x every day: Japan day 4

10 April 2008

Yesterday we went to the Ghibli Museum, which knocks the pants off and then spanks anything Disney's come up with. I don't have the wherewithal right now to describe it, but it was quite a jaunt out of Tokyo on the train, and then a nice walk through a park. The museum itself is a fanciful building with odd staircases, a lovely roof garden, a recreation of Miyazaki's studio, and a real catbus! The sad part is that only elementary school kids and younger were allowed to play on it. I watched them for a while and lived vicariously.

We were all exhausted when we returned to the hotel, so we split up for a few hours to pursue our own sights. Erik and I went into the walled cemetery next to our hotel, which we had a lovely view into from our 8th floor room (we could see cats patrolling the pathways and leaping onto stones). There was too much to describe-- family seals, gorgeous stones, miniature gardens, flowers, flat wooden posts with vertical writing stacked into slots at the back of each plot. The sound of those posts clacking in the wind stirred a deep memory that I still haven't quite placed. The caretaker found us and hand-signalled that he was about to close up, so we quickly left.

Next we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which isn't quite as boring as it sounds. We were looking at a map on the street, comparing it to our tourist map, for quite a while, and a man came up to help us find our way. He walked us all the way there, which took about 15 minutes at a fast clip. The draw of the building is its 45th floor observation lounge, which was mostly an odd toy store.

Back down on the ground, we decided to head for the largest camera store and a Uniqlo we had seen quite a few times walking around east Shinjuku. We stopped at a coffeeshop, where I had a black sesame soy latte, right off the menu. It was an odd purple concoction that tasted like a peanutbutter-ish hot chocolate (without the chocolate). It had three round purple marshmallows floating on top, which I tried to spoon all out. Everyone was worried about me being able to eat in Japan, and some of it has been a bit difficult. Not being able to read ingredients lists at all has given me a bit of slack. I'm just doing my best, which has gotten better.

Erik and I just couldn't find Uniqlo, but we found the camera store, Yodiboshi (?). It was dull after Akihabara. We continued the wandering, hurrying to meet the others back at the hotel at 7pm. Finally, almost back to the hotel, we saw a different Uniqlo, one that we had passed a ton of times. Oh well.

Now I've got to speed up, so I can go use the onsen at the ryoken we're staying at tonight (day 5)!

For dinner, we wanted sushi. Asked at the hotel for a conveyor belt place, but it was too crowded for our group of five. These places are all tiny, seating 10-20 max. We wandered around trying to decide what to do. Saw another one, which was also pretty full. Wandered through this rad back alley with yakitori and other grilled things. We ended up back around by the second sushi place, and I saw, almost magically, that there were five stools in a row. We have a fabulous dinner, and Erik tried-- and liked-- a ton of crazy sea creatures. It was the best sushi any of us had ever eaten.

Ventured into our first department store for the Uniqlo we passed earlier. I found the bento box of my dreams, but Erik was really disappointed in Uniqlo's current crop of tshirts.

From there we walked around the entertainment district, trying to find a place Josh and Tiffany had been to earlier in the evening. I got tired of the blazing lights and screeching sounds, but we finally came upon the Taiko drum game of which Tiffany was so enamored, and it was awesome. We overstayed the place, for me, but finally took off for the Golden Gai, where we had picked a few bars from our guidebook as being gaijin-friendly. We ended up at Bon's American Bar, which was bigger than most. 500 yen ($5) cover, and we ended up buying two bottles of sake and telling stories and doing a couple of round-robin drawings on napkins. Then we got our bill-- 13700 yen. Yowz! It turns out that what we thought was the cost of the bottle (1300y) was the corkage fee. And drinks were only available by the bottle. At any rate, it was worth it. We stumbled home and went to sleep.