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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

A Poor Madman In Tokyo!
By:Fred Tittle

Its on the bucket list but not at the top, when they said they needed to make an extra stop, you twisted their arm and managed to schedule a long layover between LA, Honolulu and Bangkok, so the challenge is you only have 36 hours between flights and this includes sleeping, eating and getting to and from Narita airport, which I might add is 2 hours each way. Oh and lest I forget, no budget and severely jetlagged because you had too much fun in LA and Hawaii.

So I didn't do a geisha show, and I missed the zoo and I didn't do the kabuki theater either. What I did do was a stand up noodles restaurant in Ikebukuro, a quick stroll through the imperial gardens, wandered around the Ginza, saw the Tokyo central train station and stopped at Wendy's for a triple, but no fries or drink as I am a diet.

Tokyo is not a cheap place, hotels, even the cheapest discount hotels start at $60, so doing Tokyo fast and cheap requires that you be creative, one way to control your costs are the capsule hotels where you can get a long tube big enough to slip into with a TV, radio, air con and alarm clock all built in, these start around $35 a night. Another option is not to get any room at all and sleep in a lazy boy at the capsule hotels, which before you laugh actually have some cool amenities like large screen LCD TV's hot tubs, Jacuzzis and sauna's. Some might say hey hot tubs are Jacuzzis, alas everywhere but Japan this would be true, however the Japanese have made taking a hot soak into a minor art form that you would be remiss to miss, especially if like this madman you do Tokyo in the middle of January in tropical Hawaiian Aloha attire.

Stand up noodles in Japan are like our hot dog stands in the good old USA. You stand up to eat at a counter head down reading the daily bird cage liner. The only art or decorations they have are pictures of the menu items usually faded and fuzzy from years of hanging there, just like home. They will have 20 or so items with different types of meat and other ingredients, some you might know, others you just have to guess. You can be brave and order, or be patient and stand next to the window where they put the bowls out and use my patented sniff and point method that I learned from my favorite four legged organic alarm system, Moocher the Schnauzer. If it looks really good or you want them to add extra just wag your tongue and foam at the mouth a little, the cooks will understand the nuance. There was something in there that I am still trying to figure out, whatever it was it tasted great, I suspect some rare dark crunchy genetically engineered fungus that they cultivate in the subway.

I looked in the Ginza area for a second gorging of stand up noodles and there were a couple stands, but they were more upscale and looked too clean and pricey for my discerning "kind-of-sewer" palate, and then I saw the Wendy's. After that triple I really wasn't looking very hard any more. What I did see was lots of luxury shops and bars and even more bars offering all sorts of carnal delights that I would love to tell you all about but it would need to be in a another forum. Being a poor American and holding US dollars the though of shopping was horrifying, so much so that in a moment of panic I super glued my credit cards together so that they could be read but not swiped; which saved me I'm sure from future bankruptcy pains. Now I have to figure out how to undo the super glue but the strategy did work.

When I first went past the palace a little before the dawns early light the guards were not looking all that friendly towards me and they all were looking at me! I was keeping half a eye out for flashing steel with the thought of a katana blade going through me like fresh sashimi at Benihana's, but when I came back later when the sun had actually cleared the massive palace walls, they were so kind that they let me in for free, which suited my budget just fine. I noticed others as well as myself transfixed staring at a bunch of rocks and trees, at first I thought it was the jet lag, but surmised that they have something special here, which for the price is worth checking out.

I ended my trip the way it began in the Tokyo subways. The Tokyo Subways like everything else in Japan are fast, efficient and in Japanese! Contrary to popular folklore the shoehorn was invented here for loading passengers in rush hours, no need to hold on as the crowd will do it for you. The cars are actually clean and quite nice with velour seats in hideous fashionable color patters that the locals seem to favor. Conveniently they read out the stations as you go along in English, but unless you are 7 feet tall and have your ear up to the speaker in the ceiling you will not here them. A good tip for the subway is to take a picture with your digital camera and follow along that way, as the only way to read the station signs is to stand up for the whole trip, which if you had the poor madman kind of day and a half that I had you might be a little tired, and just want to sit in a stupor daydreaming about seeing Elvis impersonating Jack Nicholson in Bangkok on Suhkumvitt Soi 5 in a few hours.

Fred's new project http://www.CheapCharliesHotels.com/ where he reviews cheap hotels , budget guesthouses, discount accommodations and cheap international flights, but is really an excuse to go scuba diving on vacation more, Fred is in Phnom Penh Cambodia planning his next adventure travel tour. Keep up to date with Fred and to view some great pictures go to http://www.cheapcharlieshotels.com/blog/Cheapcharlieshotelsasiadiscountflightsvisa

Fred Tittle has lived and worked in holiday vacation resorts his entire life, from Lake Geneva's Playboy Club, as a rock jock for KSPN FM in Aspen Colorado, he became a PADI Pro Scuba Diver in Hawaii, diving on Maui, Kauai, Kona on the big island, and Waikiki on Oahu. He founded Eco Adventures South East Asia in Sihanoukville Cambodia. he still teaches SSI and PADI scuba diving courses and runs liveaboards in the gulf of Thailand and Asia adventure tours, http://www.ecosea.com/

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