Anthony Bourdain talks about the Tsukiji Fish Market in his book No Reservations, so of course it’s been at the top of my “Tokyo To-Do List” for the last year, at least. I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but the little I did know was this: it is the World’s largest fish market, there would be a place to eat sushi, and it is a tourist “must see”, therefore I assumed it would be tourist friendly.
Grant and I woke up at five a.m., packed on the layers and got to our station in time for our 6:20 train. Unfortunately McDonalds was the only place open at that time, so we held off for java and eats. We made a change at Ueno Station and arrived at Tsukiji Station at 7:00 a.m., at which time priorities needed to be put in order - needless to say, coffee and breakfast it was! Fancy that, a Starbucks right across the street from the station exit. They take Visa and give American sized cups of coffee, so we went there.
Ready to rock, we headed off in the general direction we believed the fish market to be in. You know you’re on the right
track to a Lonely Planet recommended destination when you see a group of white people with cameras and a map. It’s
always fun to pass “Gaijin” (foreigners) on the street. Most times you share a nod or smile that is often filled with both relief and encouragement that seems to say,“Good for us, we’re both lost half the time and getting by just fine!”
The streets and alleys surrounding the fish market are packed with store fronts, each vendor specializing in something - Knives, Nori (seaweed), Teas, Ceramics and China, Gifts, Beef, Fish, Takoyaki (balls made of flour with octopus inside), Tamaridofu (egg infused tofu), and many noodle shops with make-shift tables that you stand at while quickly consuming a bowl of steaming hot noodles.
Salmon and Other Fresh Fish
2 rules of many, but this is the best.
There are a few entrances that lead into the market area, which we didn’t know at the time, so we entered the first official-looking spot and proceeded to walk possibly the worst and most dangerous route to get to the Fruit and Vegetable Wholesalers Area - we knew this to be open to the public first - which just so happened to be at the opposite side of the Market. It was still early for visitors to arrive so there wasn’t really anyone to follow with hopes of being led the “proper” way, which looking back was perfect; we unintentionally threw ourselves right into the middle of the organized chaos of motorized and manually operated vehicles, buyers, cooks and retailers (often one in the same) tossing and loading, coming and going. I felt like a child who inadvertently wondered onto the soundstage of an action film.
First of all, the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market (Tsukiji Market) is freaking massive, and clearly not designed as a place for sightseeing. There are 60,000 workers and 1,600 food suppliers that sell about 2,000 tons of fish and seafood each day, and a fleet of traffic cops to control the trucks, carts, scooters, bicycles and people. The high volume of fast-paced foot and vehicle traffic both inside and outside the Seafood area is all at once outrageous and downright impressive to witness. I’m certainly no great writer so my words could never do the experience justice, but I took video and even with that I know the only way to understand the overwhelming magnitude of this place, is to go in person. Put it on your bucket list!
The Seafood Intermediate Wholesalers Area – aka the best part - is not open to visitors until 9:00 a.m., and unfortunately the 5:00 a.m. (highly acclaimed) tuna auction didn’t re-open to the public until the following week, but we couldn’t wait that long. (Also, we would have had to take a taxi most of the way because our train doesn’t run that early, and cabs can be quite costly, understandable so – I mean, there are doilies on the seats!) So once across the bustling loading dock and parking lot area, we explored the Fruit and Veggie wholesale area. Also housed there are vendors that sell restaurant-type necessities, teas, souvenir items and about 6 small shops specializing in sushi and sashimi bowls that appeared to accommodate no more than 15 people each.
At a quarter to nine, Grant and I were anxiously passing the time by wondering around a small shrine near the front of the market when I noticed 3 girls in their late teens taking turns snapping photos of each other. I asked, in my made-up sign language and a staccato mix of English and Japanese, if I could take a photo for them, and oh my word, for the first time ever I think Grant and I felt like celebrities. Somehow, without being able to talk with these darling giddy girls, we shared a special moment of picture taking and laughs.
As 9:00 a.m. rolled around we made our way into the Fish Market. To say that the experience of walking through this place was extraordinary would be to engage in gross understatement. It was cold, loud, bright and busy, the air smelled of the ocean and wet dirt, the sound of knives and splashing water and sights of exposed sea creature flesh would have excited even the most unimpressed spectator. Below are two (rather long, I know) videos that only attempt to capture a bit of the glory that is the Tsukiji Fish Market. Hope you enjoy!
