this time; it was warm and beautiful. Lots of people, lots of cats!

7:00, and back on the bus for dinner!  They took us to a loud, jumping, Yakatori place. No one was hungry after that big lunch.  First, they brought out big pitchers of beer.  Then a beautiful (of course) salad with tuna tartare (Hey! You look familiar. Didn't I see you this morning?), a large chunk of tofu, and radishes and green onions.  Then a dish with meatball-sized potato croquettes and something that looked like sea urchin (but it was really ground shrimp fried in a ball with long "fried" tentacles). Actually quite yummy! No room for more. Oh look! Here comes skewers of chicken and beef...when you finished one they brought another!  Then, a bowl of shrimp tempura and bean sprout soup (no rice). Finally...dessert! Vanilla ice cream with bean paste cubes (looked like little dice but were rubbery). A very fun time. On the bus on the way back, our local guide Toshi-san told us that the Japanese government recommends eating 30 different kinds of food a day!  Makes sense. So that's why they have so many little things in each course.


Sunday, June 18

Still had trouble sleeping, so we got up early and went for another walk in Hibiya Garden.  less humid and no rain.  The onto the bus. More driving around Tokyo; first to a Buddhist temple, then to another Shinto shrine.  The temple had been damaged in the war so most of it was only 60 years old, but the shrine was from the 1700's!  From there we walked to a Maxwell-street-like market. Food, fans, shoes, cookies, clothes, etc., etc.  Our guide, Larry, warned us that there were a lot of tchotchkes, but it was still fun to look. Then back on the bus and back to Ginza!  We went into the big department store which had a two-floor food court!  Wow!  So many beautiful things. Bento boxes and fish and pastries and chocolates.  But no place to eat!  It was more like a take-out place. This was the end of touring for the day. We bought a tempura shrimp and asparagus to snack on.  We debated having a whole lunch, but opted for Plan B - lunch at the hotel.  So we walked back - 9 blocks in the rain! The hotel was very crowded and we couldn't get a seat in any of the restaurants, so we went to Plan C: Room Service!!! This was also good because we had to pack our one-night bags for the trip tomorrow. Wendy had tuna rolls (15!) and Wayne had a beautiful and delicious salade Nicoise (when in Rome....). This was also because we weren't sure what they would have to eat at the ball game (yes!  we are going to a baseball game!). Then we went to THE TOKYO DOME!

Wow!!!! It's "Tokyo Dome City"...the ball park, an amusement park, and an arcade. It's kind of like the Metrodome in Minneapolis. What an experience! The game was very good but it was more like a football or basketball game re the spectators. First of all: NO SCORECARDS :-(   No one keeps score.  Very few people wore baseball caps, but a lot wore jerseys.  Before the game there was no National Anthem, but in the 7th inning the Giants (home team) and the Eagles cheerleaders came out and did YMCA!!!! Yes! I kid you not.  We were glad we had eaten earlier, but it wouldn't have been a problem: there were many, many food stands: KFC, hamburgers, mystery foods, beer, Ritz crackers (!), but each stand also sold bento boxes (different sizes) and everyone was buying these.  Again, everything was soooo clean.  The people would eat their food and put the garbage in a plastic bag and then go to the concourse to throw it out!  nothing on the floors.  The vendors were all young women. They sold beer (from kegs on their backs) and whiskey and scotch, and Tokyo Dome ice cream sandwiches.  That's it - no peanuts, hot dogs, or Crackerjacks. They did not shout "Beer here" which is good since no one would have heard them - the cheering was non-stop - not so much from the fans but from the teams' cheering sections. The home team had the whole right field and most of the left field bleachers; those fans wore orange shirts and waved flags and blew horns and they sang a different song for each player!  And not just before he batted or in between pitches, but the entire time he was up!  The Eagles had a smaller, but still loud, section in left.  Both sections did this the entire game!  The fans were very polite to both teams; no booing at all. In between innings the scoreboard would show ads and they played American songs from the 60's and 70's. There was lots of English. The score board often said "Make some noise!", but apparently no one could read it because mostly they didn't (except for the cheering sections). At one point the Giants were losing 2 - 1 but had the bases loaded and 2 outs and the batter (Joe Dillon!) hit a long drive to deep center. We both jumped up and started to yell and scream; the center fielder caught it at the wall - and we looked around and we were the only ones standing!   Cultural faux pas!!!!  Well, the Giants lost, but it was a fabulous experience. Took a cab back to the hotel (all the cab drivers wear white gloves and the back doors open and close automatically!  Don't touch!!  And...no tipping.), and tomorrow we say sayonara to Tokyo.

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