JAPAN — Day 2

This was our first full day in Tokyo, and we started by heading to the subway. Here’s what it looked like on the way:

See all those people wearing surgical masks? I’ve heard that they do it for three reasons:

1) To avoid getting scary germs.
2) To avoid giving scary germs (if  they’re already sick).
3) To reduce the effects of hay fever.

Now, don’t worry . . . this isn’t going to be an entire entry about the Tokyo subway system, but I do need to share a few photos. First, check out the idiot-proof platform barrier that prevents people from falling onto the tracks:

New York City could really use those. I’ve been told by a friend who works for the MTA that several people per week get struck and killed by trains.

Here’s a photo that I took on the train. Hello, Richard Gere!

Here’s an ad for the Yomiuri Giants . . .

. . . and check this out — something that New York City could also use:


And that’s not all. In several of these photos, have you noticed the yellow “path” on the ground? That’s for blind people. The grooves change to dots to indicate when there’s a turn or a doorway or a staircase or whatever. Japan knows what’s up.

Anyway, enough about the subway. Our destination was the Tsukiji fish market, which was certifiably insane. Here’s what it looked like on one of the many side streets:

Obviously, there was lots of seafood for sale, like tuna and octopus . . .

. . . and squid . . .

. . . and shrimp and crabs . . .

. . . but there was SO much more. Check out the 16-part photo below, and then scroll down to see (more or less) what everything is:

1) fruit
2) vegetables
3) beans
4) nuts
5) spices
6) kudsu [sic] vine powder
7) dumplings
8) sausages
9) fried somethings
10) egg-loaf (for lack of a better term)
11) high-quality tuna
12) teeny dried fish
13) pickled vegetables
14) desserts
15) more desserts inspired by Pokemon
16) bowls and dishes

And that was just the beginning.

Martha (my half-sister) spent 10,000 yen (about $120) on a knife. Here she is picking it out . . .

. . . and if you look at the upper left corner of the previous photo, you can see a knife as big as a sword. (It wasn’t a sword. It was actually a knife.)

Look what else I saw at the market:

Baseball fans! With “Opening Series” logos on their caps! At the time, it was only 30 hours until I’d be entering the Tokyo Dome.

Martha and my mom and I had been eating all day, but that didn’t stop us from entering a random little sushi place on one of the side streets. Here I am with Martha at the counter:

(It was about 50 degrees outside, and the restaurant had an open store front, so we stayed bundled up.)

Here’s what we ordered:

This was THE absolute best sushi in my life, and possibly in the world. It seriously melted in my mouth and tasted like medium-rare steak.

We were about to leave when Martha spotted this:

We asked our friendly waiter (who spoke fluent English) what it was, and when he told me the answer, I nearly felt sick. It was shark heart, and he said that it’s served raw. Naturally, Martha ordered some and . . . wow. Just wow. Have a closer look:

She picked up a slice with her chopsticks, grabbed a little seaweed to go with it, dipped it in salt (which is how it’s “supposed” to be eaten) and chowed down. As a somewhat picky/fearful/squeamish eater, I was totally grossed out — Martha said it “tasted like intestines” had an “after-taste of blood” — but then something clicked inside my brain. I suddenly felt a strange compulsion to try it. This so-called “food” was SO nasty that I wanted to go for it. It became a personal challenge. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and choose the path of most resistance.

I must admit that I didn’t eat an entire slice. I used my chopsticks to cut off a little piece, but still. Check it out:


Did you notice my mom’s reaction in the background? She wasn’t acting. She was truly horrified. And then I ate another piece, Just because.

It’s hard to describe it. I’d say it was both floppy and gristly and tasted like the ocean — in an extreme fishy/salty way. I don’t know if it tasted like intestines or blood because I’m not a zombie. All I can say is that it was pretty bad. And fun. As I mentioned later that day on Twitter, I am now the permanent winner (among fellow dumb Americans) of the “What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?” contest.

By mid-afternoon, we found ourselves outside some Buddhist temples:

Alongside of one of the temples, there were hundreds (maybe even thousands) of cement figurines which were decorated with knitted caps, flowers, and pinwheels. Have a look:

We had no idea what to make of it.

