Day 5

Friday April 4 2014     

It’s my brother’s birthday today – happy birthday Al!

Today has been an odd day. We had such a full on day yesterday with the super early start and some sake or five that I really didn’t want to get up this morning. Mind you, the tatami mats that we are sleeping on aren’t exactly comfort central.

After the Tsukiji fish market tour we came home and slept for 5 hours (well I did) before attempting the second half of the day. We had a yummy lunch next door at the Sobateria. I had the spring special of cold soba, tempura vegetables (not all of which I recognise) with a dipping sauce. Afterwards hot soba water is brought out to mix with the dipping sauce which then becomes a light soup. This was very much the experience of soba I had been seeking. In my mind, it is traditional and I felt vindicated by the four older, immaculately attired japanese women sitting at the table next to us who all ordered the same dish as I. Steve had soba in a hot broth (possibly dashi) with crispy fried chicken. He was satiated also.

After lunch we wandered around some more exploring different parts of Asakusa. The sake bar, which is also a liscened bottle shop,  was our first stop in the evening. Hoppy St, also locally known as ‘stew st’ was our final dining destination. Wow- what a place!

It was one of the few areas where I’d seen restaurants tout for your business. The restaurants are tiny places that extend directly onto the street and when it rains, as it did last night, heavy plastic curtains are lowered and secured with any weighty object to hand.

So there we were under some type of ad hoc cover on a table next to 2 very rambunctious fellows having a great time. Offal soup, horse sashimi, grilled chicken gizzard and pigs feet terrine – OMG! I felt very Anthony Bourdain. And in true Anthony Bourdain style things did go downhill….in a good way. Some more beer and sake and shochu and sleep came very easily.

Unsurprisingly, today was much more low-key. We started slowly with some tea and coffee at a cafe/gallery a few streets away. Tea here is served cold and black or hot, milky and sweet – I chose the latter. Gallery ef is situated in a building that was built in 1868 and has survived fires, earthquakes and war. It’s very serene, dark, shoes off, minimalist, calm, shiny lacquered floors kind of place. It was a very moving experience.

One thing that I’ve learnt is that I should have brought more business cards with me. Good thing to know for next time. After the gallery visit, we strolled down to an incredible stationery store. Again, it was a sanctuary. The Japanese people as a culture value stationery, ceramics and fabrics far more so than western societies. It’s delightful. I share these passions also.
Luckily Steve is happy to indulge this apart of me. I’ve learnt a lot about being with Steve this trip. He’s very good for me. He understands the many sides of me and sometimes knows what I need even if I have yet to perceive it myself.

Upon leaving the stationery store – Kakimori – we had a trashy lunch of snacks from Lawson (the convenience store with more) whilst sitting overlooking the Sumida river. some major queuing was then necessary to purchase tickets for a cruise down said river to Hama Rikyu gardens which is just past Tsukiji fish market by the top of the Tokyo bay. after a brief walk around the muddy paths viewing the 300 year old pine tree we cruised back to Asakusa just in time for a freak, short but sharp hail storm to dampen our clothes but not our spirits.

A wander around the Sakura beer garden (after hours in an amusement park) was essentially  waste of effort but you don’t know til you go. It could have been a really cool, hip place to eat and drink but the lack of patronage made it all appear just a little sad and dull.

Oops – I forgot our trip to a bizarre store called Don Quijote. Think cheap nasty meets nice department store – food hall included. We bought a range of things – trashy snack foods including shelf stable’ camembert’ cheese, multi pack of groovy socks for Steve, USB connection heated pillows, Hello Kitty pez for the girls. Odd and lots of fun. Our dinner by comparison  was pretty low key. Kamamishi – rice and other bits cooked in a pot served with a strong miso. Again, just what I needed.