Turning Japanese - food for thought

Trip Start Jan 27, 2006
Trip End Sep 09, 2006

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Monday, May 22, 2006

SAM : We could definitely live in Tokyo. It is beautifully clean, the locals are gracious, generous and polite, the streets are almost crime-free, and there are more restaurants than people. And our mates Ian and Rie live there. We could live there, but for the cost. I know we have just come from Vietnam where we ate a full square meal for two for little more than the cost of a tea bag back home, but you could live for a week in Cambodia for the price of a piece of Tokyo toast !

After two flights and a six hour transfer in Bangkok airport (featuring the largest Burger King on the planet), Ian picked us up from the station and drove us to his office to collect our parcel from home (thanks Paul and Sam, you really are GREAT neighbours). We had packed this before we left and it was supposed to supplement our wardrobe and get ready for the change in temperature. Not sure what Phil was doing while we had this conversation - perhaps reciting song lyrics from the 1980's - in the box I had some new underwear, lipgloss (essential for all travelling girlies), new white t-shirt, ski trousers, thermals, gloves, walking boots, some little toiletry treats. Phil had a pair of jeans and a pair of boots - you can guess who was more excited about the box!!!!

Ian took us to the apartment and then left us whilst he headed out to collect Rie (his wife) from her parents house. This gave us 3 hours to play house, a joy we had not had for over 3 months. After much needed showers (overnight in our underwear - yuk), we cooked breakfast. Ian and Rie had done us proud, we had bacon, beans (HEINZ), white toast and butter and brown sauce, washed down with a lovely cup of Earl Grey. YIPPEEEEEEE !!!! Then we just sat on the sofa, nobody disturbed us and absolutely nobody tried to sell us anything, it was absolute bliss.

What was also absolutley bliss was having Rie as a guide. She is Japanese, glamourous and a complete party queen (although like me she does love an afternoon nap) - a perfect match for Ian "Uncle Party" Cross.

We also met James. James is a Chihauhau, who owns the apartment, and once you are in with James you can stay...... more of James later. Dogs in Tokyo are like cows in India, sacred and revered, and creating an income stream that is hard to believe, lets just say that James has more clothes than I do!

On our first evening the partying Tokyo style (which was a regular feature of the next 2 weeks) began. Having Rie as a guide was absolute bliss, she knew where to go, what to order and made sure that we saw absolutely the best of Tokyo. We went to a restaurant were we had Shabu Shabu, which is basically a pot of hot stock in the middle of the table and you cook thin strips of beef and pork in the hot liquid, you also add bean sprouts and greens etc and have satay sauce and soy to dip the cooked meat into. It is a great experience and it was all you could eat and drink for 90 minutes.

Oh god....... who ordered the Saki?????? We filled our boots with food and gin and tonic and then our great hosts order a jug of Saki, ice cold and unfortunately easy drinking. It is not polite to pour your own drinks and so everyone revels in filling everyone elses glass, especially naive guests. Sake apparently gets you drunk from the ankles upwards, so by the time I felt pissed it was all just toooooo late! However, we broke even on the cost of dinner in our 90 mins and literally rolled home !

PHIL : From that moment on, we decided that the budget was blown and that we might as well try as many different food experiences as our eager little insides could digest. In no particular order these included :-

Sushi and Sashimi : raw fish with rice, or just raw fish. Taste - good. Texture - a challenge. Chopstick Index : slippery when wet.

Kebabs : One evening, we hung out at a chicken-kebab-and-beer bar on the street for a few hours joining the locals coming home from work (at 8pm, the poor buggers). On the menu - chicken, chicken skin, chicken livers, chicken hearts, chicken cartiledge. Between the six of us (James was there of course, plus another new mate Taiko) we ate every type offered...........well done on the cartiledge, Taiko.

Sunday Roast : there is a God and he is called Ian.

Home-cooked Western stuff : Lasagne (Rie), Cottage Pie (Phil and Sam) - bliss.

Take-Away Curry : Our first since India which - everyone will be pleased to know - was bloody lovely and went through our systems at walking pace. However, we almost choked on the cost (nearly 50 quid for 4), but frankly it was worth every penny. Particularly as Ian and Rie appear to eat like sparrows with anorexia.

Japas : Can't really remember the correct term for this, but Japas is like Tapas only with Japanese food. No idea what we ate (we got stuck into the Sake again - Sam is very entertaining on this stuff) but suffice it to say Rie said "Wow, you guys really will try anything". Apart from raw tofu (white, jelly like, chopstick-impossible).

Japanese Breakfast : On our first morning in Kyoto (more later) we decided to 'do as the Kyotons do' and ordered the japanese breakfast at our hotel. A platter consisting of smoked fish, cold rice, cold poached egg, pickled vegetables, seaweed and lightly fried tiny fish.

Almond Croissants : Shortly afterwards.

Macdonalds Breakfast : On our second morning in Kyoto.
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