Blue Tuna- they are huge!
I think he's dead...
After the fish market we were (obviously) ready for some sushi and by 11:30 so was everyone else. Every place had a line out the door so we just picked one; we waited about an hour (receiving complimentary hot green tea) until it was our turn to be welcomed into the little shop. There was one sushi chef, a prep cook in back, and a very kind older lady who spoke a bit of English and acted as hostess, busser, server, and dish washer. After ordering we sat like giddy a children - which translates to goofy adults - watching the sushi chef as he swiftly and delicately prepared 5 different boards of the freshest sushi and seafood as if it were choreography. After concluding our meal I could honestly say that on January 28, 2012 I had the most wonderful sushi I have ever tasted and the best words to describe it, however prosaic, would have to be - beautiful, fresh, and delicious!
Worth the wait
Finishing touch on the unagi no kabayaki
It was cold,so the hot tea was nice
More tea and miso soup
First course - salmon & 2 types of tuna
It snowed the other night, about thirty minutes after getting home from the train station, as if God saw us walking and was like “Eh, let’s give it thirty minutes or so.” The flakes were big and fluffy, the kind that made me wonder if I closed my eyes and put my hand out maybe I would be holding feathers instead or snow – a lovely surprise that reminded me of living in Flagstaff last winter and how much has happened in my life since.
We awoke to a bright sun above and a white blanket of quickly melting snow below. By the time we left the apartment around ten in the morning, our stairs and the streets were covered in ice. It didn’t stop us, and it didn’t seem to stop anyone else either. People were out and about, riding bikes and walking dogs donning puffy jackets (doggie clothing is all the rage here, it's rare to see a naked dog in public).
When going to the downtown to the train station we take a shortcut through what I call the“neighborhood”, but it’s more
like a few small neighborhoods of houses, apartments, vending machines, tiny fenced parks, a mini-mart and a guy who sells produce in front of his house; all of these connected by tiny streets that lead to the main roads. When I say “tiny” I mean just enough room for one car to drive through. There isn’t a posted speed limit so people seem to drive whatever speed they like, but here’s the kicker – none of these little streets are one-way. It amazes me every time I see it! It’s as if the cars are playing chicken, and at the very last moment the “chicken” backs into the nearest side-street, allowing the winner to pass and heading on their way with hopes of being the winner a few miles up the road.
As Grant and I were walking we were surprised to see people out with shovels and brooms - clearly having been productive since early in the morning as the streets have mini paths carved out for walking - not just right in front of their homes, but the whole street and around the park. As I walked up the hill I couldn’t stop looking at this 65 year-old woman in a casual long dress, boots and a heavy coat with a shovel as tall as she, hacking away and breaking up a giant frozen used-to-be puddle in the middle of the road while laughing and talking with 3 men chipping ice nearby and a few others taking a break.
“Ohayo gozaimas,” I said, proud that I could say ‘good morning’ to my Japanese neighbors.
“Ohayo,” they responded practically in unison, accompanied by smiles and bows.
By the time we got back to the neighborhood that evening, I was so thankful to see most of the streets had paths cleared for safer walking. I wonder how many people walked out that morning to clean off their cars and driveways and just kept on cleaning; meeting up in the streets for some conversation and laughter that if not for the snow day, would have been missed.
The popularity of cartoons here in Japan is astonishing and rather endearing actually. There in Manga, which are Japanese comics, and Anime which are Japanese cartoon series; often one the first leads to the second. There are many I am unfamiliar with, like Anpanman (a man with a bean-jam filled bread head), Doraemon (an earless robotic cat), Kochikame ( acartoon about the misadventures of a middle-aged cop in Tokyo), and Totoro (from the 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro, re-released by Disney in 2006), and then others with which I am well aquainted, like, Pokemon, Snoopy, Mario, Elmo, and Sponge Bob. My very favourite though, are Hello Kitty and all things Disney (Stich not included).
