Monday, October 23, 2006

Tokyo Day 2: The Agony of DeFeet

Here's the thing about navigating Tokyo, it's ridiculously difficult. Actually getting to and fro is easy with a fantastic metro and rail system (though there 3 underground systems and each has it's own ticket system so you're constantly switching and buying tickets), but there are no addresses. None.
Sure, there's this "coordinate system," whereby addresses will say Ginza 5-8-11 and that's supposed to help you. But what those numbers represent eludes many a Tokyoite. The city was built to confuse invaders and as we were clearly Western invaders, we bore the brunt of this puzzling policy.
But we are urban trekkers and determined to find certain places, our tired feet be damned. Even asking the locals sometimes proved fruitless as most don't know where anything is and certainly can't tell you how to get there.
Density is key in Tokyo and since there are infinite things to do and see, people just stick to what they know.
The other salient element of Tokyo is that one must remember to always look up. In most American cities, even urban jungles like New York, most of the activity (restaurants, stores, attractions) are based on the ground floors - you won't find yourself going to a bowling alley on the 14th floor of a 48-story building but in Tokyo life is layered, there is so much going on above ground and signs for businesses are all listed up and down building facades.
Quick rundown:
8:30 Metro to Meguro Dori, the up and coming yuppy neighborhood with vintage furniture stores.

9:30 Breakfast at Claska Hotel, the only boutique hotel in Tokyo boasting 9 rooms each designed by a different artist.

After drilling the concierge, we get really specific directions for all the places we needed to see. Of course, we ended up asking about a thousand people how to get there on the way.
Walk to Naka Meguro, lining the Segawa river, the most charming neighborhood in Tokyo.
Finally make it to Cow Books, a compact design bookstore with many out of print books.
1:30 Lunch at a charming Hawaiian restaurant overlooking the river on Naka Meguro. We were sold on the all you can drink wine and coffee, though drinking a lot of both combined with jet lag left us pretty much the same hazy state, but it was such a nice place for a lazy Sunday lunch - a quiet and peaceful pocket of bustling Tokyo.

The walk from Meguro to Shibuya reveals a super-swank neighborhood with – gasp!- single-family residences in space-squeezed Tokyo. Some very lovely minimalist architecture as well.
3:00 Check out Tolyu Hands department store – 6 floors of wacky imaginative stuff. Purchases include a letter-shaped paper puncher, cloth tissue box cozy and a razor caddy. Happy fun cute time always!
6:30 Metro to Ginza to explore stationary stores

Detour at the Chanel building's penthouse restaurant “Beige.” We have no reservations for the Alain Ducasse-helmed establishment and we look homeless compared to the posh clientele settling in for their 17,000 yen ($170) dinners but the hostess graciously shows us the all-beige restaurant and even takes us up to the roof garden for pictures.

7:15 Peruse Ito-Ya, an eight-floor stationary store. Way too manychoices for paper and its accessroies. Proves that Tokyo is a great place for people with hobbies.

7:55 Make it to Mitsokoshi department store before closing and attempt to buy some delicious offerings from their extensive food floor – everything is discounted but there are so many options and only 4 minutes to choose! Veggie tempura it is.

8:10-8:50 Search for Fukumistuya, a sake specialty store in the back alleys of Ginza. Almost give up 4 times but deliriously tired we plunder until we find the shrine to rice wine. By now I hate my shoes, my feet, and the hard, hard concrete.

9:30 Take some pictures of the store, sample some sake, call it a day. A very long day. Arigato, Tokyo.

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