• Eric Kanigan

"Still moving"

If I had to choose a theme for day three in Tokyo, it would be movement. Not necessarily a novel description for a large metropolitan area when considering the rush of people, cars, and trains. However, you'll notice that the title is in quotes, and there's good reason for this. While a number of the day's locations did exhibit the bustling characteristics, the true source of inspiration arrived at the very end of the night.

The weather forecast for the day had called for clouds, so I gave myself an extra few hours to sleep in as I wasn't worried about missing a golden hour. I got moving at 7:30 and opened the blinds to see tips of skyscrapers poking through the hazy skies. I did a quick scroll through my list of locations that I still wanted to visit, and I wasn't bothered by the fact that I'd be seeing them on a cloudy day. While I can be picky about pushing off a visit to an attraction with the hope of better weather, there comes a point when you can't wait on conditions.

I hopped on my beloved metro from Roppongi station towards Shiodome station, where I switched to the blue train (technically the Yurikamome line, but I need to simplify it as much as possible for my own purposes). The second metro ride was above ground, and provided a nice view of Tokyo Bay as the train crossed over a portion of the water onto what were essentially developed islands connected to the city by bridges. From the Tokyo International Cruise Terminal metro stop, it was a quick five minute walk along the water by the cruise ships to get to the Soho building. This isn't exactly your conventional tourist attraction as it's actually a shared office building. This meant that I had to wait to piggyback on someone entering one of the doors before I could take the elevator up to the sixth floor with my camera. You may have seen pictures of the building before, and it's easy to see why it's a popular photo spot in Tokyo. The doors look like they were imported directly from Monsters Inc. and the levels and levels of office entrances make for a unique composition. The clouds actually played into my favor, as bright sunlight would have washed out many of the colors.

After departing the Soho building, I jumped back on the metro to head to a recommendation I received from the flight attendants form Seattle to Tokyo. I was told I needed to visit a statue outside of Shibuya Station. They went on to explain that the statue was erected as a memorial for a dog named Hachikō who was given a home by a professor living in Shibuya. The dog met his owner every day after work at the train station until the professor died at work in 1925. From that day until his own death nine years later, Hachikō made the trip to Shibuya Station to wait for his owner to return. The dog became a national symbol of loyalty, and his legacy is now enshrined outside the station he returned to each day. I didn't expect much presence at the memorial, but there were actually scores of people eagerly waiting to get a photo next to Hachikō.

The statue of Hachikō outside Shibuya Station

Conveniently, the statue was immediately adjacent to another spot I had hoped to visit at some point during the week. I didn't realize the two were in such close proximity, so I had the opportunity to witness the pedestrian mass at Shibuya Crossing, an event that takes place about every 90 seconds. You've likely seen the infamous "crosswalk" in a movie at one point in time. Some state it is the busiest intersection in the world, and it would not be hard to believe. This is what I associated Tokyo with prior to my visit. The blurred motion of cars whizzing past straggling crossers, mobs of people rushing towards the center of the intersection like water being released from a dam. In spite of the volume of traffic, it somehow appeared more as controlled chaos. When the crosswalk turned red, the intersection cleared out within seconds and traffic resumed until the color changed once more. I stayed for some time to watch a few cycles of this before returning to the metro to head to the rooftop of Tokyu Plaza Ginza, a shopping center with 10 floors of retail and restaurants. There's a green space on the rooftop with kiosks serving snacks and drinks, but it also provides a great view of the bustling intersection below. Much like the Shibuya Crossing, the crosswalk below Tokyu Plaza Ginza provides that quintessential Tokyo moment with all of the action and motion synonymous with the Japanese capital.

From Tokyu Plaza Ginza, I walked 10 minutes to the iconic Tsukiji fish market. I'll preface by saying that I have never been a big seafood eater (more on this later), so my walk through the market was mostly to observe the action. There were hundreds of shops and stands selling every type of creature from the water you could imagine. The narrow streets were so crowded that it was almost impossible to continue moving forward. While fun to witness, the market was not going to sway me to make any purchases other than a canned beer. This was all poetic foreshadowing to my dinner later on in the evening.

As with tourist attractions, restaurants are also places I do my best to research beforehand. I knew that my week of travel in Japan was aligning with the national holiday week (Golden Week), meaning many options would likely be busier than usual. I did tell myself that despite my hesitancy around seafood, I wanted to try an authentic sushi restaurant. I made a reservation at Ginza Iwa, one of Tokyo's many Michelin rated restaurants. Ginza Iwa is a very small dining location, and I was led down a narrow stairwell into a single dining room that sat a total of six people. I was dining with a family of four from a small town near Shanghai. The mother in the family had never eaten sushi before, so I was somewhat relieved that I wasn't the only rookie. The service consisted of around ten separate raw fish dishes ranging from flounder to a "scallop taco" as the chef jokingly called it (it was a scallop wrapped in nori), crab with sea urchin, and a number of other fish. I found the standard cuts of fish to be very good, but it was the crab with sea urchin that turned the tides. Having never eaten sea urchin before, I wasn't prepared for the slimy texture as it slid down the back of my throat. Gag-reflex triggered. I did my best to cover my reaction with the cold sake I was served, but from that moment on it was a struggle.

The chef had prepared another piece and put it in front of me. I put what looked like some type of white fish into my mouth, having just been thinking that I was glad there wasn't any squid. The chef timed his information perfectly as I was chewing.

"So this one. Squid."

*Reaches for sake.*

The icing on the cake was when the chef brought out live prawns on a cutting board. If there was a photo of my face.

"Raw or boiled?"

"I'm ok actually. Thank you."


He walks back into the kitchen to "prepare" the prawns for the next piece. He returns with just the meat and starts throwing it on the cutting board to form a ball.

"Look closely. Still moving."

Having been witness to the almost artistic motion on the streets of the city earlier that day, this was not at all the type of movement I was after. Feeling the eyes on me in the room, I scrambled to pick up my chopsticks, grabbed the sushi, threw it in my mouth, and quickly washed it down with the remaining sake.

"Good, yes?"

"Oh yes. Very."

Dinner service ended with a strawberry sliced in two. This went down without a hitch.

If I learned anything today it's that I'll be sticking with my 0-star California rolls going forward.