We woke up full of energy and resolve. This was the day that we solve our money problems!
But first thing’s first. “I wonder if we can smoke on those stairs”. The view from the stairs was nice. We were right next to a canal. The sides of the canal were covered with house boats that calmy swang back and forth with the current.
First thing that struck us when we opened the door was the heat. People don’t realize it, but Japan gets REALLY hot in summer. We roughly planned out the day and headed out. I flicked my cigarette butt. Felt guilty that it landed on a roof, then glimpsed one last time at the view.
We went downstairs. I waited till Ivan finishes the “Good thing I had money or we’d be screwed” story, nodded in agreement and dialed back home.
We had discovered that calling cards in Japan are extremely expensive. For a 10 dollar card I got around 5 minutes of talking time. Conversation with my sister went extremely fast. “Send money now please….”. My sister sounded as if she was a stock broker taking orders from a big-shot client. She exclaimed “I’m on it! The money will be sent in 15 minutes TOPS!” When she hung up I imagined how quickly she must have ran out. Probably took a quick bite of the sandwich, quickly gulped down the coffee and ran out there door without kissing our mom good bye while putting on the coat.
We headed to Akihabara metro station which is 10 minutes away by foot. Streets in Tokyo are very interesting, especially in Asakusabashi.
This was one of the oldest areas in Tokyo. Originally it was a red-light district (still is kinda, as we soon discovered). Along the way we saw some note worthy things. One of them was a street temple right in the middle of a pretty industrial area.
As we approached Akihabara the crowds started getting thicker. “Oh shit” said Ivan. He just noticed a huge influx of people crossing the street. This was our first taste of the crowded Tokyo.
It’s funny how quickly a western prejudice can disappear. Japanese weren’t all small and skinny. The crowd in front of us had all shapes and sizes. Some Japanese men were almost as tall as me (i’m 189 cm). I also found them to be more stylish.
It’s funny how in every street crossing you have 1 or 2 guys making their way through the crowd on a bicycle. Walking is not an option for these “performers”. They quickly wiggle the handle bar from side to side to keep the balance. At the same time they’re trying to peddle up to gain speed. They end up crossing the street like rope walkers trying to keep their balance. Never understood why they didn’t just walk.
Across the street was an interesting looking vending machine. It sold cigarettes and sported a big bald white guy. “Look he’s bald like you!” said Ivan. I guess the premise is: “Smoke and you’ll become big, bald and white”. I had to take a picture…
Ivan’s eating habits led us to McDonalds. In Tokyo McDonald’s a trio is not a trio, it’s a MENU. Prices are very similar to Canada. A disgusting Chicken Teriyaki MENU set me back 9$.
Interesting fact: McDonalds garbage has separate containers for Plastics, Organics and Liquids
When we got to the metro we felt so lost.
There was a long wall with built in machines. On Top was a large map of JR and metro lines.
Interesing fact: There are 2 distinct transportation methods in Tokyo. JR and Metro. They can both end up at the same station. JR trains run above ground. Metro runs underground (duuh..)
Ticket prices depend on where you’re going. The further the station the more you pay.
I ended up inserting my credit card into the wrong slot. Card got jammed. A metal piece came off the machine and a girl’s face appeared. She scared me half to death. I didn’t expect to see humans behind that wall. She extracted my card and handed it back to me.
Interesting fact: A lot of metro stations have this restaurant that has good morning specials. It translates as: Life of France
In the business district we finally withdrew our money at City bank. God bless them!
Interesting fact: City bank is pronounced “Shitty bank” in Japanese
The feel of hard cold cash was comforting. The Japanese yen is longer and wider than Canadian dollars. It’s also more like plastic than paper and harder to rip apart.
Business district looked extremely empty and even a bit depressing.
In the Money Grams (there are No Western-Unions in Japan) there was an extremely large crowd. It was 80% African Americans, 10% Latin Americans and 10% White. While standing in the crowd I noticed how this white guy kept gawking at my camera. I threw a friendly “It’s a dead give away that I’m a tourist eh?” He switched his focus from the camera onto me.
He was around 35 years, almost bald and looked very North-American. He was also as crazy as they come, but very funny at the same time. He said his landlord’s son keeps going through his medicine cabinet…
He even confronted him in a train about it. The story was kind of violent, but he sounded like a character from “Half Baked”. While laughing out loud, Ivan would inject a quick “damn he’s crazy” remark in his laughter.
The man had a somewhat a negative view of Japan. That kind of surprised and disappointed me. Anyways, at least I’ve learned from him what “Polytoxic” means. Apperantly it’s what you become when you turn as whacky as him… and I don’t mean it in a bad way.
We bid him farewell and stepped outside. I think it was lunch break because out came crowds of salary men and women. I put my camera down and pretended that I was fixing dials. In reality I started recording. This is exactly what downtown Tokyo sounds like. Movie that captured the ambient sounds best was “Lost in Translation”. Too bad Scarlett wasn’t with us