Our first full day in Tokyo was a busy and food-filled one. After breakfast we struck out and walked around Shinjuku, the neighborhood where we’re staying. Right by our hotel we found a restaurant specializing in fugu, the deadly — if not properly filleted — pufferfish, considered a delicacy.
I don’t think it’s on our list of places to try. Then we did a little shopping (mostly for gifts, which seems to be all I buy here). In one of my favorite food stores, I was stocking up on yuzu-based products when I saw these…
Sadly, the angle of the photo is such that the reflection blocks the price tag a bit, but what you are looking at are $40 mangoes. As in $40 each. Only in Japan.
Our journey continued after a subway ride to the Asakusa neighborhood where we walked down Kappabashi dori, the street for restaurant and kitchen supplies.
I coveted Japanese pottery and drooled over thousand dollar knives which were being made right there in each small storefront. We continued on to Kaminarimon dori, a closed-to-traffic street that leads to the famous Senso-ji temple. It’s a major tourist trap (a.k.a. not my favorite place to be), and we’d already been to the temple the last time Dave was in Japan, so yesterday our objectives were clear: get in, get food, get out. Our first stop was at my favorite kibi-dango stand.
The delicate dessert combines small dango — balls made of rice flour, similar to mochi — covered with kinako, a powder that is made of soybeans and is often sweetened and used to cover desserts.
Next we had some delicious, hand-grilled rice crackers.
On our way to the subway we saw some steamed red bean buns and Dave had to have one.
We then met my dad for the day’s main attraction: Sumo!
Through my parents’ connections we had managed to get amazing seats, the equivalent of a luxury box at a sporting event in the US.
The lap of luxury in this case was comprised of four seat cushions on tatami mats, fenced in with metal bars. Add to that two big foreigners and it’s a good thing there were only three of us squeezed into the space. But, the views of the wrestling were amazing and well worth the stiff legs. The box came with any food we wanted to order, delivered to us by charming old men in traditional garb. My dad and Dave ate yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) and drank bottled Sapporo beer while I sipped tea from our boxes’ own tea set.
On our way out were were presented with huge gift bags. Back at the hotel we opened them up to find glassware sets, more yakitori, and lots of treats.
Clockwise from top left: rice crackers, anmitsu, and a huge hunk of chocolate with a gunbai (traditional Japanese war fan used by the referee in sumo to designate the winner) on it. Tired from all the walking we’d done, and sleepy from jet lag, we enjoyed our anmitsu (a traditional dessert comprised of cubes of jelly, fruits, soft pieces of mochi called gyuhi, and red bean paste, all covered in a sweet black syrup) and fell asleep.
If you’re interested, here’s a link to a video I took of one of the sumo bouts (the yelling you hear in the background is the drunk guy in the box next to us. My dad befriended him, of course).
Read Full Post »