tokyo metro

Day 5: Tackling Tokyo

Tuesday, 19 April 2016 – Day 5: Tokyo, Japan

YōkosoWelcome to Japan!

All teams reported rested, relaxed and excited for the beginning of the second leg of our around the world adventure this morning here in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo. From huge Mexico City straight into (albeit following a smooth Singapore Airlines 11:30 hour trans-Pacific flight) to the world’s biggest city in the world—Tokyo!
tokyo metro
Old business first: At the check-in following each of our eight global legs, we copy all teams scores sheets (what they said/claim they accomplished) and then assign each team peer reviews. Peer Reviews as we have designed them are great ways for our travelers to not only share their travel war stories and photos, but also prove that they did what they claimed/said they did in a fun non-threatening way. It has proved to be great way to hold all the teams accountable and keep the competition fair and honest. Of course, if any issues arise during the process, both Pamela and I, as the event’s Road Officials, are the final arbiters.

At any rate, Mexico City Peer Reviews were assigned, score sheets evaluated, and then officially scored by the Road Officials. The results of the first Par 2 Mexico City leg of the 2016 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt are in with top finishing teams completing 20 scavenges & 2 bonuses:

In 9th place, earning 207 points: NOLA Second Line
In 8th place, earning 315 points: 2 Global Junkies
In 7th place, earning 460 points: Perfect strangers
In 6th place, earning 505 points: Girls Gone World
In 5th place, earning 617.5 points: SLO Folks
In 4th place, earning 640 points: Lawyers w/o Borders
In 3rd place, earning 657 points: SOCA Warriors
In 2nd place, earning 667 points: Traveling Tridents
And in 1st place, congratulations to Wendy & Georgia of T3 who earned 715 points on the first Par 2 leg completing the most scavenges too.
Wendy & Georgia of T3

Congrats to all on a job well done…learn from your mistakes competitors and know that you are all now battle-tested and ready for more after that short introductory leg.

Click here to view the 2016 Event Leader Board following the first leg.

Okay…on to new business: We are here for two more nights here in bustling Tokyo. After handing out their new booklets, the teams were sent out on the second leg of The Global Scavenger Hunt, a full two-day medium level of difficulty Par 3 (mostly due to language barriers…because everything works really well here). They have over 60 optional scavenges to manage and find the right risk-reward strategy that works for them. Again, there is no way any team could possibly do them all. So smart choices are always required.
nrt gsh
And so the second leg has begun.  Here are a handful of Japanese scavenges they have to figure out:

– Pick up a bento box snack, catch a really fast train to Hakone and Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to visit Odawara Castle.

– Score some tickets and attend the Eric Clapton concert at the legendary Nippon Budokan.

– Eat at any one of the 217 Michelin star restaurants in greater Tokyo.

Team Challenge: At Shinjuku station—the busiest railway station in the world—obtain a team photo with as many willing participants as possible.

– Visit either the Smash Hits or Shidax karaoke bars and unleash the inner rock star within by singing a duet with some locals.  We want video.

…and a whole lot more than that! Good luck all and have some fun…remember our 2016 event theme: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Make it true…
Leg Two’s check-in time is 9:00PM (21:00) tomorrow (Wednesday) night.

Now…About Japan…and where we are for a few days. It is very different here than in Mexico City. Let me try to explain.

Tokyo can take even the most sophisticated and confident traveler and turn him or her into an anxiety-ridden deaf-mute.” – David Halberstam (1934-2007)
gate hotel nite view 2
The Tokyo Skyline from our hotel last night.

Greater Tokyo Area (GTA) is the biggest city in the world. Some say almost 40 million people live here! And nowhere else but in Japan could 40 million people live in such close quarters—relatively peacefully. In fact, Japan and Tokyo are some of the safest places to be in the world to visit.

