The bit where apparently I was wrong
Omo says that Horrible Racist French Guy was in fact not the man making a fuss in the Toy Story line. I maintain that he was, because he seemed so hostile towards us specifically, but I have to confess that
all middle aged white men look alike I’m really bad with faces and mostly tell people apart by their hair — and whatever else, both men had short, grey hair.
So, apologies for being (potentially) misleading, and for ruining a great story by being (probably) wrong and stuff.
Roppongi is a posh neighbourhood where lots of foreigners live, and there are nightclubs and expensive shops and stuff. Not the sort of place I’d usually go, but Z has left us for Osaka and Omo had a job interview in the area, so we figured we’d take a look.
We went via Tokyo Station. That place is enormous. Like, there are Australian towns smaller than Tokyo Station. And there’s a whole strip with character shops and boutiques associated with TV networks, music, etc. It was pretty cool, but I had low blood sugar and was therefore being a brat. Omo called me on it, got some food into me, and I felt much better, only embarrassed about my attitude. THE MORAL IS, EAT WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY, LIZ, GOD!
Anyway, I’m not really into Japanese pop culture, but Omo got me into this amazing drama called SPEC, about a by-the-book cop who is assigned to work with an eccentric genius as they investigate supernatural crimes. It’s pretty amazing, not least because said eccentric genius is a woman (which doesn’t happen enough in TV, imho), and she really is quite mad, and they have this brilliant chemistry.
So we visited the TBS Store, and I broke out of my bad mood long enough to buy some SPEC postcards. There were stickers, too, and I’d really like one for my bike, but there were no designs I liked enough for that. Likewise, as much as I kind of do want a cushion shaped like a giant gyoza, I’m not sure I can justify spending 2,800 yen on it and then schlepping it home.
Tokyo Station and interview out of the way, bad mood smothered in fried chicken and “condiment sauce” — soy vinegar, if you were wondering — we headed for Roppongi.
We really didn’t leave the vicinity of the station, but it seems like an okay sort of area. I’m not really into nightclubs or expensive boutiques, but there was a bookstore that sold some English titles, and I had a good time exploring their range of English translations of Japanese novels.
We also poked our noses into a cinema — something about not understanding the language makes movie posters look really, really cool, regardless of how cheesy/terrible they may in fact be (see also the many ads for Bollywood productions around my neighbourhood at home) — and skirted past the Mori Art Museum, which is a gallery of modern art.
I’d have liked to have a look at the gallery itself, but it was late in the day, and my feet were already killing me. I wonder if it’s possible to have a holiday that doesn’t kill my feet? Anyway, we compromised with a visit to the gallery shop, and I bought some Mucha postcards — there’s an exhibition on, which I’m hoping to get to when Z returns from Osaka — and some odds and ends.
I really like Ueno. It’s busy, colourful, full of interesting and varied shops, and there’s a whopping great park in the middle.
Also, it’s cherry blossom season! Which means you can buy delicious sakura flavoured treats, and everywhere you look there are beautiful pink trees!
On the other hand, Ueno Park was incredibly crowded. I’d read about Japanese families picnicking under the cherry blossoms, but I didn’t realise that everyone else would be sort of milling around on the paths, stopping without warning to take pictures, and generally being … you know, a crowd. The energy was lovely, but I find it hard work, dealing with crowds.
The eastern side of the zoo was also crowded, but it was less extreme. Omo and I spent the next four or so hours wandering and taking photos of animals.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the zoo. Some enclosures were lovely and big, and contained animals that seemed pretty chill. Others were quite small and old-looking, and the animals were just pacing back and forth. The small mammals enclosure smelled quite bad.
On the other hand, I don’t know much about zoos or wild animals, so I’m in no position to judge. I might cycle to the Melbourne Zoo when I get home, and compare. Or something.
Highlight: kookaburras in the exotic birds section. The GIANT FAT BUM of a hippopotamus (the rest of him was eating). PALLAS CATS. RED PANDAS.
Incidentally, if three Pallas cats and two red pandas disappear from Ueno Park in the next few days, I had nothing to do with it.
Food is very important to me
Dinner was vending machine gyudon and a slightly disappointing chocolate bun. I’m craving sweet food at the moment, but most Japanese desserts are cream-based. Tomorrow I shall eat another sakura and red bean bun! And maybe go in search of some mochi. Or strawberries. Everyone warned me that fruit and veg are super-expensive here, but most items seem to be roughly the same as in Australia, and I spotted some 200 yen strawberries this afternoon. Maybe it’s the end of season?
Having learned the kanji for “soy” (it looks like a latte with foam), I’ve successfully bought soy coffee from a vending machine and a konbini. GO TEAM LACTOSE INTOLERANCE!
I also tried chūhai, which is basically a flavoured shochu? I didn’t care for it, the lemon being too bitter and the other flavours I’ve tried being too sweet. Alcohol is very cheap here, but I’m the kind of party animal who’s in her pyjamas by 7.30 most nights, so I haven’t tried very much. I’d like to try umeshu, though, because I had an ume-based fruit drink last night, which I loved. (It’s that sweetness craving coming through again.)
Tomorrow we’re heading out to Odaiba, as Omo needs to visit Fuji TV for important merch-related reasons, and I just like seeing new places. STAY TUNED.