I believe I have an outstanding request for a “food” blog.
What is there to say about the food? Hmm. A lot of rice. I’ve learned that rice can go with anything and can be flavored with anything. Soup and rice. Fish and rice. Dumplings and rice. Sometimes just rice. I also have no idea what is on my rice most of the time. I’ve found I rather like the little green things that almost look like pickles though, but the jury is still out on what exactly that are. Kinda crunchy-ish, and strong tasting. Anyway, they go well with rice.
The dorm always serves 3 things, 2 of them staying the same. The first is a big bowl of white rice. That goes with every meal. The flavoring and such available changes each day though. The next is a soup. It’s not a real filling, thick soup like we have in the US; more of a broth with a few vegetable floating around. Those two are always good, so you never go hungry.
The third item is the main dish. It changes every day. I’ve had fish, steak (well, kinda. Like the steak served at schools, but it was nice) with mushrooms, and a whole lot else. I’ve enjoyed it all. Well, I shouldn’t say all. There was one meal I didn’t like. I have no idea what it was. A friend informed me it was various forms of processed fish but I’m not convinced. There were various things in various shapes that had the texture of eggs but a fishy taste. As you can imagine, not an altogether pleasant combination. The third thing on the plate was a firm, grey jelly with black spots. I was informed this was also some processed form of fish. I don’t believe them. Whatever that was, I consider it inedible. Two bowls of white rice for me that night.
Dessert is not very popular here L. That is all sorts of depressing to me, but luckily the local Tobu (grocery store) has made it all ok. The have a whole isle of wonderful sweets and 1.5 liter bottles of milk tea. I’ll describe the milk tea first. It is extremely popular here; there’s a dozen brands with advertisements all over the trains, convenience stores, etc. The best brand name has got to be “Pungency.” I’m not sure who did the marketing for that, but I do not think that they were a native English speaker. I imagine they were aiming for a word that said “strong,” “flavorful,” or “bold.” They missed their mark; at least I think they did. “Pungent” just sounds like something rotten, foul, or otherwise strong but with a negative connotation. Advertisements love to use English here but it is rarely used well.
Back to dessert. Tobu has an isle full of chocolaty goodness. So far I’ve found this decent sized dark chocolate bar for a bit over a dollar each and those have been my staple. Today I bought these things that I think are coffee and chocolate (but then again, I read a lot of things wrong and get surprised often). I don’t understand how a nation can eat so few sweets. I mean, ya, people do buy the chocolate and Pocky (addicting pretzel like things dipped in chocolate) but, on the whole, dessert is not a meal in there day. For me, dessert is indispensible. The cashiers at the store probably think I eat more chocolate than is humanly possible. I come in a couple of times per week buying 1.5 litters of milk tea and assorted chocolate (usually including at least 2 of those dark chocolate bars).
Onto the daily food. If memory serves me (which it rarely does), I have already described the bakery so I will move on to 7-11. Everyone eats at 7-11 on almost a daily basis. They have a huge assortment of onigiri (rice balls) in all flavors, covering, and fillings. I’ve founds a few that I like. The first is the most basic; a plain white rice ball with a tiny bit of salt costing 100 yen. Next would have to be the grilled and flavored one for around 110 yen; always a good, cheap way to get away from the blandness of white rice. Then there is this one that is a square with (smoked but raw?) salmon on top. It costs almost $2 but is a fairly substantial snack. So, if I am trying to make it till class ends at 4pm and it’s only 10am and I’m already hungry, then it’s time for one of those. The largest and most expensive (250 yen) is a pack of 4 mini onigiri, each with a different flavor. That one is great for a small lunch.
At school you can also eat at all the cafeterias; it has at least three that I know of. They have fairly typical foods (soups, noodles, curry and rice) but the funny thing is how you order. You pay at a vending machine. There is just this big vending machine listing all the foods and their cost, you put your money in, press the button, and out comes a ticket with the food you wanted’s name on it and your change in a little tray. Vending machines are everywhere here, but I thought this was one of the more ingenious uses.
New subject. Today I went to Akihabara to explore. This is the electronics and anime section of Tokyo. I had already been there a couple times just to pick up a few little electronic things, but I had never been to more than the closest electronics store. Today I went all over and it was amazing. Most of you (all of you except possibly Justin) are a bit outside of the whole culture there but I had a lot of fun. You should all go just to see it. The whole thing is breathe taking in an odd sort of way. It is a whole other world of characters, celebrities, collectables, and fashion. The first thing that you would probably notice is a prevalence of small Japanese girls in costumes (generally maids) handing out all sorts of pamphlets. I took a few pictures that I will have to post (don’t worry Stormy, no competition to you). That is the fashion. These girls dress up like maids, anime characters, etc. to be kawaii (cute) and attract customers. I would think the locals would be immune, but it seemed they were the most enthralled. Half the maids had a guy (some looking in desperate need of hygiene) trying to talk to them about anything. (On a really quick side note: Every now and then you would pass a guy with greasy hair wearing a crinkled shirt and all of the sudden your nose would crinkle too.) Just like the electronics, there are multistory shops dedicated to everything anime. And not only anime, there are “idol” shops as well. “Idols” are singers usually who are kinda like the teenage pop stars with 15 minutes of fame back home.
Anyway, when I first arrived I wasn’t sure where everything was (or where I was for that matter). Then I turned the corner and saw a street filled with shops. I was pretty sure I was in the right place and I was sure about two minutes later. As I walked up to what I thought was an anime store I heard “JIBUN WOO” (this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzRZ4-k_JF8 , the opening theme song for a famous anime). I had arrived. Describing this in terms that someone other than Charles and Marc would understand is a bit difficult, but I will try to describe the store.
Anime has some of the most dedicated fans of anything. They will buy almost anything with their favorite character on it but figurines and wall scrolls are particularly popular. With that in mind, imagine dozens of shops filled with merchandise aimed solely at that crowd. Figurines of every character in every anime I have ever seen and hundreds more I had never even heard off. Wall scrolls for every genre, every series, and every character. Shops filled with 6 foot shelving units broken up into 2’x2’ boxes and rented out to individual vendors (like an antique mall). It is absolutely overwhelming. I’m not sure I can do the whole thing justice because it is just so much. Shops dedicated to one of a kind photo’s of idols. Trading cards of every age, type, and cost. I liked the figurines the most. They cost anywhere from $10 all the way up into the 100’s. Some custom made by individual artists, others mass produced and sold in boxed. Even the cheap ones have an amazing attention to detail (something I think the fans demand). I bought two of my favorite anime characters. I’ll post pictures.
The area as a whole is a shopping district that I could spend a lifetime in. Between anime, tech department stores, and random flea market like things in back alleys, I was in heaven. I could have wondered for the rest of the day and had my piece of Avalon (King Arthur’s heaven, which just so happens to be used in an anime called Fate Stay Night where King Arthur is actually a woman). I will have to take you all there. Even if you don’t understand the culture, I think the atmosphere is infectious.
Even as I was walking back to the train station I ran into an idol group (presumably trying to start up) having a concert right on the street. They had a crowd of people jumping and singing along already. Photos were prohibited but I snuck a few from across the street. I don’t think it mattered how good they were (although they were decent), everyone was just there to have fun. Even older couples and families would stop to watch. The wonder and excitement seemed to transcend all those pesky things like age and preference and draw in everyone alike.
The rest of my day was far more relaxed. Went back to the dorm and had dinner (fish), organized my room, did laundry, and wrote this (the most time consuming of those tasks).
Well this one is a long one, so I hope you guys have some time to devote to it :p I’ll edit the pics in after I post it.