Last night Dan and I explored the northern part of Tokyo, beginning our promenade at the Nippori station in search of Fabric Town. WHOA. This place is my dream come true — fabric store upon notion shop upon specialty lace shop upon fabric store line a full city block; I vow to visit again with a better purpose and more projects in mind.
From there, we walked south to Ueno Park, famous for its springtime cherry blossoms and home to the Tokyo National Museum, The National Science Museum and The National Museum of Western Art. Because it was getting dark, we decided to visit the museums another day and instead wandered to the Ueno station area, looking for dinner. Under the train tracks, the nightlife was starting to get loud, and we found 大統領 (Daitouryou, or President) a bumpin’ little izakaya (bar that serves food) and had to stop. There were no English menus or photos in sight, but the smells of the grill drew us in.
With tables spilling out onto the alley, smoke and beer and grilled meats aplenty, shouting patrons trying to converse over the rattle of the train above, Dan and I sat down and realized our task ahead — that we would actually have to order something. Our method of choice thus far has been to blindly point at the menu, hope for a few winners, or at the very least for something identifiable. In the super-packed restaurant, we were seated in a booth with another couple, and I’m sure my panic-stricken face was enough to clue them into our situation. Tomo and Nana became fast friends as they helped us order (though I realized a language barrier still existed when we ended up with a plate of assorted grilled chicken innards, the house specialty, which surprisingly I enjoyed) and introduced us to shōchū (Japanese liquor tasting sort of like vodka). I followed Nana’s lead and drank my shōchū with sour lemon soda. Dan and Tomo drank their sweet potato shōchū (mojōchū) straight up.
As it turns out, Tomo and Nana were from an area an hour outside of Tokyo and were spending the day in the city. They practiced their English, and we recited the few words we know in Japanese. But really, our communication consisted of mostly hand waving, laughing and crazy gestures. “What do you plan to do in Honolulu?” Nana pretends to swim, and we all laugh. “What sort of work do you do?” Dan pretends to type on a keyboard, and again, laughter. They recommend we visit Tokyo Disney Resort and Nana shrieks “Like it, like it! Love, love, love!” It was easy to see why we became such easy friends.
Well, that and the shōchū.