Food, glorious Food!

When lunchtime rolls around in Ireland, Latimer and Ridley find themselves getting hungry, but roast dinners and stews aren’t what occupy their thoughts; no, they’re reminded of their culinary adventures in Tokyo!

Latimer: whenever I get hungry, I think back on food I had in the past. And for me, it can be the very distant past.

For example, my sister went to college in London when I was 6yrs old; when she moved there, myself and my mother went with her, to help her settle into her dorm for a few days. One night we were very hungry so we decided to get chips. I can remember it vividly, how dark and cold it was (my sister tells me now that it wasn’t a good area to be in at night time!), the roads were black, wet with rain, and the chippy was a little suspect.

We got three bags of chips wrapped tightly in newspaper (old school!). They were massive bundles and the chips were delicious!

There were so many that we could only manage to eat a few.So the majority of those chips were tossed in the bin.

That was a lifetime ago, but to this day, I remember those chips when I get really hungry. I think back and always say to myself ‘oh why did I toss them! I wish I could eat them now!’

It’s such a strong memory. We always remember a good meal, as if our body is saying ‘yes, remember how much you like to eat! How tasty food is! REMEMBER!’ Somehow it seems like the body is afraid one day we might not like food anymore!

When we went to Tokyo, it was one of our aims to eat well everyday. When we were in Japan 4yrs ago, we were with other people and it was hard to find food that everyone wanted to eat. This time, we had no worries; we’re pretty similar in that we wanted true Japanese food, and we wanted to eat!

Thankfully, Tokyo was only too willing to feed us!

Every time we went somewhere, I took out the camera and snapped some pictures. Because we wanted to remember the food; we wanted to show people; ‘look, look at the food! Look how yummy it is… we ate that! We remember the taste’.

Looking at these pictures now, I have very fond memories of sitting in these places, munching on this food as Tokyo and its people flashed passed us; we ate in good company, had good chats and dreamed good dreams… so with that, let me show you our food memories!

Day one of serious photo taking involved yummy okonomiyaki (sort of savory pancakes) at the famous restaurant, Sometarou in Asakusa. We mentioned it in a previous post, but it’s worth another mention. It was amazing!

It was also the most tradition place we ate in, and while it was roasting sitting by those frying-slabs, it was just perfect!

Ridley lovingly paints our pancakes, with a substance we didn’t recognise but had the consistency of tar!

Cuttlefish and tiny red shrimp- probably us at our most adventurous I think!

The next day we were off to Ueno Park.

Now the Lonely Planet guide book didn’t recommend many eateries in Ueno, so we were stuck. It was a hot day, the park was vast and we were hungry. Looking around the periphery of the park we managed to find the Korean cafe.

Ah, we love Korean food, it’s hearty stuff, so we were very happy with this find!

Although the waiter didn’t understand us, and we had some mishaps ordering, which left Ridley with food, and me with a drink! Ha! We managed to sort it out and I ended up with food, but Ridley didn’t get her drink! But she didn’t care by then, it was too much hassle!

But actually, the drink was AMAZING! Like drinking sunlight (big assumption!).

The food was typical Korean fare (yummy!)….

Except for these….

Ahhh! What are they? They’re looking at me! Ridley ate them without looking as far as I’m concerned! When I pointed it out to her, she was two mouthfuls in… she was rightly aghast!

When we went to Ikebukuro, we ate in one of the shopping malls.

Which we were kind of thinking was a cop-out as we should eat ‘authentic’ food out in the little restaurants. But the guide book (not that it had become God in the last few days…well actually it had, all hail guide book!) said that the malls actually have some really good places to eat in!

They were right! This was a veggie noddle dish, with rice, served in a pipping hot stone bowl. Which, in winter would be just amazing, in summer a bit too hot, but still lovely!

At one point I remember we spent hours looking for this one restaurant around the Ginza area I think.

Ridley had her google maps out and we managed to find the place where the restaurant should have been. But it was mysteriously absent (she was annoyed because we had spent all that time looking and it was almost like the map had bested her!).

So, falling back on the God, Lonely Planet, we headed into the nearest shopping mall. We judged based on pictures what restaurant we would eat in.

It was on the top floor and faced a massive sky-bar that loomed over the mall from across the road. We sat down, and a lovely waitress came over and explained the menu (we had been staring at it completely bewildered). She had very good English (we were soooo happy!). The first thing she asked though was…. ‘have you ever eaten Korean before’.

Haha, we didn’t even know we’d come into a Korean restaurant. We were even happier!

The food was cooked (by her in front of us) over a small hot plate, in a large steel bowl.

She asked us if we wanted rice or noodles, we said noodles…. but they didn’t materialize. We were baffled, but we ate away not caring.
It was great, sharing food over a hot plate like that. Korean food is so hearty and built to share (kind of facilitates conversation too!).
When we were finished the waitress returned with the mysteriously absent, much discussed noodles. She put them into the remaining sauce and added water, leaving it to bubble away… It was so good!
It reminded us of being in a Korean drama! It was the best feed I think we had while in Japan.

