The first day – Roppongi, Tokyo

Day One

We awoke and took to the realization that not all in Tokyo was as it is in the US.  Shocked?  Neither were we, BUT we did fail to prepare for the clusterfuck of combinations that kept us running in circles all day long.

As I sit here and reflect back on the first full day in Tokyo it is an amazing day of exploration of both the city and culture, but of the self and American society as a whole. 

As I said before, the day was somewhat of a clusterfuck.  There was no franticness and really very little stress, but it was challenging to say the least.  When we arrived, it became apparent very quickly, that our cell phones did not work here… after trephine company pretty much assured us they would and well, we had zero mode of communication.  It was complicated by the fact that our hotel had zero wifi internet.  Which for some, whatever, it’s aLAN based here, you simply plug and go.  Well, yeah, that’s simple for most, but me.. yeah.  Ok.  Earlier this year, I hacked my crappy netback and forced macintosh software onto it.  Sorry, I hate windows.  Well, by doing so, it lost ethernet capability.  Something I was not aware of until I tried to use it this morning.  So that led to a little bit of a setback in our week here.  No phone and no internet makes Michael a dull boy.  Ok, maybe not, but it does leave me up a foreign country without a paddle and seeing that I had not memorized names places and booth placement for my meetings at TIFFCOM, this could prove to be a problem.

After we got our shit together and left the hotel, we explored the city a little bit in search of coffee and internet.  Usually, those things go hand in hand in the US.  And, sure enough, they do here too.  You just have to pay for it.  I wasn’t prepared to pay for the wifi use, since I hadn’t packed my macintosh just yet I was testing wifi spots with my phone all morning long. 

We discovered throughout the day that Japan is not a cellphone society.  They have cellphones but their use isn’t as prominent as you would think it is.  There is certainly a huge difference between the American usage of a cell phone and the Japanese society’s usage of a cell phone.  Smartphones are’t exactly rare here, but they are very distinct.  They are ALL iPhones.  There is no other smart phone.  We saw quite a few iPhones all day long yet, rarely anyone using them the way Americans do.  It was quite a sight to see a society on bound by their fingers tapping away at a keyboard and their heads down.  It was also apparent by the cell signal coverage.  The phone I use is the same technology and should work here in Japan.  Yet, it doesn’t.  there is not the data coverage that we have all grown so accustomed to.  That big red Verizon map that shows all of their data coverage, yeah.  That doesn’t exist here.  There isn’t data coverage.  Which led us to our major problem for the first day.  There’s no internet to grab anywhere we freely roam.  I can’t grab my device and GPS my signal to find exactly in the world where I am and exactly the route I need to take to get me there.  It was a hinderance, but eventually, we found a solution.

For breakfast, at Tully’s Coffee, somewhere in Roppongi we had french toast sticks.  Hey!  We have those in America!  Not like this we don’t!   These french toast sticks were sliced from a very tall slice of bread, through the middle giving two giant french toast sticks that had been presoaked in some sort of egg mixture and pretty much just microwaved for us, but it was amazing.  The bread here is so different than the bread we are used to.  It’s more refined.  Tighter woven and very soft.  Very fresh.  The syrup on the french toast was unbelievable.  I have no idea what it was and I don’t want to know.  I just know it was awesome.

Since we are talking food, I may as well break down our whole day of meals, since it really makes no difference if I do it now or later, I was going to write about it anyway.  We played it safe and cheap for lunch.  We came across a Subway and dared to venture in.  Now, sure, you may think… Come on!  Chain restaurants?  You are in one of the great cities of the world!  Try the local!  Well, neither one of us are raw fish eaters.  And, being our first day here, we wanted to play it safe.  But I will say that even the chain restaurants offer a local flavor not available anywhere else.   We walked by a McDonalds that only had three things on the menu…. and I am still not sure what any of the three things were.  Just three choices.  If you didn’t want that, you didn’t eat there.  We saw a Burger King that seemed to have some American familiarity to it.  But Tokyo, chain restaurant or local shop is unlike anywhere else in the world.  I am certain of that much. 

At Subway, I dared the tuna, which, tuna at any chain restaurant is a risk, and Connie went with the BLT… which Bacon in any country is also a risk for the stomachs and constitutions of mankind all over the world.  We were pleasantly surprised at how AMAZING the Subway food was.  There was a richness and flavor that Americans just don’t have.  The bread was so soft and very distinct.  It wasn’t fat and fluffy and dry like most Subway sandwiches you are used to.  They were solid and moist and SOOOO soft.  Our lunch was unbelievable.  Connie’s BLT was a mix of soft salami, bacon and everything else on the menu.  We will be frequenting that place quite a bit this week.  The food was choice.

