Welcome To Tokyo!
I love Tokyo. It is a city full of the nicest people, the brightest lights, the freshest fish, and the coolest Ninjas!
Yes, I love Ninjas – I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Tokyo four times in the last three years – each time to attend the taping of “Sasuke” – known on G4 of course as “Ninja Warrior”.
Welcome To Mt. Midoriama!
Any trip to Tokyo includes a visit to the famed MT. MIDORIAMA! OK – it’s not a mountain at all, but this is the 27th running of “Sasuke”and it was the most exciting “Ninja Warrior” ever…I was lucky enough to attend the taping – here is what it looks like to be on the set at night, when logs are set ablaze to provide warmth at 4am – as filming continues all night long!
As a tribute to our upcoming show, I wanted to share some pictures and memories of Tokyo.
I last went to Tokyo just a few months after the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami. I have been told by several people that they are no longer comfortable going there because of radiation and contamination fears…which is too bad because our friends who live there don’t have that option…and the country is once again vibrant and alive…
One reason you see such an amazing skyline in Tokyo – because everyone lives on top of each other! Here’s a fascinating fact: 150 million Japanese people – half the population of the US – live on an island the size of Montana!
That’s why you see vertical towers of lights throughout Tokyo, because these are restaurants and clubs on floor after floor – taking care of Japanese clients mostly. It’s crazy and it’s crowded, except that it’s NOT:
Tokyo has some of the busiest subways in the world, but they are all spotelessly clean, and quiet – people STAND IN THE CORRECT ROWS waiting to board. I mean – C’MON…
This is a tourist’s view of Tokyo:
And this was my view:
I was fascinated with nightlife and neon – mostly captured in the party district of Kabuki-Cho, near Shinjuku Station. It’s a world of lights – and beautiful imagery:
The Japanese do it so well – Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure?), short for “costume play”, a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea.
Characters are often drawn from popular fiction in Japan, but recent trends have included American cartoons and science fiction. You can also find Cosplay cafes, where you can sit among the dressed-up characters, or be served by them. Either way, it’s a unique experience.
DOUBLE DECKER CONVEYOR BELT SUSHI!
Kaiten-Sushi, or revolving sushi is very popular in Tokyo. When you get inside the restaurant, you are guided to a counter seat. In front of you will be a conveyor belt with sushi circling around. You can chose any sushi plate you like. Keep the plate on your table, because when you finish eating, the waitress will count up the plate to know how much you have ate.
I know of three different conveyor belt sushi bars, and they are where I go to eat whenever I am in Tokyo…
Golden Gui! This tiny little neighborhood next to Kabuki-Cho is full of hundred of TINY BARS – most seating 6-8 people, many with different themes…
Like this one that celebrates Japanese manga drawing – we filmed there with Alex Sim-Wise. There was one bar downstairs, another up a narrow staircase…each only holding barely a dozen people…
Yep, this is the staircase to the upstairs bar, where you can order beer, whiskey and a few other mixed drinks…
Now on to the world’s largest Fish Market!
TSUKIJI! TSUKIJI! TSUKIJI!
The world’s largest fish market is in Tokyo – and I have had the pleasure of filming there and eating there as well!
The market is actually a breeze to get to: located near the Tsukijishijō Station on the Toei Ōedo Line and Tsukiji Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line. There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole.
The “inner market” (jonai shijo) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls.
There were plenty of places to buy finger food – such as these fish sausages on a stick – which I was all set to buy, but got distracted by a series of tiny tiny tiny food stalls that were serving all of the fresh fish being cut up inside the market.
So, the process is easy: find a stall with an open seat, sit down, and then order something. What? Can’t understand the signs? Well, there’s not much you can do about that – there isn’t much english being spoken here…but what you DO have is spirit – a friendly people who are honestly interested in helping you order – no matter how difficult it might be!
The “outer market” (jogai shijo) is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants.
I ate breakfast at the fish market three days in a row – three days of sushi, sushi, sushi. Each stall is operated by master sushi chefs…and older Japanese women who, in my case, served me a bowl filled with yellowtail, sea urchin and rice. They spoke NO english, there were no english menus, and they were, I think, afraid that I was ordering wrong – and since I didn’t speak Japanese, and they didn’t speak english, they just yelled louder at me!
At the end of the conversation I had my bowl of fresh fish and urchin, and they just laughed and laughed and laughed…
On A Clear Day You Can See Mt. Fuji!
I still haven’t taken the train to Mt. Fuji, but one night at my hotel in the Shinjuku district, on the 20th floor reception, I looked out and saw Mt. Fuji in all its majesty…
And that was also the night we had another earthquake – shaking the building for about two minutes…and I remembered that I could go back home – and all of the Japanese will continue to live in their country and hope for renewal…
I cannot enough enough great things about the Japanese people, and I wish them well in their recovery…and cannot wait to go back.