On Friday night, we were invited to a night out in Tokyo and Roppongi – this was our first opportunity to experience true Japanese nightlife.
The evening started at 5pm with a looong train ride to Tokyo. Rush hour is crazy on the Japanese rail system, especially on a Friday. Since we were riding in the opposite direction of the masses, things went pretty well – it was just very hectic at the train stations.
We went out with 9 others, most of whom were people Michael works with and their wives. It was really nice to get out with this group because it was our first time spending any time with them. Michael and I were not able to get reservations at the same hotel as them, so we opted for the much nicer hotel only a few blocks away from them, The Prince Park Tower, Tokyo. Although our room cost an arm and a leg, the room was immaculate and featured a Japanese bathroom, the hotel was AMAZING, and I HIGHLY recommend this hotel to anyone who would like to stay in a sophisticated hotel. We stayed on a “Premium Floor”, which was high enough that my ears popped twice each time we rode in the elevator. Added bonus: the hotel is located next to the Tokyo Tower and in the middle of a large park. More on the hotel and the Tokyo Tower later! The photos that I posted in the gallery that were taken out of a curtained window are views out of the hotel room.
For dinner, we went to a great pizza place, which was located just down the street from the hotel. The pizza place is called Pizzeria da Pepe Napoli Sta’ Ca”, but many people know it just as “Pepe’s”. Oh my word, the pizza was excellent! I highly recommend ordering the Margarita – the crust is stuffed with ricotta and it was one of the top 3 pizzas that I’ve ever had. We also had apps, salad, and dessert. Everything was delicious!
After dinner, we went back to our hotel and went to the Sky Lounge in the Prince Park Tower Hotel. We had a few cocktails and enjoyed a beautiful view of the city, as well as a view of the Tokyo Tower! See the pictures in the gallery above – it is the Eiffel Tower structure that is lit in purple at at night and is bright orange by day.
The last (planned) event of the evening was a trip to the bar that is featured in Lost in Translation. I don’t recommend going to this bar from the Prince Park Tower Hotel, as it’s in a very different part of town and the cab ride was a bit steep. The hotel is located in an area called Akabanebashi, and the hotel is … elsewhere. I’m not even going to link to it because I just wasn’t impressed (the ambiance wasn’t any nicer then the Sky Lounge and the drinks were more expensive!). The company was great, though, and we all enjoyed cigars.
After our sophisticated bar crawl, some went back to the hotel and the rest of us went out in an area known as Roppongi. We were warned against going here at our AOB-ICR class because it is significantly less safe then the rest of Tokyo. Roppongi is the bar district of Tokyo, and it parties until the wee hours of the morning. We went to one or two ex-pat bars first, but ended up at another nice cigar lounge. I can’t recount where we went, but I had a great time. I stayed pretty sober the whole night on purpose – I wanted to enjoy and remember our first night out in Tokyo!
We spent the morning and early afternoon walking around Tokyo, but we wanted to get back to base in time for a block party in the officers’ housing area. We went to breakfast at a place called Jonathan’s, which is a diner a few blocks away from our hotel. Oddly enough, the pancakes were in the dessert section of the menu! They were some of the best pancakes that I’ve had (so fluffy!).
After breakfast, we walked around a bit and went to the Tokyo Tower. I suggest going here during a week day when it would be less crowded. We only went half way up because the wait time to get to the top was 40min. We will definitely go back and go to the top!
Some things I’ve noticed about Japan so far:
1. If you’re an American, 7-11s are the one safe place where you can withdraw Yen from your American account with a good exchange rate. I recommend always withdrawing the full amount allowed each day in order to receive the best exchange rate. It is very, very difficult to find places where you can withdraw Yen from American accounts, so if you’re visiting here, be sure to go to 7-11s!
2. If you are staying in a hotel, be sure to bring your passport with you!! The front desk staff would prefer to make a copy of that then any other identification. We didn’t know to bring ours, so our military IDs were okay … but I have a feeling that hotels won’t always take our military IDs. Definitely bring a passport.
3. You do not tip in Japan! Because customer service is different, restaurants are run differently then American ones. Most times, customers serve themselves beverages from a beverage bar. “Premium” beverages, like soda, sometimes cost extra and customers pay per glass. Also, servers don’t stop by tables regularly, and it is considered okay/polite to call them over to the table by raising your hand and calling out, “sumimasen” (“excuse me”). Some restaurants actually have buttons on the tables, which customers press to call a server. Food comes out whenever it’s ready, so it’s typical for everyone to get served at different times. Patrons handle this by starting to eat as soon as their food comes out.
4. Many restaurants are closed on Tuesdays, rather then Mondays, as it typical in the US.
5. Most new trains have signs and announcements in English.
6. You will never visit a cleaner country … except many Singapore. There aren’t very many trash cans around, though, so I suggest carrying a plastic grocery bag with you to put your trash in case you must carry it for a while (this is an actual thing in Japan!). Also, the Japanese take recycling and littering seriously. Don’t litter and be careful about where you put your trash.
7. The taxis are very different then American taxis. The taxis here are very clean, and the drivers wear suits and white gloves. They also open and close the doors for you – don’t touch them – it’s all automated!
8. Only order the “Japanese Breakfast” at hotels if you are very adventurous and are not allergic to shellfish.