March 22, 2006

Shrines, Sweets, and Such

March 17, 2006
Friday night, we worked late... until about 11:30, then we headed over to Tsukishima area to eat manja-yaki again. It was late, but luckily Okubo-san knew which ones were open late. Most restaurants were closed, though. Eating at Tsukishima is so much fun and so Tokyo, that I had to make sure Ryan got to try it. This time, however, I cooked. No one died of my cooking, so it must have been ok. We had the roe and cheese combo (it sounds aweful, but tastes really good!) and the nato bean and seaweed combo for manja-yaki. Ladies and gents, you just can't get this anywhere but Tokyo! Okonome-yaki, however, we have eaten before in London. We had the seafood combination, and I had the difficult task of flipping the giant pancake. Lastly, we had tepanyaki noodles, but Okubo-san took over the cooking here. At the end of the meal, the guys presented me with a manja-yaki spatula! It was in a little gift envelope, very typical of Japan.

March 18, 2006
On Saturday, Ryan and I went to Ginza... not for shopping, but for eating (surprise!). Our manager in London used to live here and gave us a list of places to eat. One of them was "Ten-ichi", a tempura place. Imagine sitting at the sushi bar, except replace the fish with tempura batter and vat. Except, it's not like sitting at a sushi bar and you can call out whatever you fancy. Here, we ordered a set menu and the chef would pull out a shrimp, batter it, then dip it into the vat. Same for the fresh and beautiful asparagus: dip in batter, dip in vat, then put on your plate. This was the best tempura I've ever had.

After lunch, we strolled around Ginza a bit and into Mitsukoshi (gigantic department store) where we headed straight for the food court (surprise!). The sweets were first and I picked up a few items to take back. Unfortunately, most of these are good for only a week or so (no preservatives!), I'll have to eat them before I leave.

Did I mention we're extending out stay for another week? We were asked to stay another week. Of course, we were happy to!

We just kept walking around the food halls, and I had a hard time picking things I wanted to try mostly because I wanted to try everything.

After leaving Mitsukoshi, we went to into the Apple store to check out the MacBook Pro... I'd love to have one, but I don't want to be lugging around two laptops. We surfed quickly, check mail, then left for Aksakusa.

Because it started raining when we got out of the subway, we were only able to visit one of the shrines in the area. We didn't see the main one unfortunately. Most of the shrines here are shinto shrines, so the way they pray is slightly different. They don't pray with the incense sticks like the Buddhists do. However, there are some, I think, that have Buddhist influences and use the incense sticks; they're buildings are most elaborate as well (more colors). There is just something very clean about the shinto shrines here.

We didn't let the rain stop us. We wandered through the little shops selling souvenires. I was tempted to get a little Hello Kitty trinket for my cellphone. Man, everyone here has a little trinket for their cellphone. Even guys. The Hello Kitty trinkets are special because there is a whole line of them. There is a Hello Kitty dressed up in something that represents an area in Tokyo. I haven't bought a Hello Kitty item for myself since 1991, perhaps it's time to get back into it.

It was around 6 or 7, and we decided to eat around the Asakusa area, since we were already here. There was a restaurant we had passed earlier in the day around 4, and there was a line outside the door. We went by and realized it was a kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi). I went to stand in line while Ryan peeped through the window to make sure we would be able to eat there. After minutes of standing there, he did not see one person pick anything off of the conveyor belt. Perhaps it's just plastic food? Turns out no. It was real food. But most of the people who come here get the special stuff, and the chefs make it immediately and hand it to them. After lining up outside, we lined up inside and had another chance to observe. This time we saw people picking plates off of the conveyor belts, so we were happy because that is how we were planning to eat. We were the only non-Japanese in the place.

Just below the sushi conveyor belt is a small conveyor belt for fresh tea cups. After sitting, you pick up a tea cup, fill it with a few scoops of green tea power, then fill the cup with hot water tap right at your table! That is just too cool. Then Ryan ordered a drink, pointing to what the lady next to him was having because he thought it was ice tea. But no, it was iced oolong tea with alcohol, said the waitress. Ryan got it, and it tasted ok. We suspect the alcohol was whisky. But we haven't figured out the name of the drink. When we left around 8:30, there was still a line out the door.

March 19, 2006
Sunday, Rich and his lady friend came to pick us up in a rental car, and we drove to Kamakura. The area is known for shrines, temples, and a giant 11 metre tall buddah.
First, we saw the Hachimangu shrine, then the Hase Temple, which has lovely gardens and you get a great view of the ocean. Our last stop was to see the Great Buddha. See this website for all the info one what we saw:

On our way back to Tokyo, we saw Yokohama and Mt. Fuji from a distance. There were some great views from the highway. We went to Aquacity in Odaiba, a modern shopping mall with big cinema complex. We went to see "Narnia" there, but before had we ate at one of the restaurants in the mall. This place puts all of the malls in the US to shame. The view is spectacular, you can see the Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo Tower. The night view is the best, in my opinion.

That's about it for this weekend. Tuesday is a holiday here. I'm excited about that!

March 21, 2006
Today is a holiday! This is the first time I'm away on business and gets to take the holiday of that country. This rocks! Ryan and I went to visit a friend in Harajuku/Omotesando area. We had lunch at the Brown Rice Cafe. Then afterwards, Ryan and I strolled through Takeshita Street. It was packed, mostly with teenie-boppers and the narrow street was lined with fringe shops selling anything from cool socks to goth wear. We saw a few girls dressed in the, what Ryan likes to call, "Bo Peep" costume. But basically, it's kind of like what Madonna wore in her Reinvention tour, but with a frilly skirt. I stopped in the 100 yen store (which by the way, is 100 times better than the ones in the US!) and second-hand kimono gallery where I got some kimino fabric strips. In the late afternoon, we headed back towards Roppongi and strolled around Roppongi Hills. It was really windy. The funny thing about Roppongi Hills are the specialy shops. There was a shop selling only expensive hats, a shop selling only expensive hankerchiefs, and a shop selling only expensive umbrellas. How do they stay in business? For dinner, we went to a kaiten sushi place in Roppongi Hills, in the Hollywood Centre. There was a line when we got there, so that was a good sign. The sushi was ok. It wasn't spectacular like the place we go to in London. Then again, that place isn't a kaiten sushi.

There is a Coldstone Creamery in Roppongi Hills. Man, the line was so long. I think there was at least 100 people in line waiting. However, I was told that Japan (or Tokyo especially) is very trendy. When something new comes, everyone wants it, but after a while, the fad will die down, and people will focus on whatever is new and of the moment... no matter how good the food/product is.

Pictures from this weekend are here:

That's all for now. No real plans for this weekend yet.
- Lily

Posted by oneray at March 22, 2006 2:27 AM