I get very hungry thinking back on this dinner… sigh. On another day we contemplated going back to this place, but Ridley frowned, “I don’t think I could find it even if we wanted to, we did so much walking around… I wouldn’t know the way.”

Ridley is like a human GPS, so if NavWoman couldn’t find it, it wasn’t possible!

Of note here, is that myself and Ridley have this deep love of ramen. It started really from watching anime (Naruto mainly). We always wanted to taste the real stuff in Japan. We managed to on our first trip a few years back and we always regretted not eating more of it (our other friends didn’t really like it that much).

So this time we were noodle crazy- we wanted to go to ramen places as much as possible. It’s a massive bowl of happiness!

This place was a ramen shop around where we were staying (Akasaka). It wasn’t the best ramen we had, but it was nice. We had to use the typical vending machines the Japanese use in eateries like ramen places and curry houses.

Bascially you select the meal you want, pay for it, get your ticket and give it to the people in the shop. It’s a brilliant idea, because us foreigners aren’t left feeling confused… although a few times some kind Japanese people had to step in and help us! You have to match up katakana, kanji and hiragana symbols to identify the food you want on the machine (a little time consuming, so we had to make sure no one was waiting behind us, or sidestep and let them in first!).

I was actually always very happy to see these machines in the places we were going to eat in- a deep sense of relief!

Our search for ramen brought us to another cool, traditional restaurant around Akasaka. This ramen was delicious!

These were Ridley’s gyoza (dumplings… she didn’t like em- too many onions!)

My yummy ramen (I love sweetcorn)

Ridley’s pork ramen (looks delicious)

The best ramen we had, we got in the Ginza district, in yes, another shopping mall! This was our last night in Tokyo, so we finished it with the food we had loved most- (well, next to the Korean food!).

This business man was eating beside us. He was a little rude to the guy making the ramen.

I found at times the meat that was being used was tough. But this was melt in your mouth pork. I feel like Homer Simpson at the moment, drooling away at the thoughts of eating.

I was so tired this night. Me and Ridley sat at this bench for ages. We were the only people there. I nodded to sleep at one point (resting my eyes, haha). When we got up to leave, the two ramen chiefs smiled over at us and gave us big goodbyes and thank yous. It was a nice way to end our ramen adventure!

A side project we had was to have proper Bubble Tea/Milk Tea. This is popular in Asia. Basically it’s a milk-based, flavoured drink, with tapioca balls in it. The straws are thick so you can suck them up. The desire to get the Bubble Tea wasn’t that strong as the days wore on. It was only as we passed through Harajuku on our third round that we found this Pearl Lady place. Which seemed to be where all the kids hung out.

It was all pink and open plan and full of cheap fast-food places selling curly potato fries and so on. 

After about 10mins of trying to remember my Katakana (argh, I hate Katakana). I was able to figure out two flavours, caramel and strawberry! That’ll do we thought!

We settled down at the window overlooking Takeshita dori. We slurped on our Bubble Teas, with intermittent coughing/choking fits when we gulped down a tapioca ball or three, or ten.

We’ve had some bad Bubble Teas (Christmas market, Berlin brings back bad memories of gingerbread, hot Bubble Tea! Oh nasty). So, I was dubious. But this was so tasty. I wish we had of known about this place sooner! Check it out if you’re ever there- it’s so good!

Following a delay in our flight (actually an out and out cancellation), we ended up in an airport hotel. I finally tasted the strange green-tea and cherry blossom flavoured kit-kat I’d bought. It was actually nice. But doesn’t it look weird?

We were offered a free all you can buffet lunch- I should never be offered such a thing! I tried a bit of everything (and felt sick afterward). I snapped a picture of the fancy Japanese sweets because they looked so lovely. But I didn’t like them- they were made from rice dough and filled with bean-paste… I was expecting chocolate- so I was left grimacing, while Ridley nodded, “yep, bean paste! Knew it!”.

On the way home, our fly was practically empty- it was heaven for a long-haul! Everyone, I kid you not, everyone had a three seats to themselves! 

I won’t end with airplane food- don’t worry (it makes me sick and I can’t eat it). But I was able for this ice-cream….

Our final taste of Japan, for a few years at least!

On a book related update, the editing of our book is nearly finished! By me at least… procrastination must be the way of getting things done in a weird way! I’ve done so much of it. Soon we’ll be sending it to the professionals. We are so excited to be walking down this road! Ridley is busy with her book trailer too, so all is going well!

In the editing process I have been armed with my moomin cup (always full of Lyons tea) and my moomin pen for the taking of notes (both bought in Kiddyland in Harajuku)! The kit-kat, yes, is one I bought in Japan. If it keeps I plan to eat it when the book goes ‘live’ so to speak! Keep watch… it might not last that long!

