A Late Japan Update – Rain, Cats, Exhaustion

Senso-ji temple in Asakusa

Senso-ji temple in Asakusa

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. So much has happened since I last wrote on here, and an entire week disappeared in a flash. I have been doing a lot of sightseeing during the weekends and a little during the week where I can manage it. First off, I explored the various camera stores round Shinjuku, looking for my 20mm f1.7 Panasonic lens. I found it at the best price where I had been looking online, in Map Camera, but I had to have a walk around the camera giants including Bic Camera and Yodobashi camera. Strangely enough, these “camera stores” sell everything from cameras to sake, TVs to pianos, and even bicycles. I bought some sun cream in Bic Camera the other day. Quite an odd experience.

Arcades are everywhere here. Claw machines are way too popular though. What is there to enjoy about them?!

Arcades are everywhere here. Claw machines are way too popular though. What is there to enjoy about them?!

One of the camera stores in Akiba, which had way too many cameras to fit. Probably why they were spilling out onto the street

One of the camera stores in Akiba, which had way too many cameras to fit. Probably why they were spilling out onto the street

I’ve been to Akihabara a couple of times, Tokyo’s electric town, which is full of the weird and wonderful. I also spent an afternoon in Asakusa, home of the Senso-ji buddist temple along with lots of tourist traps and Kappabashi street, home of every kind of kitchen wear and where I picked up a Nihon hocho. There’s a reason the Japanese have a name for knives – this one blows any other knife I’ve ever used out of the water. I fitted in a visit to Tokyo tower, though only the ground floors as I didn’t have my camera with me.

I have to say, rainy Tokyo looks pretty good

I have to say, rainy Tokyo looks pretty good

It rained a hell of a lot, but that didn’t seem to put off tourists as Asakusa was still uncomfortably busy. I managed to sniff out a pub selling Aspalls cider too, and I couldn’t help but order some. I have been eating non-stop, too. The Japanese really love food, and eating out is very affordable for the most part. I got to experience monja in Sukishima, a specialty of the area, thanks to my host. Monja is a combination of ingredients including cabbage, cheese, and later seafood, mixed together and cooked over a big hotplate at your table. You scoop up the delicious cheesy pile and consume it heartily. I wasn’t won over by squid, though. The texture really got to me. So far, squid and shark are off the list. It hasn’t stopped me trying squid several times since, so this list is really more of a “I haven’t enjoyed eating this so far, but people will always suggest that I eat it so I might as well see if it is any different this time” sort of list.

Monjayaki (monja)

Monjayaki (monja)

Last week can be summed up in a couple of words. Exhausting and fun. I got a really taste of Japanese work culture when I was stuck in the hospital till 12.30 am (after a 7.30 am start) because of a twelve hour operation. Twelve hours is an incredibly long time and I don’t know how the surgeons did it. I got a break for lunch…at 5 pm, but they didn’t stop until it was finished. We ended the night with a rather late 1 am sushi dinner, which was great. The work is hard, but the comradery makes it tolerable, and even fun, when you’re not completely exhausted. Monday and Wednesday were pretty standard days, but Thursday turned insane too, when I didn’t leave the hospital till 2.30 am. The subway had long since stopped for the night, so I walked back and bathed in the atmosphere of a city that never seems to sleep. I had a mad idea during that walk to stop by Tsukiji fish market and register for the tuna auctions, which I’m going to talk about more in another post. It has been great so far, and the time has flown by faster than I ever imagined it would.

Tuna patiently to go to their new home - my stomach!

Tuna patiently to go to their new home – my stomach!

Cat cafes are totally a thing too. Themed cafes are very popular in Akihabara (Akiba), most notably the maid cafes, where Japanese girls dressed in maid costumes bring you drinks and pretend to be interested in your life. There is also a Gundam cafe, and an AKB48 cafe (a J-pop group which had its roots in Akiba), where your servers are dressed like group members. And cat cafes. Cafes where you go to  sit down with cats and be ignored by them. I went to Neko Jalala. In a stark contrast to the usual model of people fawning over you in these sort of cafes, the cats are just cats. These cats see lots of people every day, and you’re just another warm body to them, and maybe if you buy them a cat snack, they might consider staying with you. Until the food runs out, then they’ll go back to ignoring you as usual. There were some amazing cats though, and one was massive, with facial features more reminiscent of a lion or other big cat than a domestic breed. I only spent half an hour among the felines, but it was good fun and a worthwhile experience if you’re in Tokyo and a cat or animal lover. They even hand you a book when you sit down with profiles on each of the cats, explaining their personalities and what they like or dislike. Yes, Tokyo is a strange but wonderful place.

A typical scene at the cat cafe - cats sleeping

A typical scene at the cat cafe – cats sleeping

What a majestic creature...he just doesn't give a damn

What a majestic creature…he just doesn’t give a damn

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