Nothing quite shows you the scope of a modern metropolis like going up to a high vantage point and looking out over it, so that’s what we did my second day in Tokyo. But first I got the treat of spending a little more time in the countryside near Chiba. My friend and his parents have a nursery, and we took the truck up some bumpy roads to a lovely area filled with flowering trees…or rather, mostly with trees about to flower. Sadly, I’m just a week or two too early for most of the cherry blossoms, though I did get to see a couple of the trees at Ueno Park before heading into the National Museum. (It must have been my “best fortune” coming into play that I got to see any at all this time of year.) We walked around, and I saw local rice paddies, including one that grew the rice that I had just eaten at the breakfast table. It sounds strange, and it’s probably just the city girl in me, but it reminded me of the time I spent some time with my family in Cabanne in France: the roads so narrow, one car needs to pull over to let another car pass, irrigation ditches at the side; the quiet. Probably hallmarks of small farms in many places, but new and refreshing to me.
Then it was goodbye to my friend’s parents. Their kindness and hospitality had been great – they gave me the chopsticks I had used so clumsily at breakfast, taken me out for dinner, mimed with me to make ourselves understood by each other with only a handful of words in common. I was sad to say good-bye but grateful that I had been able to start my journey with people taking care of me as I got used to a new language and culture.
T and I headed into the city to drop off my luggage. All I can say about my bags – worst packing job ever! That night, I repacked and pruned, but I admit that I will be extremely happy when I can mail my boots home in a month! I am also planning on sending home or ditching guidebooks as I finish them, so that should help. Backpackers, believe the travel books when they tell you not to bring too many books. Books have always been my downfall, but I’m hoping to avoid the literal here. (On a brighter note, I have no need for a stairmaster here with all the stairs in the Tokyo subway and the Kyoto temples!)
Once in Tokyo and having parked my baggage for a time, T and I explored the Tsukiji fish market and then hunted for lunch. It was early afternoon by then, so stalls were just ready to close up, but I still got to see an amazing variety of fish. It’s especially fun to see fresh octopus and squid!
For lunch, we went to a street lined by monja restaurants. Honestly, I’m not sure how to describe monja, so I googled it. The best I came up with was that it is a Japanese pancake filled with cabbage and whatever you choose (in our case, tuna), which you cook on a griddle that is set in the middle of the table similarly to Korean bbq griddles. You then use metal scrapers to scrape up parts of the “pancake” onto your plate. It was an interesting culinary experience. It did not have a very strong taste and so I don’t have very strong feelings about it, but I did very much enjoy getting to taste it.
Then off to that view I was talking about!