We woke up pretty normally the following morning despite the long flight, lack of sleep and lots of drinking. We had to wait around the apartment to get our luggage delivered before heading out. So we went to a 7/11 nearby. The floor of the 7/11 was immaculate, and there’s so much stuff you can get there! Lots of instant ramen, ready to eat prepared food, candy, household necessities, alcohol, tiny tiny mayonnaise and sauce bottles, hot buns and stuff. Note: Unlike in the U.S. alcohol that comes in a box doesn’t mean that it’s cheap and awful. Anna was happy that you can buy shochu at any convenience store.
There’s a new live-action Yamato movie coming out so there were a bunch of promotional items for it. The American adaptation of course is Star Blazers which features my namesake. When they bagged our items they separated the hot things from the cold things XD. I got a bottle of Regain energy drink so I could be like Solid Snake in MGS4 😛
The wrapped onigiri comes in this amazing packaging. I messed it up a because I broken the label and unwrapped it. I was confused, because the seaweed is in plastic which is then wrapped around the rice ball. Turns out the packaging is designed so that you pull one tab which opens the plastic, then you pull out each side. This way when the plastic is removed the seaweed is then wrapped around the rice ball which means the seaweed is nice and dry when it’s combined with the rice ball. Amazing! We didn’t take photos of us unwrapping one until much later in our trip so I’ll post photos later.
On TV there was some cooking competition. There was a woman who made ano niku, aka “That meat.” She made it with some ground meat which was wrapped in a thin slice of meat all put around a burdock root to simulate the bone. She ended up winning the competition. I also got a bowl of water so I could float my newly acquired one yen coin (they weight exactly 1 gram).
Our luggage finally arrived so we were free to take on Tokyo! I took some photos of the neighborhood like futons hanging out over fences, and the many many bikes. I’m not sure if I saw any bike locks while in Japan. Most of them are side handlebar type bikes, no one wears a helmet and most people don’t use the bell on their bike, they just squeak their brakes T_T
Our first mission was to get our first bowl of ramen! We were going to Numabukuro which was out of our way, but for a good bowl of ramen it’s justified. When we got to the station we had a 15 min walk to the ramen place that Anna’s brother recommended. The street we walked down had a lot of stores. It was more like an outdoor mall complete with music playing through speakers. It was already getting into Christmas season in Japan so we heard plenty of Christmas music.
Finally we arrived at our destination and they were CLOSED! Turns out that they were at the ramen convention going on in Tokyo T_T It’s a big convention where you pay admission and then eat all you can eat. We had seen news coverage of it in the morning but we didn’t think to connect the dots and check ahead. Dammit! Anna quickly emailed her brother asking about another nearby ramen place, and he contacted his ramen expert friend. I was getting pretty hungry and was about ready to just eat anywhere I could find. We walked all the way back to the subway and waited for her brother’s response. In the meantime we browsed around at a pharmacy and a 100 yen store. Finally he replied and gave us the info for the sister restaurant of this ramen place which was one subway stop away.
Japan is hard to navigate even for Japanese people. Most streets have no names so it’s very difficult to give directions without major landmarks. You can find maps here and there but sometimes it’s difficult to interpret them. With no street names you end up counting the number of blocks and praying that all of the streets are actually on the map. Finally we made it, but there was a line in front. At least that’s a good sign that it’s popular. I was reaaaally hungry at this point.
All ramen places in Japan have a vending machine thing that you use to place your order. There are buttons you press for what you want, any sides you want on it, drinks etc. Then the machine prints tickets you give to your waiter. This place was a Tsukemen ramen place which means the noodles are separate from the broth. Despite my hunger I was a little unprepared for it. The broth was VERY THICK! Apparently this ramen place only came to Tokyo recently and it’s very different fron anything in Tokyo. There’s even a sign in the restaurant that says if you don’t enjoy it, they’ll give you your money back because they understand that their ramen is an acquired taste! O_O Only in Japan could a sign like this exist.
It was very good and instantly made my lips stick to each other. The noodles were udon noodles instead of regular ramen noodles so on top of the thick soup there were these big thick and very filling noodles. Noodles were very good and the broth is probably the meatiest and thickest broth I’ve ever had in my life. Also it had an egg that I didn’t realize until I cut it open that it was actually kind of soft boiled on the inside. Seems like most ramen places in Japan have this kind of egg in their ramen. I usually eat the egg last because I love eggs, but this one I had to eat really slowly because I was so full.
I felt bad that I couldn’t finish everything despite being so hungry before going in. Anna finished even less than I did but agreed that it was still good ramen. Definitely a very unique flavor worth checking out. It doesn’t seem likely you’ll find something like this in the U.S. but who knows? When we left, the owner came outside to talk to us. We were confused, maybe she was worried we didn’t like it because we had so much leftover? Turns out she was kind of shocked to see me using my large DSLR camera and wanted to know if we enjoyed the noodles or not. We explained that I review food on my blog and gave her the URLs to our websites. I think they’re very very conscious of how people will react to their unique tsukemen restaurant.
