Tokyo Diary: 10/18/12 – Fish Guts and Kawagoe

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Here’s some pics from the last few days in rainy Tokyo.

I saw a couple of things I rarely see in Tokyo these last few days.  One was a woman carrying an Enron tote bag – I have no idea why that might be – and another was a guy using a Blackberry.  I can’t for the life of me ever recall seeing a non-Gaijin use a Crackberry in Japan.

Yesterday morning I finally made a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market.  Not to see the 5 AM tuna auction – getting up a 330 to try and get across Tokyo before the trains are running with no guarantees of even getting in would require a much greater interest level than I have in the subject.  Nevertheless it was fascinating to see the inner market, which is very much a working slice of old Tokyo – they make few allowances for tourists there and are clearly annoyed by their presence.  Puddles tinged with blood are everywhere, along with dying fish and speeding hand trucks and bicycles.  It’s not attractive, but it is a unique experience.

Afterwards was the nearby Ginza, which is always an interesting place to see establishment Japan at its most confident and ostentatious.  The depatto there are really something – I could spend hours on the food floors of Mitsukoshi (they even have a shrine on the roof) alone – and afterwards I had lunch at my favorite sushi restaurant, Midori.  Sushi can be an amazing value in Japan, and Midori is among the best in that respect.  The fish was so good that even the uni, which I normally detest, was quite tasty.  They also don’t have the anti-foreigner bias you often see at sushi restaurants, sadly – it’s a very friendly place with outstanding service and an ever-present line out the door (the boy in front of me was reading a Kuromajo LN), including a half-hour before the 11 AM opening.  Lastly a stop at Nakano Broadway – where I snapped a pic of Mandarake’s new 4th-floor entrance, and video of this very random Japan moment.

Today was Kawagoe, an old castle town an hour North of the city.  The main reason I visited with a couple of school friends was to check out the monthly market – one of the students is a flea-market enthusiast – but alas with the persistent showers that was pretty much a washout despite the advertised “rain or shine” policy.  It’s quite the historic place, though, with it’s dozens of kura storehouses and temples (including the exquisite Kita-in, where a fire ceremony was in progress). 

On the personal front the big priority at the moment is finding an apartment, which is proving quite the challenge as I have two big strikes against me – I’m a gaijin and I don’t have a guarantor.  Most Japanese have their parents act a a guarantor, most foreigners have a company that will do so – and only a Japanese citizen can act as a guarantor.  The whole apartment system here – guarantors, key money, agency fees – is a bloody mess, and a convoluted one.  There’s a quality to Japan, sometimes, where adherence to the system is more important than the facts of a specific case.  It’s something I knew about but it certainly can be a frustration…

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  1. T

    What is this "anti-foreigner bias you often see at sushi restaurants" you mentioned, Enzo? I have no clue what you mean, other than guess random things like 'maybe they will refuse to give high-end sushi' or 'maybe they will give gaijins crappy seats all the way in the back!" or "maybe they will keep on insisting you to order hamburger sushi"… And is this something you experienced first-hand or is something you heard?

  2. e

    In Italy we say that a wet(by rain) bride is a lucky bride. May this be true for bloggers as well. A gaijin can't be a guarantor for another gaijin, can he? I could ask a couple friends for some tips and help otherwise… juts let me know in case.

    Oh, I recognize the clock tower building from Showa Monogatari.
    And that's Ashita no Joe dying pose you picked at Mandarake. Aaah, I was rewatching that sequence just yesterday D,:.
    You don't like sea urchins? I ate a lot of them when I was living with my mother. They were pretty tasty (or maybe they used to be? admittedly I couldn't find them fresh on sale once I moved at the opposite side of the country, been years now), they had a sorta creamy texture and eating them raw with a spoon is still one of my strongest food-memories.
    Are we supposed to recognize the roof shrine statue on the left :D?

    The video is quite funny. When the Saints Go Marchin' In, correct? and… the costumes feel like an Halloween hors d'oeuvre ^^.

    Not asking about the sushi restaurant bit as Tommy has preceded me. But I do am curious.

  3. A

    I wonder can they tell the difference between a Japanese and a Chinese? Accent could be one, I guess. Just thought since I'm a Chinese myself, I can sort of squirm through to that side of the Gaijin-Japanese spectrum if I were to be there one day.

    Feel for you, bro. This is where having a pen pal comes into handy. Hope you get settled in soon.

  4. S

    In the West, we tend to blend the Asian cultures together, but if you take some time to learn the racial differences, it's actually pretty easy to pick out what country and roughly what region someone is from.

    I know because I had a high school teacher that complained on this point (he's half Japanese/half American), so I came back a week later and proved to him it wasn't very difficult to learn the differences.

    Though the tell-tale signs for telling a local from a non-local will always be in fat deposits and stature. Which are heavily dependent on diet. This doesn't mean they have to be fat, but where it sits on different parts of the body is reflected due to the prevailing diet of the area. (Which is a fascinated topic unto itself)

  5. A

    In my experience, the Japanese are pretty good about telling whether or not a person is Japanese based on accent. I've only encountered a handful of instances where a Japanese person said, "Wow, that person's accent is so good I didn't even realize he/she isn't Japanese."

