Ginza at Night. Or a scene from Blade Runner.
Still trying to figure out our groove between getting the kids out the door (biggest challenge to date), sightseeing, and planning for the cities later in the trip. It hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns. Just when we think we are not doing too much, the kids want to do less. I get it. There is a lot going on and they want to chill. Our friends, the Polas, did a year long trip a few years back and they reminded us that we will be coming from a completely structured life to a completely unstructured one- so we need do decide how much structure we should add. Still a work in progress.
Tokyo-the last couple days in Tokyo were pretty cool-we seemed to be getting into the swing of things, navigating the subways, figuring out where to go, etc. On day 4 we hired a guide named Tomoko from toursbylocals.com (thanks for the heads up Chris Glubka) and she was great. It was nice to not have to worry about where to go and have someone translate things for us, especially the food with the girl’s allergies. The best part was just chillin with her at a tiny, local restaurant and asking her questions. We learned a lot from her – meals in bento boxes are generally more expensive, different styles of Japanese food, Tokyo taxis are 30% more expensive after 10:00pm, etc.
The Girls with our guide Tomoko
I’m getting more comfortable speaking some basic Japanese, enough to at least show some effort. For full disclosure I did take a quarter of basic Japanese my first quarter freshman year in college, which was my worst academic experience by far. I basically almost flunked out. What was I thinking taking that class my first 3 months in college? I was hungover half the time. But I digress. Since I did take the class and I look the most Japanese in the the group, I’m the guy that asks for directions (doko des ka? Where is —?), asks for the bill at dinner (Okanjo o kudasai?), finds the bathroom (Toy-re wa doko des ka? The old lady sitting next to me on the subway had a good chuckle when I was practicing that out loud), and excuse me (sumimasen). I’m cool with it. Every once in a while, though, someone busts out in full on machine gun Japanese to me and I just listen and say wakaremasen- which means I almost flunked out of Japanese and I have no clue what your are saying (roughly).
Regarding Japanese food-let’s just say I am working on my dad bod. I am also basically screwed. Japan has ruined me. I’ve had this feeling before. The summer after I graduated from high school I had my first Guinness beer. At a bar in Dublin. Every Guinness I’ve had since hasn’t come close. I still remember it. It was flat, un-carbonated. It was pitch black with a creamy head. For a kid from southern Cal that drank wine coolers (Don’t judge me, Bartles and Jaymes was big back then) and weak light beer, it was a revelation. I thought – give me 10 of these immediately.
The funny thing is we haven’t had that much sushi. The girls really aren’t into raw fish, so it’s been other types of Japanese food. Tonkatsu is one- a real thick piece of high quality pork with a light crunchy outer layer served with rice and julienned cabbage with an insanely good sauce. Another Guinness moment. Yakitori is another. We found an 80 year old yakitori place in Ginza. And I mean found- it took about 30 minutes to find the place. Good luck with addresses in Japan-you might as well be on Mars. The place was actually THE oldest yakatori place in Ginza- Ginza Torishige. I mean, its just barbecued chicken parts, why was it so damned good? It’s the simple stuff that has been so good. “I wish I could export chicken to the U.S.,” said the owner. “It’s better than Tyson.” That night it was kinda tough to argue. And that wasn’t the 3 shots of 17 year old Japanese whisky talking.
Now that’s Tonkatsu.
Yakitori. Mushrooms wrapped with Duck, Chicken Skin, Chicken with green onions.
Japanese strangeness (con’t):
Instead of a coat check, an umbrella check.
Buy some cheese, get a little frozen packet to keep it cool on the way home.
Ear wax removal service. I guess that’s a thing.
Anti bacterial escalator handrail. Am I being punked?
Public smoking room.
The amount of times I hear Arigato Gozaimas (Thank You) when we leave a restaurant or store. The over/under is 10.
We are currently in Kyoto. Next stop is Osaka.