My best friend adores Hello Kitty and has a custom credit card to prove it (in her defense she has had it since High School), so inevitably Hello Kitty makes me think of her. Previous to our friendship I of course knew about Hello Kitty, and as a little girl possibly even had some memorabilia, but I was never a true fan. I will say now, since moving to Japan, I am a convert. Though I don’t see myself having a Hello Kitty themed bathroom or carrying around a sassy stuffed kitten with a red bow on one ear, I have made it a goal to take pictures of all things Kitty White. It’s like a treasure hunt - a very simple one as there are whole isles dedicated to her - and just when I think I have found the most unique Hello Kitty item, she tops herself, yet again.
Anyone who has talked with me for more than 20 minutes, knows that I am a Disney fanatic. So, it’s no surprise that I’m in love with the popularity of Disney stuff here. In the US people often assume a different persona when visiting the Disney Parks that allows them to wear things that they wouldn’t otherwise be caught dead in - shirts with a giant Donald Duck body, hats with ears, pin lanyards, Wookie backpacks, giant plastic water jugs with Mickey ears and a shoulder strap, etc. The cool thing in Japan however, is that people wear that stuff everywhere! Not just kids, but like, people over the age of 20 - It’s awesome! I actually heard the whole “Electric Light Parade” played on Japanese radio last night, and what sounded like a children’s choir singing “Super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious”in the grocery store!
We’re currently planning our trip to Disneyland Tokyo, which makes me practically giddy just thinking about. I’m entertaining the idea of purchasing my first cell phone charm there. A tacky concept I was never fond of in the states, but here, EVERYONE has one…or four. It’s beginning to grow on me. I probably won’t jump right to the fist-sized cotton Hello Kitty head, but maybe teeny gold mouse ears.
This is only a little of what this store had, the rest is scattered throughout.
My parents packed my lunch for me until sometime around 6thgrade when it became cooler to have a pre-paid lunch card that was stamped – or punched, I can’t remember - in order to eat whatever was served in the cafeteria, and still, to my dismay, I ended up with a brown bag lunch every so often. The thing I now realize about my packed lunches is how great they were, and how fortunate I was to have parents that pre-packed my lunches, but hind-sight is twenty-twenty - and I was 6, or 5… or 9.
While I had apples and grapes, cheese and crackers, and 2 homemade chocolate chip cookies, the other kids had Gushers, Cheez-its and Nutty-Buddies. Most memorable though, at least early on, was the sandwich bread- I always had some variation of brown bread; whole wheat or nine grain or twelve grain, when all I wanted was Turkey or PB & J on white
Wonder Bread. If I ever won a white bread battle at the grocery store, I don’t remember it.
Of course now, and since I was 12 actually, the only bread I prefer when it comes to a homemade PB & J is grainy, nutty, whole wheat bread that, without looking, you’d bet money the main ingredient was “bird feed.” I don’t consider myself to be a judgmental person, but people who buy white sandwich bread over whole wheat leave me no choice. Of course I wouldn’t let it get in the way of a friendship, though now that I think about it, I don’t believe I know of any friends that make a habit of it.
That being said, I now find myself in a country that seems to be uniquely unaware of wheat or grain bread. With so many darling little bread and pastry shops on every corner and in most train stations, you’d think, however expensive, wheat would be among the dozens of choices. Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy sourdough or the occasional croissant, but I reserve those treats for lunch out with a friend or a coffee date with the latest Vogue.
To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I made myself a PB & J, but it seems I picked up the craving for one about a week after landing at Narita Airport here in Japan. Maybe I liked the thought of quick and easy prep, but more likely it was a tragic case of “wanting what you can’t have” -I knew American peanut butter was expensive and wheat bread non-existent. Either way, I was going to make it happen. I bought a loaf of French bread that cost the equivalent of ten dollars, which prompted Grant to make the executive decision to choose the cheaper peanut butter and jam to balance out the cost. The French bread was good, the jam was pleasant, and the peanut butter was…interesting. The best and simplest description I can give is that it tasted like sweetened peanut butter, but looked and felt like caramel (which I have since learned is how most Japanese peanut butter is made. Something about it going with bread and the thought that sweet and bread go hand in hand). We finished it (waste not want not) but our next trip to the store we got white bread and Skippy peanut butter. Well worth the trade.