Tokyo buzzes with endless eclectic energy, but appears to be a vast configuration of cloud-brushing skyscrapers, non-stop traffic and bullet-trains all reflecting a constant hypnotic repertoire of in-your-face advertising. It is futuristic, fascinating and as Mr. Halberstam eloquently understates, utterly frustrating for we Westerners. Blade Runner meets Disneyland meets tacky game show.NRT 2016

In their own way, Tokyoites are gearing up for the 2020 Olympics by emphasizing an even greater commitment to the English language for its citizens. They want to help travelers. So that will be good for our gaijin travelers…they can help them. Just don’t ask yes or no questions; the answer will always be yes. Conversely, never no. They are too polite to offend guests with a no!

I will stop here in any psychoanalysis; I am not going to go deep and attempt to capture the true essence and Zen culture that is Japan. The great Pico Iyer, who lives here can’t do it, so no one can. So I will stick to observational humor and occasional historic asides.

First, a few clichés to check off quickly before we begin to discuss our time here in Japan:

-I will not mention, after this sentence, the Park Hyatt Hotel, where Bill Murray met Scarlett Johansson in the movie “Lost in Translation.” √

-I will not delve into the considerable devastation and anguish that this nation suffered a few years ago with the earthquake and tsunami. √

-I will not belittle the national conformity standards, or slavish work ethic of Japans salarymen and their bar hostesses counterparts. √

-I will not debase their whale eating culinary habits. √

-I won’t mention how socially conscious they are towards others that they wear masks when sick to prevent others from getting ill. √

-I won’t mention the cramming, pushing and shoving that goes on with commuters trying to enter subway cars; especially when you consider their sacrosanct respect for personal space and privacy. √

-I won’t wax poetically about their school girl fetishes, weird otaku (obsessions), and odd relationships with inanimate cartoon animals. √

-I will not try to explain sumo wrestling. √

-I will leave it to bigger brains to explain anime, manga, karaoke and Japanese TV game shows. √

-I will not acknowledge the cultural juxtapositions of geisha culture, J-Pop and Harajuku girls. √

-I stipulate that vending machines are a way of life in Japan from underwear to floral arrangements, hot noodles to French fries. √

-and Finally, I will leave it as a given that Japan is a big undecipherable riddle, a bundle of contradictions, a mystery wrapped in an enigma and shoved into a bento box. √

Okay, what I will talk about are toilets, Japanese exactitude and food. Maybe all in one paragraph too!

The toilets in Japan are phenomenal. Forget the French version with a simple bidet. The Japanese have squared, cubed and pi-ed that version and I want one! I want one that gently washes me, delicately wipes me and then eagerly blows me dry…all while sitting on a warm cushion like seat. The Japanese know how to do toilets. In fact, the Japanese are really good at whatever it is the decided to do. They are always so focused and detail oriented always attempting to do their very level best every time they do something, no matter how mundane a task. It is part of the national culture. Fashion, electronics, toilets, driving taxis, playing baseball, brewing beer or sake (and now whiskey), art and food. And to that end, the Japanese do food really well, especially washoku (Japanese food) be it: ramen, yakitori (grilled chicken), tempura, Kobe beef, udon, okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), or sukiyaki. Personally, I love sushi. Never had it in the first 19 years of my life, but now I am making up for it. So much so, that I may try eating my body weight in sushi over the next few days. I stay away from those toney budget-busting Michelin-starred joints (Quick aside: Bet you did not know that Tokyo has three times as many Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris by a mind-blowing wide margin too: 217 to 94!) and head to older run single-proprietor sushi-ya (sushi shops). There are an estimated 6,000 such sushi joints in Tokyo Metro. I prefer older men in their late 60’s and 70’s—they really know sushi! Simply put, there is no bad sushi in Tokyo. The trick is to find sublime sushi. That I am intent on doing. (Hey, I did explain toilets, Japanese exactitude and food in one paragraph!)
subways japan
That said…what I will tell our travelers is to have fun and kanpai! (Cheers).

BTW: Reports from Mexico City show Rainey of team Lawyers without Borders has  a new US Passport and has flights confirmed to leapfrog ahead of us as soon as he now gets some new credit cards. We are relieved…

BTW…follow some of the teams as they blog around the world by clicking these links below:

Lawyers without Borders (Zoe + Rainey):
Two Texas Travelers-T3 (Wendy + Georgia):
2 Global Junkies (Sue + Wendy):
The Traveling Tridents (Chloe + Chris):