The Return Of Kiichi-kun III
In our epic conclusion to the trio that is "The Return Of Kiichi-kun III," Ashely and I were finally able to venture into Tokyo and begin our exploration of all things Japan.
The first expedition found us wandering the back streets of Shibuya to head towards Harajuku. At first, we felt as if we were completely lost, attempting to utilize my phone maps (which for a USA phone in Japan, it doesn't quite work right). Eventually we found the shops getting cooler, the food stalls becoming far more interesting looking. We popped in and out of punk-clothing shops, a baby clothes store that featured graffiti-style printed clothes for toddlers, some thrift shops, then gradually made our way towards Kiddy Land; the king of all toy stores. I've hit Kiddy Land each time in Japan, collecting my Final Fantasy toys, but this time they had none! We stocked up on omiyage for our friends and family, then went for food.
This trip was mainly about food, so I'll be sure to summarize the choicest eats:
Harajuku Gyozalo was lunch; and man, lemme tell ya, gyoza is one of my favorite things on earth. Meat stored in little packets of carbohydrate-y goodness is always what I have a craving for. Needless to say, this legendary gyoza shack was amazing.
Shabuzen was dinner. We reunited with Koji from Roadrunner to sit back and chow down on all things meat. My okasan would always make sukiyaki at home, but I've never tried it in Japan; my goodness was this place good. Shabuzen was Ashley's favorite meal of the whole trip; this restaurant is the spot where Bill Murray and Scarlet J. had their fight in "Lost In Translation."
The following day found us traveling as a duo towards Asakusa to wander the shops and eat fresh senbei. A good friend of mine - Ken Sakurada - who owns Shin Sushi in Orlando (sushi as good as Japan basically) told me to meet up with his friend who works at Yoshikami, Azuma-san.
Yoshikami for me was one of the truly most unique things I've ever eaten. Yoshikami's food reflects the American soldier's description of the diner in Japan; it's basically the Japanese interpretation of what the American diner is, but utilizing a Japanese spin on it all. Omme-rice and pork cutlets were our lunch, along with some ice cream for desert, and for me it was a wonderfully unique experience. Omme-rice is something my okasan would always make for me for breakfast.
After our lunch, we grabbed the train to Ueno park and the Tokyo art museum. It was a Japanese cultural tour that inspired "Shogun," and this time around the limitless sea of inspiration I found within the museum will certainly be seen throughout many musical things I create next in Trivium and Mrityu. Spanning from ancient triptychs that could be new tattoos for me, to busts of ancient demons and goddesses who could be referenced in song, wandering the halls of the art museum in Tokyo was fuel to the creativity that I always long for.
Ashley had a step-tracker wrist band that she had on for the day, when we finally got back to our room after our day of sightseeing, it said we logged 10 miles!
I Love Meat was our dinner pick for the night: Yaki niku; always a crowd pleaser. We had multiple cuts of beef here, unfortunately we had no Japanese speaking friend with us, so it was a lot of pointing at images of cartoon cows to figure out the cuts of what we were eating.
Afterwords, we hit Ishinohana for a Pisco Sour and something fancy I can't recall the name of that Ash guzzled down. Ishonohana was a seriously fancy little joint for cocktails. The waiters were dressed in the prohibition-era style that is so popular in America; these guys sure had their craft down. Watching the bartenders here is watching artists at work.
Our final day saw tempura udon for breakfast, followed by a trek into Loft (for cute omiyage), Mandarake (to browse some anime comics), Blitz (for a metal T shirt or two), a panchinko arcade, then some photo booths that turn everyone into giant-eyed anime-girls. Yes - I did this as well. Lunch? More ramen and gyoza!!
For dinner, we found ourselves at an all chicken restaurant called Toriyoshi that we had with Koji-san. We had: Kirin, a thick chicken soup, a salad featuring chicken, a thick and rich oden with all parts of the chicken, yaki-tori chicken parts, oyaku-donburi, then even more chicken in the form of tempura. Holy chicken, Batman! It was a delicious final meal with our beloved pal Koji.
The morning of our flight, naturally - I wanted ramen again, but Ashley said she was “ramen-ed out”. My favorite breakfast is the Japanese breakfast (rice, salmon, miso soup, and tea), Ashley’s - the French breakfast (croque madame and cafe’ au lait). Lo and behold in all it’s combined splendor, we found the best of both worlds, we found a Japanese/French bakery. We had matcha croissants and scones; crossaints with cheese; a hotdog-stuffed pastry of some sort; and another cheesy roll. Ashley was a very happy Francophile.
Unfortunately for us, it was time to fly back home; Ashley was to get back to her job as Creative Director at a local creative agency, and it was time for me to get back on tour again in North America, melting the faces of countless metalheads around the USA and Canada.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Japan is the greatest place on Earth.