New Otani Hotel Garden (taken from website)
We checked into the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo, after about an hour bus ride from the airport. Dave called and left a message for his old roommate, Brian, (who lives here in Tokyo) in the hopes that he could meet us for dinner and show us around a little. We explored the hotel, which is known for it's famous Japanese garden. We unpacked and got ready to go out for dinner, and we still hadn't heard back from Brian. He finally showed up, directly from work, just as we were about to leave. Good thing, we had no clue where to go! We piled into two cabs, and went to Rappongi first, an nighttime entertainment area frequented mostly by foreigners.
Lee and I arrived first at our prearranged meeting spot, at a corner under a large TV screen. While waiting for the others, we were accosted by several men trying to lure us to this or that strip club. No thanks, just here for dinner! When Brian arrived, he taught us the best ways to brush them off...apparently they work on a form of commission, trying to recruit "Gaijin" (Westerners) to the various nightclubs. Since we really were just there for food, we let Brian lead the way to a nice little restaurant he knew of. Down the road and through an allyway, then behind a building and down some stairs, we arrived at a little place called Kushimura. We never would have found this place without Brian! A nice little grill restaurant, they specialized in "Yakaturi", which apparantly is Japanese for all kinds of food on skewers! They grilled it right in front of us, and put it on serving dishes for us to pull the meat off with our chopsticks.
The food was delicious! We had chicken strips with garlic, chicken meatballs, chicken wings, cheese and peppers wrapped in bacon, tomatos wrapped in bacon, quail eggs, ginko nuts, etc, all cooked on skewer sticks over a flame grill... and washed it all down with Kirin beer. We were all really glad Brian showed up when he did...we would never have found a meal this good without him!
After dinner, we walked around Rappongi for awhile, and we were starting to get annoyed at all the street hawkers trying to recruit us to visit their clubs. Apparantly, the sight of five gaijin walking through Rappongi at night was too much to resist! Brian kept telling them we were going to dinner, (even though we had just come from there) because it was the only way to get them to back off.
From left: Dave, Brian, Doug and Me
They kept giving us business cards, with their names hand-written in, so that if we visited one of their clubs after dinner, they would get the "credit" for sending us. Well, after being up for almost 24 hours now, 15 of those on a plane, the last thing we wanted was to go to a dance club or a smokey strip bar. We just wanted to do a little sightseeing, and go back to the hotel to go to sleep!
Despite that fact, we were not yet ready to give up on Brian as a tour guide just yet. He was leaving for Osaka in the morning, to visit his parents, and tonight was the only night we would have his services. We decided to press on to Ginza.
Roppongi at night
The guys wanted to see it at night, it's lit up kind of like Times Square in NY. We piled into two more cabs, and off we went! We were stuck in traffic for awhile, and I was starting to regret not utelizing the restroom back at the restaurant, especially after 2 beers and a large iced tea! I was feeling every bump in the road, and pained at every red light. When we finally got to Ginza, our first priority was to find a restroom!! We walked to a nearby McDonalds. Closed! next block, Starbucks- Closed! Past several places you had to pay to get in...nope! Finally, we found a corner convenience store with a restroom available....but we had to walk six blocks to do so! Ginza is a nice shopping/ hanging out district, but not the evening hotspot that Roppongi is.
Ginza at night
Most everything was closed by the time we got there, around 10 pm. I'm not really sure why we went there, just to look around? Yeah, it looks like New York, big deal...only the signs were all in Japanese. We walked around a bit, took some pictures, etc. Brian suggested we go to to a local jazz club where we could smoke cuban cigars, (which are not legal in the states) but the guys shot down that idea. We had been up and traveling for so long, we were really "hitting the wall" at that point, and all we really wanted to do was go back to the hotel and go to sleep! We thanked Brian for his guide services, and got his advice about what to do the rest of our stay here. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
We carried business cards of the hotel, so non-english speaking cab drivers would know where to bring us!
Without Brian, the four of us could fit in one cab, and we made our way back to the New Otani. So, our little side trip to Ginza cost us a $20 cab ride, and all we really did there was use the restroom!
We were all but sleeping on our feet when we made our way back to our rooms, on the 25th floor of the Tower section of this large hotel complex. Our room had a great view of the city, and the garden below. Lee and I were in one room, with a connecting door to Dave and Dougs room. We propped it open so it wouldn't lock if it closed...but Dave and Doug put the TV on, and they were both out cold within sixty seconds! I had to get up in the dark and fumble my way to shut their TV of so I could sleep too...I don't do well with background noise. By the time we were in bed, we had been up for 28 hours... 15 of those in the air!