Posts/November, 2012/

Tokyo Day 1: Tsukiji Fish Market, Shibuya, Yoyogi Park

Monday, November 19th, 2012

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On Saturday afternoon, J and I left San Francisco for Tokyo.

Our Delta flight was more pleasant than I expected: a refurbished interior with a massive library of on demand entertainment, decent food, and pleasant (though unusually old) flight attendants.

The plane chased the sunset westward for the entire time, arcing up along the coast around Alaska and down the Koreas before landing in Narita twelve hours later. Unlike many of the international flights I’ve been on, this one wasn’t overnight. I only felt like I was staying up late.

After getting through immigration and customs, J and I booked and boarded our limousine bus to the hotel. We got to the hotel around 8, took in the sprawling view from the window and fell asleep without dinner.

Due to the time change, I was wide awake at 2AM and ready to wander at 4:40. We bundled up and walked to Shinjuku Station, figured out the machines to buy our stored value SUICA cards, and boarded one of the above ground trains to take us close to the fish market in Tsukiji.

Even the locals looked tired on train. Many were sleeping behind their white face masks.

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Chasing the sunset over Alaska.
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Stairs to who knows where.
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4:30AM, Tokyo.
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Our first breakfast: a flavorful rice ball (onigiri) courtesy of a convenience store.
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Pedestrian overpass.
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A few of the almost unlimited number of vending machines all over town.
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Inverted no smoking sidewalk decal.
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They both came first.
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Tsukiji Hongan-ji, a Shinshu Buddhist temple in Tsujiki near the fish market.
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Muffin top.

The streets were still dark and nearly empty when we arrived at the market. The more interesting wholesale section was off limits until after 9AM, so we explored around it. Electric carts moving styrofoam boxes, bicyclists, buzzing scooters, and people wheeling goods on carts created a hectic and bustling atmosphere.

Breakfast: delicious miso ramen in a cramped shop near the action.

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Entering the shopping streets outside the wholesale market.
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Bins of pickled vegetables.
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Dried squid.
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Scales.
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There’s beef, and then there’s Kobe beef.
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A man and his sauces.
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Saucy crab parts.
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Katsuobushi, basically human fish food.
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Old woman walking her bike.
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Fishaic.
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Vans packed like sardines.
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Man walks towards ice dispensing chute.
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Stacks of fish.
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A bounty of seafood in styrofoam containers.

Bathroom between buildings.
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Phones for calling under the sea.
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Shrine.
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Chaotic intersection, full of electric stand up coolie carts.
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Stand up cart piled with boxes.
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Old chairs.
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Barricade.

While we waited for 9AM, we took a walk over the Sumida River and around the canals in the Kachidoki neighborhood.

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View of the fish market pier from Kachidoki Bridge.
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Rivets.
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Building.
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J observing the Sumida River.
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A crane’s nut sack.
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Flood gate.
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Old homes along a canal.
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Out of business.
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An offering to the flood gods.
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Small driveway, small van.
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Illustrated sign.
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Milk delivery boxes.
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A raft claimed by ducks.
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Boats and floats.
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Walkway along a canal.
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Shoe cleaning tools?
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Dark alley.
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Just passing through.
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A guide for the blind.
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Old man and old building.
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Layers of wall failure.

Our walk took longer than expected, so we returned to the market well after nine. By then, most of the action was gone, and it was mostly people cleaning up their areas. I can only imagine how cool the place is if you have the right credentials.

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Baskets of dried fish.
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At the end of the morning, a mountain of empty boxes has formed.
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Loading dock.
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Box of blood.
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Slicing tuna like lumber.
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Inside the wholesale market after primetime.
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Huge fish heads.
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Life support.
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More fish slicers.
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Bookkeeping room.
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Octopussy.
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Oysters.
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Another cashbox.
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Last minute deals.
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Cart of large fish logs.
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Inside the produce market. Imagine the warehouse from Indian Jones, only all the boxes are full of produce.
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A box dealer.
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Replacing human jobs, one sign at a time.

From the fish market, we took another train to Shibuya for coffee and to see the famous scramble crossing.

We decided to walk back to the hotel through Yoyogi Park, a green oasis that, like the rest of Tokyo, has the ability to confuse my sense of direction.

Rather than exiting on the north side, we ended up to the west. A walk through a pleasant, hilly neighborhood full of train tracks was our first taste of small Tokyo streets, and we were excited to see more.

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Shibuya’s famous scramble crossing, as seen from above.
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And street level.
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Bathroom hidden in an alley by the train tracks.
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J trying her first rice “bun” Moss burger.
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The cool logo for what I believe to be a courier service.
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Autumn bridge into Yoyogi Park.
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Ginkgo trees.
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Wrapped trees.
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A path next to a bird sanctuary.
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Train crossing in a neighborhood near Yoyogi.
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Descending into the neighborhood on the way back to the hotel
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A pair of school girls heading home.
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Baskets of railroad rocks.
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Crossing the tracks.
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Almost back to the hotel.
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Wonderful night view looking south from our room in Century Tower South. The dark spot is Yoyogi Park.

Tired, we settled on a convenience store dinner of rice wraps and tea.

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