Since our round the world ticket required us to go through Tokyo to get to Shanghai, we decided to spend a few days there and get a bit of a taste of Japan. We did some research on where to stay before landing in Tokyo and were shocked by the rates as they are some of the highest in the world. As a way to save some money, we decided we would look into the couchsurfing program (www.couchsurfing.com). We created a profile on their website about ourselves and then gained access to other people’s profiles in Tokyo who had spaces in their homes to offer. We looked over several of the profiles and emailed two of them. One of them wrote back that they were not available, but the other offered for us to stay with him. He even offered to pick us up at the train station near his house. He only asked that we pay him around ten dollars each since he had many guests and he had noticed that his utilities and food bills had gone up. This was fine with us since it definitely beat the price of a hotel there, so we agreed to this.
Our flight arrived in Tokyo at about 7 a.m. and our couchsurfing friend had agreed to pick us up at 7 p.m. so we had the day to wonder Tokyo, but most importantly to find the Apple store in Shibuya to get our computer fixed. Our first stop after getting through the immigration line was to find the transportation counter. At the counter we came across a very friendly young woman who spoke nearly no English, but also was very successful at communicating to us that we needed to take the bus to Shibuya since it would be much cheaper than taking the train and we also wouldn’t have to wait so long for it. We thanked her, and bought the bus tickets which while cheaper than the train were still around twenty dollars each! By the time we got to Shibuya we were starving so we found the first convenient store we could find in the shopping center where the bus dropped us off. We decided to get a couple of the soft meat filled buns, mostly because they looked familiar since we ate quite a few of them as quick snacks in Bangkok. After purchasing them we started to eat them right outside the door of the store in the shopping mall. Just as we were about to finish, the security guard came to us and said in very direct English, “Don’t EVER eat anything in this building AGAIN!!!”. He was very direct and very angry and all we could say to him was, “okay”, and we walked out of the shopping mall. This was our first brush with a disgruntled Japanese local and also our last, everyone else was insanely friendly and helpful. We walked into a real estate office to ask for directions to the Apple store and walked out with highlighted maps that were copied and given to us. Armed with our great map and many people along the street that offered to help us interpret it, we found the Apple store pretty easily. We walked into the store and used one of the new Macbook Air computers to check our email and noticed Adam’s mom had written us a message telling us that she had set up an appointment at the Shibuya store for that afternoon, but since we were already there we went ahead and asked if they had any earlier appointments. They first said that they were all booked up, but asked what we would need. Adam explained to him that we were positive that our hard drive had crashed and that we would need to have it replaced. The guy said that it would be a three day turn around time for that repair, and both of us immediately raised up our hackles and explained to him that that would not be possible and told him that we were only in Tokyo for two days and just happened to be in the only city in Asia that has an Apple store. He then spent about 30 seconds trying to sell us a special warranty that would qualify us for expedited repairs. We told him that we didn’t want to buy something like that when changing out the hard drive was only a ten minute job, so he wandered over to where one of the Apple “geniuses” was available behind the counter. He explained our situation to the “genius”, G-man and in no time he ran with our computer to the back room and had swapped out the hard drive! Problem solved!! What a relief, you just never know how difficult these things will be. The Japanese staff at the Shibuya store were highly competent and helpful, and we have to admit the service was far superior to the Apple store in Albuquerque. G-man allowed us to sit at the “genius bar” for a few hours and download a new operating system as well as download much of the free software that we had lost.
Here is a pic of G-man helping us out.
After leaving the Apple store we both exhaled with a sense of relief. Our computer was functioning again, and now we were free to wander the streets of Tokyo! We noticed immediately that there was a sense of peacefulness in this massive city, as everyone follows the rules and will help out whenever needed. For lunch we hopped into one of the many noodle shops and had a massive bowl of noodles. After we paid, Adam went over and left a tip on the table. On out way out the server came running handing the money back to us, we learned later that it is not customary to tip in Japan and is even a bit embarrassing to them when you try. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wandering the Shibuya area (Tokyo’s Time Square), taking pics of all the crazy Japanese stuff and taking great photos of the hordes of people that cross the diagonal crosswalks in front of all those crazy, massive Time Square or Piccadilly Circus like television monitors.
Since we were going to be picked up at the train station on the northern end of town by our couchsurfing host at 7 p.m. we had to brave the Tokyo rush hour on the train system. First, we had to decipher which line to take and then how much money to pay. Next, we had to squeeze ourselves and all of our bags into the packed train and hold on for dear life as the train stopped and started again down the track.
When we arrived at the station, our guy picked us up and we headed for the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. We had a great evening with the three of us and three more couchsurfers sharing his tiny, tiny apartment.
The next day we headed out to do a bit more exploring. We ended up in Electric City and spent several hours exploring all of the levels of the biggest electronics store we have ever seen. For lunch we ate at the sushi (of course) restaurant on the upper floor and had a great feast. The top of the weird Japanese electronic gadgets that we saw was the horse riding machine. They had several models and had a video to watch while doing it. Very funny!
The next morning we were off to Shanghai, China. Stay tuned for the post Adam has begun on that.