Our second last day in Tokyo dawned slightly sunny! Woohoo! It was a Saturday and I was planning to take M to one of my old shopping haunts in the western suburbs, Kichijoji and visit the very famous Inokashira Park with its rows of cherry blossoms and long covered shopping arcades of the shopping area, but he woke up running a fever and with an upset tummy. We decided it would be better for him to stay in bed while I went out and did some shopping.
I needed a serious date with a large and well-stocked 100 yen shop and I knew just where to go – Oimachi, which housed one of the largest 100 yen shops in Tokyo that spread over two floors of the Marui department store. I used to go to Oimachi once a week when I tutored a quirky guy in English. He was the company director of one of the many electrical manufacturers in the area and I ‘inherited’ his lessons from a friend who went back to Canada. We both used to think he was quirky because during the whole one-hour lesson, he’d just stare at your boobs and make no effort to look like he wasn’t. But the lessons paid great money and I continued them for several years until I left Japan.
But I digress, back to shopping. I hopped on the train and arrived 10 minutes or so later to find that the entire Marui department store had morphed into a big electrical chain store. Ahhhhhhh!
Thinking of somewhere else I could go nearby, I remembered I had seen a 100 yen shop at Ameyoko yesterday and I thought it would be a good chance to see the cherry blossoms at Ueno park as well. Ueno park is probably the most famous (and most crowded) of all places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo and I’d never bothered to go there when I lived in Tokyo – so I thought I’d take the opportunity.
The blooms lived up to their reputation:
Lots of parties were in full-swing on the staked-out territory beneath the trees:
It was brekky time and I decided to have a sushi bowl at a very busy stall in Ameyoko. I ordered the ‘extra special’ bowl with two types of tuna, roe, squid and bream for 600 yen. It was delish and came with free self-serve tea.
Then I hit the 100 yen shop, which wasn’t as well-stocked as I would have liked, but I figured it was actually a blessing because I’d never be able to stop! It also had some unusual things like bottles of salted tuna, of which I bought two! I ended up spending about $35 on a whole variety of stuff from bowls to disposable chopsticks and little plastic baran dividers (the green plastic things) to put in obento. Spread out on the bed back at the hotel, this was my haul:
I’d also managed to find M some bottles of Myers’s rum:
And some lunch – chicken cutlet sandwiches & grapefruit juice for M and cold hiyashichuka noodles (another thing off my ‘to eat’ list) & a pickled plum rice ball for me:
Then it was time to have a shower and get changed for my night out with the big-wigs. I was due at the office at 4pm for a ‘meet the team’ and then we were going out for an early dinner/drinking/grill the foreigner session.
The ‘meet the team’ quickly went from a line-up-for-business-card-exchange to a fifteen-people-staring-at-me-from-across-the-boardroom-table so I quickly moved the topic of conversation to weather and food and regaled them with stories of my love for melon bread. By about 4:30pm I ran out of melon bread talk and they ran out of compliments for my Japanese skills so they decided to send me to the restaurant with an escort to start drinking.
The rest of the team quickly joined us and eating and drinking began.
Large amounts of sake were ordered and served in bamboo decanters:
There was also crab and other assorted yummies. All are expensive delicacies and all are things you order when you’ve taken someone special out for dinner, so I felt special 🙂
Near the end of the dinner when the waitress had brought yet another round of sake, she accidentally knocked the bamboo decanter against the table and it shattered over a couple of the attendees’ laps. What followed was a stream of apologetic bowing from both the waitress, the manager and the owner of the establishment and some very discreet handing over of sums of money in envelopes to pay for dry cleaning.
Ahhh….Japan….country of divine customer service! I was thinking in Australia if a similar thing happened, you be lucky to get a ‘sorry’ and a half-assed wipe with a dirty dishcloth.
Soon the dinner was a wrap but before we totally wound it up, I was presented with Harumi Kurihara’s new cookbook (the Martha Stewart of Japan):
On the way we came across some cherry blossoms and I had the regulation ‘I’m drunk and posing with cherry blossoms!’ pic taken:
Then I was dragged, screaming (well, tipsy and dancing) to the karaoke box to perform my first karaoke in over seven years. Let me just say, it’s hard to pull off Madonna in a too-high key when you haven’t held a microphone in seven years, but I gave Vogue my best shot – complete with arm movements.
After the first song, I warmed up a bit and did several duets of Puffy & Morning Musume that were popular seven years ago and everyone laughed at how I remembered the words.
After more drinks, the tambourine and maracas action ramped up and soon everyone was standing up playing air guitar with umbrellas and doing the actions to Age Age Every Night with DJ Ozma (especially the ‘Bounce with me!’ bits and the ‘Nananananana-nananana’ bits…if you watch the video you’ll get a very vivid image of what was happening.
I sooo knew this would not have been M’s scene and I’m glad he didn’t have to endure it. In all my experiences with Japanese people (and that is a vast amount), regardless of their age, when alcohol is involved things get crazy and suddenly everyone is just freaky.
Oh and the older guys start crooning Elvis songs to whomever is blonde in the room:
After all the bowing and promises that I must come to Japan and we must do it again blah, blah blah, I was bundled off in a taxi with the other two girlies and dropped back to my hotel at 11pm or something. I hadn’t drunk that much, but I was glad I hadn’t had any more. It was interesting to met everyone whom I’d only ever spoken to over the phone or in email and they felt infinitely more relaxed about phoning the office here, because they had ‘confirmed’ that I could speak Japanese…lol.
One day in Tokyo left! Part 12 to come…