Days 67-68: Tokyo Weekend

Returning to Tokyo has allowed us to recover from the many trains and buses we have taken inland to the east. We perched ourselves in an Air BNB for a few days in an unusual area of Tokyo–a mere twenty minutes from the center of town, but in wide open swaths of fresh sea breezes to the south away from the high density high rises.

Known as Tennozu Isle, the new metro station is tucked between new high tech buildings, the  Tokyo University of Marine Science and the Samezu Sports Park. It feels like Mission Bay in San Francisco, and the UCSF campus where I worked. There is a core of ex-pats floating around the streets, and a Jonathan’s Fast Food Restaurant complete with American food AND Japanese dishes AND Chinese noodles AND Pizza AND Ice Cream AND Wine, etc., etc. If you died here, you’d have gone to Fast-Food Heaven, Japanese-Style.

It was strangely sensational and comforting to know that all these types of food could be found in one establishment. This place could solve any problems with getting the shakes over a fast-food deficiency.

Our foray to stock up on provisions led us to the Aoen Supermarket Basement of the Department Store in the area. It felt like a Ranch 99 gone big-time, hitting the mall in a high-rise scene and grown up with the big boys. The aisles were wide, the shelves well stocked with everything Japanese and Western, and it looked like Moscone Center or a convention center packed with Japanese food.

I felt a bit conflicted with food choices–sashimi with glassy flesh so fresh you could almost see through them; an entire case of seaweed options; and a whole dairy case of varying tofu densities. There were fresh octopus suckers, endless ginger and daikon variations, and rows upon rows of pickled cabbages. How can you decide what to buy when you’re too busy figuring out why you never set eyes on these items to this extent before?

After finally forcing ourselves to make a few decisions for dinner and buying ‘way too much to carry, we dragged our booty back to the apartment. It was only 15 minutes by foot but that’s only easy when you’re not lugging 30 pounds. We dragged our flimsy bags through the door. We savored a simple home-cooked meal of Teriyaki Salmon and salad with lemon dressing.

Speaking of food, we had lunch near Tokyo Station in the G-Zone, where we watched the local chef prepare hand made soba. These are the buckwheat noodles that are famous in Matsumoto. Here are two chef versions, one preparing the dough, and one cutting:

The handsome chef at the end was making and serving his own soba in Kusatsu, the hot springs village we visited earlier last week. When I showed him my video original, he graced my compliment with a shot of the finest iced sake I have ever sipped.

When we passed the Sports Park in Tennozu, we noticed the commotion ahead of us. A baseball game was in full tilt, complete with Little Leaguers in full regalia playing their hearts out. I would like to dedicate this clip to Kanji Hishinuma, my friend Iyoko’s son. He is a baseball fan and follows the American teams on Youtube.

I couldn’t complete the Japanese segment of my trip without mentioning the toilets. The designers of the equipment must be commended. No doubt anyone visiting Japan will remark on the cleanliness and impeccable care and detail of keeping public facilities spotless. Pardon my imprudence over raising this topic for those who might be sensitive or offended, but you cannot overlook the novelty if you come to Japan.

See photos below, left to right:

  1. A child’s booster seat mounted in the corner of the women’s rest room, so women can use the toilet with their babies and toddlers;
  2. An ordinary toilet, with palm-activated flush sensors. The more deluxe and typical versions have squirts for your bottom, warm seats, and, get this: amplified simulated waterfall sounds activated by the water flushing through the system. (Are we being confronted by a toilet fetish here?!?)
  3. Great design for toilets, with beautiful, cleanable surfaces, flush or recess-mounted baby changing stations, and perfectly operable hardware (they always close with a “click” so you know it’s closed!)
  4. Okay, this one’s not in the toilet but a device in a restaurant. Can you guess what it is? My answer will be in the next post!

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