After a much needed nap, Tony & I forced ourselves out of bed in search of a 100 Yen shop and some dinner. We were still feeling pretty groggy (I may have resorted to slapping my own face once or twice in an attempt to wake myself up) as we stumbled from the hostel, but we knew that if we kept sleeping, we’d be guaranteeing ourselves that we’d be up again at 4 am (even without the help of rowdy roommates). While she was living in Japan, L’Ell constantly sung the praises of the restorative powers of the 100 Yen shop, so we decided to see if we could find one in order to replace our travel-size toiletries with some larger ones and maybe pick up a few snacks as well.
Navigating off of a map our hostel had given us, we soon realized that in keeping with the whole notion that Tokyo is the city of the future, this map was also from the future: after searching for a good 15 minutes, we realized that the 100 Yen shop that was indicated on the map was not actually slated to be built until 2013! There were some signs suggesting this 100 Yen shop of the future might be located in one of the surrounding buildings, but when we tried to follow the signs, all we found were video game and indoor sports arcades. Fun, but not quite what we were looking for.
There was another 100 Yen shop on our map that did turn out to exist in 2012, which had what we needed (and so much more! Like heated toilet seat covers!). We were so exhausted that we seriously considered picking up dinner here so that we could eat a quick, hassle-free dinner at the hostel and then go back to bed. In the end, however, the combination of the fact that none of the dishes looked particularly appetizing AND eating convenience store food for our first dinner in Japan was just too pathetic made us suck it up and look for a real place to eat.
Now, I hope it goes without saying that on this trip Tony & I really want to try our best to avoid the usual “ugly foreigner” stereotypes. So it pains me to admit this, but at this point in our day I was so bushed that all I wanted was to find a place where I could point at pictures in a menu and grunt to order. Like I said, jet lag does crazy things to a person and I am not so proud as to pretend that I didn’t gaze longingly at a few of the McDonald’s we passed along the way.
Fear not, gentle readers! We did not succumb to the soothing glow of the golden arches, but instead wound up stumbling down a little alleyway (surprise, surprise!) that was filled with izakaya (Japanese bars) establishments. The friendly hostess of one such place named Daikatsu beckoned us over and showed us a menu. Without really taking the time to read it, a cursory inspection showed that there was English on it and the prices were reasonable, and that was good enough for us.
We were ushered to a small table that was on an elevated platform and I experienced a moment of panic and embarassement regarding the proper etiquette about footwear. It looked like there was tatami and we would be sitting on small cushions, which I thought meant I should take off my shoes, but we were in what was little more than a ramshackled bar and there was no obvious place to put my shoes were I to take them off that wouldn’t pose a tripping hazard. I looked around trying to get some clue, but seeing none, began to climb up on the platform, shoes firmly in place. A high-pitched squeak and the rapid flapping of the proprietress’s hands told me I had chosen wrong. I quickly slipped my shoes off and dropped them to the floor before any damage was done, but I did feel wretched for a few minutes as I worried that I had come across as a culturally ignorant Westerner.
When it came time to order, despite having been drawn to the restaurant because of its English menu, we probably couldn’t have made odder choices had we been given a menu entirely in Japanese and selected our food by tossing darts at it. We wound up ordering a bowl of stewed offal, pork & kimuchi, and a side of rice. Yes, you read that right: we knowingly chose to order a bowl of stewed pig parts! We’re not entirely sure what parts were included, but there was definitely some stomach/intestine and some heart (which was so tasty that Tony remarked that he wish there had been more of it!). We’ve eaten various “off cuts” before, and while there definitely is a bit of a mental block at time when you remember that you’re eating innards, it was really very good. For us, the biggest gamble was the pork & kimuchi, because we had yet to learn that the “u” is often skipped over in Japanese words, so we had no idea that “kimuchi” was actually “kimchi”! Luckily that too was delicious! Despite the shaky start, and the fact that this was probably the polar opposite of the meal I had expected to have, it was a really great meal and a wonderful way to cap off our first day in Tokyo. Probably the only downside to the meal is that as tired as we were, we still waited at our little table for about 20 minutes after we were done because we didn’t know how to ask for the bill! Eventually another couple finished and we realized that we had to go up to the counter to pay (this seems to be the standard protocol in Japan – they don’t drop a bill off at your table, you just go up to the cash register when ready to pay. I suppose they may not want you to feel as though they are rushing you out after your meal?)
All in all, not a bad start to our trip! Yes, I did have some grand plans for things to see and do on our first day that didn’t quite pan out, but I keep reminding myself that this trip is a marathon, not a sprint and we need to pace ourselves. There’s no point pushing ourselves to see everything that is available to us, making ourselves miserable in the process. In the end, I think it’s best to do less but take the time to really enjoy those things. And really, I think it’s safe to say our first day still offered up plenty of adventures, and one meal that was offaly good (wah wah!).