In Japan, those who don’t want to make a sandwich can go anywhere from the airport or Starbucks, to street vendors and station kiosks for a pre-packaged white bread sandwich with the crust cut off. I can’t quite tell what is on most of them, but I did recognize egg salad, as well Jelly and something - the “something” I assume to be “peanut-caramel” so I haven’t tried it. Others look like meats with soft boiled egg, lettuce and tomato. I picture a young mother in her 1950’s kitchen, wearing a fabulous apron tied over an even more fabulous polka dot dress and cutting the crusts of each sandwich, saying things like “woopsie daisy” every time the cut is less than perfection.
Even more interesting are the “ice cream-like” stands that sell, essentially, whipped cream wrapped in white bread. You can also find these pre-packaged “treats” in convenient and grocery stores. Some have chocolate or bananas and strawberries, other things I’m sure, but the thought of the two main white ingredients together appeal very little to me, so I have not further inspected the phenomenon of flour and sugar in this combination.
The “loaves” of bread sold in grocery stores and bakeries are between 4 and 8 slices and are the same size loaf, you just decide how thick you would like each individual slice. After doing the math, the house I grew up in would need to pick up at least 30 loaves of bread each time someone went to the store.
Had I known in my single digit years, I would have petitioned to move to Japan if for nothing more than to have a white bread sandwiches for lunch. Then again, I’d probably be wishing I could have one of those seaweed wrapped white rice triangles with fishy stuff in the center, instead. I was finally able to try one a few days ago and just as I had imagined – delightful! I need to find out what they are called. Probably: Wonder Rice.
PS Thank you mom and dad, for the wonderfully Wonder Bread-free lunches you prepared for me during grade school, but most importantly thank you for the stickers on zip-locks and love notes on napkins.
By my calculations there are more bicycles, in Japan, than people. There is a bike for each family member in the driveways of most residence, and designated racks around each shop, restaurant and business park, and each train station has at least one bike area that puts University campus bike racks to shame. Homes cars are often left unlocked, but should one leave a bike unlocked the possibility of someone riding away with it is high. However, the locks that are used here are a bit more like emergency breaks; strictly to lock the bike itself, instead of being used to tie it down. Unlike back home, where you would be insane not to use a U-lock, a chain, an alarm and a guard dog before leaving a bike attached to a giant metal pole in your own garage.
Most of the time people bike on the sidewalk, unless in a rush or need to get around a crowd. There are bells on most bikes,
but I have yet to hear one actually used, which drives me a little nuts. I’d be happy to move out of your way if you just gave me a heads up of your existence, I think to myself. But nope, everyone remains in stealth mode until you turn around and, like an idiot, realize there is someone teetering back and forth on a bicycle, and who knows for how long.
The thing is in Phoenix or Los Angeles people would let me know if I was in their way. Maybe not always in a kind and thoughtful way, but then again I could have misinterpreted the tone. I mean, how difficult is it for anyone to say “pardon me” or “heads up to your right” or for the timid-voiced cyclist to ding the bell that, I’m sure, cost them extra?
Here in Japan however, everyone goes out of their way to be considerate and helpful to others; which is great and refreshing in most ways. I just don’t see how letting me know you’re on a two-wheeled vehicle currently in motion behind me is an imposition what-so-ever.
There have been moments – I admit with shame - when I find myself on the defensive. “I didn’t know you were there; I didn’t hear you. If you would have just used your bell that is conveniently placed next to your right hand, I could have easily and happily moved to the side,” I want to say. But, then I remember I am in Japan, and so-and-so just didn’t want to inconvenience me by interrupting my foot path. Well, that and I don’t speak the language.
I finally had my first bowl of Ramen, and no amount of Travel Channel or Ramen reading and research could prepare me for the divine culinary delight I experienced. If coffee is the nectar of the gods, then ramen is their grub!