Chance Meetings (Chansu Miitingutsu)

Latimer: Today myself and Ridley journeyed to Asakusa. A very nice part of Tokyo that contains the jaw-dropping Asakusa-jinja. The main gateway to the temple contains a massive red lantern at its centre. This is often used as a meeting place in shoujo manga for the main boy and girl’s date. (Ridley: I love how this looks like it’s about to be a post about the temple, which perhaps more people would be interested in than our crazy ramblings but…it’s not going to be! So…go see the temple, it’s lovely…now on to our madness..)

The temple site was packed with tourists and also school tours (lots of middle and elementary school kids… we assumed).

As me and Ridley stood poised on the great Temple’s porch (R: We sound impressive, it was more like we lulled over the banister as we were starting to flag against the hot sun. There was a nice breeze on the high porch so we didn’t want to move…) We began to muse over what the school kids ‘stories’ might be. We’ve been doing this a lot on our trip. We will often wonder, what is the life story of any number of random individuals; the gaijin (foreigner) in the suit alone on the train; the old Japanese couple walking hand in hand through the park… and now, the school kids.

I should backtrack and explain that Asian dramas are loved by both myself and Ridley, it doesn’t matter if it’s Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese. We’ve watched them all. (R: Great stories, well woven but really sometimes the endings are poorly wrapped up…we like to think we could end some of them better!) They tend to follow a similar pattern and so, we started to think about our own drama, and we began randomly picking out the school kids below as our characters…

We focused on one group of three girls and four boys.

One girl wore a backpack with the American flag as the pattern; she became ‘Stars and Stripes’.

The one with all the power (when she asked for a picture, all the boys leapt to attention) became, ‘The Main Girl’ and Stars and Stripes, we decided would be her best friend. They were all in Middle School together.

Of the four boys, one stood out; he had a grey backpack (Grey), all the other boys flocked around him, we decided he was the boy that loved The Girl, her best boy-friend. The good guy.

Then we noticed another, separate group of boys. There was one that stood out, a young man in a hat (a sort of black 1930’s hat). Very dapper. He was going to be the bad boy. We named him Hat. Ridley watched him intently; “He’ll be the leader of the gang, the one that will lead the fight out of the subway” (to those that don’t follow Asian dramas, there always seems to be fighting involved and it usually involves the main men, and more often than not, the bad guy is in some form of a gang. I don’t know where this factors into Asian society, it just seems to be a staple in drama-land).

So, we decided that Hat and The Girl had had a ‘chance meeting’ during their school trip to the temple. But they’d also been having ‘chance meetings’ their whole lives (they don’t realise it, but they met first in preschool, when they fought over a red crayon. Since this time, The Girl has referred to this arrogant boy as Aka-baka (red-idiot)).

The title of our drama, then became ‘Chansu Miitingutsu’ (the Japanese pronouncation of Chance Meetings). This is my attempt at the katakana of the title:

                                                 チャンツ   ミチングツ

As the school kids started to leave, we fast-forwarded a few years; they were now in High School. Of the Middle school group, only The Girl and her friends, Grey and Stars and Stripes, went to the same school. But…. who ends up in her class? Just Hat (Aka-baka). 

— Another Chansu Miitingutsu!

(Ridley: It’s the only way really, how else are they meant to get together? But Grey will put up a good fight, as he will be able to have The Girl’s best friend, Stars and Stripes, fighting in his corner! Those two probably ended up in the same class, as is the way of things. Oh yeah, we’re writing this, so…they did! And I bet Stars and Stripes likes Grey…oh the plot thickens!)

The school kids soon left the Temple, led off by their guides and sensei. However, for us, the notion of our drama continued throughout the day. As we passed a pachinko arcade (Ridley: Gambling parlours with tiny, metal balls- the noise from them is horrific!), we saw a girl dressed in a ridiculous costume outside, pleading for people to come in (handing out flyers, in a sky blue robe wearing a curly pink wig). Ridley nodded, “That’s the job The Girl gets in High School”.

“And Hat frequents the pachinko dens,” I added.

— Chansu Miitingutsu!

By the end of the day we’d ended up in Ginza, in a Vampire Café (more on that later! Very random I know) being served by a surly young man dressed as a Goth (I’m not sure I’d say vampire, maybe a Goth gone mental). We rounded off our drama for the day by deciding that Hat worked as a vampire in the vampire café.

As we sit, winding down in our hotel room, writing this, we’ve worked out the following:

Yamapi will play Hat

Ikuta Toma will play Grey

This will also fulfil our dream of having these two men work together in a drama!

Inoue Mao will play The Girl

Horikita Maki will play Stars and Stripes

Our drama theme song will be PonPonPon by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (because it’s a mental music video, and we are sure that that girl is following us all over Tokyo at the moment… she is EVERYWHERE!). (Ridley: PonPon woman has given me a headache. This song has been caught in my head all day! It’s quite catchy…)

‘People watching’ is a major source of all drama goodness! Stay tuned for our release date, once everyone signs on, we’ll let you know! (Ridley: We expect these really well known Asian actors to work for free by the by, so it may take some time and lots of persuading before our drama can be made! haha…)