Japan on $1000 per Day
Day 2: Among the Dead and Dying (Fish)
Up early. Very early. 4:30 in the morning early. Rested, refreshed, and ready to go. A new experience, but not too surprising, since it was 11:30 in the morning where we came from. Suffering terribly from this jet-lead, we headed straight for the fish market at Tsukiji on the North East side of Tokyo. Every morning they auction off over 90% of the fish consumed in this largest city in the world.
It was quite a sight. Slices of fish so white they were iridescent. Hunks of fresh sea-meat so red they bordered on black. Hundreds of tuna corpses as big as full-grown people laid out carefully in rows, looking like air crash victims waiting for their tuna relatives to come by and identify the bodies.
Tanks of live shrimp. Wheelbarrows of freshly separated fish heads, many so recently removed they were still alive and looking around in wonder. And everywhere you looked: Suckers.
(That's my wife, the Doctor, next to the suckers. She's fondly remembering the spaghetti from last night. She's never appreciated squirmy fish things.)
8:00 in the morning: We were famished (it was, after all, 3 PM our time) and found a tiny sushi stall in a beat-up old wholesale warehouse next to the fish market, where we had the best, freshest sushi ever. And for only $40.00 each! After breakfast, we wander through the wholesale stalls, where I find the only bargain in Japan: disposable chopsticks. I pick up 1000 wooden chopsticks for $20. These are not those fuzzy, balsa wood babies you get in cheap chop-suey shops, these are the real thing: smooth, hardwood sticks that snap like a lighting-struck tree when you pull them apart.
9:00 in the morning: It is now 95°, 100% humidity. We are squishing in our shoes from the perspiration sheeting off our bodies.
12:30 PM: we gratefully board our air-conditioned bus for a 1/2 day tour of the largest city in the world. The tour operator attempts to force us off the bus at the first place of interest (some old temple or something). We all cling to our seats, screaming, "not into that heat. Please, for mercys sake, take pity on us." Our guide explains to us that we are upsetting the schedule, a crime in Japan. She produces a wet rattan cane, fresh from Singapore. (Well, actually it was a flag pole, but the way she waved it around, it looked dangerous.) We get off the bus.
3:30 PM: We have reached our 14th temple, Sensoji, an ancient relic reconstructed in 1958, reached by passing through a narrow two-block-long gauntlet of gift shops. We love the gauntlet. It is covered-over and air-conditioned. This time, our guide must actually apply the rattan cane to drive us toward the temple. Tiny bits of the yellow cloth cling to my back.
The temple is not only over 100° but, through some divine agency beyond my humble understanding, it is actually above 100% humidity. It is raining inside. Julie achieves some vague spiritual awakening that drives her toward a slushy stand in the parking lot.
Somehow, I become distracted. And by the time I become undistracted again, Julie is gone, the guide is gone, the bus is gone.
7:30 PM. I have learned to use the subways. I now know that our hotel is only 10 minutes away by the correct train. However, I didn't use the correct train. I have made the acquaintance of every subway line in Tokyo. And a few, apparently, in Trenton.
Julie is sitting up in bed eating $42 worth of spaghetti when I finally stumble back into our room. (She opted for the $4.00 sauce.) I found myself strangely attracted to the hot dog ($24.50) plus bun ($5.87). Cheapest thing on the menu.
Next week: Budda & Broken English. Stay tuned.
Previously: Day 1: Sticker Shock
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