March 29, 2006

The last days in Tokyo

What can I say? Tokyo was a blast. I really enjoyed being there. I could have stayed longer, but it was time to come back to London.

In the last week, we worked a few late nights. But there were some good times too. We had a team dinner on Wednesday night at a little place in Akasaka. The place only has a Japanese name, but it pretty much meant, old mom's place.The place had one tatami room and 3 tables... a small place. The ladies that worked there were awesome. They were like moms who made sure you were fed and made sure you finished the bowl of potato salad. We had agreed to go for shabu-shabu earlier in the week. The meal started with the cook coming out to our table with a big plate of fresh seafood. It was raw and not prepared. You had to pick the seafood you wanted. There was stuff I've never seen before and wondered how it would be prepared. Nevertheless, my coworkers ordered a ton of stuff and I ate everything. One little appetizer came after another. After 4 courses of appetizers, Ryan and I were wondering when we were having the shabu-shabu. Finally, the ladies started firing up the big pots in the table. There were 2 pots for the 8 of us. The pots were filled with boiling water. Then the plates of thinly sliced beef were brought to the table. The word "shabu shabu" means "swish swish", which is what you do with the slices of beef. You take one slice with your chopstick, then do a little swishing action in the hot pot of water. Then bring it to your plate, dip it into the sauce (there were two: one was a lemony, vinegary sauce and the other was like a peanut sauce). I didn't eat it of course because I don't eat meat and the ladies that worked there were concerned I didn't have enough to eat. But let me tell you I was full before the main course started! They brought out the tofu and some greens, then some big sticks of fresh udon. Delicious.

Shabu shabu is very similar to the "fire pot" the Chinese have. The difference is that there is more variety in the Chinese pots... You can pretty much put anything you desire in the pots... You put a broth instead of plain water and the sauce is a bit different. It is typically made up of soy sauce, a raw egg, and scallions. However, the basic concept is the same: water in big community pot, heat up your food in there and eat it. Perfect for the winter time.

Friday night, Ryan and I went to a Tunisian restaurant called "Hannibal" in Harajuku where one of my friends was performing. We got lost and were late, so we missed the 8 o'clock show. Fortunately, there was a second one at 9, so we got to see that. One of the waitresses was from Tunisia and she danced a set with my friend Nadiah. They got almost the entire restaurant up and dancing. There was a party in one table celebrating a birthday, so they were all in the mood to groove. I had cous cous with vegetable stew.

In case I haven't explained before, the food in Tokyo is great. Any type of food, whether it is Korean or Tunisian, it's all tastey. I didn't go to Mc Donald's and I didn't have any pizzas. I had lots of seafood. The point I'm trying to make, really, is that the quality of food is very high in Tokyo. Everything is prepared with pride. If you go to the grocery store and see the vegetables; they almost look too perfect; they put the produce in the US and UK to shame. The vegetables and fruits are gorgeous. Sometimes, I feel guilty eating it because they just look so perfect.

On Saturday, we went to visit the Imperial Gardens. I might have written "Imperial Palace" in the photos, but you can't really go into the Palace. Ha ha. And... only sections of the Gardens are open to the public. Nevertheless, we walked around and enjoyed the good weather. In late afternoon, we headed to Ginza and went back to Mitsukoshi's food court. Man, I just love the food court and the variety of yummy goodness packed into one room. I picked up a futomaki and a couple of inari (tofu pockets) pieces for dinner. After dinner, we went to Roppongi Hills and waited in a long line to get Coldstone Creamery. This happens to be the latest craze. Afterwards, we strolled around Roppongi Hills and found a bookstore that was opened till really late. I couldn't figure it out actually because the sign was like "Hours: 9:00 - 28:00"... What do you think that means? I didn't realize there was 28 hours in the day. Perhaps in Tokyo??

On Sunday, we went to the Shinjuku area. It took us a while to figure out to get out of the train station. There is a big mall that envelops the station, so when we tried to get out from a side exit, we ended up in the wrong side of the tracks. Finally, figured out how to get to the hip area of town. We went to Disk Union. Then we went into another Mitsukoshi in Shinjuku and ate at a curry place in the basement. It was a Indian curry, done Tokyo style. Very yummy. Then we strolled around some more and found the shrine where there is a market of used or antique-y items. I rummaged through some kimonos, really wanted to buy one, but then opted not to. One, because of lack of luggage space, and two, because most were a little dirty and too long for me. For dinner, we had sushi. We waited in line for 45-50 minutes for this place in the Takeshita Time Square (top floor). Then we realized the popularity for this place was because they offered an all-you-can eat price. So, you just keep ordering and at the end, you pay one price. But we opted to not do that since we don't eat THAT much to make it worth it.

As you'll notice in all my writings, I speak mostly about food and eating... This is what I do. This is what I like to do when I'm in a new city. I walk around and find food to eat. I don't really buy things. I might shop and look at stuff, but I hardly buy. Ryan does make fun of me for not buying stuff. But this is me. I look but I don't buy. It's not because I don't have the money. I just look at it and can't decide if it is worth buying. That is my dilemna. If I buy it, who would I give it to? I only buy things if I have someone in mind to give it to. Normally, it happens when I see something and it reminds me of someone. The problem when I'm traveling is that my mind is numb. I'm overwhelmed with all the stuff, I can't think. Second is my luggage problem. I don't have room in my luggage to bring back anything, and if you know me well, you'll know Lily likes to travel lightly.

The most valuable things to me are intangible.

Thanks Tokyo for a great trip! Here are the last installment of pics:


Posted by oneray at March 29, 2006 9:23 AM