Keeping Us Fed

Path Through the Gingkos

Last weekend we had a busy few days full of good (and some not so good) food and friends (mostly good ones on that score!) We had a slow start Friday, despite intentions to go explore “meat man” a restaurant establishment just up the street which seems to sell…. meat (meat on a stick, to be precise) we ended up doing takeout indian for dinner and collapsed early. Jen was working late most nights last week (so has a real excuse for laziness) …which meant I was washing lots of dishes, which I find exhausting. Blame it on the dishes, they’re evil creatures in any country.

Festival Food!

However, Saturday we took off for the Ginkgo Festival in Aoyama, which is basically a massive food festival, where you go stall to stall trying the various festival-food options. My favorites were some grilled mochi balls, and an okonomiyaki on a stick. The festival is huge, and offers everything from oysters to noodles to german sausage. Traditional festival food includes steam buns, anything possible to mount on a stick and grill (meat, fish, the aforementioned okonomiyaki, and various mystery-battered-objects), fried rice balls, and of course fried noodles. This festival also had a lot of non-Japanese options (Indian, Korean, Thai, German) and a lot of soup (it was chilly).

Yum Mochi Balls

We tried one thing that turned out to be some sort of double-fried fish cake wrapped around cheese on a stick. It was disgusting. Not sure whether that’s any sort of traditional delicacy or what, but eww. I won’t repost the pictures Jen had up from last time, but you can see me in the last post with my okonomiyaki, and jen with her fish-on-a-stick.

Avenue of Gingkos

The festival is mostly food, which is unusual. But it seems to be in celebration of the height of the ginkgo tree’s foliage season. It’s held at the end of an avenue double-lined with the trees (pruned so that they’re almost christmas tree shaped) and was prime people- as well as leaf-peeping territory. There were also a ton of dogs dressed to the nines — but Jen is planning an upcoming post on that so I’ll just keep dropping little adverts for it. Molly, Kris, Danner and Kahlua discovered, however, that to enter the main part of the festival grounds you have to be carrying your dog — no walking it in on a leash. For most Japanese folks this isn’t a problem since their dogs tend to be purse-sized (and frequently occupy that spot in a lady’s wardrobe), but Kahlua is half pit-bull and half boxer, and is a largish, solid, heavy dog. Although I still wonder whether anybody would have said anything had Kris tossed her over a shoulder and tried to walk in.

Ueno (where the southeast asian grocery was)

After the festival we had a bit of a walk (where Jen discovered the fox cabal, or whatever she’s calling it). Then that evening we were out again with the Lesbian Taiko Posse! (LTP) Although they prefer the monicker 6GM (6 girls meeting) on the premise that it sounds like an important policy-setting international conference. LTP is composed of my taiko sensei, her partner, two other women that do taiko with her in another group, and then Jen and I. We went to an “American Wine Bar” in a very trendy area, and had a really nice dinner (although Jen said that we seemed to be alarming our neighbors). Just a really nice group of people (two Japanese, one South African/Aussie, one Brit, two Americans) and we have plans to continue the adventures of LTP in the new year.

After dinner, we went to the park behind to see one of the light shows that are so popular all over Tokyo. I admit, I was a little dubious that it could measure up to the hype, but it was really awesome. Jen took a video and I posted it here.

Strawberries on a Stick!

On Sunday the ambassador’s holiday party was held at his house. Jen’s been there before but I had not — it’s a beautiful house, as you’d expect, with a nice garden. Apparently previous years they’ve had trouble with children falling in the fountains, but no such luck this year. Anyway, it was a bit formal and stiff (when you party with all the other important hubbedy-hubs from the embassy the most risque it gets is when someone’s 3 year old tries to hide under mommy’s skirt) and the food was unexpectedly not at all good. But it was otherwise a nice event.

Today, after Japanese, I went out to Ueno with Elaine and Leafi (I’m not sure how to spell it actually, sounds like le-a-pi, but jen tells me it’s got an f instead of a p). Elaine arrived in Japan about the same time we did, and is Malaysian. She found a great southeast asian grocery store, and so Leafi (who is Cambodian, married to Jen’s boss’s boss) and I tagged along. We all had a lot of fun, and I went a little nuts and bought two absolutely massive tubs of curry paste, lime leaves, chilies, steam bread, coconut water, a green papaya, rice paper… I decided not to purchase any of the many varieties of chicken bits (little chicken-butt tails, actual chicken anus, chicken feet, chicken ovaries, chicken neck…) or any of the still alive crabs, razor clams, eels, etc. Awesome source of the southeast asian groceries though, and a fun trip which included fruit on a stick and some abomination on a custard-fish which I refused to eat.

Southeast Asian Groceries

This evening I made Chicken Marbella, which is a favorite recipe (chicken baked with prunes, olives, brown sugar, wine…) with a Japanese cabbage salad (raw cabbage with just a little sesame oil, salt, and dried seaweed), so a little east meets west. We are catsitting (again. everybody hears we are missing our kitties and they conveniently leave town offering their own furballs for love and affection 😉 so we went and did a little feline socializing (sometimes preferable to the human variety) and now somehow it’s almost midnight again!

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4 Responses to Keeping Us Fed

  1. JB Gardner says:

    Tara, How can you do all that food tasting and not get fat as a butter ball? We, in turn are not getting fatter but not losing much either. One of the tasty treats we ‘ve had of late has been the two little packets of cookies that came from a favorite grand daughter. We could see what it was so took off the plastic wrap–good, but what was it? All the other goodies were wrapped so they will wait till Christmas for their unveiling! Those ginko trees and the light shows were really something!! So thanks for the packages of things and we hope you get one from NH. Lots of love to you both. Grampa and DeeDee

  2. Alice says:

    I have a question: I hear that in Japan it is impolite to eat or drink while walking, so why would they serve so much on sticks? Seems to encourage impoliteness…

    • Tara says:

      It is an odd conflict — at the festivals, there are tables set up, so you go get your food, and then stand at a table to eat your food. But its more of a problem with the vending machines that are everywhere — they have drinks but also snacks and other things, and they’re all over the place, and yet you’re not supposed to eat or drink in the street. It’s odd. I don’t know how the Japanese handle it. I tend to find a corner, chug my drink, and move on. Or I just get comfortable with being rude!

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