Let me first share the little about Ramen that I have retained, as it is a lot more in depth than I had ever realized. A proper bowl of ramen consists of 4 basic elements:
1. Broth– Usually a blend of pork, chicken (which doesn’t seem common in my area), seafood, and/or veggies; each shop creating their own
2. Tare –This is the strong, salty flavor essence at the bottom of each bowl. Roughly speaking there are 4 types of tare, each helping to determine the “type” of ramen
a. Shoyu – loosely speaking, the most common base
b. Miso – also common
3. Noodles– There are a variety from thin and straight to extra thick and curly and everything in between, each cooked differently – soft, regular, chewy…and whatever is in between
4. Toppings– Most containing a thin slice of roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and spinach or seaweed. Others can include: minced or ground pork, fishcake, soft boiled or raw egg, nori (seaweed paper) , ginger, garlic, butter, corn, miso-chili-garlic paste, chopped white onions, chives, scallions
There are many varieties of Ramen, but most shops specialize in one style and offer a limited menu. Which makes total sense; if you do something well, stick to it, and they do on both accounts. Ramen is a craft, sometimes recipes are past down from one generation to the next like a gift. No exaggeration it is an art, to say the least, and you can feel it when you walk in the door. People here take their ramen seriously; and by-golly, after you have a bowl of this stuff, you will too!
After a day at the Ueno Zoo, we met up with friends who gave us a quick tour of the Tokyo market before taking us to one of the hundreds of ramen shops that were housed amongst the chaos.
Briefly, the Tokyo market is this crazy-loud-awesome-gritty-jam-packed-intimidating outside market that has just about anything you could possibly need, want, or think of - fresh fruit on a stick, fried ‘you-name-it’, fresh seafood galore (some of it still moving, like turtles bound with rubber bands), clothing, fur, leather, and more shoes in one space than I have ever seen in my life. Most of it cheap, rare, or super fresh; it’s completely rad.
So we cut through this dark and narrow alleyway, straight out of Blade Runner, and come out in front of a ramen shop that looks like just about every other small ramen shop on the street. Later I would refer to it as the paradise and every synonym alike.
Like most shops, it was small. A rectangle room with L-shaped bar seating (maybe 12 stools) wrapped around the kitchen area and a vending machine ordering system up front. You push the corresponding button with the picture of what you want…or think you want depending on whether or not there is an English menu, deposit your money and put your printed ticket on the counter for the chef. We did not have an English menu, but we did have friends who could help give us a loose interpretation of our options. Grant ordered Ramen with pork, butter, and corn and I ordered spicy ramen with pork, seaweed and a soft boiled egg. We were kindly instructed by friends to also order the dumplings to start and a small bowl of rice each to pair with the ramen.
We hung our coats on the wall hangers behind us, poured our own water (which is acceptable in this case and at most ramen shops if the glasses and pitcher are easily accessible) and sat on our swivel stools at the counter. I can hardly express the joy and excitement in our anticipation of what was to come; like giddy children we watched and waited.
The simply plated dumplings came first; a juicy and flavorful treat teasing our taste buds in preparation for what was to come. There was a very small amount of soy sauce on the plate and no more was needed beyond that, though we did add chili paste to the sauce to give it a kick.
Then came the ramen; Giant steaming bowls of perfectly cooked noodles and bean sprouts topped with fresh green onions (larger than what we see back home) and a thin slice of roasted pork. There are or can be a number of things placed on your table to add to the ramen, including: minced or pureed garlic, chili paste, white vinegar, chili oil, soy sauce, mixed chili powder, fine black or white pepper. The minced garlic and chili paste were a fabulous addition in this case.
To describe the rich, salty flavor of my bowl of ramen would be a miss any way I try; it would be crude to say “It was the best thing I have ever tasted”…but in that moment, it may well have been… though, still a bit of an understatement. The well thought out creation was put together in a way that allowed the flavor to almost change, each bite was better than the last. I think I had a giant grin plastered across my face from start to finish.
We’ve since been to one other ramen shop…twice. It’s walking distance from home which, I fear, is a danger to our budget and yet, SO worth it. This place has a different feel, a slightly younger and more relaxed vibe in the kitchen; you can tell they’re serious about the craft but they have fun with it, and you can taste it in the ramen. The noodles are a bit chewier and the spices a bit spicier, as if to say “hey dude, you can handle it, you got this!” I’m still not sure what the base was, but it was awesome, we just pointed to a picture on the menu because the broth looked redder than the others, which we thought meant “spicy”, and boy did it ever! It rocked us. …we walked back the next rainy day and pointed to the same picture.
