First, I’d like to apologize for how blurry most of the pictures are. I tried to take them quickly before anyone got too annoyed that a foreigner was photographing everything.
Kenny and I could both feel the stress mounting, so on Friday night we decided to go to the place that reminds us both how happy we are we don’t live there: Tokyo. Tokyo is great, mostly. It’s a lot of hustle a bustle, though, and a lot of drunk business men. It’s great for food and shopping, which is what we went there for.
We took two trains to get to Tokyo Station before learning the next day we could’ve just taken one for the same price. Oops. Next time. We got there at about 7 so the station was packed.
We saw an episode of The Mind of a Chef and decided to check out a tsukemen place the host of the show said was currently booming with business. Located in the Tokyo Ramen Street inside of Tokyo Station was Rokurinsha, a top notch ramen shop. You know it’s good when you need to stand in line for an hour. In fact, we had to stand in line to stand in line, just like all these guys did:
Since we were in the second line, we did get to peek inside the 26 seat ramen shop. We could smell the broth. We knew it would be worth the wait.
An hour later, we were in. This place has you pick and pay for your ramen up front from a sort of vending machine-looking thing. You select the ramen you want (which is all tsukemen, and there were only four options), and then pay for it using either cash or your train pass. The two seats free were right in front of the kitchen. We saw all of the busy cooks in action; they had a clear and efficient system.
This is the first time we’ve ever been given bibs at a ramen shop. I’m grateful, though. When you slurp the noodles the broth goes everywhere. I also keep a towel on my pants and a Tide Pen in my purse. Even though the ramen was ordered up front, it took about 15 minutes for us to get our orders.
Kenny, as always, got the giant portion.
I, as always, got the normal portion.
Now for a tsukemen-eating demonstration. Turns out it’s not easy to take a picture with your iPhone and eat with chopsticks simultaneously, so if it seems like the way I’m holding those noodles is a little awkward, that’s why. Ramen typically comes in the broth, but tsukemen broth is a bit more concentrated so the noodles are served separately.
Kenny likes to just barely touch the noodles to the broth before eating them, but as you can see, I like to drop mine in and take up as much of it as I can.
Mmm…animal fat and noodles…
Jealous yet? I’m about to eat that.
Across the way from Rokurincha was a small store selling regional goods from all over Japan. It was conveniently located right under the bullet train stop, so if you forgot to get goods from the place you were just at, you can surely buy them here. We decided to take a look, having not been to most other regions in Japan.
Okay, this was weird. Each region has a food they specialize in, and here it is in a Kit Kat Bar. I’m told they are all disgusting, and I’ve decided to just assume it’s true. I mean, sweet potato Kit Kats? That does not sound good to me.
ROAR! It’s bear ramen! I’ve never tried bear, maybe some day I will, but not in instant ramen.
Thus ends the exciting Friday night. We went to buy tickets for a rapid train home because we thought it would be a little less stressful since our pants were so tight from all the ramen-eating. We bought the tickets and then realized our train was at the other side of Tokyo Station. So we ran for ten minutes and felt like we were going to explode. Never again.
The next day we kept having to remind ourselves we made plans to get what we thought were drinks with our landlord. I hadn’t met him, Kenny did while he was fixing the sink in our bathroom. We decided to go to a bakery a couple hours before and eat some bread since we knew we were going to be drinking. Biggest. Mistake. Ever. We, as we have many times before in Japan, got in the stranger’s car, and had no clue where we were going. Turns out we were going to his house to have dinner with him and his wife. But not just any dinner, a huge dinner.
Their house was gorgeous, and had two beautiful tatami rooms.
They kept going back in the kitchen and coming back with more food. Each time I saw another plate come out I panicked because you’re typically expected to eat everything at a Japanese meal.
There was salmon, beef, potatoes, tempura everything, sushi, salad…it just kept going and it was all delicious. By the way, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried tempura pumpkin. It was very tasty. And there was, of course, an endless supply of alcohol. We had to be careful because every time we took a sip of wine or sake, our glasses were refilled. We drank more than we normally do in the states, but they expected us to drink more because we’re young.
After dinner, in typical Japanese fashion we had a karaoke party in the next room. We didn’t end up eating it all. We stopped when they stopped and took home plenty of leftovers. Drinking and driving in Japan is very, very bad. It’s actually worse than it is in the states, so they called us a taxi and insisted on paying for it. Our new best friends are our landlord and his wife who are 40 years are senior. In fact, all of our friends are at least twice our age. They just seem to be more social. I feel like we’ve become replacement kids to a lot of different couples. Mom, dad, Kevin and Kim, don’t worry. We’re being taken care of.