For dinner we tasted the Taste of Italia.  A tiny italian and very reasonably priced restaurant in Roppongi, not too far from our hotel.  Tokyo is very much like NYC.  There are thousands of restaurants at every corner, streetside and curb.  Food from all over the world.  The only difference in Tokyo is that they add their own flavor to the mix.  Because, there isn’t a little Italy in Tokyo, it just happens to be where a few locals work.  And, They work with what they have here.  Connie again braved the city to go with a Spaghetti with mushroom sauce.  I played it safe with the pepperoni pizza.  The food arrived and I was shocked.  The pizza was rectangular.  About 6” x 9”.  The crust was nearly paper thin.  It was a wafer crust of some sort with a very very light red sauce and long strips of pepperoni.  It was out of this world.  SOOOO Good.  Connie was less impressed with the spaghetti, but we will also be hitting this place again this week, even if just for a snack.  The pizza was soooo good.

Now, people talk about how expensive Tokyo is.  It is, but it isn’t.  If you know what you are doing, then it’s no more expensive than any other meal in America.  Now yes, if you put two meals side by side and compare the cost in yen to cost in dollars our frugal american stinginess shows that yes, it costs more here in dollars. But, when you are dealing with nothing but yen and have nothing but yen for money.  Guess what.  Some meals are more than others.  Dollar for dollar we spent roughly the same for anything we would have eaten in the US at a given meal.  But the portions here were smaller.  The size and heartiness of the food is much smaller.  But, that’s not a bad thing.  We ate light meals and we were happy.  Our stomachs weren’t bloated and we didn’t collapse from a food coma.  That’s not a bad thing.  We adjusted to it.  We ate when we needed to.  And the food was enough to get us through until the next meal.  We didn’t want any more or need any more.  Now, that’s not to say we didn’t stop and snack here and there at one of the many little markets along the side of the street.  We’ve discovered some severely tasty junk foods that are going to be sorely missed once we go home.

As the day wound down and the thoughts of our fat American society weighe
d heavy on our minds.  Tokyo is the NYC that NYC wishes it was.  It is clean.  It is polite.  The food is fantastic and not fatty.  The society here is thinner.  It is leaner.  People walk everywhere just like NYC, but they eat properly and not by choice.  They eat properly because their culture has adapted them to the proper way of eating.  The food is exactly the way it needs to be.  As it should be back home but never will.  The women here are all stunning with these amazing figures.  Long lean legs from walking all day.  The men are the same.  Lean.  There’s few and far fatties to be found.  I think that all day we only saw one person that was overweight.  And, by overweight, I don’t mean fat.  They were just slightly more chunky than all the people around them.  It saddens me that I live in a society in such that fat is where it’s at and it’s never going to change.  Now that we’ve seen the other side… of the world, it has been quite an eye opener.  I know Connie was affected by it.  She’s been changed simply by looking at the world around her here.  She hasn’t quite put that into words, but I know that she has.  I saw her face all day long yesterday.  We walked and walked and walked and we both felt so out of shape.  It was quite apparent that we were in a society of skinny people and that we were fatties roaming through their world.   So disgusted by our own bodies.  And that’s what America is people.  A gluttonous society.  In every aspect.  I had never quite seen it that way before, but it’s true.  The greed.  The weight.  The attitudes.  It’s a society of gluttons. 

That being said… After eating light and exercising and walking more than we have in years… there’s no way we can make it all week like that!  Somewhere in this city there is a giant hamburger and fries and it has my name on it.

Tokyo is the New York that New York wishes it was.  It’s clean.  It’s organized.  It’s very polite and very professional.  It is a city respectful of others around it.  It is a city overly polite to the foreigners walking amongst them.  It is a city of wonder that we have barely touched on.

Tomorrow… I will write about Donki.  Donki is a world all in it’s own. 

Some other last minute thoughts…

Toilet seats.  You’re doing it wrong America.

Fogless Mirrors.  You’re doing it wrong America.

Ironing boards.  You’re doing it wrong America.

Recycling.  You’re doing it wrong America.

Let me also comment on this.  Air Conditioning.  Heat.  You are doing it wrong JAPAN.  Wow.  That is the one thing that both Connie and I have had our problems with.  The heat indoors is unbearable.  In every location.  The hotel.  Too hot.  The coffee shop.  Too hot.  The subway.  Too hot.  The restaurant with cracker pizza.  Too hot!  And EVERYONE is sitting there in suit and tie.  I suppose if you are accustomed to that warm temperature, it’s nothing to you.  But wow.  There’s more comfortable living!  Or maybe that’s just us fat American’s bitching too much.  Because, you know, that’s another thing that became apparent.  Maybe our society is the way it is now because everyone feels so entitled and they all bitch too much about everything and anything. 

And that is just me complaining about everyone bitching about everything all the time.

Oh, and one more thought while I am sitting here and reminded of something that I haven’t seen or smelled in many many years… a SMOKING SECTION.  Every restaurant has one.  There’s a lot of smoking here.  There’s also a shit ton of bars around here.

Today, we head back out into the city, and now for the first time we set about our purpose here.  The making of Ashio.  The first meeting is today.  The first day of TIFFCOM is today.  Today, we browse booths and I set out to ask one question.

How do I get this movie made in Japan?

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