On Thursday we went back to Machida for dinner. We happened across a fantastic little hole-in-the-wall with five star food and an incredibly gracious and helpful waiter. We were going to just point at something on the menu for dinner (no pictures or English), but he was prepared to read off each item and describe it to us in English, which was way above and beyond what we could have hoped for. The meal was amazing, too. Dessert was caramel cheesecake in a red wine sauce.
Friday evening, we got a phone. Get ready for some Kim-style irony: We now have an iPhone. The Mew has a burning dislike for Apple, so he's on the waiting list for the next gen Droid that comes out at the end of May.
Yes, we came to the Land of New Technologies and get the single most popular phone in the US and its direct competitor. The iPhone came with some manuals and a couple Apple stickers, so I told the Mew if he pisses me off enough, I won't make him sleep in the car (that had been discussed), I'll just put an Apple sticker on his Droid.
We also found this awesome case for it:
Saturday was spent with a friend who showed us around Asakusa. It's on the other side of Tokyo from where we are, so it was a little bit of an adventure to get all the train transfers right (have you seen the Tokyo rail map? It's kind of insane.).
We went through the tourist-centered market (this whole stretch has nothing but tiny shops along each side, selling everything a tourist could want) where we bought some collapsible hashi (chopsticks) to carry with us to cut down on the number of disposable ones we use,
to a famous shrine (the main building is under renovation):
Nearby is the Portable Shrine Stable:
There was also a street vendor selling tako yaki, which is kind of like an octopus hush puppy. I found it to be fishy, squishy, and bizarre. Not sure I care for it, but at least I tried it.
We passed the Golden Poo building. I'm not really sure what it is beyond than a distinctive landmark.
Somewhere along the walk we got some refreshing beverages from a random street vending machine. I tried this:
It's yogurt-flavored soda, and it is way more delicious than you'd expect.
We also went to the Ueno Zoo, which is kind of a sad zoo with small pens and unhappy animals. Not all the exhibits made me sad, but enough of them did. I didn't take a ton of pictures, and most of the ones I did take weren't that good, but these are worth noting:
I have no idea what this is, but it's a cool structure.
I learned something about Japanese bears:
I have no idea what this is for other than to sit around and be awesome, but it's taller than I am and has a lot of personality.
Evidently these penguins are jackasses.
We passed by this between the zoo and dinner.
Asakusa at dusk.
The name of the style of food we had for dinner completely escapes me. It's kind of like DIY hibachi, but it's a specific type of food and/or style of cooking. There are two types that are similar, one is a little thinner in consistency that you eat with this shovel-like utensil:
I didn't photograph the actual food, but it's just as well - in spite of being delicious, it could not possibly have looked less appetizing.
For the other, less liquidy style, this is the basic process: you get a bowl of ingredients
mix them together,
plop it on the griddle set in the table, mash and chop everything together, and form it into a pancake.
Cook, flip, cook some more, distribute to plates.
I don't think I enjoy scallops as much as the guys do, but like everything else, at least I tried it. The rest of it (vegetables, sauces, and spices) was damned good and I wouldn't hesitate to go back again.
We went to a British pub for drinks after dinner, which is really noteworthy because they had a fluffy potato pasta-like thing (gnocci?) covered in Gorgonzola cheese that was amazing and the best drinking snack food I've ever encountered - spiced, fried spaghetti. It's crunchy and salty but not filling.