To me, a Japanese ramen kitchen is magic. It’s like the fascination people have with the behind the scene of anything glamorous on the outside, like the Circus or Broadway or Disneyland; all of the secrets and stories that must be hidden in each. You just have to keep hanging around with the hope of learning another dark and special little secret every time you have the privilege to slurp down a bowl.
I could go home happy!
But then again, there is more ramen to discover out there…
liquids in top right, then separate paper & plastic - simple enough!
I must preface what I am about to share by saying that it has been our intention to eat entirely local fare without indulging in internationally recognized food chains and thus, depriving ourselves of the wonder involved in discovering new food in a foreign land; and doing so has not been challenging in any way. The food is a delight and the variety of restaurants has been a lovely surprise (Italian food here is very popular because of the noodles; the Japanese have noodle cooking down to an art). I can happily state that my tummy has been well taken care of.
Now, that being said, I did have a moment of weakness. I’m going to blame it on a throbbing sweet tooth, but I fear it went further than that by the time all was said and done.
It was a cold evening and Grant and I were sitting at home after a delicious, homemade and practically effortless dinner of sautéed veggies and ramen noodles – effortless in the same way that that outfit you threw on while rushing out the door that one time was; not for a million dollars could you duplicate it in the same seemingly-flawless way.
We had two choices: Get ready for bed or put on our winter gear and head downtown for dessert of some kind. Duh…dessert! So off we went, with high hopes of a sweet destination.
There we stood, in front of the yellow arches that we had passed at least a dozen times since arriving, as if we had been led
there by a sleep walking spell, a la Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Though, our future held something far more gratifying than that of a spindle prick. Sure, McDonald’s seems like a terrible decision any time, especially when in another country, but I am here to tell you that at 11 o’clock at night, when you are on a budget and craving something sweet and not willing to try something new at the risk you will be disappointed and you find yourself standing in front of familiar doors that lead to warmth, Mickey D’s is the perfect decision.
I would like to tell you that it begins and ends with a $ .75 (…well, $1.33 here) cone, but let’s be honest, you would get fries too. So we did.
I never thought McDonald’s would have the potential to satisfy so greatly, and it may never again, but in those few moments we sat in the warmth of the 3rd story (it’s actually a 4 store McDonalds, you order on the 1st and the next 3 flights of stairs lead to seating areas), over-looking Kashiwa’s nightlife and dipping salty fries in soft-serve, I knew we had made the right decision.
It was also an educational experience. We learned that McDonald’s uses dark meat in their chicken strips which is not particularly good (yes, we ordered a two piece but it doesn’t count because we didn’t finish them), they have clean restrooms with “smart” toilets, and it’s a great place for overly-intoxicated girls to either sleep it off or eat a lot of fried food in order to be coherent enough to call a cab.
So there you have it; I went to McDonald’s. Not my proudest food decision since coming to Japan but I share this experience so that next time you’re traveling abroad and find yourself standing in line at a familiar chain waiting to order a Mc-Wopper-Star-Frosty-Churro, you too will not feel ashamed.
...just don't make it a habit, or we can't be friends.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel @ followalexbrewer
Our New Year’s Eve was spent with new friends in a cozy little apartment in Tokyo. Norman, a friend of our flat-mate, Lee-Ann (both from Jamaica), cooked us a divine, traditional Jamaican dinner, accompanied by Jamaican Rum Cream, a rich and creamy rum drink that gives egg nog a run for it’s money. It was a lovely and delicious evening.
Similar to Christmas in the US, the New Year is a big celebration here in Japan. During family get-togethers dishes are eaten each having a special meaning, and kids play games and often receive money as a gift.
Today is the first day everyone begins to settle back into routine, though the mall and surrounding stores still continue their “Sparkling Sales”.
