Tokyo Japan-- Well, we are spending our final night in Tokyo tonight in our ryokan (Japanese style hotel) because the weather finally caught up to us. Up until tonight, we have been blessed with great weather for this time of year, when it is normally raining or unbearably hot or both...ironically not unlike the D.C. area. The sad part is that tonight is of one Tokyo's biggest annual festivals where they shoot of tens of thousands of fireworks along the banks of Asakusa, and with the weather not cooperating, we they had to cancel the show only about 25 min. into it.
And then it really started to pour, sending hundreds of thousands if not millions of onlookers running for cover. We got drenched, but Betz and I felt worse for all the Japanese people who got all gussied up in their traditional fancy kimonos. Our emotions went from excitement to fear to annoyance to acceptance and finally we were able to laugh about it again and start to appreciate our memorable night and the trip thus far. After all, we did see our fair share of fireworks before the rain started anyway.
We spent the last couple days here in Tokyo exploring the eclectic neighborhoods that comprise the city. I think my favorite was Tsukiji, where one of the world's largest fish markets serves as Tokyo's source for all it's sushi. We arrived at 5:30am (as the guidebook recommends) to experience the hustle and bustle of the early morning frenzy that includes unloading the night's catch, various fish auctions, wholesalers distributions and merchants setting up for the day. This place is HUGE. I mean it seemed like whole city blocks of endless stalls selling everything from whole fish to giant clams and octopus to seaweed to high grade sushi knives. Somehow, we went in a back gate and ended up in the "forbidden zone" where the actual merchants were setting up. We were almost run over by the hundreds of carts zipping by, rushing from one vendor to another, carrying beds of fish that were still swimming a few hours earlier. While catching our breath in an alley, after bobbing and weaving between these carts and their reckless drivers, Betz caught a glimpse of a giant tuna on a cart. We had stumbled across the famed tuna auction area that is strictly private. There were hundreds of giant fish on the floor, marked with red letters with what looked to be lipstick, being hooked by the high bidders and dragged onto these carts to zip away and disappear into the vast grid of stalls. We were pretty geeked and decided to linger a little while, half hiding behind some Styrofoam boxes, before we gave ourselves up to one of the guards in order to find our way out of the fish maze.
The other neighborhoods we visited were equally fascinating, though not quite as thrilling. They included the swanky shopping district of Ginza, the pop/punk candyland teenager hangout area called Harajuku, Tokyo's version of Old Town known as Ueno (where we are staying) and the electronics district of Akihabara. We are sad to be leaving Tokyo, but thankful that so much of our trip is still ahead of us.