In the ‘hood

Epic storms of warm water.

Lightning collageAn homage to my Thunder Bay roots. I’m not from there but both my parents are and much of my extended family lives there. They would LOVE the thunderstorms here. This is the second one we’ve had in the last few days and they are loud. Loud enough to make the house shake and the windows rattle. The lightning is blinding…check out the blurry photos. The ones that look light daylight are lightning flashes. Epic. Luckily the very kind man from the restaurant (MILAN, Italian place down the road…lucky we didn’t go far) lent us an umbrella…not that it really helped. My flip-flop fell off as we were crossing the road and it nearly floated away. The puddles are warm like bath water.

A little slice of Milan…three minutes away

Yummy pizza watched by the fish with eyeballs on the top left :-(

Yummy pizza watched by the fish with eyeballs on the top left 😦

Sooo…wasn’t feeling much like raw fish last night so we went looking for something different. Not Japanese. There’s a lot of Japanese food that is deep-fried and/or served on top of noodles with oddly, an egg on top. The eggs aren’t always totally cooked, in my experience anyway. This is a big yuk factor for me. I saw a little place just around the corner that looked good…homemade food, not deep-fried and no raw eggs. It was closed. Deep sadness.

Karis saw a place across the street and it was open so we headed over as there was a massive thunderstorm about to erupt. Which is how we ended up at Milano. Glass of prosecco for 300Y (about $3.25) plus full-on Italian style pizza baked in a brick oven for 500Y. We assumed the pizza would be about the size of a side plate for that price. Nope. They were the size of what we would consider a small pizza i.e. bigger than a side plate! The only miss of the night was the bruschetta. Nicely toasted bread, garlic, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and inexplicably, small white fish with eyeballs. We both tried them…they didn’t really taste like much but the eyeballs got to us. Pizza = HUGE win. Fish with eyeballs = Won’t be doing that again!

I even managed to get my leftover pizza ‘to go’ (o mochi kaeru)!

Old Men on Sunday morning

Horse racing menI was heading to my long-awaited pedicure this morning in Harajuku walking along Meiji-dori to Shibuya station when I noticed something odd: scores of older men walking purposefully away from the station. When I say purposefully, I mean with intent. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Some obviously retired blue-collar workers. Others perhaps ‘salarymen’ and a few old drunks clutching their jars of sake or plastic bottles of Jim Beam. All with newspapers and most with the ubiquitous Japanese man-purse or zippered pouch. I followed them. It was just after 9am and I figured I had a bit of time (only had to go one stop on the Yamanote Line) to get to Harajuku by 10am. They were streaming towards a place called WINS. I figured it was some sort of casino or pachinko parlour (weird Japanese pinball game that I still haven’t figured out) but there was no music or flashing lights which are always found with pachinko. Anyway, I didn’t have time to actually go inside, not that I would have as there was nary a female in sight.
Fast forward to my lovely pedicure with Minami at Boudoir Tokyo’s first bi-lingual salon. We’re chatting away and it turns out she lives in my neighbourhood so I asked her about the old men heading to WINS. She was puzzled at first but then understanding dawned. “Horses,” she said. “They play, you know, for money. Racing.” Ah yes, it all became clear. The newspapers were the racing sheets and the old dudes were off to place their bets and hang with their buddies. They’re likely sent out of the house by their wives who often find their husband’s retirement a difficult adjustment since a typical employee works six days a week and sleeps on Sunday, leaving the household and family management completely up to the wife. (Yup. The apron-wearers control the money.) However, the wives often become naturally resentful when the absentee husband is suddenly home ALL the time taking up space, demanding food and generally cramping her style after never being around.
By the way, I don’t think there are actual horses IN that building in the middle of Tokyo, but I’m going to check it out next Sunday 😉
Gomi-bakko = old retired men that clutter up the house and get in the way; literally “old garbage.”

 

I live next to a…park for aspiring sumo wrestlers!

In the photo, the image on the far left is my house–the one with the expansive deck with the sliding doors is our room. This little park filled with Zen and bamboo and carved stones (maybe gravestones, not really sure) and a sumo ring is literally in my backyard. It’s an actual covered sumo ring with curtains and tassels, though you aren’t allowed to use it without permission, as well as kiddie playground stuff, contemplative paths and a public toilet.

Motorhead

It’s the motorcycle from Sleeping Beauty’s castle and it’s just down the street from me! And it looks like it’s got the bicycle next to joining in. Very cool and sort of unexpected here where it’s all pretty tidy…though I have to say it overgrown in a very tidy way….

Motorhead

On the subway

on the subwayTook the subway today…just to see if I could do it. It’s not that hard if you’ve got all the time in the world. Also if you stand around looking perplexed someone will come and help you. Every time I stopped and looked at a map today someone asked me if I needed help within about a minute. Anyway, the subway ticket machines have an English button, but not all have the handy-dandy fare calculator. So I overpaid to get to Shinjuku…should have only been 170Y. Live and learn. I also figured out that I don’t have to transfer…I can get off at Shinjuku sanchome instead of transferring as that gets me to the ‘fun’ side where the cool shopping and the English bookstore (Kinokuniya) are located. The subway does have announcements and signs in English though there are still many things I don’t understand. Like the stainless steel box with the flashing red light. And why some trains don’t stop at all the stations and how do you know which ones? There’s WAY more English than there used to be though…but I still have a chance to practice reading hiragana (more on that later).

Yarn Bombing-Tokyo Style…AND the good meals shop

good foods shopThis is about a block away in front of a flower shop. Somehow it’s just so much tidier than the yarn in my country. Just like most things Japanese…small country, lots of people: have to stay organized.

UPDATE: I walk past this place every day. The yarn is actually decorating a stairway up to a restaurant called the good meals shop. They’ve added new yarn (see above). I think it’s the owner’s wife that does the knitting. She was there with their lovely baby today, knitting in hand. The owner/chef passes out flyers every day between 3-4. He gave me three and now recognizes me (not a ton of non-Japanese in the neighbourhood) and just says hello/konnichiwa instead of giving me another flyer. We decided to go and try the restaurant today. It was very yummy and a nice change from sushi and fried things. Check out the menu @: http://flyingcircus.jp/gms/food-gms/

We had the trio of dips (hummus, spinach yogurt, black olive and pine nut), the anchovy garlic toast (in honour of my dad who loved anchovies) and the mac and cheese. Then we went to 7-11 for dessert…Karis flipped when she found the waffle ice cream sandwich…apparently she’s been looking for them. Happy Saturday night everyone 😉

Finding the Middle Way in Omotesando

First day…so tired and so incredibly hot and probably jet-lagged. There’s a sixteen hour time difference between Tokyo and Vancouver and a nineteen hour time difference from Maui. I was wandering around Ometesando (great shopping area) and came across this little gem. The Zenkoji Temple is just off the main drag. Not sure if it’s a temple or a shrine or both but this is the purification station: This is what you do according to Japan Guide At the purification fountain near the shrine’s entrance, take one of the ladles provided, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. You are not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth or swallow the water. You will notice that quite a few visitors skip the mouth rinsing part or the purification ritual altogether.