Well it is day 3 of our trip to Japan. This morning we decided to grab coffee and then have a bowl of noodles for breakfast. KJ and I had udon with mushrooms and it hit the spot. After yesterday’s extreme walking we decided to have a lighter day. In our 2002 guidebook, 2002 is key here as you will learn in a moment, we found what seemed to be a great idea – a antique collaborative of 30 shops in Ikebukuro. After arriving and asking three people for directions we discovered the antique collaborative was now a drug store; see note on guidebook!
Well no antique shopping today so we decided to head back to the train and take a trip to Asakusa. On the way back to the Ikebukuro train station, we decided to duck into a shopping center to see the grocery market. These markets are fabulous.
It seems every single item is hand crafted and beautifully packaged. There were rows after rows of cakes, candies, cookies and the like.
One of our favorites is kimchi and this cabinet had it all. Cabbage, daikon, cucumber, radishes and more.
Next we came across two young men “hawking” seaweed. It was unlike any seaweed we had ever seen. It turns out to be Okinawa seaweed. Okinawa is where KJ’s family is from so we had to try it out. It was perhaps the best seaweed we have every had. The young men called it Green Caviar and we know why after eating it.
Next I wanted to show KJ the very special cantaloupe that is normally purchased as a gift when someone is sick or for a very special occasion. Notice the price.
These cantaloupe are almost perfectly round without blemish. At today’s conversion rate of Yen to Dollars the cost of these two would be $273. Even more than fruit cost at Whole Foods! They are beautiful and I suppose they taste incredible but I doubt we will ever know as $273 could purchase a pretty nice shohin stand.
Well after seeing all of this food we decided it was time to catch the train and head to Asakusa. We jumped on board the local Metro, stopped at Ueno and transferred to the Ginza line and went three stops to Asakusa. Upon exiting the train station we were immediately accosted by dozens of people each wanting to escort us to the Sensoji temple including a few with rickshaws.
So we took the short walk on our own to discover the temple was under repair so we stopped to take a few snapshots and decided to then walk some of the side streets.
Along our walk, we decided it was lunch time as it was approaching 2:30pm. We saw numerous restaurants that looked like those found along Pier 39 – expensive. So as we went off the main streets and down a small road, almost an alley, we saw a brush shop. I mean they had every brush imaginable.
If you don’t get the title of the picture above, I would suggest doing a Google search. After rummaging through the numerous brushes inside and outside the store we moved ahead looking for the right place to have lunch.
After passing dozens of noodle shops, sushi restaurants and the like we came across HiMono-Ya with just a single dish out front. If you haven’t been to Japan it seems almost every restaurant has photos or facsimiles of their food at the front door.
HiMono-Ya showed a simple fish meal for ¥680. We had no idea what a bargain and how wonderful this meal would be. We headed downstairs and were greeted and told to please wait. One of the cooks was cooking dried fish on top of a large charcoal grill. The aroma was terrific and I know Boon would have loved this place. Because there were four of us they took us up two flight of stairs to our booth.
As we went through the menu, there was more on it than just the fish plate they showed out front, we decided on the combo lunch with grilled mackerel. Lunch started with tea, then tofu with sesame paste, and then the main meal with a perfectly grilled whole mackerel accompanied with rice, miso soup, daikon and pickles and two slices of pineapple. First of all the amount of food for roughly $10 U.S. was surprising and the fact that it was so good perhaps shouldn’t have been surprising but since getting a great meal at the typical US restaurant is unusual it was a refreshing surprise for us.
It was a leisurely lunch – the best kind – but after 70 minutes we decided we should head back to the hotel and take a rest. This was just the perfect kind of day in preparation for heading to the Green Club and the Kokufu show tomorrow. Well there is still dinner tonight, so who knows where that will lead but my guess it will be a light dinner after such a heavy lunch.
Peter Tea is suppose to arrive today so perhaps we will greet him at the Astil and have one more for dinner.
More tomorrow… Sam and KJ