Twokyo – Part 3 – Japan 2019

Part 3 in the Japan 2019 series. Part 2 is here.

I’ve been away at a conference and we’re in the midst of trying to buy a house, so I’m a bit busy, but it’s time to pick up where we left off.

Who could resist this pup?

Calm down, it’s not what you’re thinking. We didn’t eat puppies, and we weren’t served food by anthropomorphised dogs. The animal cafe trend started in Japan a few years back with most apartments either too small for pets or prohibiting them altogether. The concept is simple – you pay an entrance fee and buy a drink, then are let loose into a room of animals. There are fairly strict rules about handling the animals, rightly so, and you have to wash your hands before interacting with them.

This was a random puppy cafe so my expectations were set relatively low, but one look at the pups melted my icy cynical heart. They were friendly, playful, and incredibly photogenic. I have been to cat cafes in the past filled with jaded cats who have no interest in humans whatsoever, but these dogs were loving the attention. We stayed with them for half an hour, then went in search of some Japanese katsu curry.

Picture of puppy in dog cafe

I had eaten at GoGo Curry on my last visit, but the tiny restaurant was crammed full of customers on this occasion. We walked on in search of a quieter joint. A few minutes later we ended up on the 5th floor of a random building, faced with the choice of two restaurants. A helpful staff member explained the one on the left was for chicken, and the right was for beef.

The chicken restaurant was surprisingly atmospheric for a place serving reasonably priced food. We had our own little booth, which could be closed with a sliding door. I had fried chicken and Sarah had a katsu cutlet. I couldn’t fault it for the price, and there was no shortage of food.

Fried chicken, salad, miso soup.

Onwards and upwards to that most beloved novel of Cervantes, Don Quijote, or as it’s better known, Donki! Donki is a discount store chain filled with mad things, some of them reasonably priced. The goods range from poundshop tat to Omega watches. Designer handbags crammed into less than flattering display cases next to sultry maid costumes. Weird is one word for it.

It is a store as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. And though it wasn’t the Twilight Zone, an almost unbelievably improbable thing happened in Donki. We were wandering around looking at the random crap when I glanced over and saw someone taking a photo of a guy playing one of those TV plug-in consoles.

“The woman with the camera looks awfully like the waitress from It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia” I thought to myself. Then the guy turned around. It was Charlie Day, in the flesh. At this latitude. At this time of year. Localised to this Tokyo discount store. I was torn. His work is great, but he was clearly on vacation and probably didn’t want two random strangers coming up and disturbing him and his wife. But damn, it was tempting. So many good Charlie lines from the show.

Charlie Day and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Ellis on vacation in Japan. Photo from Instagram

After resisting the urge to confront a celebrity we thought we deserved a break. And when you think dessert I expect the first thing that comes to mind is…toast? Nope, me neither, but it is very much a thing in Asia. I first experienced it in Seoul, but this time it was on a whole other scale. Half a loaf of bread sweetened with honey, and topped with ice cream, fruit, and some oddities. I didn’t quite believe the plastic models in the display case outside, but the toast really was as imposing as it looked. I didn’t manage to finish it – really we could have shared one between us, but gosh darn it we didn’t know! A delicious, if slightly harrowing experience.

Toast in Akihabara! A food almost entirely unlike toast….

Later that night we set out to traverse the imposing and mesmerising Shibuya crossing, just as the first rain of the season fell on Tokyo.

Continued in Part 4

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