There is a narrow hall leading into the mall lined on one side with about 15 master bedroom sized boutiques. They mostly appear to cater to a range of your H&M and Forever21-type shoppers; though based on the pricing I choose to assume a better quality of product. My favourite and certainly the most entertaining bit to observe are the trendy employees standing on crates or pacing outside of their respective stores with megaphones and rolled papers calling out their sale items. I’m sitting in the Starbucks adjacent to the whole scene, half of the fishbowl leading into one of the stores, and I can hear the high pitched “welcomes” echoing down the hall…4 days and counting…I hope they drink hot tea with lemon on their breaks.
I’m struggling to adapt to the infrequent amount of coffee in my system and the marvelous routine that accompanies it; desperately wishing I would have packed my French press and a few bags of beans from Sunflower. Though, if that is my greatest concern thus far I think I'll survive....stay tuned.
Grant and I have discovered a few local bakeries, one of which we tried yesterday. B’s Café is a small Bakery with open shelves filled with decadent, flakey pasties and personal crispy breads filled with herbs and cheeses and meats. No English is displayed - which was no bother because everything looked perfectly scrumptious. Small plastic trays and tongs are available at the entrance and you fill your tray with whatever entices you. Which for us included: pepper bread with sausage, mini loaf topped with crispy cheese and filled with ham, flakey cheese bread with spinach and herbs, and the best cinnamon bread we have ever tasted. Not to mention, a coffee mug of freshly pulled espresso…I was a happy girl.
We have had many delicious meals since we arrived, though I still have not had the pleasure of a steaming bowl of ramen, which I have been looking forward to and researching for the last 6 months. We have passed at least a dozen Ramen shops, but I’m waiting for the perfect one. I have a gut feeling that I will know it when I see it…or smell it. Until then, I'm re-reading Lucky Peach's first issue "The Ramen Issue" and dreaming.
On the list for this weekend…Karaoke!!!
I’m posting some photos on my facebook page, so check them out!
New Year's Eve
As it turns out, wireless internet is not as common here in Japan as we had hoped. I am grateful for the journal that was gifted to me on my way out of the country, as it has become my written memory bank of many things that have transpired in the last 3 days since arriving in Japan. The highlights of a rough and somewhat poorly written journal list are as follows:
1. Our flight with Korean air was lovely to say the least, clean and friendly and accommodating. Tooth brushes, tooth paste, and disposable slippers are given after being seated. Followed by two delicious meals served with complimentary wine, coffee, and tea; two snacks; and darling flight attendants (clad impeccably head to toe in shades of white, tan and aquamarine) constantly circulating with trays of orange and pineapple juice. The latter being my very favourite! The time flew...no pun intended.
2. Landed in Narita Airport at 3pm December 29th. Had a brief and lovely encounter with wifi, though at the time we did not appreciate it as we should have.
3. Vending machines galore in the train stations (and everywhere come to find out). First vended drink - BOSS. A coffee drink similar to a Starbucks double shot, that is to say, it's alright. But Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesperson for it, so it must be pretty bad ass.
4. Tickets to Kashiwa with one change over seemed simple enough. The train transfer gave us less than 2 minutes to get out of one train up an escalator through a hall, down another escalator and into another train before the doors closed on us. All whilst lugging 2 rolling suitcases and a shoulder bag...each. Needless to say, it was like a high speed choreographed movie scene. We made it.
5. Our roommate picked us up and dropped us at the apartment. She ordered Pizza Hut delivery for us. Not our proudest first meal in a foreign country, until we took a bite. It was Teriyaki Chicken Pizza with asparagus and corn. "Are you kidding me??!!" ...it was absolutely delectable! We have since completely avoided foods we can get in the States. ...Starbucks doesn't count.
6. Our apartment is small, but only in comparison to what we are used to back home. We share a twin sized mat on the floor ...video to come.
7. We found an internet cafe in town, thanks to a phrases book (intoneto cafe wa doko des ka?) and helpful locals. The look of it was quite deceiving, think - seedy scene in a Nick Cage action thriller. Though in reality of course, it was nothing like that.
8. I ate meat! ...which to those of you that know me, is kind of a big deal. I have only eaten chicken and fish for the past 15 years. But moving to another country I decided I need to give it all a try! I think I ate pork? And one other thing, still
undetermined. I pretty much just point at the menu...for now.
9. Most used words so far - Sumimasen and Arigato (Excuse me/I'm sorry and Thank you)