I spent the second night of my No Baggage Challenge for Charity wandering the narrow back streets of Roppongi with my girlfriend and mother (well, it was the first night in Japan, but my second night since I left Washington). Roppongi is a social center of Tokyo, filled with bars, dance halls and live music clubs. What was incredible about it is that though the main drag is covered in neon and each bar has a hawker out front trying to bring customers in, as soon as you turn off of it the streets narrow and become comparatively quiet. Small restaurants dot each block, inviting passers-by in with their smells alone and not fashionably dressed bouncers.
Though we were tired from a day and a half of travel, we were on a mission to find a yakitori restaurant that my mom had been to on her last visit to Tokyo. The only problem was we didn't know it's name nor have it's address. We knew that it was a ground floor establishment and that they kept a large bowl of fresh grapefruits on their counter for making cocktails with sake and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.
And so we crisscross-crossed the back streets of Roppongi, looking for a needle in a very small haystack. It helped that the neighborhood isn't that big and we had a loose idea of where to look. After enough time to cause us to start thinking about bailing on our search, we turned down a street that looked less promising than most others. We checked the one yakitori restaurant on it, but my mom didn't think it looked familiar. Only as we were turning away did Lori spot a bowl of grapefruits at the far corner of the counter, which had previously been obscured by one of salarymen eating dinner in front of it. We'd found our destination!
Our joy was short lived, though. The restaurant was full and the hostess thought the wait would be indeterminately long for a party of three. Tired, hungry, and resigned to defeat, we reluctantly took her advice and went elsewhere, eventually finding an excellent spot, Roppongi Kushimora, with welcoming staff and phenomenal food.
Yakitori is a very popular type of cuisine in Japan, where food is grilled on small wooden skewers. Chicken is heavily featured, but vegetables and fish are also common on the menus of yakitori restaurants. Restaurants are set up with grills right at the bat, manned by a single chef. Since portions are small, it's easy to order a wide range of dishes from the menu. Some of our favorites on Thursday night were chicken breast and scallions, grilled garlic, and bacon wrapped tomato. Washed down with some draft Asahi beer, it was a perfect, comforting meal to start our time in Japan.
In terms of how the Scottevest clothes are performing, so far so good. Going through security in the US with no baggage was as easy an airport experience as I've had. I wasn't stopped at passport control nor customs in Tokyo; fears of having to answer questions about how I was traveling with no bags were unnecessary.
To go back in time for a moment, here are the videos from the airport Wednesday. The first is of me actually going through security. Unfortunately I put the camera phone on top of the bin with my coats and it got switched off going on the conveyor belt.
The only concern with the clothes was riding the subway system in Tokyo to the hotel -- it was pretty hot and having two jackets on was excessive. This was only an issue on arrival and I've since cut down layers when I go out into the unseasonable warmth. The weather has been in the mid to upper 60s and as I write this on the Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kyoto, I'm only wearing a Performance T-shirt.
Laundry last night in my hotel was a breeze - washing my travel boxers, performance tee and wool socks in a sink with concentrated detergent before I went to bed was no problem. After wringing the clothes out of water, I roll them up in a towel and stand on the towel to squeezed out even more water. The hotel last night had a built-in clothes line in the shower, so I just used that instead of my own. The hotel also had toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as a razor. I'll find out how common this is in Japan, but it may mean that I can ditch the toothbrush and toothpaste from my kit. I'm not sure I'd want to run the risk of not having a toothbrush, but it may in fact be an option, if a somewhat wasteful one. At least my choice to not bring a razor with me panned out and without costing me a penny more.
I'll be in Kyoto for at least three days, as well as taking a day trip to Osaka tomorrow to see the Man Ray exhibit at The National Museum of Art. This exhibit is the primary reason I'm in Japan, so I'm very excited to be visiting it on the front end of my trip.
Disclosure: My No Baggage Challenge for Charity trip is being partially sponsored by Scottevest. I received some of the clothing I am using, including the Carry-On Coat, Tropical Jacket, TEC Shirt, Travel Boxers and Flex Cargo Pants for free. I am also using other Scottevest clothes that I've purchased myself: Q-Zip, Performance T-Shirts, and Travel Pants. Scottevest is making a $1500 donation to Students for a Free Tibet in honor of my trip and will raise their donation to $5000 if videos I shoot on this trip reach 10,000 views. I am covering all other trip costs.
If you would like to make a donation in support of Students for a Free Tibet, please click here.