Ramen

Ramen Square

No earthquakes last night, but I still managed to get a terrible sleep thanks to the dramas of cancelling my credit card. Today I had planned to meet a good friend, Saki, for ramen in Tachikawa (which is about an hour away from me by train.) This called for emergency coffee breakfast. I had a Dotour soy latte stashed in the fridge, which really just tasted like soy milk and had zero waking up effects whatsoever. I had eaten dinner late last night, and was in for a huge and early lunch, so I decided not to eat breakfast. Bad, yes, but I really wasn’t hungry. I also realized I will be leaving Tokyo NEXT WEEK, so decided I’d better start looking for places to stay on the nights I hadn’t yet booked. I sent out a few inquiries, which had to be written in Japanese. So I am very thankful for the online romanji to kana converter. I’m not talking about google translate, which can come up with some very strange interpretations of sentences. I mean there is a site where you type Japanese words using the English alphabet, and the program changes the sound combinations into Japanese characters. This will probably only make sense to people who’ve studied a tiny bit of Japanese.

Anyway, after gathering all my stuff, including presents for Saki’s family, I raced to Tabata because I thought I was going to miss the train I needed to catch. But there was no train. There were a lot more people on the Yamanote platform than usual, and then an announcement came on saying there were delays on the line in both directions. So I just had to wait. Luckily I only had to wait 10 minutes for the train to arrive. On the Yamanote trains, there are two TV screens above every door. One displays video commercials and news on loop, and the other shows train information, such as what the next station is, exit maps of the station you’re arriving at, and little pictures telling you which side the doors will open on. It also shows ‘train news,’ which contains information on delays and disrupted services on all lines. I’ve seen delays caused by wind, signal problems and snow, but today’s report said that the Yamanote line delay was caused by ‘person entry.’ I’m not really sure what that means. Should I be worried about masked attacks or someone entering the station illegally. Or did it specifically give an indirect description to avoid saying that someone jumped in front of a train? Apparently that isn’t a rare occurrence in Tokyo. I didn’t want to think about it.

At Shinjuku, I switched to a rapid train, which took me to Tachikawa. It didn’t seem that rapid, because it wasn’t moving very fast, but it did only stop at a few stations along the way. Two business men sat on either side of me, and one of them had really bad onion breath, which assaulted my nostrils at random and without warning for the entire journey. I couldn’t work out which guy it was coming from.

I met Saki outside a convenience store, and we ran a few errands before heading to a ramen shop for lunch. I was really excited about eating this ramen, because Saki loves the store and raved about it. But when we got there, we found that they only serve tonkatsu ramen, which is made with a pork based soup. So I couldn’t eat anything there. We decided to find another ramen shop, and accidentally stumbled upon ‘Ramen Square,’ which was a whole collection of different ramen restaurants under one roof. Each store specialized in a different type of ramen.

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I like miso ramen, and Saki likes shoyu ramen, so we picked a place that served both, and ordered our lunches from a vending machine at the front of the store. I ordered Hokkaido miso ramen, with extra bamboo shoots on top. I expected the ramen to be overly huge, like I’ve always seen it, but this bowl didn’t look too intimidating. Too much food for me, yes, but so monstrous that I felt physically afraid of it, no.

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I had bean sprouts, spring onion, cabbage, carrot and bamboo shoots on top of golden-yellow noodles that still had a bit of bite to them. Perfectly cooked, in other words. It was really tasty, but would have been better with a raw egg inside (I’ve developed a love for raw egg on things.) Nevertheless, it was delicious. So good that I actually ate the entire thing. I’ve never finished a whole bowl of noodles in my life, and I don’t know how I managed to eat so much today. I did feel a bit sick afterwards from eating too much, but it was worth it.

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After lunch, Saki and I wondered around Tachikawa and went shopping. We looked mostly at clothes, stationary and bento stuff, as well as stores selling a whole bunch of quirky things. I managed to resist buying a lot of things (but only barely), but my willpower waved in Daiso, where I got a few little items. They were all for presents though, so they don’t really count.

I definitely think this hat suited me…

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5:30 came around way too quickly, and then Saki had to go home. So I gave her a bag of presents for herself and her family, and planned to meet up again next week. There will be a public holiday, so Saki and ger family will be free. I’m really glad that I’ll get to see them all again.

Then we entered the train station and went to our separate platforms. On the platform for Tokyo, a white train pulled up which looked really different from the one I travelled out on this morning. It looked special and fast, and I didn’t dare get on it because I thought it might cost me a fortune to use it. So I waited for the next train to come along, which was local and therefore stopped at every station back to Shinjuku.

I was still full at dinnertime, so I just picked at some fruits and a bit of salad.Tomorrow I will do two sets of volunteering. Should be fun!

Ramen-ment

I had the best sleep last night since arriving in Japan. My 100 yen pillow worked a treat! I even woke up at 8 and then went back to sleep for two hours- something I very rarely have the ability to do.

Last night at dinner, my friends and I had organised to meet up at Ueno for lunch today. It was their last day in Japan, so we thought we’d have a special last lunch. After last night’s meeting-point nightmare, we decided to be more organised and choose a station exit and map location to meet at. We decided on a book store, meeting at 12:30.

