Monday, August 20th, 2001:

Yesterday it became official — I love this place!

My first stop on the day’s itinerary was Asakusa, a huge street fair in front of the Sensoji Temple. Every conceivable consumable item was assembled in a promenade under a glass skylight, decorated by orange lanterns. I wisely held out for breakfast until I got here; right in front of the temple was a stand serving some kind of omelette or something; whatever it was, it had egg, bacon, some kind of starchy root filling, and was perfect.

A ferry down the Sumida river dropped me off near Shimbashi station, where I took an automated, elevated train to Odaiba — almost. I decided to get off early and cross the almost 4km bridge across Tokyo Bay on foot. Though there appeared to be a big storm chasing me, it never materialized.

If Tokyo is the city of the 21st century, then Odaiba, or Rainbow Town, is it’s suburb. Huge towers of condos with scenic views in every direction towered above me. Connected to all of them is Decks Tokyo Beach, two parallel malls, both meeting up with Sega Joypolis at the other end. After a snack and my first cup of coffee since I got here (it wasn’t very good — this is important for later) I took a stroll through Sega’s theme park. I’m happy that I ordered my Samba de Amigo maracas over the ‘Net; music games are still all the rage here.

Another, smaller bridge brought me to Palette Town and Mega Web. Palette Town is a rip-off of the mall in Caesar’s Palace, where the fake sky goes from dawn to dusk in about two hours. But without the hordes of American tourists in their tacky shorts it seemed that much classier. Mega Web is basically a year-round showroom for Toyota. They even had their latest electric car available for an automated spin around the complex. This attraction had just closed when I got there. I also wanted to visit the Fuji TV Tower, but by this time I had a bad case of sensory overload, and made my retreat to Shibuya.

This morning I set out early to witness the Tokyo subway at rush hour. My vantage point was a less-travelled platform, across the tracks from what I was promised would be the big show. Perhaps due to the Obon festival (kind of like Japanese Thanksgiving), there wasn’t nearly as much chaos as I expected, but I was impressed for the orderly manner in which passengers lined up in twos behind markers on the floor, where the doors to the arriving trains would open. It was just like the good old days of taking the York University Express bus from Wilson station!

Around 9AM I decided to leave Shinjuku station, by the correct train but in the wrong direction. At the next stop I switched over, and got my come-uppance. I wasn’t pried into an already-full car by subway guards, but I did squeeze into one on my own — barely. Apparently there are signs in subway cars asking patrons not to grab asses. I wouldn’t know, since I can’t read Japanese. But I can appreciate how it might be tempting…

The experience left me needing coffee. So ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to close your bets; I finally surrendered to Starbucks. 🙁

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