Seeing 300lb men in thongs is not something the average person wants to see but when in Japan, it’s a must do. We were lucky enough to find a sumo stable to watch professional sumo wrestlers have their morning practice session before having one their 10,000 calorie lunch ( they consume 20,000 per day- that’s 10x a normal person).
There were sumo wrestlers inside, where they would stretch and take turns trying to push each other outside of the ring on the ground made out of sand. Outside, others cooled down after their turns, warmed up for the next turn and mended their aching parts with ice and bandages.
Mark told me to go and ask to take a picture with them. Sure- send the measly girl to the huge wrestler- that’s not intimidating… So I worked up the courage and asked, but he gave a shake of the head no and I wasn’t about to try and argue with him.
After the sumo stable we went to the Tsujki Fish Market and had some fresh sushi. It definitley was the best I had ever had and there is a noticable difference between the fish here and what you can get back home.
We ordered sampler type plates, with a little bit of many things, not really looking at what was on or in each one. More of a “just try it and don’t think about it” approach. So I grabbed one and plopped it in my mouth- it was the weirdest texture I had ever experienced; it was like a moist, soft, jello that just gushed around. The nausea came quick and I just gulped it down and prayed it wouldn’t come back up (it didn’t). Turns out it was sea urchin. I do not recommend. The rest of the sushi/sashimi was fine, with textures ranging from “melt in your mouth” fish ( it really does melt- it’s weird) to very chewy. An authentic experience that was adventurous, delicious and very filling.
After months of planning and over 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived at Narita airport. Feeling grubby and exhausted we navigated our way to our accommodation and promptly crashed.
Tokyo confirms the stereotypes that we all know of Japan: cleanliness, meticulousness, discipline, etc. The organized manner in which the city operates is astounding. People are walking everywhere and they all know where to go and the most efficient way of getting there. You won’t see wasteful head-checking when crossing a street or hear loud conversations – everything glides seamlessly and quietly like an orchestrated simulation. There really is a harmony to how the city functions. It’s refreshing because the frustrations that we’ve all experienced – the obnoxious idiot talking on his cellphone in the subway, the smoker who flicks their butt onto the sidewalk, the cabby who decides to do a u-turn in rush hour and blocks both lanes of traffic – they can’t be found here. The environment will affect you immediately; you’ll find yourself sitting on the train with slightly better posture and gesturing a bow when you queue incorrectly for your designated train car. Somehow the system works too well for you to let it down.
The Tokyo subway system is the busiest in the world. Take 50 TTC systems and plop them on top of each other. Subtract the dirtiness, homelessness, scariness, and delays and you have the Tokyo subway system. Despite the system being extremely intuitive, you may find yourself the only male on a female-only train car (I was wondering why so many women were staring at me), or being ushered around by one of the dozens of “traffic force” – think white gloves, robocop helmet, red wand, and microphone for emphasizing Japanese command words – when you inevitably do something wrong.
You’ll gawk at the directional arrows posted everywhere and detailed signage, thinking: “this seems a bit excessive” but just wait until 7:30am arrives and the tsunami of suits flood into the subway. The entry ticket machines chime like the floor of a casino but you won’t hear a single word spoken. As you glide along in your particular stream, it all begins to make sense. Poor Alayna was courageous enough to leap out of her spot in our stream to take a picture and couldn’t find a way back in. I drifted away as she sat in an eddy current waiting in vain to rejoin the river. This thing is bigger than us – just go with it.
Follow your arrows and you’ll survive!