Thursday, July 14, 2011

Japan 2011 Day 18 (July 14): Kappabashi Dori (aka: shopping!)

This is not a cafeteria...

Today is our last full day in Japan! I am sad already to leave :(  But today was my big shopping opportunity (taking into account that there’s not much room in my luggage, ok?) & I decided to enjoy every minute of it! 
Momo has wanted to show me the Kappabashi Dori district ever since we started planning out visit to Japan, since it’s the place where they sell kitchen & restaurant equipment, plus dishes, & all sorts of very cool stuff. So, the whole gang from Kamakura got together again at our apartment this morning, only this time, the guys (Charlie, Brendan & TJ) were going to Odaiba to visit the Miraikan science museum & the ladies (Momo, Hiroko, Miho & me) were going shopping at Kappabashi Dori. It was a win-win all around!
But first, the ladies went to the post office to send all the books (& one kimono) that I bought here to my home. It’ll take about a month for them to arrive, but when you consider the weight of 12 manga, 2 large manga anthologies, & 1 Newtype magazine (& one kimono) it was the only thing to do. Momo had brought me a box & everything fit just perfectly, & filling out the customs form wasn’t that much different than doing it in the US. And now it’s on it’s way to my house! Then we headed for the Akakbanebashi train station.
Kappabashi Dori (which means kappa {=Japanese mythical creature} bridge street) is near Asakusa, a large & famous temple in Tokyo, & it took us about half an hour & 3 trains to get there. We emerged from the train station into bright sunlight, heat, & a very busy street of shops. Almost immediately we were in one of them looking around. I didn’t want to get many things that were breakable, but I couldn’t resist some very cute ceramic hashi-oki (chopstick rests) in fun shapes, & 3 thin, elegant ceramic teacups. We decided to go to lunch next, & after some discussion, the consensus was to visit a family restaurant named “Royal Host” that was across the street. I have seen anime about “famu-res” but never visited one, so I was very psyched. We waited about 10 minutes for a table in the non-smoking section (Japan is still getting it’s act together when it comes to non-smoking anything, but it’s better than it was last trip) & looked at the menu while we waited. The omu-raisu (fried-rice covered by an omelette) unfortunately had meat in it (& I’m a fishetarian, can’t eat meat because I don’t digest it properly) but I found an interesting hollowed-out bun thingy that was filled with egg salad & a couple of shrimp on top that looked really good, plus a salad. It was as yummy as it looked, & I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture :( It was fun to sit & chat & enjoy the atmosphere there.
Next we headed for the fake food shops. Fake food is a big deal here- nearly every restaurant has a display outside of fake food representing the food they serve. The detail is pretty amazing & the variety is staggering.
Fake beer!

 It’s also pretty expensive, with one onigiri rice ball, for example, going for about $35.00. Luckily, all the stores have mini versions as magnets, keychains, & phone straps, at a greatly reduced price, so we all found special souvenirs among them at 2 different stores. 

At the second store they had a teacup with fake tea in it & I suddenly started craving tea. So, again by consensus, we walked around the corner & found a wonderful little anmitsu shop where we stopped for refreshment. Momo had grape juice. 
Real food...

 Hiroko had a beautiful anmitsu, & Miho & I had match green tea kakigori on a bed of sweet red beans. I had never had anmitsu before, although it’s pretty much everywhere in the summer in Japan. It’s basically shaved ice with a syrup topping, but the ice is shaved much differently than it is for snow cones in the US. 

When my kakigori (it literally means “shaved ice”) arrived I nearly fell over. It was huge! I named it “ocha-san” (“mount green tea”, kind of like Fuji-san means “Mount Fuji”) much to everyone’s amusement. 

Momo had fun getting pictures of me enjoying my first & quite heavenly kakigori. 
So, we had some more energy for more shopping afterward. I kept thinking that I could buy any more, but then someone would find a cool shop &, voila! There was the purse I’d been looking for for weeks! Made from kimono fabric!! :)  We finally ran out of steam around 3:30, & headed back to the train station to go back to our apartment. 
My shopping buddies, L-R: Miho, Momo, & Hiroko

Momo & Hiroko used a web site, accessed by their phones, to find a better way to get home (less walking) so we took a different set of trains this time. Charlie & the boys got home first & were relaxing, so we offered everyone mugi-cha (barley tea) from the fridge &  we enjoyed some wagashi sweets that Momo’s mom had given us- yum!  
Wagashi- traditional Japanese sweets with red or white bean paste inside- beautiful!

Then we took some group photos, & then we had to say good bye :(  That was really hard to do, & I cried a bit, but Charlie hugged me & I got my act together, & then we started the process of unpacking everything, & repacking everything so that it fits! Right now, a few hours later (& post-dinner), I am feeling optimistic that all of the luggage will close tomorrow morning. 
The plan is to catch a cab to Ueno Station at 10:15, catch the Keisei Skyliner (train) at 11:40 for Narita Airport, get us all checked-in & on our plane to Minnesota, which departs ~ 3:55 pm Tokyo time. We’ll spend 2 nights in Minneapolis de-jet-lagging (trying to deal with the temporal upset of regaining half a day), then catch a direct flight home on Sunday evening. Wish us luck everyone! We’ll see you when we’re on the other side of the world, again!

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