Then we were off to Shibuya! First stop was the statue of Hachiko the loyal dog who used to come every day to the train station to meet his owner even many years long after he had died. A very sad story 😥 Shibuya is famous for its buildings and its positively INSANE crosswalk. I have no idea how many people cross this thing when the lights change but it’s a staggering experience. The nerdy part of me was looking specifically for buildings featured in the Square Enix RPG “The World Ends With You” which takes place in Shibuya.
Next we went to Mandarake which is known for its vast amount of otaku goods from figures to manga, doujinshi and just about anything you can name. I don’t watch nearly as much anime as I used to and I don’t really collect doujinshi so this place wasn’t actually as exciting as it might’ve been years ago. It was more interesting just to see how huge the place was and the wealth of otaku merchandise there. It’s in a deep basement so it looks sketchy as you go down all the stairs. I bought some cute looking Moyashimon doujinshi. There was a new doujinshi with a very pained looking watercolor Batman. The title was “Fix me.” 😐 I was constantly referencing it during our whole trip in Christian Bale Batman voice (no we didn’t buy it).
Then we went to Tokyu Hands which is a “Creative Life Store.” It’s a little hard to describe this place. Basically they sell everything. It’s huge, several floors with many sub sections. There’s sooooo much stuff here and we didn’t even explore the whole place. There’s hardware, housewares, cooking supplies, bento stuff, toys (some Totoro stuff), stuff you’d find at Canal Plastics, crafty stuff and just about anything you’d need to make everything. I imagine this place is a cosplayer’s supply store with its bountiful raw materials. The cooking section was cool because there were so many obscure ingredients I don’t think you’d ever find at an American supermarket. Stuff like egg white powder?
From there we walked to Harajuku. The walk from Shibuya I think took 20-30 minutes and the streets were quite dark. If we were anywhere but Japan I would’ve been extremely anxious walking down those streets. Harajuku is known for its clothing stores and also delicious crepes! It was funny when we’d see some horrible looking clothes and then a Japanese girl would go up to it exclaiming to her friend how cute and fashionable it looked. We got a crepe with strawberry ice cream and strawberries. The crepe was a nice and fluffy, but also crispy. Yum!
We walked for a while along what looked like the equivalent of 5th avenue with its numerous designer fashion stores. We were looking for Kiddyland but couldn’t seem to find its temporary location. Turned out we missed the side street, but we found it on the way back. In front you can see Elmo holding hands with Hello Kitty. Inside it was just cute overload. Tons of Elmo and Hello Kitty, Moomins, and also the “World of Golden Eggs” version of several Disney characters. Chip and Dale especially look very weird in this style. And… TOTORO!!! Oh my god so much Totoro and Studio Ghibli stuff! There was so much in one corner I couldn’t process it. Usually the most Totoro stuff I’ll see in one place can be seen on one shelf, but here when I was looking at one shelf there was even more in my peripheral vision.
It took me a little bit to calm down and then slowly go through every tiny little thing on every shelf. There were plush toys, figures, face towels, planters, statues, keychains, cell phone danglies, clocks, calendars, eco bags and just AAAAAAAAA!!! I realized from this trip that there’s no anime merchandise that makes me lose my shit like Studio Ghibli stuff. Soooooooo cute. We ended up buying some eco bags. One is shaped like a Makkurokurosuke and the other like corn. They’re all designed so that the bag they’re held in is part of the bag. Cute and useful is the ultimate combination! The other thing killing me was that it was all so cheap!
Despite the utterly wretched exchange rate the prices for many things were 50% what I’m used to seeing them go for. Plush toys definitely half price, and also figures and statue things which I’m used to see start at $40 started around $20 or 1600-1800¥.
After we bought our eco bags I was so dead tired. My feet were aching from all the walking and I think around 8pm I was crashing hard from exhaustion and also jet lag. I got some new shoes recently for this trip, but I don’t think they’re very good walking shoes, they’re designed to kind of work your calves more than normal shoes. Not the Sketchers shape-ups but probably similar intention.
We ended up getting MOS Burger at the station by the apartment. MOS Burger was one of the restaurants on my list and it didn’t disappoint. We got two orders of “large” fries. The “small” must seriously be like, six fries.
I went to bed and was instantly out. But Day 3 would be one of the most unforgettable experiences on our entire trip. The Ghibli Museum! My post for Day 3.
For the rest of my pictures go look at my Flickr set for Day 2! I have lots more comments on the photos in that set.