I was going to do one last load of laundry in the morning, but it got late and I just got ready and left instead. I’ve only done laundry twice the entire trip! We took the (very crowded, especially for a Saturday morning) train to Tsukiji, near Ginza and the former home of the Tsukiji fish market.
We stopped at Turret Coffee, right around the corner from a Starbucks, for a really wonderful latte: dark, flavorful and large (especially for Japan) with a nice design. The barista was so friendly, again, and it seemed like the few people hanging out were regulars. We chatted for a while and she offered me my choice of sticker. I took the green one and thanked her profusely, as well as the guy making the coffee who I assumed was the owner.
We walked a few blocks west to Ginza, which is like Fifth or Madison Avenue in the 50s, lined with designer shops and expensive department stores. We went to the basement food hall in Mitsukoshi, the oldest department store in Japan. The food hall was huge, and I sampled a few small things, but it was crowded and there was nowhere to sit. We wandered through the clothing upstairs, but it had the same overpriced, stuffy feel as many department stores in Europe or New York. Actually, even more than New York.
We tried our luck again at Matsuya, next door. It was also higher end, but something about it just felt like a Macy’s. I didn’t like it. I wonder if it was just the crowds of people doing their holiday shopping. I had higher hopes for Itoya, a stationary store (and much more), but I was again sorely disappointed. Everything feels much less local than I want it to. I’ve felt that for weeks now. There were some beautiful pens, with prices in the thousands, but otherwise I saw nothing that interested me. Maybe I just don’t know where to look.
We decided to get out of Ginza, so we headed back to the train, with a stop at Turret for a hot chocolate. They were so happy to see me again, and I also tried their homemade Mont Blanc cake, which was special for the holidays, and very tasty.
We got off at Roppongi station so Jake could visit his mom’s uncle’s grave. He stopped for flowers before heading to the temple. Roppongi was miserable, at least the part we saw. It was just an enormous shopping complex, Roppongi Hills. I really do mean enormous. It was also filled with Christmas markets and hordes of people, both locals and tourists, and the worst kinds. We looked everywhere for the flower shop and couldn’t find it in the mall, which was just massive and terrible. Finally I spotted it right in front of my eyes, and he got flowers.
We walked through a quieter part of Roppongi (although still not nice), and I heard a version of jingle bells playing. I thought it was just a store or something but it was coming from street speakers, and continued all the way down the street. Jake described it as “special.” Special, indeed. We walked to the temple and found the grave, after much searching.
Then we walked to a different station and got back on the train to Nakameguro, to see more. We walked and shopped for a bit, but it was getting dark, so we headed to Seirinkan, which is supposed to have the best Italian-style pizza in Tokyo. We were seated on the second of three floors, with a spiral staircase connecting the three. Despite arriving as the restaurant opened, we were also given a time limit of an hour, and given the check before I could even inquire about dessert. It was pretty annoying. I think I’m sick of the rigidity here, even though things like that obviously happen all over. There were only 2 options for pizza: margherita and marinara. We each had a margherita, which was pretty traditional and tasty. We also had an arugula salad and broccoli with garlic and red pepper, both of which were sorely needed. I had red wine that might as well have been grape juice. I think it’s smart to stick to sake and shochu and cocktails, and maybe beer, in Japan. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the sake and shochu, many cocktails, and all the cheap, light beer, but I’m not sure the wine is up to par.
After dinner, we walked by the water and then up through Daikanyama. There were many boutiques, and I really wanted them to be nice but they were the same as everywhere else. It’s funny because the salespeople could have been anywhere, barely offering a greeting or an acknowledgement. We found one nice shop, Okura, in the same family as Blue Blue, and I got a reasonable pair of earrings.
We walked up through the mall in Daikanyama, called Log Road, along what used to be train tracks and could have been turned into a nice rail park but instead just became a shopping mall. We passed Spring Valley Brewery, from Kirin, which we also saw in Kyoto. We walked further into Ebisu, which is supposed to be a cool nightlife area, but it just felt like a less fun Shinjuku. All the cocktail bars in the area were empty and stuffy and expensive. I like a good cocktail bar but these were pretty extreme. I didn’t want to sit in any of them. I don’t understand bars that want you to be completely quiet. If you want to sit somewhere in silence, stay home.
We rode the train to Ueno for what seemed like forever. The helpful station worker pointed us toward the exit. I love the sheer number of workers in all the stations and the train system generally. The investment in infrastructure is so visible and refreshing.
We tried a bar in Ueno that was a pub but it was so smoky I couldn’t breathe, and there were no seats anyway, so we decided to just grab some beers and hang out in the hostel (sorry, hotel) lobby. I like that you can drink on the street here. I really will miss the konbinis, maybe more than anything else. The hotel was quiet, of course, with just the reception guy closing up for the night. Some Americans came in and had the saddest birthday celebration for their friend I’d ever seen. I couldn’t stay much longer, drinking beers in silence, so I headed up to the room and went to sleep.
Probably ready to go home,