October 7, 2008: “Day #4: Adventures in Tokyo”

Monday, October 7, 2008: “Day #4: Adventures in Tokyo


We had a minor change in plans today.  Instead of visiting Ginza (the Beverly Hills 90210 district of Tokyo) we decided to visit the famous kitchen/restaurant supply district.  We are planning to visit Ginza on Thursday when we spend another night in Tokyo.

Kitchen District

The kitchen/restaurant district was too amazing for words to even begin to adequately describe how incredible it is.  We took the train and then had approximately a 10-15 minute walk to arrive at the shops.  The shops were incredible.  Needless to say with my cooking fetish, I will need to make an additional trip to the ATM machine tomorrow for more yen to make up for my expensive finds today.

I bought the most beautiful, yet modern, set of Japanese dishes and platters!  As soon as I saw them, I knew they were exactly what I wanted.  An entire set – six large bowls, a sake set with four cups, a large serving bowl, a large serving platter, two medium serving platters, one small serving platter, six sauce dishes, and 6 soy sauce dishes cost 13,900 yen or $139 USD!  (Now I just need to find six matching plates.)  I finally found something reasonably priced in Japan.  We also went to a more upscale dish/pottery store where I purchased some very unique, beautiful pieces.  I fell in love with their food packaging as well and couldn’t resist spending 500 yen ($5 USD) on beautiful paper boxes and matching paper bags to package holiday goodies in.  I just kept shopping until we realized we needed to get back to the train and then the hotel because my backpack was overloaded with my “bargains” as were our arms!  The hotel was gracious enough to hold everything for our return on Thursday when we’re planning on driving back into Tokyo.

Yesterday I also purchased a couple wood block prints.  One is a very famous Japanese black and white print and another is an amazing bamboo print that I utterly fell in love with.

Tonight we went out for okonomiyake, known as the “as-you-like-it” pancake.  There is a griddle built into your table and they bring you a selection of ingredients.  It is not a traditional pancake but a very thin pancake base topped with cabbage, meat, sprouts, vegetables, noodles, and eggs.  You cook it yourself as each table has instructions (written in Japanese of course) on how to cook the ingredients.  The restaurant had a small platform lined with cubbyholes when you walk in.  You remove your shoes, stand on the platform, and place your shoes in a cubbyhole.  (If you have to go to the bathroom there are slippers to use inside the stall.)  We sat at a norigotatsu – a Japanese style low table that has a hidden well where you place your legs.  Oddly, it was quite comfortable after a full day of rigorous walking.  Nearly all Japanese restaurants give you a moist hand towel (oshibori) prior to dinner.  The Japanese are obsessed with mayonezu (mayonnaise) though theirs is fish sauce based and it is actually quite delicious.

The Japanese culture is incredibly respectful and subservient.  Everyone says “arigato gozaimasu” – an extreme form of thanks and gratitude – nearly half a dozen times which is always accompanied by a bow.  I am getting so used to bowing that I am sure this habit will be difficult to break when I return home.  Japan has an incredibly low crime rate.  You could literally leave your purse in the middle of an intersection and return an hour later and it would have remained untouched.

Being blond is still difficult to get used to in this culture.  The Japanese consider it extremely rude to stare but for some reason they are fascinated by my blond hair and fair skin which makes me really uncomfortable at times.  Many of the younger Japanese women purchase skin bleaching products to look more American.

Japan is very conformist – almost a lemming like sort of society.  Everyone’s goal is to be the same.  Standing out in the crowd is considered quite faux pas.

Japan has one gang and its members are some of the very few people that have tattoos so there are very few tattoo shops since it is looked upon negatively.

Lisa’s children’s English class was adorable!  One of the children, Yuuta, was fascinated by my blond hair.  He wanted to know if I was married and when I said “no” he immediately wanted to know if I had a boyfriend.  When I told him “yes” he appeared to be quite disappointed.  Another young boy, Takaya, enjoyed playing with my curly hair.  In Japan, they don’t shake hands as we do in the states when introducing ourselves, but they bow.  The children were very proud that they knew how to shake my hand!  The Japanese require eight years of public education English lessons.  Lisa gives lessons prior to when the children would start in school, so they have a good head start.

Tomorrow we are visiting Kamakura, known as the temple district and home of the great, famous Buddha statue.  Kamakura also has some excellent shopping so I am quite eager to visit.

And for those Andrew Zimmern fans – dried squid and octopus snacks are known as “sunakku” in Japan.

Kobe Beef


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