    They are also good at differentiating based on appearance. Even I've gotten used to it, and I haven't been living in this part of the world for my entire life XD

  6. B

    The fish market sounds really interesting. By and large I've never been that interested in visiting Tokyo itself but I have always wanted to see Tsukiji fish market.

    Enzo, if you don't have an apartment yet, then where exactly are you sleeping? In a hotel?

    And now to go off topic a bit (my apologies), I noticed the comments for your Zetsuen/Btoooom post are closed. What gives? If this is because of the grief you were getting from anons in that thread then I'm going to join the people who want you to disallow anonymous posts, allowing people to post as anon is all well and good until them doing so starts resulting in the site being less usable for everyone else.

  7. A

    While you are there ask some anime people what happened to the rest of Eureka Seven Ao? Last episode I saw was 22 (and then a cross dressing OVA came out). Irritates me to see 22 episodes and then we just supposed to forget about the rest?

  8. I already posted that info… They're airing in late November. It's due to a scheduling conflict from when the Olympics aired.

  9. e

    @Anon:the 2 final episodes will be out in November ^^.

  10. Random answers:

    Sushiya can be very ritual-driven places. Some sushi chefs don't want to be bothered explaining things to foreigners and get peevish when they do things wrong. It's more an issue with sushi than any other cuisine IMO. Not all of them – just some.

    Gaijin cannot be guarantors, ever. Period.

    I'm staying at a guest house or "share house", which is reasonably cheap and nothing terrible. But I don't want to lock in for another month (the minimum) so I need to find an apt.

    Closed comments on the ZnT/Btooom post because it'd become a circle jerk, basically. No one was talking about either show.

    Yes, Japanese folks can definitely recognize Japanese folks as opposed to Chinese or Korean or any other nation.

  11. H

    A friend of mine did the whole waking up at 3am thing three times before managing to see the auction, which he loved.
    However, I understand where you are coming from when you say that you are simply not interested enough to do that, I doubt I would too (and I love cooking and eating fish).
    Good luck with finding an apartment, persevere and I am sure you will succeed 😉

  12. A

    Sorry to hear about all the hassles that you are going through to find a place that you can call yours. I am wondering if this is the case for your school friends — have they got their guarantors? I am not sure if your school teachers or your employer can help you out… Good luck, Enzo.


  13. School does not act as a guarantor (some major universities do). As I don't have a full-time employer yet I don't have one to turn to in that respect either.

    Most of my colleagues are staying in guest houses and homestays, so it isn't an issue for them. That's just not what I'm looking for right now.

  14. A

    Hang in there, Enzo, and hope that you can get it resolved and find a place soon. Good luck!

  15. A

    i read that some japanese people really did not like chinese people. I wonder if this happen really often or just a minority who think like this. As a canadian born chinese with no knowledge of hinese culture at all, I would feel really bad if people judge me for being something i am not :S

  16. A

    There are definitely underlying negative attitudes toward Chinese people. And the Senkaku Islands issue and the resulting incidents in China definitely haven't helped things.

    However, a lot of how the Japanese will respond to you as an individual depends on how well you integrate into their society. If you aren't "pushy" (a term I often hear associated with the Chinese here in Japan) and conform to the rules and politeness levels they expect, they are generally pretty welcoming.

  17. A

    How does it feel to have gone into the future 1 day? With crossing the International Dateline an all.LOL

  18. A

    As I don't live in Tokyo, I don't know how much help my advice will be, but from what I have heard, a lot of foreigners tend to live around Nippori or Nishi-Nippori, so they might be more open to foreigners without a guarantor.

    Not sure if you know about it, but there's also Leopalace 21. A bit more expensive, but I believe you don't need a guarantor. Depending on the apartment, internet will also be included.

    Finally, you could do it the way my friend did it when he was looking for an apartment for the first time. He went to a few of the real estate places and ending up forming a good relationship with a real estate guy, and the guy basically became his guarantor to get him into an apartment and loaned him money to pay the starting rent/key money. Takes a bit (or a lot) of luck and some maneuvering in Japanese, though.

    But yeah, getting something decent really comes down to connections…

    Hang in there.

  19. Wow – loaned him money??? I'm trying to use connections to find an agent who will go to bat for me, but that's really exceptional!

    I did look at Leopalace but they're a lot of money for what they offer, and they aren't in the greatest locations generally.

    Thanks for all the good wishes.

  20. B

    OMG! I have been to Japan too, these posts are so cool!

  21. A

    i read that some japanese people really did not like chinese people. I wonder if this happen really often or just a minority who think like this. As a canadian born chinese with no knowledge of hinese culture at all, I would feel really bad if people judge me for being something i am not :S

  22. A

    It seems my comment got post a second time sorry for that. Thanks for the feedback btw, I guess I'll just be extra careful when I will go wwoofing 🙂

  23. A

    Kawagoe happens to be the place where Kirito/Kazuto of SAO and his sister resides. I guess his house's traditional samurai house look fits well with the city's description as an old castle town.

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