Thursday, May 21, 2015

Doing It All

The NY Times has a travel series called 36 Hours In (fill in the city).  We did all the 36 Hours In Tokyo things - in 8 hours.  With Miyuki, our intrepid guide (why are guides always intrepid?  I suppose if they're not intrepid they are insipid - or lost.  Out of business.)  And we did it by Train. Taxi.  Monorail.  Jinrickshaw.  Canal boat.  And a lot of walking.  

Without Miyuki we would still be wandering the subway.  
It's not just the trains, with thirteen main lines, or the ticket machines with instructions in Japanese.  It's the stairs up and down to change platforms (or to find your platform in the first place), the sinuous tile-lined tunnels that look like MC Escher drawings, the banks of escalators rising into the air in all different directions, the rivers of bobbing heads scurrying along...and just as you are congratulating yourself on getting on the right train and off at the proper stop, you see the dozens of exits, with arrows pointing in all directions, all with different numbers and letters and strange-sounding names that at this point mean nothing.  And you realize getting off at the right stop is only the beginning. 

Even Miyuki occasionally had to ask which exit from the station to take, and she lives here.  She led us down some narrow walkways precariously close to oncoming trains to get to our exits.  If you take the wrong exit, God help you; exits can be blocks from each other.  You may need a taxi.

In the morning the train was not crowded:
 But by afternoon things were a little different.  All calm and orderly.  It got a lot more crowded as we went along, but I couldn't get my arm up to take a photo.

Highlights: The Meiji Shrine:

Where the spirit of the dead Emperor and Empress are enshrined.  Popular place for baptisms (saw lots of babies but took no photos - it would have been too weird) and weddings (didn't see any brides, just school kids).  No qualms about photographing them; they are i-photoing constantly.

Take a boat along the Sumida river and down into Tokyo harbor- it's a completely different perspective on the city.  Check out the tsunami gates - Good luck with that.

Go to Tokyo Sky View - Tokyo makes New York look like a village.  Sorry New Yorkers.  Sad but true.  Dense as far as the eye can see.  Best guess: 38 million people in the greater metropolitan area (for you nitpickers who will come up with a smaller number and neglect to mention that it's for the city proper only).  Who can tell where the city proper ends?  There are high rises to the horizon in every direction.  And don't get me started on the traffic.  
As long as we were there - 52 floors up atop the Mori tower - we went to the Mori Museum.  And the Star Wars exhibit.  Weird to hear Han Solo speaking Japanese - I expected it from Yoda.

My favorite piece was thin fabric and fans, the fabric billowing and twisting, rising and falling.  Cannot remember the name of the artist, but the exhibit was about forms and was soothing, thought provoking, cool and elegant.
A few more memories from our madcap tour:
No, silly, that's not our jinrickshaw driver - that's Miyuki. 

At the Asakusa shrine, girls rent kimonos for their visit.  Have lunch at a noodle shop on a side street.  Get your fortune told at the temple (this involves shaking sticks and paper slips).  If your fortune is bad, tie it to the temple and leave it behind.  The smoke from all the incense in supposed to cure what ails you, and if nothing ails you, it's good for that too.  Holy Smoke, Miuki says.  
And some restaurant recommendations for your next trip to Roppongi:

Gonpachi for sushi - make a reservation for the third floor; you can't get sushi on the first two floors.  Altho they are very picturesque...but the third floor has a lovely garden.  And did I mention the sushi? This is where Dubya and Shinzo Abe dined.  Sushi here is smaller, fresher, and sweeter, not soft and mushy and too big for one bite - like ours at home.  A revelation.

Seryna Restaurant for sukiyaki or shabu-shabu.   Great people watching - the designer clothes, the handbags, the manners and family dynamics.

And Atelier Joel Robuchon in a weird underground warren attached to the Roppongi train station.  
Green beans with caviar and gold leaf, wasabi cream and grated hard-boiled egg...
Foie Gras on risotto with the most delicious vinegar-butter-cabernet reduction to balance the richness...
 And the unbelievably tender Wagyu beef.  
 Wally said it was as rich and tender as my foie gras.  Since he tasted both, he would know.

Off to rest up for our next meal.  

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