Friday, July 10, 2015

Japan 2015 Day 2: Hanging Around Shinjuku

We started our day at one of our usual haunts- the Shinjuku Century Terrace Starbucks :) We landed there around 8:30 am, and there was still a river of humanity flowing from Shinjuku Station that we had to navigate, but not as much as an hour earlier, when kids are getting to school. Japanese Starbucks have a nice mix of familiar & exotic. Brendan & I love the soy milk matcha (green tea) lattes, which need no sweetener to be yummy, & Charlie has settled on the chai tea as his morning drink of choice there, as they don't carry bottled juices like they do in the US. The food offerings range from the usual (pretty doughnuts, scones, quiche) to the goofy (a caesar salad bagel & lasagna were among the morning selections), with enough comfort food to be accessible to jet-lagged us.

 We munched breakfast and people-watched the Shinjuku Station stragglers. It's really easy to tell who's who in the crowd- at 8:30 am it's too late to see any seifuku-clad (seifuku=school uniform) high school students, but there are plenty of office guys, almost universally wearing white button-up shirts & ties, and OL's (office ladies) dressed in neutral-toned outfits. Charlie loves to spot wacky high-heeled shoes & guys wearing capri pants (which started after the energy-saving measures were enacted after the 2011 earthquake).

 The college students are the most interestingly dressed because they have no uniforms & are, in general, expressing themselves for the first time since middle school, clothes-wise. We spotted lots of dyed-blond hair in this crowd & even some green hair. The usual t-shits with nonsensical English phrases were there, as well as anime-inspired shirts.

 There were a few women who were dressed for shopping or errands & very few people with small children. I did see some women my age with bright clothing- one lady was wearing a red shirt! That's pretty unusual in Japan, as older women generally dress in neutrals & pastels. Brights & red in particular are considered suitable for girls & a fashion faux pas for older women, although they may be seen in what we in the US consider youthful styled dresses, just toned-down in colour. The anthropologist in me loves seeing little shifts in fashion like this over time. Charlie saw more flats & sneakers than high-heels & was a bit surprised by this. However, the weekend is when folks in Tokyo really put on the dog, so we'll see :)

Got back to the hotel & Charlie & Brendan played a round of Chez Geek. Tomo the hamsterbean tried the Starbucks :)

The view from our hotel window

Charlie & I headed out to explore at around 10:30 am. The cloudy skies from this morning had become sunny, so Charlie hauled out his hat & I my higasa (literally "sun umbrella", or parasol) to protect ourselves. We wandered the neighbourhood of our hotel looking for places we'd been to before. I looked down a side street & saw a cool, geodesic-dome building.

Then we ended-up in the Keio department store, which is one of the ones attached to Shinjuku Station. We started looking at the top floor at the restaurants, for future reference, & then went down to the basement, looking for lunch. Found some yummy korroke (panko-breaded croquets), including veggie ones for Brendan, some inari sushi, which he also likes, and a bentou to share. We stopped at another store for drinks (yummy mango sodas from Miyazaki prefecture) & went home to have lunch.

Isn't that the yummiest shrimp korroke you've ever seen?

After a bit of a rest (we are pretty jet-lagged, & Brendan's recovering from bronchitis) we decided to head across the way to Takashimaya for breakfast pastries (for tomorrow), beverages, & snacks. The day just kept getting sunnier, but the humidity is blessedly less than what we've usually experienced this time of year. I found some miterrashi dango at the grocery store- yum! Dango are slightly sweet balls of mochi (sticky rice dough) usually skewered on a stick, & miterrashi dango have a sweet/savoury sauce on them that tastes like sweetish soy sauce. Last year I made a miterashi dango Mameshiba & I brought him along with me (you never know...) so here's a photo of the dango I saved for later & the little guy.

The guys went looking for the bookstore after we shopped, so I went up the escalators to the 11th floor, which is where the craft store Yuzawaya is, & stopped on all of my favourite floors of Tokyu Hands on the way. Tokyu Hands is subtitled "for the creative life" & each floor is dedicated to things like housewares (nice selection of bentou boxes & supplies), stationery (I could live here- stickers, cute post-it note pads, washi tape, pens, pens, pens! & origami :), and goofy toys & cel phone accessories. Today I was just looking, though. We're coming back here after our week in Kyoto & there's no sense dragging stuff to Kyoto & back (Charlie heartily agrees).

Yuzawaya is about the size of a JoAnn fabrics store, and it overlaps with JoAnn's fabrics, beads, ribbons, & yarns/knitting supplies-wise, but it has a wider selection of things that makes browsing a big part of the experience. When my feet started to hurt I went back to the hotel :) I checked my email & found a note from our friend Marian, who lives in Tokyo, & started making plans to see her this week. Hooray!

We hung out until about 5:45 & then went to a favourite soba restaurant on the 13th floor of Takashimaya for dinner. We all had zaru soba- cold soba noodles served on a bamboo tray, with a side of vegetable tenpura. You are given broth to dip the noodles in before you eat them, & instead of tenpura dipping sauce, you get a flavoured salt to dip them in. Yum! I had soba-cha (soba tea) & the guys had soft drinks.

After dinner we went to the basement of Takashimaya again because I had a hankering for wagashi- traditional Japanese sweets. It was pretty busy, but we looked around a bit at what was there & found some yummies:

The second box contains nama yatsuhashi, which will be explained when we open the box- maybe tomorrow? Such yumminess...

We got back to the hotel & I made tea (there's a water-boiler & tea bags & cups in the room) & we ate sweets & tried to stay awake as long as possible. Jet lag had me nodding off at 7:45 (I was trying to knit & it was really hard!!) so Charlie read out loud for a bit (we've been working our way through all the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett for the past few years, so we started Masquerade this evening). Japan doesn't do Daylight Savings Time, so by 7:45 it was dark out, which didn't help the urge to fall asleep.. Thank goodness for blogging! Right now it's 9:00 pm & the guys are asleep, but I'm still typing.

Tomorrow we are taking the train south to Atsugi-shi, where our friends Momo & Hiroshi, & their daughter Aoi-chan live. Aoi-chan is in preschool & her school is having a festival tomorrow, which we've been invited to. We are so excited to see them & go to the festival!!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a very full day! I'm amazed you managed to stay up until 9. Have a fun day at preschool.... I highly recommend it!