When I got to the station, it was way bigger than I remembered, and had about 20 exits. There was also no bookstore. Shit.

Cutting a long story short, I spent 30 minutes searching, before eventually running into L and D. We then bumped into K, about a minute after. Then we had to hunt for S. We searched for almost an hour, but couldn’t find her anywhere. I said that we should give up, because that’s when you always find someone, so we pretended to give up and did one more lap of the station. We were all starving, so we decided we’d better actually get some food, and headed away from the station. That’s when S came running up behind us, having spotted us from afar.

Like I said, we needed to give up in order to be united.

It’s actually a miracle how we’ve managed to find each other each time we meet.

D wanted to eat ramen one last time, so we walked around the market area of Ueno, passing an abundance of fresh seafood, bag stores, and shoe stores. We couldn’t find a ramen store that we liked, and we were all hungry, so we decided to give up and cross the road to a kaiten-zushi shop instead. That’s when we accidentally stumbled upon a little ramen store that looked really really good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We ordered our food from a vending machine, which spat out a little ticket that we had to give the waiter. My Japanese came in really handy again, as I was able to tell everyone what was in each dish (there were no pictures on the machine, only buttons with kanji and kana.) and order myself a bowl without pork. We went upstairs and waited for our food, glad to be out of the freezing wind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe food came quite quickly, and it was humongous. I had ordered miso ramen with spring onions, whilst everyone else had miso ramen with pork, corn and butter. Mine also had bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, a thinly sliced vegetable with a kimchi-like taste, a raw egg, nori and sesame seeds.

I’ll let you in on a secret- I’ve never had ramen before. Despite having been to Japan 4 times, and being obsessed with Japanese food, I haven’t tasted the real thing ever (2 minute noodles don’t count.)

I’ve been converted…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was so delicious, and the soup changed taste as I ate (as the egg and kimchi-stuff mixed in.) It was so so so good! But I don’t think I;ll ever be abe to finish a bowl- there was that much food there! I really did my best, but even though I kept eating and eating, the level of food never seemed to go down.

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We all had a go of the garlic press, which required a bit of muscle. The minced garlic tasted great in the soup, but we all probably had really bad breath afterwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter waddling out of the restaurant and back into the cold, we visited a few stores in a nearby department store. I took the gang to Loft, and another crazy shop that sells all kinds of weird things. Everyone went nuts there and bought heaps of stuff- as you do on your last day anywhere.

I decided I want to buy a Fujifilm mini polaroid camera, but I’m going to hunt flea markets for it first. You can get really cheap film at some of the stres we visited today.

Next, we took the subway to Akihabara, so that D could do some last minute present shopping. Akihabara hasn’t changed. It’s still full of flashing lights, millions of electronics stores, and spruikers on every corner trying to get patrons to come to their maid cafes. The boys went off in search of gameboy games (yes, really), whilst S and I headed for some of the kitchy and crazy stores. On the way, we spotted a tiny corner which did nail art. S was so excited because she’d been looking for somewhere to get detailed nail art done the whole time she’d been in Tokyo. This place was so nuts, each little sample was a work of art, and featured imagery of anime and manga characters in ridiculous detail.

I had a look in a multi story shop in the AKB48 building whilst I was waiting for S. I really wanted to buy this black and white cushion with a face on it (why am I sucked in by cute simplified faces?), but I used exceptional self control and reasoning and didn’t buy it. Besides, if I wanted to take it home in my suitcase, nothing else would be able to go in as well. As compensation, I bought two t-shirts with the face on them. One black and one white; one for me and one as a gift for my sister.

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S was so thrilled with her nails- they were really puffy and super cute. I love the face of the jellyfish! We had a quick look in a used Mac shop before we left. There were laptops, ipods, iphones and ipads, as well as cameras and lenses and other technological goods. I couldn’t beleive how cheap everything was! There were macbook airs for 20000 yen, and ipads for 30000. Crazy! I wondered what was wrong with them because I literally had enough cash (and desire) to buy one on the spot.

On the way home, I stopped at Lawsons to get some supplies for dinner. I didn’t feel like that much after my sumo-sized lunch, but I’m trying to eat lots because I think my body needs the energy to keep warm. I made a stirfry of carrot, shimeji mushroom, bok choy and edamame, and had that with some kinpira, an egg, the last of the sweet beans, and some yaki-imo. Yaki-imo is a charred roasted yam (like a purple sweet potato with yellow in the middle), that convenience stores sell in winter. They are in little display cabinets on hot black charcoals at the front of the store. It was pretty tasty, but also kind of dry inside. The skin was the best part!

I think the plate on the left looks like a face.

After dinner I had a new mochi icecream that has a strawberry in the middle! It was pretty good, but the strawberry was frozen solid. I think the regular ones are still my favourite.

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My shower flooded again tonight- it’s getting really annoying. I had to speed shower, because the water level was getting dangerously close to spilling over, and my laptop cord was on the other side. I think the drain is even more clogged than before Might have to call in the plumbers tomorrow.