The room is nice, but very small. The mattress is a bit firmer than I prefer, but I'm sure I'll have no trouble sleeping on it tonight.
|View from hotel room
After settling and changing clothes I decided to go back out and wander around a bit. The hotel is in Chiyoda-ku, which seems to be a quiet business district. It is also directly adjacent to a subway station though, so getting around will be fairly simple.
I wandered into the subway station with no clue how it works. Luckily, it's pretty standard fare as metro transit systems go - you buy a mag card at a machine, it lets you in the gate, and when you leave at the other end if you didn't have enough money on the card you have to go to another machine and put a litte more money on. I'll probably opt for that system most of the time, as the fare tables make no sense to me whatsoever. It cost me 160Y to go to Roppongi, but I got off at the wrong station and had to walk a few blocks. Coming back via a closer station cost me 250Y. I'm not sure why. I think it has something to do with the different lines being owned by different companies.
Anyhow, I headed to Roppongi to see what the "bustling nightlife" area looked like. It reminded me a lot of New York City, with barkers on the sidewalks who were clearly paid a hefty commission if they could get you into the establishment they were representing. Most of them were representing strip clubs, with deals such as "5,000Y for all you can drink in one hour." That's about $50. I think I'll pass.
One of the barkers eventually got me to at least step into "his" club, promising me no cover and no fee, just go in and see if I want to buy a drink or leave. I figured - hell, I've never seen a strip club in Tokyo, so for the opportunity to walk in and walk back out with no embarrassment.. why not?
It became clear why he had that arrangement as soon as I got in. I was flanked by the owner and two strippers immediately, and they started putting the pressure on me heavy to buy some drinks and sit down. The most startling thing was that almost all of the girls were westerners. There was also a distinct lack of customers in this establishment.
I kindly turned them down, thanked them for their "courtesy", and left. (After all, I didn't fly halfway around the planet to pay western girls to strip for me.) The barker and manager actually followed me out, down the elevator, and half way up the block trying to talk me into going back in... and I was blatantly ignoring them to boot!
There was a wide assortment of bars and bar/restaurant establishments, too. I didn't see any bar/restaurants that appealed to me, and I was too tired to just go into a bar and drink. Then I saw a place that just said "Ramen" on the sign. Or at least, that's all it said in English. I was congested from the flight and it was cold and windy out, so a bowl of hot ramen sounded perfect.
This is a type of Japanese "fast food" that I can really appreciate. You go in, make your selection & pay on what looks like a stamp vending machine, it prints you a little ticket that you give to the guy behind the bar, and he comes out later with a huge bowl of ramen.
This isn't your $0.25 grocery-store instant ramen, either. I ordered the "pork ramen" and it had seaweed, rice, sliced pork, onions, and some other stuff all in a thick broth. It was really, really good. Why can't we have more non-cheeseburger fast food alternatives like this in the US? We'd be a lot healthier!
Anyhow, after that I was dead tired so I wandered back (and fought off three more barkers and two very young prostitutes who wanted me to "take them shopping.")
I think the problem with Roppongi tonight was that I was one of the only foreigners wandering around, so I was the bait in the shark pool. It was entertaining, at least.
Well, that's it for my first few hours in Tokyo. Time to get some sleep and go out sightseeing proper (with my camera - yay!) tomorrow.