Monday, September 25, 2006

Exploring Kichijoji

What a fabulous day we had. Hopped on an early morning train out of Utsunomiya and into the relatively tame streets of Ueno, practically deserted compared to the weekends. The atmosphere when wandering the street of Ameyayokocho probably makes it one of my favourite places to bum around, at least for a short time. Today's mission was to find a pair of shoes that fit, and in the second shoe store we went into, success! And not expensive either, which is always a bonus.

I find myself sometimes taking the same picture that I have before. This marinated octopus tentacle is just so vividly red, I hope it's not the same one that was there when I went in April.

Ameyoko is a great little area with a market feel to it. You'll find all kinds of stuff from Skippy Peanut Butter to lentils and fresh fruit.

After picking up a few needed cooking supplies for Matto, we hopped on the Yamanote line to Shibuya to meet Alex, whom I hadn't seen since he left Utsunomiya many moons ago. It was great to see him again! Things just haven't been the same since the days of the 3 musketeers living the high life and hitting Kegon for cigars and drinks... After a quick pit stop at the Mac store for Matt, we headed down to Kichijoji, and area of Tokyo I had never been in, but one of Alex's favourite haunts. One of the things Alex has a passion about is FOOD. Spend a day with the guy in Tokyo and you WILL eat well. Our first stop in Kichijoji was the Village Vanguard Diner for some really great burgers and onion rings.

Now, I haven't had a hamburger since Kua Aina in Odaiba back in April. Needless to say, the wait was worth every scrumptious bite into this bacon cheeseburger. Yum!

After lunch, we headed on out to wander the streets again in the general direction of Inokashira park. Kichijoji is a really interesting area filled with shops and restaurants and cafes and such, kind of like Tokyo's Greenwich Village. The crowd is more mature than say, Shibuya, and the feel is quite nice.

One thing which caught our eye was this blatant caricature of a black person, complete with fat red lips, something which would draw violent protests from anti-racism groups who may burn down the offending shop, which would then cause riots by anti-violence groups in a never ending cycle of indignation. Here, it seems to just "be". This reminds me of the story of Little Black Sambo and it's resurgence in popularity here.

We did eventually make it into the park, which looks like it must be amazing during Cherry Blossom season. The pond is filled with some pretty damn big carp, as you can see here by comparing the back end of the orange one passing underneath this duck... pretty brave ducks if you ask me, especially the babies...

In the middle of the park is a great Asian cafe where we ordered some Vietnamese drip coffee and some great bread pudding. What a way to kill an afternoon!

We eventually did make it out of the cafe and I helped Alex fiddle with his camera a bit. Here's the man taking a picture of a flower, how cute!

I did the same of course, but didn't come out with a good one. As we continued walking around the park we encountered a few artisans selling their stuff along with a violinist doing his\her (hard to tell) thing. The highlight of the park visit was this street performer who is apparently here every day. He seems to have his little crowd of regulars as there were people sprawled out on the ground with snacks and sake watching him play. I got a couple of good shots of him doing his thing as people walked by, thought it was a cool effect, kind of life passing by as he plays his music.

After listening to him for a bit, we continued walking and eventually made our way to the station to hop on the train headed North. Had a fantastic day with the Lambert-meister and Matto the Natto.... and unfortunately that just about does it for this long weekend.

Back to work tomorrow, only 2 weeks until my mother visits and 3 weeks before the wedding. I think many people tend to start freaking out at about this point, but I ain't which is good.


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