Catherine Price took off for Tokyo with no guidebook and a wacky idea: Let strangers decide every detail of her trip. Four days, 29 brief encounters, one collapsible bicycle, eight octopus balls, 600 flesh-eating fish, one goma fire ceremony, and too much fried food later, she'd discovered the joy in letting go.
Go to San Francisco bookstore. Ambush woman in fiction section; ask for her favorite international destination. Buy ticket to Japan.
Land at Tokyo Narita, jet-lagged and puffy. Call hostel recommended by flight attendant. Wonder how old is too old for bunk beds.
Hostel is near one of Tokyo's most distinctive landmarks, the Asahi Super Dry Hall. Locals' nickname for rooftop sculpture: kin no unchi ("the golden turd").
Accost young mother on street, ask for restaurant recommendation. Woman politely obliges. Baby begins to cry.
Dinner: deep-fried shrimp, first of many.
Watch tuna auction. Confirm impending extinction of one of ocean's top predators.
Breakfast: See deep-fried shrimp, above.
Visit male fishmonger's favorite place in Tokyo: upscale shopping area called Ginza. Wonder whether he's a Prada or Hermès kind of guy.
Dinner at Amor, run by fish-market friend. Menu does not include shrimp.
Engaging in a heartfelt photo session—with young women dressed as cats