Saturday for lunch Kris, Molly, Danner, Jen and I went out for sushi at a local place that was both cheap and delicious. We’ve been told that you shouldn’t get sushi on weekends because there are no fresh fish deliveries, but if you go Saturday morning/lunch the fish is still quite fresh and there are good deals. My chirashi (bowl o’ raw fish over rice) had a mystery pink substance in it which looked a little like crumbly pink cotton candy, and tasted quite sweet. We later found the same stuff at the grocery store… still not sure what it is.
After lunch Jen and I had adventures in Softbank (iphone monopoly in Japan) and by adventures I mean we sat for a long time trying to understand the contract and filling out paperwork. But magic phone acquired!!
On the way home we wandered a bit to play with the map app (“look at the blue dot! it’s us! it moves when we move!!” we’re very easily entertained). On the way we came across a very stern sign warning against pole vaulting. (Kidding, kidding. Jen says that it says you shouldn’t climb the wall. I like my interpretation better.)
Shortly after that we discovered mosquito-shrine. If it has another name we didn’t stick around long enough to discover it…
At any rate, everything in Tokyo is tiny. Which is odd, because it’s such a big city. But I took it upon myself, and my new iphone photo capabilities to capture these, the world’s smallest asparagus spears, for you, dear reader. (For reference look at neighboring baby corn.)
I do have a bit of a gandalf in the shire complex here. (I just heard a number of you yell ‘geeeeeeeeeek’ all the way across the ocean.) I take a look at some of the aisles in the grocery store and detour to something with fewer precipitous items waiting to rain down on unsuspecting passersby who happen to be taller/wider than your average toothpick.
But moving right along! Today we parbroiled ourselves in the Hibiya and Imperial Palace East Gardens! Hibiya is a park with gardens/fountains/etc. to the south of the palace. We didn’t stay long because there was a festival (get to that in a moment) where some dude was doing something that sounded distressingly like j-pop meets yodeling. We did make a round of the festival out of curiosity and discovered, to our amusement that we had unwittingly wandered into the heart of a bus festival.
Oh happy day! Real, live (well….) painted buses, small collectible buses, inflatable bouncy buses. It was really almost too much for our sensitive little souls to handle.
To recover from this sort of excitement, we went hunting for some sort of nourishment, available at the festival in the form of fried noodles, fried noodles, fried noodles, or… ChocoBanana!!! With sprinkles no less. Our bus perusing had made us quite ravenous so we savaged the chocobanana and then moved on to the rest of the park.
Next we crossed over to the imperial palace gardens where decorum (and quite a lot of guards on all the bridges to the palace proper) required that we tone things down a little. The palace itself isn’t open to the public since the royal family still lives there (although you can get tours sometimes) but the gardens/old fortifications are.
The walls are enormous — high, thick, massive rocks coming up out of the moats (which were a little stagnant unfortuntaely). And walking into the gardens you go through one gate (and past the accompanying guard house, historically manned with samurai) after another.
One of the things that I love about Tokyo is the mix of old and new. You get a beautiful old building in a sweet little garden right in front of a steel and glass skyscraper.
It’s hard to imagine them building these walls in the old days (they’d slide the massive rocks along seaweed to move them) and some of the walls have had some modern assistance, but a number of these walls have lasted incredibly well in a country so prone to earthquakes.
The building you see across the bridge there is part of the palace, and this spot is called something like double bridge I believe (it’s hard to see in this photo, but there are two bridges there behind me.)
Everybody takes a picture here, and there are some beautiful paintings etc of this spot in the snow. Fortunately it’s really close to our house, so when you come to visit you will have your own chance to take enough photos to annoy all your hapless, jealous relatives. 🙂
Luckily it wasn’t too muggy today, but it was still very hot, and the garden/plaza where we were standing was like a gas-fire grill on my skin. I find that I’ve been getting really sunburned here, not because of the weather particularly, but because you walk everywhere in Tokyo, so I spend a lot more time out in the sun. (This is a fairly strong statement — I used to walk a fair amount in DC as well.)
A section of the gardens also have some nice free museums, so we went to see some traditional Japanese art (partially to take advantage of the AC). We wandered up to the top of the hill to where the historic palace stood before it was destroyed. We stayed until closing (at least that’s what we think they were saying over the PA system) then wandered out and hopped on a train.
For dinner we went to a dumpling place called Din Tai Fung. Jen says they’re a taiwanese chain that’s all over asia, but all I know is that it was delicious. Their specialty is a dumpling with soup inside that you put in a spoon, poke a hole in the side so it doesn’t pop boiling liquid in your mouth, put some ginger with soy and vinegar on the top, and then down the hatch! Amazing. We also got some sort of spicy shrimp and pork ones that had a beautiful rich sauce, and some green veggie ones that were incredibly fresh. They had a delicious spinach and garlic salad that we nearly swallowed whole, and we also ordered steam buns, but they didn’t measure up to the ones Molly made on the night we arrived. Then after dinner we wanted ice cream, and a neighboring place promised just that! Alas it was super bitter green-tea ice cream only… Jen swears that it’s not always that disgusting, but this stuff was really foul. So sunburnt, exhausted, with a slightly weird taste in our mouths, we returned home to realize (with a fair deal of shock) that it wasn’t even 8 pm yet.