Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Only in Japan

Facebook friend's post yesterday: "Rare excitement on the bus here in Tokyo. Skateboarder tried to cut the bus off, barely realized his mistake, bus slams breaks, old people fall over and luckily the skateboarder fell back avoiding being sucked under the front wheel, unlike his skateboard. The miracle of Japan is not one cuss word was spoken, no lawsuits, no police, no fights, the skateboarder embarrassingly smiled, waved to the driver "my bad", picked up his pulverized board and we continued on 30 seconds later. Love this country. — at 渋谷駅 Shibuya Station.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

raw beauty

And we're back, with more of Top 10 things I miss the most. Coming in at number six...


I don't mean to whine, but I reeaaally miss the fish. I miss the generous cuts, at moderate prices, that melt in your mouth. Sushi, even good quality stuff, is no big thing in Japan. It's neither precious nor pretentious (though it can be, at the sorts of expensive restaurants I don't go to). It's not haute cuisine. It's basic, and in Tokyo it was everywhere. My favorite place to eat it was at the jam-packed lunch counter at Midori sushi in the Mark City mall in Shibuya. I'd get take-out from the little sushi shop on the Hiroo shopping street. I'd grab minced tuna-and-scallion rolls from a supermarket cold case - the label on the plastic box would note the exact time the roll was made (that morning) and a "best before" time (later that day). I was not picky, because I didn't have to be. You don't have to spend a lot of money on sushi in Tokyo to be happy. (If anybody reading this knows a decent sushi restaurant in New York's Westchester County that won't break the bank, please post a comment below!)
Snapper. Salmon. Mackeral. With pickled ginger.

Salmon, cucumber and crab topped with avocado, mayo and roe; Midori's idea of a California roll
supermarket sushi platters, priced around $12 each
unagi and a raw veggie salad riding the sushi train at a kaiten joint on Omotesando
conceptual advertising

a food show vendor's plastic samples look good enough to eat

frozen tuna in a warehouse, around 6 a.m., Tsukiji fish market 

tuna-on-tuna roll

Friday, December 7, 2012

I wish it was spring right now

Brrrrrr. It's cold in New York today, and I've got cherry blossoms on the brain. Next up on my list of Top 10 Tokyo people/places/things I miss the most....


For about two weeks every year, Tokyo's concrete jungle transforms, even the ugliest architecture made pretty by so many pink petals. There are celebrations in the parks, people eating and drinking under the trees 24/7, blue tarps spread out beneath blacktop and patchy grass. Ueno Park in particular draws massive crowds, even on weekdays; sakura season may be the only time of year Japanese salarymen and office ladies feel they can play hooky from work. Other hanami (literally "flower viewing") hotspots: the Nakameguro canal (a stunning display), Yoyogi park (a younger and rowdier scene), and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (but don't even think about bringing a Frisbee - the fun police keep the lawns strictly ball-and-kite free). Even our little Octopus playground park gets busy. Here are some of my favorite pics taken during prime time (late March - early April):

 Blossoming cherry trees along Meiji dori near Shibuyabashi, April 5, 2012

 Claire in Yoyogi park, March 27, 2009

 Terry snapped this by the Nakameguro canal on April 9, 2011 (the boys and I were in New York). With the country still reeling from the 3/11 disaster, official hanami events in Tokyo were canceled and there were fewer people about. 

Conor, 8 1/2, and Dylan, nearly 7, at Koishikawa Korakuen, a walled garden near the Tokyo Dome and one of the best places for viewing cherry blossoms, April 6, 2009

Meiji-dori in Ebisu, across from our bus stop and near our old apartment
Meiji-dori in Ebisu, facing southeast. That's Ippudo (ramen!) on the left beyond the vending machines
At the 06 Toei bus stop, looking toward Shibuyabashi, March 27, 2008

The boys' first close encounter:  Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, March 28, 2008

A Jingumae side street we would walk down to get to school when the kids were smaller, near the Children's Hall in Shibuya

Nakameguro canal

When the blossoms fall away, they are replaced with lush green - this canal is such a gorgeous place, despite the surrounding architecture

Conor on Meiji-dori with Edmund Buddles, April 4, 2009

 Edmund and Conor on Shibuyabashi pedestrian bridge, heading for Ebisu station

Nature lover with big lens in Koishikawa Korakuen

Hanami in Yoyogi park, March 29, 2009
 Terry and Ichiro, friend from NYU biz school now living in Tokyo; Ichiro's family showed us how it's done

Boys were welcomed into a random ball game. Best thing about Yoyogi park: anybody can join in

Thursday, December 6, 2012

mass transit appeal

Received via email from Mizuho today: iphone pics of the latest Tokyo metro public service posters!

 I presume the message here is... Don't walk too close to the edge!

 Do you have to use your mobile phone here?

Don't push past the old folks on the escalator! (just a guess)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

karaoke - a retrospective

Jan, Clare, Ali and David doing ACDC's Dirty Deeds, June 2010

Continuing with my Top 10 list of Tokyo people, places and things that I miss the most...


Yes it's true. The Hiroo karaoke cellar bar that smells like skunked beer and is so frequently overtaken by blotto mic-hogs (who, me?) holds a special place in my heart. As do the guys who work there: Alejandro, at the door and behind the bar, and Saito-san at the controls.
Our Cuban friend does more than serve the drinks. He also turns in song requests, especially helpful when there are several bodies standing (or swaying) in the narrow aisle between the stadium seat where you're sitting and Saito's booth. And he keeps order, onstage and off. Don't let that sweet smile fool you - he'll promptly bounce anyone who makes trouble. Stripping, for example, is a big no-no. (I wasn't there that night, but apparently he tossed out one of the teachers from the kids' school for refusing to keep his shirt on.)

My last night at SH, Saito gave me his nylon jacket. It's way too big on me, but I will treasure it, always, even if it's the shade of Skype blue and smells like plastic.

At one point SH stopped giving out their trademark drink tokens - apparently they had run out, with so many patrons forgetting to trade them in for that second drink and pocketing them instead. KT had enough for a half dozen pendants and earrings. 

 AJW scored the Supersize edition. Suits her, don't you think?

I could always count on Alison to meet me there, and she could sing anything
Terry, Mark and David, June 2012

Russell, in his stage debut (maybe he needed time to recover from the night we lured his parents here and they sang a duet of When I'm 64)

Sean helps Terry with Delilah

Me and KT. BeeGees? Abba? Who can remember

with Clare, Julia, Gabrielle, Susie, Kate and Tash, June 2010

 Alejandro, when he used to wear a headband

Mark singing with Claire on tambourine

 Terry often had trouble getting me to leave

 Terry, Rupert, David L., Rory

with Clare on my 39th birthday

Clare, Julia, Zoe, Gabrielle, Ali, Susie, Kate, Nicole, Victoria, Victoria's niece, me and Tash (with Rory paying close attention from the stands)

 Terry, Scott, Rupert, David L., David D. and Rory, June 2010

Read more about this wonderful establishment here.

5-2-26 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan