A Travellerspoint blog

Fish and Cats

Look Matthew, we've already snaked twice!

We made it to the Tsukiji (pronounced ski-gee) Market. No way, no how did we make it to the Tuna Auction, which tourists must be in line by 3 am for a 5 am start because it is on a first-come, first-served basis, and only the first 120 are the lucky winners. I was tempted to go since the market will be moving permanently in November 2016 to another area, but thought it better to explore the wholesaler's area. We arrived by 9 and it is choreographed chaos; buyers, sellers, all types of marine creatures half alive, awaiting the knife, motorized vehicles cruising this way and that, and clueless-picture-taking-tourists. You must be at the ready to move the hell outta the way for fast-moving vehicles. I felt like we were in the way, but managed to blend to take some nice pictures.

Somehow we found the restaurant we wanted somewhere in the outer market. We identified it by the lines. One line stretched out to a cone, which read: this is our customer limit for today, so we found the other one we've heard of: Restaurant Daiwa. We were in a tight space snaking around. The line moved pretty quickly thanks to the line monitor who kept everyone in an organized, tight line, and after about 45 minutes, we were in!

We spent $75 on breakfast. It did include a morning soda and fresh fish that were breathing a couple hours ago. We of course ordered Omikase, or chef's choice. His choices today were: fatty tuna, squid, omelette, tuna, roe, eel, uni (which I have a serious distaste for) shrimp, and an unidentified fish. My first bite, and possibly the best bite of my entire life:
A lil' nugget of wasabi tucked under each fish made my nose tingle a bit. It was a nice touch. He kept 'em coming, and I had a backlog, sushi build up. I don't chew that fast! There is no lingering, people are waiting. We were outta there in less time we were in the line.

At a subway stop, I encountered my first squat toilet and Matthew bought his first vending machine coffee.

We lunched at Isetan department store- not a Sears, more like Bergdorfs, in its basement. It was overwhelming: the people, the options...after wandering in a daze, we got tempura to go- Matthew got pork, me veggies. Who knew pea pod tempura was delicious! We ate on the Department store roof.

Of course I went to the Cat Cafe. It was 1000 yen/ hour, shoes off, slippers on. 20 cats were lounging, hiding, eating, sleeping, scratching posts... I flipped through their Playbill bio book. 2 grumpy (only pet their head, at your own risk) 2 greedy, 3 sporting a red bandana do not feed- kidney disease. Matthew's fave, who he named William Wallace, for obvious reasons, was comical.

He did call for freedom as he bolted out the door a few times. Upon leaving after our hour was up, I was disappointed to find out they got the cats from breeders, not off the street, rescue cats.

While Matthew waited outside I explored the Yen store, which is much like our Dollar Store, but better. I bought sushi erasers.

We stopped for a drink, me Sake, Matthew beer. We had to pay a cover, 250 yen each, that included cabbage with a Worcester-like dipping sauce. Wandered back to Hilton for an overpriced and delicious Gimlet and Japanese whiskey and nodded our heads to the beat of the dj, until we began to nod off. We have been up since 4:30, so by 9:00 we were cooked.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 15:32 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)

I'm not going to lick my pork


I heard giggling and it was coming from the bathroom. "Matthew?" I asked. between giggles he mustered a "yeah, I'm fine. It tickles!" Matthew was having fun with the toilet; he found the special buttons:

We asked the check-in man "where do you go to eat lunch?" He answered with: "well what would you like to eat?" It seems Japan is much like France: it has specialty shops: one shop is good at Ramen noodles the next is good at tempura, the next soba... Matthew nodded at his first of Ramen noodles so he gave us two places: there were several to choose from in downtown Shinjuku in a place called Ramen Alley and also a Ramen place in the basement of a neighboring skyscraper business building.

Business basement Ramen please! We knew that we found the right place when we joined in the line with the uniformed, starched-white button-down tucked into dark-pants businessman and dark-skirted business women. A petite Asian woman with a bandanna around her head and a high Bernadette-like voice took our order while in line, so, once two spaces opened up, the steaming hot bowl of goodness came out promptly upon sitting down at the counter.


