October 10, 2012

To The Sky!

It's a wonderful feeling waking up and not having a single plan on the horizon. So far our ability to make quick decisions about what our day is going to look like have turned out well. Today was no exception.

We had a concert in Shibuya in the evening as well as a meeting with the head of Live Nation: Japan, but our morning and afternoon were wide open so we decided to head to the sky. Or more accurately, Sky Tree!

Taylor and I have reached the point where we feel pretty confident navigating the rail system with minimal care, which is nice in that it's good to feel confident in a new place, but there are some major drawbacks. (This literary device is known as "foreshadowing".) We made it to Sky Tree without any problems though and quickly discovered that accompanying the tower is what is known as "Sky Tree City".

To the casual observer, STC is a mall, but we liked to think of it as a city of the future. You'll see in the map below that the tower, mall and adjacent building all have their own subway line. Yes, it's that big. I assume the number of people working there today was greater than the population of many cities:

No city is complete without its own rail

We ventured through the mall in search of food, which allowed me to use a new phrase: Do you have an English menu? I was delighted to find I could actually understand the answer, "no." A defeat in the menu category, but a victory in the having a full conversation with a Japanese person category! It gave me a chance to translate the menu and find pork for me and tomago (egg) for Taylor.

As with most cities, you'd expect to find one "must have" food item. New Orleans has gumbo while Philly, the cheesesteak. Sky Tree City has
green tea ice cream. It may very well have been the best ice cream ever made my mortal hands. It is clear that more thought and care has gone into crafting this treat than has gone into any other product that melts away in a matter of minutes.

Taylor had the matcha and I had the brown rice

Many cities also have some sort of native animal and Sky Tree City is no exception:

With all the excitement of Sky Tree City, we nearly forgot about the Tree itself! We made our way outside (opting out of the planetarium and aquarium in STC) to make our way up the tower. Unbeknownst to us, however, was the fact that tickets are generally booked hours if not days in advance, so all we were able to do was gaze up at its beauty and learn our lesson for another day.

Here's where we got into trouble with our rail confidence: we decided to venture out into the surrounding town and just hop onto whatever line we found. We had an iPhone App that gave us rail routes and thought we knew the general direction of Shibuya. And we did. What we didn't account for is that we'd have so much to discuss on the rail and this meant many missed stops. But part of the joy of these days has been the easygoing nature of everything. We had a destination in mind and a pretty big time frame of when we wanted to get there, so we took our time.

Our wanderings did produce cute school children

As well as this little pup.

The destination we had set out for was the Live Nation: Japan headquarters in Shibuya. Taylor had been setup with the head of the company here and he and his daughter wanted to meet us to give us some suggestions for things to do. Frank and Anna turned out to be very friendly; we've got plans to get sushi with them tomorrow. Anna is also taking us to a Michael Jackson Thriller show this Friday. How was that not on my list of things to do?!

It's always nice to make new friends in a foreign place, and Anna, who is 21, seemed eager to show us around and help on our journey. And who knows, maybe Live Nation: Japan needs an American worker who barely speaks Japanese! On that note though: I'm learning new phrases and words everyday and they're sticking with me. I'm finding it easier to retain the language with each passing day. 

From Frank's office, Anna walked us to the venue where The Dirty Projectors were playing. I've seen them twice before, but they are one of my favorite bands and the fact that they were playing in Tokyo was just too much. I've checked a number of sites for music in the next few months and it's pretty bare. What are the odds that a relatively small indie band from the States is playing?! I also figured that, if nothing else, I'd have amazing views of the band from the audience.

You'd never know this was the back row

We got to the venue and waited for Catherine, a Los Angeleno/Bostonian who has also recently moved to Tokyo for an unknown amount of time. Taylor met her once through some mutual friends and then connected with her when he got to Japan. The world is a very small place; turns out we have many mutual friends. 

Catherine is an very smiley girl and it was very encouraging to meet someone else who is on a similar journey. We had many good things to discuss with regards to working in the country and life post-college. The three of us walked and talked until we found the Japanese equivalent to a diner, which meant milkshakes. We shared mutual feelings about life back home as well as this next chapter in life. The city has already begun to feel comfortable thanks to all the new friends I've been making. Feels very similar to the first few weeks of college where you're not sure who, if anyone, will end up being your best friend, but you're just so happy to meet new people with similar struggles and goals.

In Tokyo, it's customary to wear your pass on your forehead.

Taylor being a non-conformist.

Fitting in.