I shoved the microphone at Him and took two long strides toward the door.

“I gotta go!” I said. “I’ll be back.”

Perhaps it was the sight of those frosty Suntory beers on the table. Or maybe it was simply the excitement of reenacting a scene from one of our favorite movies. But within five minutes of stepping into room No. 301 of the Karaoke Kan, I suddenly had to go. Bad.

I darted from the room and down the hall, but another girl, frustratingly calm, was already waiting outside the single-stall restroom.

We had paid the equivalent of $30 USD for 30 minutes of karaoke, and I didn’t want to waste it waiting on someone painstakingly reapplying lip gloss or brushing her hair. In any event, I couldn’t afford to wait. Despite the lack of music in the hall, I was starting to dance. Forgoing the elevator, I took to the stairwell, nearly crashing into a rack of prop tambourines (“So that’s where Scarlett Johansson got hers!”) to try the fourth-floor bathroom.

There was no fourth-floor women’s bathroom – just a men’s stall. It seemed the facilities alternated between Men’s and Women’s restrooms from the first floor to the sixth.

I wanted to shout. What kind of sadistic, architectural anomaly had the Japanese engineered here?!

Back in the stairwell, I sprinted to the top floor, the one containing the room where Scarlett and Bill Murray had serenaded one another in “Lost in Translation.” Yes, there was a women’s bathroom, but again, it was occupied.

Taking the stairs two at a time, I flew down the stairwell, past the fifth floor landing, the fourth, the third, the second, until I arrived at the merciful first and bolted into the restroom.

By the time I shuffled back into Room No. 301, Him was deep within the chorus of KISS’ “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.”

“And I can’t get enough of you baby
Can you get enough of me?”

We went on to sing “Call Me Maybe” (Me), “Teenage Dream” (Him) and “Dancing Queen” (Me) before a voice on the room’s intercom system informed us our karaoke careers were over. Solitary karaoke is sad. A karaoke duo – unless you’ve had quite a bit to drink – isn’t much better.

But we couldn’t get enough of Tokyo, baby: the bright lights, the showy architecture, the slurpilicious ramen – even the jumbled, confusing spaghetti tangle that is the subway system. With an estimated 37 million people, the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area is considered the most populous in the world, but we never felt crowded.

We stayed at the Hotel Sunlite (about $80 USD) in the Shinjuku neighborhood, a center for business and entertainment. Entrances to the Shinjuku Sanchome station were within 5-minute walking distance and the superb Shinjuku Gyoen Park a 15-minute stride away.

We were disappointed to learn the 144-acre Gyoen Park levies a fee for entry (just JPY200 – the equivalent of about $2 USD each) because we’re cheap, but we conceded the price was fair after we toured the expansive, two-storey greenhouse, dozed on the lawn of the English Landscape Garden and joined the throng of photographers capturing images of blossoming cherry trees. With Tokyo’s population numbers being what they are, I presume the entry fee is a good way of keeping the grounds from becoming stampeded.

Inspired by “Dave Barry Does Japan,” we spent our second day in Tokyo, the one that ended with the unfortunate karaoke episode, on a mission to find the Plastic Food District.

Many people have asked us if we had trouble ordering food at restaurants in Japan. We did not, and here’s why: Many restaurants feature elaborate window displays of every dish served, perfectly replicated in plastic. These displays are meant primarily as advertisements to the strolling public, but if you don’t speak Japanese and the waiter doesn’t speak English, pointing at one can make ordering much easier. And it’s not like those American fast food joints that display the 3-inch thick, dripping hamburger patty crowned by juicy cuts of tomato and iceberg lettuce but deliver a paper-thin, sawdust-infused mystery meat draped in shriveled greens. Japanese restaurant meals looks exactly like the corresponding plastic models – right down to the portion size.

I don’t think there’s actually a Tokyo “Plastic Food District” per se, but there is a kitchen and restaurant supply cluster featuring plastic food model shops: Kappabashi Kitchenware Town. To get there, take the Ginza line to Tawaramachi. Walk four blocks west and turn right when you see the giant chef’s head rising out of a corner building.

