Japan, part 3

Been a bit longer on writing this than I expected (I meant to write it over a week ago) but life happened and we started to go to weekly bar trivia (if you don’t know me, I am both a huge fan of bar trivia and also surprisingly good at it). But anyways, The final 5 days of our trip we spent in Tokyo, which is probably my favorite city in the whole world. No other city offers the stuff that Tokyo has, the public transit system, the variety of culture/style, the food (oh the food), gah. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back. When it is stated that Tokyo is the largest city in the world, it is not an exaggeration (I have also been to many of the largest, Tokyo is on its own level).

We got into Tokyo after a 2 hour ride on the shinkansen, which is an awesome way to travel. It required no security check, no hour wait to stand in line to board, no taxiing around the runway, no turbulence, just a casual climb to the platform, sit down on in your seats, and get off when the train pulls in. It had a nice view (sadly the pictures sucked, as trying to get a shot while stuck on a train going at least 150 mph does not give many good photos. But it was great, we arrived at Tokyo station and then just transferred to the line that took us to Harajuku (where we were staying). We were going to meet one of Kim’s high school classmates who is working in Tokyo teaching english to salarymen for work. It is always nice going to places with people who speak the native language and getting to eat the stuff that is just not possible when you can’t communicate properly with the people. Before we met up, we checked out (what I found out is one of many) Sakura-dori (or cherry blossom street) which had a ton of sakura trees in bloom (guess Tokyo beat Kyoto to the sakura bloom finish line).

sakura blossoms on sakura-dori

The next day, we were going to meet one of Kim’s old high school friends, Lily. She now works for Orbitz, so we had to catch her for her lunch break while at work. It was nice for Kim to talk to her again, as they have not been in much communication since high school ended and life happened. They talked for a while and then Lily had to go back to work. So we walked off to ameyoko street, which is this long shopping street where we walked around looking for stuff, I wanted to get some more loose leaf tea, but none of what I saw seemed desirable. We then ended up at Ueno park, which was filled with people checking out all of the sakura blooms. This is called hanami and is kind of insane how crowded and ridiculous it was. The views were awesome however and I took a lot of pictures. I dragged Kim around a lot longer than she probably wanted to so that I could look for another good picture.

ueno crowds gather for hanami

I then dragged Kim down to kappabashi-dori, which is a street lined with restaurant supply stories. It is an area often referred as “kitchen town”. I was hunting for a nice Japanese steel knife. The walk was further than I remember, but we went looking through various shops and ended up getting a nice sized, filet style chef’s knife (it is pretty thick for chopping meat, which compliments my ceramic knife well) along with some wooden rice bowls and a pair of long cooking chopsticks.

The next day, we were going to get lunch at this ramen shop in Tokyo station. We had heard about it from watching Mind of a Chef and found out it was supposed to be some of the best tsukemen ramen in the city. Tsukemen is just a style of ramen where the broth is very thick, but the noodles are served separately and are supposed to be dipped in. This allows for the noodles to be cool and the broth to be much stronger. This ramen was easily the best I have ever eaten. It was just so delicious and awesome. I got a large and just shoveled the whole thing down. I can not describe just how awesome it was, but if you are ever in Tokyo, you must go to this place and eat these noodles.

We then ventured to the sake brewers plaza (we went here last time we were in Tokyo) and did the tasting deal where we could spend 5 bucks to try 5 different sakes they were offering. We each picked a variety and tried them, deciding to get a bottle of one of the ones we liked. We ventured around the city some and then ended up hanging around Shinagawa to meet two of Kim’s friends from high school. It was raining pretty hard so we ended up in a pachinko parlor where we easily blew a few bucks trying to figure out what the hell the game is about and how to play. It would be interesting to burn a few bucks each week until you figure out how to really play and then see what sorts of winning you can get. We ended up getting some Chinese food with her friends and chatting for a while. They had to get home though so they could go to work the next day.

Our final day, we went to this sushi place in Shinjuku that we went to a number of times the last time we stayed and it was surprising how much it had changed. We then went to Shibuya and explored the area around there, doing some shopping and such. Eventually we went to an izakaya for dinner where we could make all of our orders via this wireless tablet. So we just decided when we wanted some food, found the items on the tablet, and a bit later, the food would show up (so did the beer :D). If something like this existed in the US, I would never go anywhere else (exaggerating, kind of). The next day we packed up and headed to the train to eventually fly back to Chicago and real life again.