Sunday, July 12, 2009
"Fifth Floor, Women's Socks, Small Housewares, Total Insanity, Ice Cream"
We ended up eating two of our meals in Tokyo in department stores. Which isn't nearly as odd or as sad as it sounds; the department stores there are little worlds unto themselves, and very elegant ones at that, complete with a selection of fine and casual dining restaurants on their upper floors, and elaborate food courts/markets in the basements. We had intended to go to one of the latter, but they turned out to be take-away only, which isn't very convenient for visitors in a city with little in the way of public spaces. So we ended up at one of the top-floor restaurants, where we had soba (which comes with a pot of the water they cook the noodles in, for you to mix with the sauce when you're done and make a soup), and tempura of the sort that I searched all of San Mateo for and never found. (Sorry, San Mateo; Japan wins.)
On the way back down, we decided to take the escalators, to see a bit more of the store. It went something like this: women's clothing. . . men's clothing. . . scarves and accessories. . . giant crowd of people mobbing around a bunch of booths with signs we couldn't read. . .
We got off at that floor.
It took a while, but eventually we figured out what was going on. It was a market where the students from various universities were selling the wares they produced in their schools. Which seemed to be largely sake and sochu, proving that, no matter where you go, the basic nature of college students remains constant.
So we fought our way through the teeming mass of people who were teeming, massively, and made a couple of purchases. First, a couple of ice cream treats, in ginger and spinach*. (They told us we had an hour to eat them, which seemed optimistic, until we discovered they have been packed with a chunk of dry ice. Fun for the whole family!) Then, after a break in front of a sochu booth where a somewhat tipsy local wanted to learn about our travel plans, be assured we were having a good time, and exchange business cards (with Cameron; I hadn't brought any), we found a booth that was selling, of all things, Japanese wine. Which was not particularly good, but it was hardly bad, and so unusual that we had to get a bottle.
There was lots more to see, but the claustrophobia was starting to set in, plus we were worried about the ice cream, so we decided to let the rest of the fair remain a mystery, so we went to the store's rooftop garden** to have our treats. I had the ginger.
*The young women who were doing the selling couldn't think of the English for spinach, and attempted to convey the flavor by repeating a word that we eventually figured out was "Popeye."
**Of course it had a rooftop garden.