In the photo above, did you notice the huge orange structure looming up above the trees in the background? That’s the Tokyo Tower, which is 1,091 feet tall. Here it is from below . . .

. . . and here’s what it looked like inside the observation deck, roughly halfway up:

Here’s one of the many photographs that I took of the 360-degree view of Tokyo:

The city looked like that (minus the water) in ALL directions. It it truly gigantic. New York feels like a cute little village in comparison.

We headed back to our hotel in the late afternoon, hung out in the room for a few hours, and then went back out for dinner in a Times-Square-like neighborhood called Shinjuku:

I was hoping to eat ramen and walk around for hours, but that didn’t happen; I was overruled on the restaurant, and after the meal, we were exhausted. The little bit of Shinjuku that we experienced was very touristy:

I’ll leave you with one final photo of the biggest crosswalk you’ll ever see:

How’s that for an anticlimactic end? (Tokyo Dome, here I come . . . )


  1. Nicholas Badders

    I will be looking for you on TV… oh and I don’t know if you saw my comment already, but I was listening to the A’s game on the radio , and I heard the broadcasters saying that the Japan teams have 2 players hitting at once during BP. Two cages, two pitchers, and catchers that sit on stools… what do you think ballhawking would be like if MLB teams did this.

  2. T

    you have to find the team hotel,get some autos, see any ichiro jerseys yet?120$ for a knife? you get them free at Benihanas,and dont eat minced cats .you see the girls used underwear vending machines yet,they are popular there.cool pics Zack, take alot in the game for us.

  3. Leigh B.

    Do people kind of stare at you because you are different and stand out or do they just ignore you? Are there alot of other Americans walking around? I’m just curious…Good luck tonight.

  4. Jimmy


    I’ve studied abroad and have been to Japan several times. You need to go to Tsukiji when it first opens and check out the live auction for the humongous tuna. The sushi there is unreal ( I agree). I try to explain it to people but they dont get it and why I find it hard to eat sushi here.

    Love all the pics as it reminds me of the great times I had over there. You traveling outside of Tokyo as well? Maybe Kyoto, Kamakura, Nara, Osaka?

  5. T

    who hasnt Bob?dont drink a whole bottle of grape juice,that will do it too.George Brett throws bp over here at royals bp every morning,ive caught alot of his pitches,good old #5,.im watching the japan game right now on mlb.com,[25$ a month] Zack can u see MT Fuji.?go climb it.,u like the whistles every time a hr comes,annoying/?

  6. Skim

    Should I tell Gustavo Chacin at a Ducks game this year that you were the one who cursed him and you are the reason why he is failing on every team?

  7. Zack Hample

    “Gross” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    Yep, pretty much.

    CHRIS H-
    Which crosswalk are you talking/joking about? The one between the 4 train and the stadium?

    Oh, that anime . . .

    Two hitters at once sounds like an injury waiting to happen.

    Unfortunately, no, I didn’t see any of those vending machines. I was pretty much with my mom and half-sister at all times, so it wasn’t THAT kinda trip. As for the whistles . . . it’s horrible and accomplishes nothing. If you’re not paying attention and you suddenly hear a whistle, you’re going to look up? And spot the white ball against the white roof? I think not.

    LEIGH B-
    Even though there were hardly ANY non-Asians walking around, I didn’t feel like I was being stared at. I mean, like 1 out of 100 people might night have been Asian. Maybe 1 in 200. I don’t know. It was pretty extreme/intense.

    Everyone has a price.

    Ha! I love it! Thanks very much for letting me know.

    Thanks for the suggestions. We did see some other places outside Tokyo. Stay tuned for subsequent blog entries.

    I don’t think there’s any possible way to prepare shark heart so that it’d be good (unless Cal Ripken were to cook and serve it himself).

    Poor George.

    Nah, just laugh at him.

    Thanks. And yes.

    Now THAT is an excellent point. Also, if people stay on land, they’ll never get attacked by a shark.

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