Haley & Gabe did good their first week in Japan, getting out on their own and experiencing a lot of different things. The pressure was on for our last night together to come up with something they hadn’t done and give them an experience they’d never forget.
So naturally, I chose Shibuya. It’s one of the major hubs in central Tokyo (also the one I’m most familiar with) and it’s got everything you could ever think of.
1. Popular meeting spot, Hachiko the dog. It’s so popular that one of the five exits of the Shibuya station is even named after it. What, you’ve never heard of it? I can’t believe you haven’t seen the remake of the Japanese classic movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale with Richard Gere. Get on it.
2. Quintessential Tokyo nightscape and scramble crossing. You step out of the station, and BOOM – you are immediately confronted with tall buildings, neon lights, people, cars, noise, everything, everywhere. It’s sensory overload in the most orderly way possible. The scramble crossing is a 5 way intersection and is apparently one of the most heavily used intersections in the world. When people are crossing, it’s a sight unto itself – it’s like the human version of the Great Migration in the Serengeti…every 3 min.
3. Consumerism at its best. There is very little that you won’t find here. Eye lash salon? check. Whale restaurant? check. Tokyu Hands, the best hardware store in the world? check. Tobacco and Salt Museum? check. Seriously people, try me.
4. Best. People. Watching. Ever. You see everyone from black-suited salary men to girls with crazy fake tans going on, to guys you mistake for being in KPOP bands to high school girls in – well, what else?- school girl uniforms. It gets better as the night progresses, however. On our way home, we witnessed a group of guys – they were WASTED – standing around a tree as two of them were folded over and throwing up their liquid dinners. Oh, did I mention that this was a Monday night? Stay classy, Tokyo.
5. Love Hotels. One of Japan’s lasting contributions to the world (apparently, they have them in Argentina too!), love hotels have been around for centuries and some have now evolved to resemble castles, modern mansions, etc. They are short-stay hotels that charge an hourly rate, and cater to couples looking for privacy to, say, read to each other, study together, watch TV, whatever it is that people do with their significant others :) There is a known area in Shibuya that has a cluster of love hotels, so Gabe made us, err, we decided to check one out.
The “lobby” has a touch screen panel of all the rooms, and those in use are blocked off. You can also buy food and contraception by taking cards that indicate what you’re looking for, bringing them to the un-manned desk, and you’re all set.
While Gabe was eager to look into the rooms (joke), our hunger drove us out of there.
To get to most places in Shibuya, you walk through at least one/all of the above. I managed to cram all this in on our way to a much more quiet part of Shibuya for some Okonomiyaki dinner.
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake with veggies and meat, often shared between people, and in some restaurants, you can make your very own at your table. Unfortunately, this place didn’t offer that, but Gabe and I got to try some deer meat for an amuse-bouche, so that made up for it.
Okonomiyaki is named as such because Okonomi means “what you like/want” and you can choose what goes in it. The challenge was to find a combo that satisfied both Haley, who doesn’t eat meat and Gabe, who is allergic to shellfish. Talk about high maintenance friends :) And to think that they were teasing me about how long I took to order…(editorial note from haley: I have a 6.5 minute video of her ordering from the waitress – I didn’t start filming right away and that was the second round of ordering).
didn’t believe me?
The night was still young after our delicious meal, and to my delight, Haley was still standing at 930 pm. So, that meant another activity – yay! And the one thing that they had yet to do was….KARAOKE!!
I was surprised to find that Haley, who loves to sing and has such an amazing voice, had actually never experienced karaoke in a private room, which is the ONLY way to go. While it is SUCH a cliche, I was certain there were going to have a blast, so off we went.
After deciding to say for an hour (you can always extend), we picked up two tambourines (obvi) as I thought about how to kick off their first experience. See, there is an art to Karaoke – the first song sets the mood for the evening, so it has to be just right. In this case, I needed a song to get these newbies going and to shed any inhibition they might have had. Thank goodness they drank at dinner :)
As we settled into our room, took the plastic covers off of the mics (they are sanitized after each use), and started looking through the book of songs, I was desperate for a good song – and voila, it came to me.
Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah
Roma, roma, ma
Gaga, ooh la la
Want your bad romance
Lady Gaga FTW! From then on, it’s all a blur. There *may* have been a killer Kumaley duet of A Whole New World complete with harmonization (that’s all Haley btw), there *may* have been a great Gabe solo of Jimi Hendrix or Axel Rose, and an amazeballs Haley solo of Celine Dion’s Titanic song, interspersed with a slew of terrible, horrible, renditions of Adele, Queen, Alanis Morisette, Guns N’ Roses, and many, many, more.
What I will say is that when we got our reminder of our time limit, we obviously extended it. TWICE. We sang our hearts out until we could no more, missed our last train by 3 minutes, and cabbed it home. #winning
When we got home, Haley and Gabe went straight to bed. I had to wake up early the next morning to head to work while they were still in bed before their Kyoto trip. While it made me sad to end our second trip of the year (!) together, I walked out of my front door quietly humming some Gaga and feeling grateful for our friendship and time together.