Date: 12/27/11

Location: Asakusa – Tokyo Station Area – Ikebukuro

~ ~ 浅草 ~ ~

Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s old districts, an entertainment center before the war and now home to Sensoji Temple and one of the biggest and probably the most photographed lantern in Tokyo. We met up with Andrea there at around 11 and that was a feat in itself because all of our phone contracts expired and trying to find someone in Tokyo with no way to contact them is seriously like trying to find a needle in a haystack [excuse the cliche.] I don’t know how anybody got along without cell-phones. x_x

Leading up to the temple is a long street lined with vendors selling everything from the run of the mill souvenirs to Asakusa-specific rice crackers and other traditional crafts. Because it was the days leading up to the new year, the entire street was decked out in red and white and the air of the place seemed more festive than usual. I’m sure it’s a lively place, but as one of the most popular places for new year’s shrine visits, Asakusa really let it all out. I chose to enjoy one of Asakusa’s fine freshly-made せんべい roast and dipped right in front of you. Salty and wet type, cause that’s how I do. ;D Er. jk.








It was pretty great and so was the temple, but shrines are shrines are shrines and coming from the Kansai region with Kyoto, Nara, and their grand religious centers, I think I’ve become a little spoiled or at the very least, worn out as far as temples are concerned. But Sensoji and especially Nakamise-dori leading up to it are really something, I’ll give them that. From the front of Sensoji you can see a huge pagoda sitting right in front of you. But if you turn 180 degrees and take a look at the modern buildings surrounding the temple, you see Tokyo’s Skytree, a building twice as tall as Tokyo Tower and set to open in spring of 2012. Looking towards the future, always.










~ ~ 皇居 ~ ~

After our stint at Asakusa, we made our way to the Imperial Palace East Gardens. This is a huge green-space that pops out of the massive jungle of steel and glass buildings that is Tokyo Station and environs. It contains the house of the imperial family of Japan and is a quaint quiet place to get out of the bustle of the city. Haruki Murakami runs [used to run?] around the perimeter of this park or so Julia told me. If I saw him, that would make my day. It wouldn’t be the first time that one of the UF kids saw their 日本人 idol. Grace saw idol/actor Kimura Takuya at a store in Tokyo a few days ago. I can always hope.

Anyway, the palace is ancient and the grounds are pretty. Here are some pictures. Woo!














Julia found time to frolic in the grounds of the gardens while I photographed pretty things like the winter sakura which were either past or just about to bloom. Not very many things were alive, but winter had its own aesthetic. The air was crisp and the sun was shining. I wish we’d have brought a picnic.








Instead, though, we had quite the meal at a place underneath a skyscraper in the business district around Tokyo Station. Do you see how much we got? Yeah, that was for one person. We would have split it, but the Japanese restaurants seem to have something against sharing, it seems. So we had to pay 800 yen each for a [conceded–really filling, really good] meal that we definitely could have shared. I’m bitter, but at the same time I am not.

~ ~ 池袋 ~ ~

One of the friends I made at the World Carillon Federation Congress in Michigan last summer, Minako, said that she was returning to Tokyo for the winter break and that we should meet up at some point. We managed to meet at Ikebukuro and Minako took me to a restaurant whose specialty was whale. Yes. Greenpeace be damned, there were so many types of whale-meat on the menu. As Minako explained, she thinks that it’s part of Japanese culinary tradition and making it illegal would be an injustice to the culture. She does, however, see the importance of sustainable hunting practice.

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t have just whale. There was lots of other traditional seafood there including ぶり with 大根 which Minako says is a little 懐かしい for Japanese people and also different types of sashimi. I think the one up there was yellowtail [?] Another surprising find was this pasty white looking stuff with the lime. I asked Minako what it was and she said that it was blowfish testes. Blowfish testes. Hoshino-san, who joined us later said that “it tastes a little like tofu!” I’d have to disagree. It was still really good and seafood-y tasting but it definitely didn’t taste like tofu. Haha. Gotta try everything once, I suppose. And speaking of trying everything, Minako also got me a sake sampler which had three different types of sake from Osaka, Ishikawa, and Shizuoka prefectures respectively so I could taste the difference between regional sakes. In the end, I chose 秋鹿 brewed in Osaka, and Minako said that would make my Kansai friends really happy.

We were joined by Hoshino-san, a doctor of traditional Japanese medicine, Minako’s brother, Akira, and another friend of Minako’s, Don-chan. We talked about a whole bunch of things like the best methods of translation and second language acquisition. We of course talked a bit about carillons as well and in the middle of the dinner I suddenly felt really classy. Like, who does this? Going out for a pricey dinner with doctors and members of the board of nuclear usage, wining [sake-ing?] and dining while talking about politics and linguistics. So classy.

Anyway, Minako is a regular encyclopedia when it comes to Japanese culture and history, apparently because she has to explain it to curious foreigners where she works in Canada. Hoshino-san is a very personable doctor and he gets even more hilarious when he’s had a few rounds of sake. Minako’s brother forms a perfect 漫才 team with his sister which they inherited from their mother who comes from Shiga prefecture. This also means that Minako and her brother sometimes use the Kansai dialect which is refreshing.

At the end of the night, Hoshino-san gave me some traditional herbal medicine to put into sake for the new year holiday. It’s supposed to provide long life or something ancient and mystical like that. I guess I’ll try to use them for New Year’s.

2 Responses to “ごちそうさまでした!”
  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m getting more and more jealous, while at the same time more and more anxious, as I read your blog……Hopefully I can go to Kansai Fall 2014.


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