Asakusa, Tokyo & Gundam Cafe

With the arrival of beautiful spring weather Mike and I took a daytrip to Asakusa, Tokyo to see the city’s oldest shrine, Sensō-ji.

Before we even got to the shrine, we were stopped by a Japanese TV crew yet again for a strange interview (read about being force-fed sweet potatoes here).  Without really explaining what they were going to do, we were handed things and asked to guess what they were.  The first was a plastic white contraption with a turn handle that spun a metal …thing up and down.  Mike guessed blood tester and I guessed can opener.  They laughed at us.  It turned out to be a fruit peeler.  Then the following happened:

“We hear in America you eat the peels of the fruit, like on oranges,” the interviewer said.  Mike and I had a big chuckle and told her that wasn’t true, but that we do eat the skin on apples.  They all looked pretty grossed out/surprised.

The second item was a flat, gray, somewhat heavy piece of something… we really didn’t know what it was this time.  I guessed a scale and I can’t remember what Mike said, but again they laughed at us then showed us a photo.  It was some kind of magical defroster for steaks and such.  Then they tried to sell it to us.  Another bizarre experience, for sure.

After walking around for a bit, taking in the sakura (cherry blossoms) and spring scenery, we stopped at one of the snack stands you always find set up at popular shrines or busy times.  We tore ourselves away from our beloved karaage (fried chicken) to try some yakisoba (fried soba noodles; loosely akin to Chinese lo mein).

The stand was dingy and even somewhat dirty looking.  An older woman grabbed hunks of meat out of a pot with her bare hands between taking puffs on her cigarette while an old man whipped up our food.  He squirted oil from a squeeze tube, dumped on some noodles and cabbage, topped it with soy sauce & dried shrimps (gross), and tossed for several minutes.  He then grabbed some heart-shaped cookie cutter and cracked an egg into each.  Within minutes, our meal was slipped into a plastic takeout container, topped with gari (pickled ginger) and, confusingly, parsley.  Mike assumed it was to add color & attempt a fancy garnish, but it tasted so weird & was really distracting.

Heels – always a terrible idea
After a quick second stroll and a stop to purchase a camera strap for Mike’s new toy camera, we decided to go to Akihabara.  I was incredibly stupid and wore 4 inch heels that caused severe pain all day.  I actually ended up with bruises on the balls of my feet from them.  Stupid.I don’t know if I’m just a huge wimp or lazy, but there are certain sacrifices for fashion I just can’t do.  Heels are hugely popular in Japan – women wear them everywhere & for everything.  I asked a few of my adult classes what they thought… was there something about the construction about heels in Japan that made them more comfortable?  Nope, they hurt, too.  The women are simply willing to deal with it to look nice.  ‘Fraid I can’t say the same for myself.

Drum Museum
We also visited an incredibly cool drum museum.  With drums from all regions of the world, each had a small tag displaying its name and country along with a color-coded dot: we could play some of the drums!  I had fun embarrassing myself and my inability to do anything musical on account of an inability to keep a rhythm, but they were beautiful to see and listen to regardless.Gundam Cafe
Desperately needing to take a rest, we hopped on the Yamanote Line (a subway that loops the city) to go to Akihabara and try our luck at the Gundam Cafe again.  We went back in the dead of winter when it was freezing, and since the place is so small they make you wait outside.  Just like any other attraction of similar vain, people try it just because you have to.  And, since it’s Japan, people go even crazier over it since it’s Gundam.  Well, we lucked out and waited only about 5 minutes before being seated.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to rave about.  It was still cool, don’t get me wrong.  But I at least expected them to be playing an episode of Gundam or some trivia.  Even music.  Instead, we got short little clips of things on the menu on an enormous 3D TV.  Kind of strange.  Mike got the Jaburo coffee and I tried a Char Aznable cocktail – Alize Red Passion and 80% ice.  It was good, though.Wanting to keep with our street food theme and save some money, we set out to find a doner kebab stand reviewed in Time Out Tokyo.  I don’t know if it’s just bad luck, but 3/4 of the time we decide to look for things we find online while in Japan it’s either impossible to find (even with the help of GoogleMaps on the iPad when it decides to cooperate), closed for the day, or gone without a trace.  Well, the latter was the case this time.  Pissed and just kind of tired, we settled on Vie De France, a little kind of patisserie chain in Japan.  We split French toast and a BLT, picked up some bread to have at home, and made the hour and a half commute back to Oyama.


About Michelle

I lived in Japan for a year & a half teaching English. Now I'm blogging about learning to cook in NYC.
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