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)!
For those of you who don’t know much about sumo… It’s an ancient art based on the Shinto religion and sponsored by the Japanese Imperial Court. The successful top-tier sumo wrestlers makuuchi have rock star status in Japan. They can be demoted if they lose but the grand champion, Yokozuna, cannot be demoted; he’s expected to retire if his performances get sloppy. They bow, throw salt (purification) and throw their hands up (Hey guys, I’m unarmed) before they start. Matches are pretty short and whoever pushes the other guy out of the ring first wins. Weight is important and the athletes in the training stables eat a high-calorie stew called Chanko Nabe. There are many training stables in the Ryogoku section of Tokyo as this has been the centre of sumo for over 200 years. There are also many restaurants serving Chanko Nabe if you’re interested in trying it out.
All that high-falutin’ sports stuff aside, there was a charming sumo tournament for kids in my ‘backyard’ sumo ring on Saturday. Cutest thing ever! Anyone could try. Even girls, though women are not allowed to compete professionally. And one intrepid toddler who fought everyone and was either indulged by a kindly older child or simply pushed over immediately. One girl beat about four boys. They all cried. She laughed and walked off with her prize watermelon and her somewhat bemused parents who weren’t sure if they should be proud or horrified. A good time was had by all–except the little boys who were pushed out of the ring by the little girl in the pink dress 😉
Heads up to the sumo world…the toddler and the little girl are the ones to watch. They’ve got HEART!
So while I was walking along the street, hanging out with an old friend who lives in Tokyo with his wife and daughter, I learned some intriguing facts about Japan…lots of stuff I didn’t know. It will probably inspire many future posts…full credits to my Canadian friend who prefers to remain incognito. (Before I forget, he was the one that provided the info about the incinerator down the street and the fact that it only burns garbage at night.)
Anyway, we’re walking along the tracks in Shibuya and I see this massive parking lot filled with busses and, curiously, an apartment building right in the midst of all the busses. I made some comment about practical land usage above bus parking lots and he informs me that this is actually a dormitory for bus drivers. I remarked that it was nice of the company to provide housing for its employees if needed, particularly in Tokyo where apartments are so costly. He gave a wry smile and informed me that it was mandatory for employees to live in the communal housing for a number of years. This practice is not unusual and is meant to encourage corporate unity, corporate loyalty, foster relationships amongst co-workers as well as cutting the dependence on mum. I guess it’s like boarding school for adults…
I 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.”
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.
After last night’s culinary adventure with tomato ice cream, tonight I really walked on the wild side with carrot. Not bad… To be honest, they taste mostly like fruit with vegetable high notes. Karis got ripple chips flavoured with what I suspect was seaweed. Not surprising really since we are in Japan. Also got some great fast foods suggestions from friends…most were yucky and just BIG but I must say the Wendy’s Surf and Turf did sound mildly appealing. Sadly it was a promo item only 😦
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….
This 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 😉