Today was supposed to be an easy day to relax. We didn’t, of course.
We really wanted to visit Kappabashi, or ‘Kitchen Town‘, on this trip as we missed it last time. Everything you need to open a restaurant or stock a professional kitchen can be found here. What we were most interested was the plastic food. Shannon mentioned in a previous posting that many restaurants have plastic versions of the dishes they serve in the front window of their store. Kappabashi is where they get them. It’s really a wholesale district but you can visit stores and look around. It’s pretty popular with tourists much to the surprise of the locals. Why would anyone want to see fake food for fun? There are several stores that specialize in the fake food. They have everything from sushi, to ramen noodles, to desserts. It’s not a good place to go when you’re hungry. The food is extremely realistic and looks good enough to eat. It is also very expensive in most cases. A fake bowl of ramen going for about $40-50. We wandered through several stores and I purchased a very realistic fatty tuna nigiri sushi for my desk at work. Shannon found a few dishes in a pattern that she liked. After spending a couple hours here we moved on.
From Kappabashi we walked the mile or so to Asakusa. This is a very popular tourist destination. Its focal point is Sensō-ji Temple. This is Tokyo’s oldest and one of its most significant shrines. It’s also one of the largest. The first temple here was erected in 645AD. It’s a place of special significance to the Japanese. The area is also home to one of the largest paper lanterns in Japan and makes a great photo op. There is a shopping street out front that has been active since the 1300s. Some of the booths and buildings have been passed down through families for hundreds of years. Now they mostly cater to the tourists and are filled with cheap tchotchkes. There’s not much there of interest. Outside the temple is a very large incense pot. Before entering the temple you wave the smoke over you in a ritual cleansing. The inside of the temple is quite impressive. We also made sire to get our fortunes from the fortune tables where you shake a canister until a stick falls out. The number on the stick directs you to a drawer where you’ll find your fortune. Always an interesting time. We wandered the grounds for a bit and went in search of lunch.
We ate at a little restaurant we’d visited last year. We got a table on the second floor. Before entering you must remove your shoes and put them in a locker by the door. This is actually a god-send when you’ve been on your feet all day. It feels great to take off your shoes for a bit. The tables are very low and you sit on the ground. There is a small well where you can put your legs should you not enjoy sitting cross-legged or on your knees. Lunch was delicious as it was last year.
From there we headed back to Akihabara again. Dakota was really looking for a specific toy to bring home so we were going to give him time to browse the electronics district. There are also many stores catering to the otaku, or people obsessed with manga, anime, and video games. As we exited the station a small crew with a camera stopped us and wanted to ask Dakota a few questions. They were interviewing foreigners about Japanese pizza and started asking him many questions. Shannon and I watched as our shy son tried to answer their queries. They were asking what is normally on a pizza in the US and if he’d had pizza in Japan. One question was about seafood on pizza. I shook my head and made a funny face which the producer saw. The interview quickly shifted to me.
“Have you ever had squid on a pizza?”
“No way. You never see seafood on pizzas in the US.”
This revelation seemed to shock them. They had a menu from a restaurant and let me look at it. Browsing it I noticed a pizza with something white on top. I looked at her and asked “Is this mayonnaise?” She said yes and that it’s pretty popular there. I saw another with corn on it. I explained you’d never see that in the US. We also noticed a pizza with pumpkin, bean paste, and marshmellows. Ewwwww. I’d like to think I was a pizza connoisseur but I’ve never seen pizza with mayo or pumpkin on it. They thanked me for my time and we walked towards the toy stores.
Dakota wanted to go off by himself to look for his souvenir so we gave him a time to meet and went in search of something to do. I found another robot store and drooled over the fun toys there for a while. The dollar is so weak right now that I couldn’t really afford to bring one home, sadly. Shannon and I found a place to sit and wait for Dakota near the major street in Akihabara. There we watched the girls from the Maid Cafes try to drum up business. The girls stand on the corner in their little maid outfit and hand out flyers and try to talk lonely guys into visiting their establishment. We met up with Dakota and headed home.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was after dark and we were bushed. We got a couple drink from the lounge and turned in early.