We walked the length of Kappabashi Street, admiring baskets of ceramic chopstick rests, cooking pots large enough to boil an ostrich and plastic props of jumbo prawns and dinosaur heads. Intent on purchasing chopsticks for Him’s parents, we ambled inside one store thrice, testing the weight and feel of countless designs before settling on a set.

Our quest to bring home the perfect plastic food dish, however, was not as fruitful. We counted only four plastic food shops along Kappabashi Street, each lined wall-to-wall with glass cabinets displaying delicately hand-painted dishes of ramen, rice bowls and seafood medleys. Each dish was a work of art, and the prices reflected this, the cheapest entrees priced near the equivalent of $60 USD – steep for budget-minded backpackers with no inkling what they would do with a plastic meal once they got it home. A plastic food magnet or keychain of a colorful sushi role seemed more practical, but those started at $10 USD. In the end, we decided plastic sushi was something we could live without.

Instead of plastic fish, we consumed perhaps the freshest cuts available to the public at the exceptionally popular Sushi-Zanmai restaurant beside Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest and busiest fish market in the world. For about $4 USD each, we each received a small sushi plate containing two melt-in-your-mouth slices of tuna and a seaweed roll. Chances are, the meat was purchased that very morning during the daily tuna auction.

While the general public may visit the market’s bustling wholesale section after 9 a.m., many stalls begin to close up by that time. To catch the real action, guidebooks recommend attempting to attend the early-morning tuna auction, which has become so popular with tourists that the public viewing area is now limited to 120 people each day. Visitors begin queuing as early as 4:30 a.m. to register for a spot at “The Fish Information Center” (by the Kachidoki Bridge entrance). For more information, visit the this website.

In January, a single, 489-pound bluefin tuna sold at the auction for a record $1.76 million – that’s $3,603 per pound and three times the previous record. The buyer was the president of a Japanese sushi chain.

I was eager to catch the tuna auction, but the Shiodome neighborhood is a subway ride away from Shinjuku, and the Tokyo Metro doesn’t operate at 4 a.m. To ensure a spot, either pre-arrange for a taxi (an expensive option) or book accommodation within walking distance of the market.

If waking at 3:30 a.m. to view giant, dead frozen fish isn’t your idea of a vacation, perhaps paying the equivalent of $12 USD each to surround yourself with indifferent felines is more enticing. Desperately missing our own three furry friends, we spent the morning of our last day in Tokyo cheating on them with the residents of Calico Cat Café in Shinjuku.

The astronomical cost of Tokyo real estate means many residents live in cramped apartments with little room for pets. Cat lovers, therefore, get their feline fix at establishments like the Calico Cat Café, sipping chai and reading books while fluffy Persians and Himalayans mostly ignore them.

“Fetish” is the only suitable word to describe the Japanese woman who arrived at the cat café 15 minutes into our own paid hour. Sporting the type of bloodshot eyes that come from a long night of Karaoke Kan karaoke, she wore a full-body cat costume and crawled across the floor, licking her “paws” and attempting to squeeze into unoccupied cat beds while her companions photographed her. I insisted Him pretend to videotape me as a rouse to capture her strange behavior.

We finished up our Tokyo tour with an evening spent in the affable company of Charlie Reed, my former colleague at Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, and Larry, her boyfriend. Charlie left Scripps circa 2008 for a coveted reporting position with Stars and Stripes in England. The U.S. military newspaper subsequently transferred her to Germany and then Tokyo, where she covered and lived through the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and won the prestigious George Polk Award for a series on how the Pentagon steered journalists toward positive coverage of the war in Afghanistan. Here, NPR interviews her about the story.

Larry, a Vietnam Vet and published author, currently lives in D’Nang, Vietnam, where he is filming a documentary. We wish them the best, and hope to see them both — and Tokyo — again soon.