Day Eight – Tokyo – Museum Day and Sushi Video Games

Museum day! We love museum day, the day we get to go play around and learn the history of wherever we are. Tokyo has done a great job with these by putting 4 of them and a zoo in one giant park so a family can simply walk from one to the next on a Sunday. We chose the National Museum of Japan first. This museum is made up of 5 different buildings, and the price to get in was very acceptable (¥600 each, or around $7). The main building had 3 floors going through the cultural history of Japan. Lots of scrolls and poems and historically relevant stuff. It was fine…but didn’t really mean anything to us. It was fascinating and beautiful but without the fore-knowledge of what it meant (“this letter from shogun Someone Orother was sent to general Somebody Else and says the blossoms have returned indicating an end to the fighting of Battle of Someplace”) this part didn’t enthrall us (other than the sword display which was pretty cool and informative).

The second building, though, did. It was the archaeology building and it had WAY more cool stuff! Suits of armour from various periods, giant bells from Shinto and Buddhist shrines, a huge assortment of bronze mirrors. The bronze mirrors were strange. They were cast-bronze, which could be polished to a high finish and become reflective, but they were also very ornate. They had carvings and relief in them, meaning not only would it be an impossible task to polish the things, but there was so little flat surface there is no way a reflection would come back in any meaningful way. They were beautiful nonetheless. We wandered around a while more, got some postcards and decided we had had enough history. Let’s move to science!

The other museum we wanted to hit was the Nature and Science Museum of Tokyo. You knew it was going to be science-y becuase they had a gigantic whale statue out front. But gasp! It was 4pm already and the museum closed at 5! This called for a patented (pending) Tom & Holly Speed Holy Shit Go Faster Speed Museum Speed Run™!

We got tickets and immediately started at the top (the 4th floor). Lets go! Stuffed mammals and an overview of life in Japan, check! Next floor! Diorama of sea creatures and their evolution around Japan and the pacific rim, check! Next floor! Dinosaur skeleton and…more stuffed animals, okay well lets keep going! Next floor! More….stuffed mammals for some reason….weird I thought we saw those on…NO TIME NEXT FLOOR! OH this is the main floor. Okay only 2 more we’ll totally make it! Next floor is in…another building. Already lets get moving! Okay lets get a move….whoa….hang on…this is….really really cool.

And that’s where we started losing a lot of time. Where the first building was…okay…the second building was in every way Japanese. Beautiful, clean, well thought out and on a grand scale. Huge floor to ceiling displays showing the sea creatures living around the island, but these were not stuffed or mounted. Many of these looked like they were made by the same gifted artists who made the fake food for restaurants to display. The same amazing level of detail (the octopus was spectacular) done dozens of times. But we had to hurry!

OKAY KEEP GOING ONLY 25-MINUTES LEFT! Here is an entire massive room for just evolution of life from atoms to current day explained on floor to ceiling projectors and a variety of artifacts. This is really well thought out but OHMYGOD 20-MINUTES! Next is a room with a giant preserved squid, a whale skeleton hanging from the rafters, the contents of a camels hump (answer: phlegm), a cows entire digestive tract drawn out to show how long it is vs a cougars and still more stuffed bears which makes me start to think the curator has some fetish with taxidermied mammals…10MINUTES…..we are literally speed-walking now. Another room with technology including perhaps some sort of plane we could only glance at as we went past…..5MINUTES…..okay that was WTF THERES ANOTHER FLOOR?

And then they kicked us out. Lets suffice to say had we known this museum was this awesome we would have switched the order and spent the better part of a day here. We didn’t get to really appreciate about half of it, which is a shame becuase it was extraordinarily well done.

So now what……we saw all these displays of sea creatures, perhaps we should eat some of them. Raw. And on a little bite sized cake of rice. And maybe we could add some sort of video-game element to it? Sold! To Kura Zushi we were headed!

Holly had seen a video on YouTube about a conveyor belt sushi place that had a video game as part of it. All the plates rotated around and you took whatever you wanted (¥100 each) from the lower conveyor. At each station you had a touch-screen monitor and you could order whatever you wanted, and it would be delivered on the upper belt, whizzed directly to your table from the kitchen. What a time to be alive. And lest you think this was some gimmicky one-off, they have over 300 locations in Japan and we had to wait about 60-minutes to get seated. It is insanely popular with locals.

Do you like raw fish? I don’t. I hate it. Again, old Tom talking. Because I tried one of about everything the ocean could whip up (i a similar way where I attempted to eat my way through kingdom animalia in Finland). Horse mackerel, 3 types of tuna, 2 types of fatty-tuna, salmon, urchin, squid, octopus, right-eyed flounder (presumably the left-eyed flounder was only served to royalty) you name it, I ate it. And it was all great! But what to do with this stack of dishes? This is where Kura steps up. At each table is a little slot, and into this little slot you drop the empty plate. And each empty plate records on your touchscreen. And when you get 5 plates in the slot a game starts playing. Its a short anime video with a decision at the end… one an astronaut guy lands on a planet and a giant monster comes to fight him. The decision is whether the monster wins or the astronaut dude. If the astronaut wins and zaps the monster, you win a prize. And I did! You win a little pink ball (think of a vending machine at the mall that has those glass cases full of plastic bubble balls on a pedestal that you put in a quarter or dollar and get a little sphere. These are also EVERYWHERE in Japan) that comes down above you. In mine I won two, yes TWO, pink San Rio band-aids. No I have not used them, no you cannot have them.

After 3 more games (which is brilliant marketing on their part. At one point we were at 13 plates and ended up spending 200 yen more just to get to 15 to play again. We lost.) our Kura Zushi experience was done. Will it take over Chuck-E-Cheese in the western world? No. Should it? Yes.

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