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Tokyo Night Life

 The entrance to Aoba

The entrance to Aoba

Given how food-centric my life and travels tend to be, one of my favorite stops of the second night of my Tokyo Night Life tour was a ramen place called Aoba in the Nakano district, a counter-seating only kind of place hidden away in a tangle of small, quaint streets lined with bars and restaurants.

Like many Japanese eateries, the bulk of the floor area in Aoba is taken up by the kitchen, so each patron at the counter is guaranteed a front-row view of the action. It was easy to fall into a trance watching the repetitive, careful assembly of ramen bowls one after the other, all virtually identical given that there were few items to choose from.

Aoba is known for having a fish-based broth (versus the normal pork-based) and I was surprised to find it more than pleasing to my sometimes fish-averse palate.

In addition to stops at Dear Stage, the club in Akihabara, and Aoba, the fish-based ramen, Tokyo Night Life day 2 involved anime karaoke and a walk through Shinjuku’s famous Golden Gai.

Before hitting up an anime karaoke spot (yes, a karaoke spot that focuses specifically on anime songs), our tour took us through the never-ending halls of Nakano Broadway, a collector’s dream. To some, Nakano Broadway eclipses Akihabara as geek central, with floor upon floor of countless anime, manga, and collectibles shops. 

It was a long night and by the time we arrived at Golden Gai, we were too tired to do much besides just walk through the narrow alleys of bars and listen to our guide talk about the area’s history. Now mostly bars and tiny restaurants, it’s one of the few parts of Tokyo that reflects what the city used to look like before modernization.

In the end, we emerged from Golden Gai, passed the popular Robot Restaurant, and I got into this cab, wrapping up an intense two nights of exploring Tokyo Night Life. Still, though, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface.

 Aoba's fish-broth ramen

Aoba's fish-broth ramen

 Quick stop for Anime Karaoke

Quick stop for Anime Karaoke

 Mandarake

Mandarake

 Nakano Broadway

Nakano Broadway

 Leaving Shinjuku at the end of the night

Leaving Shinjuku at the end of the night

 Seen in Shinjuku's Golden Gai

Seen in Shinjuku's Golden Gai

Tokyo Night Life - Akihabara

Akihabara night pketron

To many, Akihabara has a reputation that precedes itself. Many of the unique and crazy trends that Japan is known for were born here, from otaku culture and Electric Town to maid cafes and Mario Cart rides.
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On the second night of the Tokyo Night Life tour, we walked through the streets of Akihabara, bypassing alleys full of specialty electronics vendors, peeking into anime shops, being solicited to visit one maid cafe after another, and eventually landing at a concert venue called Dear Stage.
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At Dear Stage, each woman who works as a server is also a performer, singing and dancing on stage each night in the hopes of being scouted, her talents discovered because they stand out above the rest. It’s unlike any other place I’ve ever been and is a truly fascinating part of Japanese subculture.
 

Akihabara night 2 pketron

An Evening in Tokyo

When I was in Tokyo a few months ago, I was invited to join a small group for a Tokyo Night Life tour. The tour was split into two nights to encompass as much variety as possible. Given how Japan is a country of wild trends and unheard-of-anywhere-else cultural phenomena, I went into it not knowing entirely what to expect.

Night 1, highlighted in this video, provided a good taste of what downtown Tokyo has to offer. The night was comprised of a visit to a popular indoor food market, watching a variety show that incorporated stories of Japan’s history (much of which was unfortunately lost in translation), a refined sake tasting, and a nightclub that appealed to a crowd younger than any of us in the group. It was a great sampling of what downtown has to offer, and gave each of us a chance to decide for ourselves what we’d be interested in visiting again in the future.⠀

Reflections of Night 2 to come. Also, this is the first video compilation I’ve ever made!

Locations:
Ebisu Yokocho
Roppongi Kaguwa
人形町 田酔 六本木ヒルズ分店
Esprit Lounge

Okutama Lake and the Hikawa Valley

 Okutama Lake

Okutama Lake

 Autumn leaves in Okutama

Autumn leaves in Okutama

 Hikawa Valley

Hikawa Valley

Just a short 90-minute train ride from central Tokyo is the town of Okutama, nestled in the mountains and surrounded by forest. It’s a destination worth adding to your list of places to visit, especially in the fall when the leaves turn to fiery red and glowing yellows and oranges. A stroll around Okutama Lake, across the floating bridge, and through the Hikawa Valley will make you forget that you’re still technically in the greater Tokyo metropolis.

Fatima: The Woman at Petra

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At Petra, we met a woman named Fatima who sells jewelry and postcards to people passing through. Fatima is over 90 years old (she doesn’t know her exact age) and has been selling in that same corner since she was a young girl. Every day, she gets a ride from her home in the nearby village of Umm Saihoon to the entrance of Petra. 

Fatima pays 4 dinars for admittance and then, on her own, climbs the steep stairs to her spot high on the mountain where she sits, waiting for customers. 

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Fatima told us that her husband passed away long ago, as did her two brothers, and that she now lives with her husband’s second wife. 

She has 6 daughters and 80 grandchildren, though none of them will let her live with them, which forces her to continue this daily routine until she’s no longer able to.

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