Team Tokyo: Day 4: Ginza

As predicted, running only on 2 hours sleep, day 4 was a strained one for me. Sadly I endured our day in Ginza rather than enjoyed it, which is disappointing as everyone else seemed to have a great day!

The day started rather painfully at the Tsukiji Fish Markets around 11am. The unmistakable stench of the sea wafted under our noses as soon as we set foot off the train, letting us know we had reached our desired destination. Quite why I desired to be there was a little beyond me at this point and I knew it was going to be a long day.

While we thankfully agreed to skip the 5am fish auction (despite the fact I was awake in time to go), the place was teeming when we arrived. The markets and surrounding streets were completely rammed with people…leaving us feeling like sardines in a can (pardon the bad pun…it must be one of Matt’s). Our time in Tsukiji was brief, staying only long enough for me to confirm that Japanese people are the most patient people on earth. Even more so when it comes to food. There were people lined up outside the Tsukiji sushi restaurants for blocks…waiting to dine on the freshest fish in that morning. Not being a huge seafood fan myself I really couldn’t grasp the passion…

We made our way to Ginza and left the fishy memories of Tsukiji behind in search of all things Japanese…Hashi (chopsticks) and Ochya (green tea). While I was somewhat distracted looking for my next caffeine hit, Team Tokyo meandered through the streets of Ginza in search of a tiny hashi shop at my demand. One might think this a straightforward task with a guidebook in one hand an an iPhone in the other…well you would be wrong!

Confusing even the locals with our request, we were about to give up on the seemingly futile mission when Matt came to the rescue! Matt recruited the aid of 2 unsuspecting heroes: parking ticket inspectors who happily took on the challenge of directing our group of gaijin to the Natsuno hashi shop. They in fact took the task so seriously that they escorted us personally! Bless! We weren’t disappointed by the small store either…most of us came away with some kind of acquisition from the expedition.

To further our Japanese experience, next was a ‘tea ceremony with a twist’ at Cha Ginza. Once again, if I had been in top form I would have loved this…a contemporary tea ceremony in a modern, architecturally designed tea house. There were plenty of kimono clad women shuffling about among the gaijin and while it was not a traditional 4 hour ceremony (thankfully!), we certainly got a taste…literally…of the ritual.

I was prepared for what was awaiting us on the 3rd floor of this seemingly innocent tea house…I still have vivid memories of my first tea ceremony 12 years ago! It was that first experience of the thick, frothy, whipped green tea powder that led to my abstinence from the stuff until quite recently.

Well this time was no less torturous…in fact, probably worse. In addition to the frothy brew we first had to consume a shot (seriously…1 sip, 2 sips, shot) of what I can only describe as green paint: in colour, texture and taste. If someone put Kermit in a blender I am pretty sure the result would be what was in my bowl…

The only saving grace was that we were also dished up a sweet green tea biscuit and a ‘normal’ green tea at the end of the ceremony to cleanse the palette. I hear that green tea is rich in antioxidants and good for the metabolism…if that’s the case then that one tea ceremony will ensure I am healthy and skinny for the next year!!!

Post green-tea-infused Team Tokyo split for the afternoon, planning to reconvene at the hostel later on. Matt had recruited the unsuspecting Japan National and Tokyo resident Nobu to escort our pack on a night out.

We rendezvoused with Nobo in the student area of Tokyo, near Takadanobaba station to get the night started. I really liked the vibe of the area…a little more chilled than some other parts in Tokyo and populated with a mixed crowd of uni students. Nobu found us an Izakaya to bunk down in for a few hours…the 7 of us getting cosy in a booth and sharing some very yummy food. Here I was also introduced to Umeshu…plum wine, yum! Nobu was treated to Nikki in fine form and in return he ensured our plates and cups were never empty. We ate, drank and joked, enjoying our last night in Tokyo in Japanese style.

The only thing left on the agenda was karaoke to complete our night out. Nobu of course supplied us with just the venue and we had the opportunity to belt out a few tunes at the top of voices. The highlights for me were Kevin’s rendition of Metallica’s ‘Fuel’ and Helen and Nikki giving us ‘Under the Sea’ with spectacular enthusiasm! I too got into the act and the crowds were wowed (read: mortified) when I offered up a husky Justin Timberlake’s ‘Sexy Back’. While I shouldn’t give up my day job for a singing career any time soon, I was pleased that the day ended well after such a fishy start…

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