Eating and crushing in Tokyo, Japan
02.07.2006 - 06.07.2006 27 °C
Tokyo. Nice place. Shame that the North Koreans are lobbing missiles at it. I guess no place can have everything.
I once read advice that said that one should never talk about what they ate or how what they are eating is impacting their digestion when travelling. It is just boring, and in many cases gross. So I will refrain from talking about what I have eaten, except to say that it is all delicious. Walking out of Tokyo station after taking the Narita Express from the airport, the first thing that hit me was the smell. Everywhere I walked, I could smell delicious food in the air. The neon lights and throngs of people I expected, I’d seen all the pictures before. But the smell was an unexpected delight. And it confirmed what I had expected in coming to Japan, that I would be treated to some really tasty food.
I won’t talk about what I ate, but I will spend a moment on the experience of eating. The first night, after checking into my hotel, I walked back towards Tokyo station and soon found myself sitting at the counter of a Yakitori restaurant underneath the JR rail line tracks. I sipped Asahi beer and ate skewers of chicken. Every two minutes or so, the clickity-clack of steel rail wheels passing over the joints of the rail lines overhead could be heard. At tables surrounding the counter, Japanese business people chattered away, drinking and eating and laughing after a hard day at work. Off in the distance, the neon lights of Tokyo flashed. I was Deckard from Blade Runner. I kept expecting that Edward James Olmos would walk up behind me and tell me that I had some replicants that needed retiring.
Every meal since that first one has been a special experience, whether it was the sushi at 8 in the morning at the Tsukiji fish market...
...the wasabi covered nuts and Sapporo beer on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel (the same one from Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation)...
...the noodle counter where you order from a vending machine that gives you a ticket that you exchange for food or the egg salad and something I couldn’t identify sandwich I had on the run to catch my train. They have all been tasty, but more importantly, they have all been adventures. Every meal has fed my gut, and every meal has fed my spirit.
I am a giant oaf. This much I knew before going to Japan. I am constantly crashing into things, breaking things and otherwise making a fool of myself.
Being in Japan, however, has heightened my awareness of this fact. The Japanese people are so dainty, small and graceful, and they interact with each other in a structured and ordered way. I am trying to be polite and follow the rules, but I am afraid that I probably mess up more than I should like. I am in constant fear of doing something that will offend all the Japanese, and by extension will embarrass all Canadians.
In general, though, I think I have done alright. Most Japanese people ignore me. It’s a strange change from most places in the world. In most countries I have been to, a tourist is seen as a source of income with, likely, more money than knowledge or street smarts. Touts and scammers lunge upon you, whether it’s tour guides in Tanzania, Cuban pimps or three-card monty scammers in New York City. Here in Japan though, there is little interest in tourist. They are free to roam around without bother. It’s nice, in one sense, that you don’t always have to be watching out for someone trying to take advantage of you. But it’s somewhat sad in another. After all, I just travelled half way around the world, at least someone could acknowledge that fact?
The service people, though, are beyond reproach. They are friendly and attentive, and yammer on and on when serving you. Of course, I speak no Japanese, so I have no idea what they are saying. But it’s nice to have that acknowledgement. However, I’m suspicious of their friendliness. Makes me think they want something from me. I’m afraid that their cheeriness might hid a complete and utter distain for me.
I once had two friends, one from Denver and one from Toronto meet up with me for drinks. Sharing nothing in common except having me as a friend, the talk invariably turned to how stupid and oafish I was. Specifically, they started talking about my love life, and how I had such poor luck with women. I tend to only chase after the ones I can’t have, and ignore the ones that like me.
Further to this, it was pointed out that I had a physical type. I never realized I had a type of girl before this night, but apparently, I do. I tend to go for slim girls with “athletic” bodies, which my friend translated as “built like a 12 year old boy.”
In Japan, where the majority of the women are slim with no curves. And not a single one of them shows anything but indifference at my existence. Those that are forced to deal with me, for example if they are waiting on me at a restaurant or checking my ticket at the train station treat me with nicely, but I am sure they really feel nothing but distain for me. I even read in my guidebook that the strip clubs and brothels of the red light districts are off limits to foreigners. So, I am in a country where the entire female population is built like a 12 year old boy, ignores me half the time, hates me the other half and I cannot get laid. It is like the entire country is filled with my ex-crushes. I have never been more dysfunctionally in love with so many women at once!
At least the food is good.