NYC to Tokyo, Japan: Ignoring Kabuki, Katsu Sauce, Hamarikyu Gardens, and Squat Toilets

NYC to Tokyo, Japan: Ignoring Kabuki, Katsu Sauce, Hamarikyu Gardens, and Squat Toilets

Read about Days 1 and 2 in Japan here, Day 3 here, and Day 4 here.

On Day 5, we decided to walk across the bridge from where we were staying in Kachidoki up Harumi dori into the Ginza neighborhood with no real plan in mind. We stopped by a grocery store (literally, we stopped in every grocery store and Family Mart we saw) to look for the weird-flavored Japanese Kit Kats and saw this completely random piece of cat-related art outside that could only exist in Japan because Japan is the most delightful place on Earth.

Tokyo, Japan

The Sumida River was teeming with interesting boats while we were there, including these new ones that look like futuristic bugs, but we loved the old-timey ones the best:

Tokyo, Japan

We’d been passing this Tokyu Stay hotel all week in cabs and had been wanting to take a picture of the fish mural on the side, so we made sure to pass it

Tokyo, Japan

and then continued on our way to the Kabuki-za theater, which every person we encountered in Tokyo told us to go see. Turns out that it’s the main kabuki theater in Tokyo, but we were like, “Whatevs, where’s the katsu?” and kept walking into Ginza toward Ginza Bairin, the original tonkatsu restaurant in the area. They had plastic versions of their food in a glass case outside, which is, like, my dream decor for my home.

Tokyo, Japan

There was a line, so we made hilarious non-conversation with the elderly women beside us who spoke absolutely no English but really liked Jack and Nik, and we admired the stools at the counter that had shelves underneath the seat for storing your bag while you eat, because the Japanese are genius at small spaces in a way that even New Yorkers can’t compete with.

Tokyo, Japan
This picture in no way shows the shelves under the seat, but they’re really there.

This was my first time having katsu with a ton of sauce, so it went from this nice rice/breaded cutlet dish

Tokyo, Japan

to this crazy mess of blissful goopiness when you cracked the egg and mixed in the sauce:

Tokyo, Japan

What could be more comforting?

Afterward, we continued exploring down the street

Tokyo, Japan

and found decorative cell phone cases

Tokyo, Japan

but more importantly, decorative HEARING AIDS:

Tokyo, Japan

It’s just like, how accidentally charming can one country be? We wandered into Hamarikyu Gardens on the edge of Higashishinbashi, past all of the slick office towers

Tokyo, Japan

and found a sprawling park full of streams, manicured walkways, and centuries-old trees as wide as most NYC apartments with gnarled roots sticking out of the ground.

Tokyo, Japan

There was a field of different kinds of flowers so unexpected that I’ll now show you seven of the 400 pictures of them I took:

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

And then we settled in by the river to watch the boats float by:

Tokyo, Japan

We took the long way home and ended up in the Tsukiji Market, a famous fish market that we hadn’t even been looking for.

Tokyo, Japan

And then I had to pee, so we stopped at a public restroom. It was an open-air room behind a wall with a canopy of trees overhead where anyone could’ve walked in and seen me. And it was one of the old-style restrooms! And by that, I mean a hole in the ground that you squat over. I’d seen them at the airport, mixed in to stalls right next to Western-style toilets and robot toilets, but I hadn’t bothered to actually look up how to use them, because I never considered that I’d ever encounter a situation where that was my only option. So I peed, and then I wiped with a tissue I had in my purse, and then . . . I had no idea what to do. There was no flushing mechanism that I could find. So there was my toilet paper, soaked with pee and sitting in the trough with nowhere to go.

So I left! And immediately tried to forget the experience! But I just looked up squat toilet instructions, and apparently I did face the right way (toward the “bowl” part), and apparently sometimes there isn’t a flusher, which makes it a dry squat toilet. In that case, there’s supposed to be a nearby water supply that you use to fill a bucket to wash your business down the hole, and you know, there probably was, but I would’ve never put two and two together even if I’d noticed the bucket. The best part is that you’re supposed to bring your own toilet paper and your own bag to put the used toilet paper in, and then you throw it away when you can.

And I say “when you can” because there’s an extreme lack of trashcans anywhere in Tokyo, and yet there’s no trash on the streets, because people are so respectful they just carry their trash around with them until they get home. So what I’m saying is that people are walking the streets of Japan with used toilet paper in their pockets for hours.

After my harrowing bathroom ordeal, we slowly made our way home

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

and recovered on the balcony for a minute before putting on our fancypants for dinner. On to the fancypants dinner and Day 6!

Tokyo, Japan


Ettible Photography