Thomas Ross Hallock

Asia 2012 – Part 2: A night in Tokyo

This is part two of my Asia 2012 trip report. This post covers September 15 – September 16th. Start with Part 1 if you want the whole story.

I used the iPhone app to figure out how to get to Haneda, which included a transfer in Tokyo Station, a endless multi-story complex that might as well be a subterranean city.

Tokyo station hosts an impressive array of quality noodle restaurants as well as the Grand Central Oyster Bar, an establishment that I’m almost certain is located somewhere far far away.

It was very humid in Tokyo so I had to change into shorts quickly to stay comfortable. Consulting my map, I saw that the Tokyo Imperial Palace was nearby, so I decided to walk over to it. The palace was closed, so I only got to see the outside. Looking at my map again, I saw that the Tokyo Tower was a few subway stops south, so I decided to go have a look. The subways only accept cash, so I had to re-surface and get some cash from an ATM first so I could buy my ticket. On the subway car, I was impressed that the seats are upholstered with porous cloth, and they were actually clean. If you live in NYC, you’ll understand how impressive this actually is.

I got off at the Shibakoen Station and walked to the tower just in time for it to be closed when I arrived. It was still a nice sight to see it from the ground. It was already 22:30, and I heard that the Roppongi district had some nightlife and it was nearnby, so I decided to walk over and see what the scene was like. On my way I walked by a bike parking garage, accessible by from the sidewalk, and was appalled by what I saw.

I was not disappointed by the scene in Roppongi. I was initially drawn to the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower complex. Club-goers were everywhere, some drunk, some not. I was an odd-looking guy wearing a huge packpack and comfortable travel shorts so I stood out like a sore thumb, but I didn’t care. Each block had an African guy who tried to hustle me with “you like topless?”, “I hook you up with am amazing woman, all you can drink for 5000 yen,” “You’d like a little rub, a little friction, wouldn’t you?.” Tempting as it sounded, I didn’t take any of them up on their offers. It was all very strange, and though I felt like I was the only person they were soliciting, I’m positive that I’m the only person that every one of them solicited.

I walked every single block in the district, at least twice, with my giant backpack and shorts until 5am. Inside each block was a fractal-like maze of surprisingly clean alleys, full of hidden sake bars and restaurants, and little zen gardens. I loved this experience.

I did go into a few bars. I thought it would be fun to dance for a little bit, since that’s about the only thing that made any sense to do other than just walking around the streets all night waiting for my flight to Seoul. Strangely, every single establishment in Roppongi had a sign posted outside that prohibited dancing inside. I asked around why this was so, and nobody could give me an answer.

As the night ended, I caught a taxi back to Tokyo Station, then took the Subway and monorail to Haneda Airport for an early morning flight to Seoul. Before boarding, I was questioned by the airline staff about my itinerary, as it appeared to them that I had a one-way ticket into Seoul. I explained that I would be taking the KTX high speed rail across South Korea and flying back to Tokyo from Busan, a city in the southwest region of the country.

Continue to part 3…

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