Saturday, February 9, 2008

The New York Bar / A Tokyo Night Out

I have a new favorite restaurant in the world. On the 52nd floor of the Tokyo Park Hyatt Hotel in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo, is the New York Bar. I had ear-marked it as a must-do because it was featured in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, but knowing it would be pricey, had saved it for the very last night.

I rallied a few hostel-buddies I had befriended, we dolled ourselves up and we hopped the (very easily navigable) subway from our hostel in the Asakusa neighborhood. I was instantly smitten by the ambience: an (American?) jazz band was blowing the blues, the views were heartbreakingly gorgeous, and the menu, as chi-chi as it was, had me melting with excitement as I poured over the cocktail list.

I sampled two different bellinis, and a artisinal cheese selection that, at nearly 3000 yen was my most expensive meal in my two week stay. I certainly felt like the queen of luxury while I was there! The New York Bar was, without doubt, one of the best bar / restaurants I have ever dined at in my life.

**Note: If you choose to follow my recommendation and dine here yourself, beware of price! There is a per-person service charge in the evenings. This fee is worth it, though, because you get to experience the jazz band and views of Tokyo by night!


Karaoke Time!

What visit to Japan is complete without a trip to the old Karaoke parlor? A little-known fact (well... to me) that I picked up some more Tokyo-savvy acquaintances is that all their subways stop running from midnight until 6am. That leaves the late-nighters options to either hail a cab... or party until 6am.

Since my hostel crew had no desire to do either, we took the subway back to our neighborhood, Asakusa, around 11pm and hit up the local Shidax. We spent two hours drinking beers, eating (a few opted to starve as oppose to shell out the dough at the New York Bar), and belting out Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", ABBA's "The Winner Takes It All", and finishing the night with a little Sinatra "My Way". And yes, the music was in English! The videos on the other hand...

And my FAVORITE thing about the Shidax: themed floors! Although there was no evidence that the themes carried over in any way to the actual karoake rooms, each floor had a delightful nickname: Russian Dance Elegant, Remember the '70s, and my personal favorite: Prison HipHop in NY!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lost in Translation

Ok, I have seriously neglected this blog. I am going to TRY to do some updates. Truth be told, while working, it is hard to pay attention to anything other than the 50 people directly in front of me, but since my cousin is blogging her way through France, I figured I'll make a second attempt.

To make things easy on myself :-P, here is something I originally posted as a Facebook note on 11 December 2007. I ventured to Japan ALONE... This was written on my 4th day, when I arrived in Kyoto after some misadventuring through Tokyo:

"Ok, I think Kyoto is kind of boring. And gloomy. And it's been raining, so I have every excuse to sit on my computer and type b/c I've been having far too retarded a time not to at least re-cap a few events:

1) Capsule hoteling:

First off, not what I expected. Basically, b/c you are not actually encapsuled in any way. The "capsule" is fairly spacious. And there is just a screen/curtain thing at the end, so you aren't sealed from the world. I could hear someone snoring! Strange! But two nights of this was WAY too much, not b/c it was scary, just b/c it was lonely.

2) Public Bathing:

The capsule hotel had a bathroom which was 3 showers (all open) and a giant pool (also open). The first morning, I observed from a locker area, using only audio cues, something that horrified me: it seemed the little Japanese ladies stripped down naked, jumped in the pool, splashed around for a while, then took a shower. That first morning, I snuck in between two rounds of Japanese ladies and took a 4-minute Australian style shower. The second morning, I woke up early (due to jet lag/the opposite of jet lag) and splashed around in the pool for like 20 minutes. It was amazing.

3) My birthday:

My birthday was actually going fine. I'd met some lovely people and we went down to Harajuku to watch cos-play (which, btw, not at all what I expected - the Harajuku girls are SHY; I thought they'd be vogueing). Ate my first Japanese food under the encouragement of said lovely people. By the end of the day, I go back to the hostel I'm staying... get VIOLENTLY ill. Can feel myself burning up. Stand up to tell the hostel people I need to leave and go somewhere where I can have a single room (not that sharing w/ 3 German boys isn't every American girl's dream), and my stomach lurches. The girl was like "You will have to call this number..." and I grab it, by-pass the phone, and go straight for the bathroom. Get ridiculously sick (don't even REMEMBER the last time I was so sick)... Yeah. Then, I leave for the hotel which is "a five minute walk", go walking for ages, hail a cab... $7+. Get my own room - smells of cigarettes, alright, take a bath and go to bed. Next day, as I go back to hostel to pick up my stuff I realize, in fact, they are only 1 block apart.

4) Tokyo is awesome. And massive. Like wider than LA but as built up as NY. But it has a lot of the same shops as NY. Bummer!

5) Kyoto is kind of lame. Oh right, I don't care about history.

6) Americans ARE weirdos. And they don't shutup. Silvia is right. All the best people I've met here are Canadian and Kiwi.

7) Japanese people are AWESOME:

First, I took an overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto (it was cheap) and sat next to the cutest Japanese girl. She was like "Do you speak Japanese? No?" and proceeded to translate everything the driver said for me, without me even asking. Then, she fell asleep on my shoulder! How adorable!
Second, I have left the same "Tokyo" guidebook in restaurants/counters etc three times. I don't even deserve to own this guidebook. But alas, without fail, someone has come running down the street after me to make sure I get my book back.

I was just about to say "That's all" but one more thing:

8) In trouble with the law:

My bus got in at 6:30 am and I couldn't check in this morning until 8 am, so I just was like "I'm not lugging my crap around some city" and fell asleep on top of my luggage in the middle of the bus station like some homeless person. And then I got yelled at after I'd already been asleep for like 1/2 an hour! (Speaking of homeless, it's not so bad being homeless here. You know, based on observation).
Another time, a cop told me I should take Japanese lessons b/c I was not good at all. Ow.

That is all! And now... I'm out. And one final note: The toilets here... I can never go back. So amazing."

As a follow-up, Kyoto was INCREDIBLE. How lame am I to have called it boring?