Unsure of how to eat the full piece of pork with nary a utensil around, but plenty-o-condiments, Matthew suggested to eat it like a Popsicle. To which my reply was, "I won't lick my pork" I figured it out with the chopsticks and found my favorite condiment ever- sesame seeds! It came in a grinder. Must get me one of these!

Next we went to Meiji Jingu shrine.
It is a Shinto shrine, Japan's ancient, original religion. What impresses me is that there is no founder, no holy book. It values harmony with nature and a virtuous person, like "Magokoro", which is a sincere heart. This particular shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his Empress Shoken. On a steamy, muggy day the walk through the tall trees creates a welcoming breeze. The towering torii gate marks the entrance to the shrine. This wooden gate was made from a 1500-year-old Cyprus from Taiwan. We lingered for a while at the array of colorful sake barrels, and opposite of those, wooden wine barrels. I guess this royalty liked their booze.

Before entering the shrine, which was under construction, we had to cleanse.
With the long-handled cup, rinse the left hand, then the right, then back to the left hand you cup the water and cleanse your mouth. Now you are clean to go pray.

Visitors can write a prayer or wish on wooden plaques. Priests come and ceremoniously read them some mornings. Matthew and I continued into the Meiji-Jingu Gyoen, the strolling gardens. It was so quiet and peaceful. There were so many different types of trees, an iris garden, a fisherman's pier at the lily padded pond, with koi fish and a turtle. There was an old, simple tea house and somebody's well, which claimed to have this great water, but we couldn't drink from it even though we were wicked thirsty.

We could watch the Koi fish for hours. 520E9F3FFC88281718C349CB49E95586.jpeg
For 1 yen I bought a "fortune", called Omikuji, or poem-drawing. I shook a container filled with sticks, and the stick that fell out had a number, which I exchanged for the fortune. It was composed by Empress Shoken and written in the traditional 31-syllable form. My #10 stick's poem was:

Thrice daily a wise man of old
Reflected on himself; now I
In the spirit of the sage,
Wish to do the same.

We walked the main drag of Harajuku, Omote-sandy, which is known for its modern architecture, but it wasn't our gig. Too crowded and too commercial, I have no need for The Gap in Tokyo. We explored the smaller side streets and stopped into a cafe for tea and an afternoon Parfait. It was pretty and the green tea soft serve was good, the tapioca balls and rice cookie all was too much contrasting tastes for my taste. Matthew liked it.

We went to an izakaya, an informal gastro-pub where we had what I call an Oopsie dinner. We were the only white people in there, a good sign, smoke filled the room, and there were baskets to put purses, etc in so it would not touch the floor. The server did not speak English, another great sign. She understood "sake" and "beer" so we were off to a great start. She poured my sake in an hourglass-shaped glass, which stood in a square, shallow box. I quickly understood why have that instead of a flat coaster, she more than filled it, she over-flowed it and kept going. It cascaded over the box and onto the table. That's to show generosity. I was tempted to pick up the box and drink it, but Matthew thought it rude.

We thankfully were given pictures on the menu- plastic food is a real help as well, but they just had pics. I asked a question. And next thing I knew, it was brought to us. Oops. Matthew now has the gag order on me. He'll do the talking when ordering.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 15:47 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)

Konichiwa Japan!

We're here! After two flights, seventeen hours flight time, one layover in LA, three movies, we're here in Japan!

We glamorously spent the first twelve hours in Haneda Airport. We slept at the Royal Park Hotel, since we arrived late Sunday night, and took care of business at the airport Monday morning. On the docket:

  • Buy SIM card
  • Exchange our Japan Rail Pass order for the actual ticket
  • Buy the 'Promo' card- unlimited Rides on the Tokyo Subway for 72 hours
  • Withdraw money. Most businesses in Japan only accept cash. The bills are starched-crisp and beautiful.

$1=102 yen
(a-ri-ga-to for the easy conversion)

  • Eat. Since food is a big reason why we are here - sushi, fresh seafood, tempura, soba noodles, ramen noodles...we had coffee and split a croissant.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 13:00 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)

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