Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Knee.
It's a hike from Narita airport to any point in Tokyo… you just gotta be aware of the fact that it's gonna take a minute. But just like the plane ride to Japan, the cab ride to Toyko isn't long mentally. From? That's a whole 'nother story.
I wasn't fully aware we weren't gong to be staying in Shibuya itself - needless to say… I was pretty bummed. I know Shibuya. I love Shibuya. I'd live there in a heartbeat if it were accomplishable. But hell - I can't speak Japanesea… so. I may not fit in. English is more of a rarity in Japan than you'd expect.
We were in the financial district… sigh… but it's still Japan! Let's face it - financial districts are typically culinary deadzones, so it just requires a little more digging. Thankfully I have quite a few buddies in Japan that have always been my food buddies… since even before knowing I was a food addict (well - a good food addict). Tommie is a dear friend who lives in Japan who runs our Trivium Japan fansite. We've known her for years and years… she even stayed at my parents house back in my late teens - so we've known each other for a bit.
Me and P quickly dropped bags, quickly showered and got straight back out.
The rest of my guys… were corpses. They wussed out for the arrival meal (the first dinner of the night). Tommie took us on a bus ride, to more of the center of the part of town we resided by - then we took the voyage to foot. Paolo and I swear by the fact that the best thing you can do when you get into anywhere post-hell-flight is get some exercise. Whether that's walking or yoga or going to a gym. Our walk gave us a glimpse of more of what I like to see in Japan - big lights, lots of people, lots of restaurants and things to do.
If you get the chance, I always recommend staying at the Tokyu Excel in Shibuya. It isn't expensive and it's in the heart of everything. walk to the lobby, take the elevator down, and walk sort of left and straight… towards the Starbucks, then immediately left or right at it - that'll take you to the good stuff. The hotel is no frills though. But it doesn't matter - it's a clean room in an insanely good city.
Izakaya is probably my favorite style of Japanese food. It's essentially the same idea as Tapas. It's small dishes of amazing stuff that is meant to be enjoyed with copious quantities of booze. The first spot was a style of regional Japanese styled food… I believe it was possibly Okinawan style? The place was Kyo-something or Koishigure. Even Tommie wasn't entirely clear on it.
Most Izakaya spots in Japan give you your own private little booth - and you're typically left undisturbed until you hit the little buzzer than sends a Kimono-adorned, super-polite young lady coming by to get your order. Our booth was covered in amazing vintage photos of Japanese actors and actresses from several decades back - we started with my personal favorite beer when in Japan: Suntory Premium Malts.
Suntory is the good stuff. It is light and be drank like water… it comes in pitchers… this is how you cure jetlag - Japanese Beer. Damn is that stuff good. It's somewhere in the realm of the ease-of-drinkability of a great German or Czech or Polish pilsner - just with this softer flavor and even easier drinkability.
We start with some seaweed salads and pickles; a vegetable and egg salad covered by yuba; grilled smelt and sashimi. The Aliens-esque globe that encompassed the veggie/egg salad was unlike any salad I've ever come across - but hot damn was the crispiness of the interior great. All little grilled fishies are something of a passion of mine… the sashimi was as perfect as can be. Liquidy soft to the chew.
The tempura here was meant to simply be eaten with some sea salt and lemon - the flaky delicateness of the tempura was artful and reminiscent of childhood for me. Chopped tamago (that's egg mixed lightly with salt and sugar, delicately cooked super thin, then rolled and rolled and rolled) was perfect - served slightly chilled; the yaki-tori was fantastic. I think we had some hearts, some butts, some other bits… Japanese yaki-tori utilizes all the good stuff, done damn well. Some of the pieces had chopped garlic, some fresh wasabi. You hand sprinkle some salt or pepper and lemon on top and eat as is… versus the typical sauce dipping i've seen. A welcome change.
We polish off several more pints of that golden elixir… and wander back in a comatose euphoria.
I know I've stated it previously… and I shall again. Starbucks, like all things in Japan - is better in Japan. They have a Matcha green tea Frappucino there. It is liquid crack to me. Throughout this one and a half day excursion of Japan, I probably sucked down 10-15 of those things. No, the green tea one isn't the same; no, the Australian Matcha one isn't the same. This is it's own beast.
We headed back to the hotel real quick to meet up with the rest of the band and Koji from Warner Japan.
(to be continued…)