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Friday, April 16

BB Comes to Japan

It may have been a few weeks past now, but it has been no less on my mind.  My friend BB made it to Japan.  This is a huge deal to me considering as we have had very few friends make the trip.  We still are surprised by the lack of guests we have had, but we accept it.  Still, I was thrilled that she would come and see me. 

We did the usual places and things that we love to do and show... starting with a trip to our favorite restaurant down the street the evening she arrived.  The next day, we meandered around some local Zushi temples and then took the JR and Enoden train lines over to Kamakura to see the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) followed by Hase Dera.  We paused here and there for snacking on things like mochi and osambe crackers.  For the evening, I insisted on my favorite for dinner, okonomiyaki, at a make-it-yourself place in the mall.  With each new food, I reminded her to trust me and I would not lead her astray.  While it may look weird, she liked it just as much as I do in the end. 

Sadly, the rain put a jinx into our middle-of-the-week plans.  It didn't help that the Kimono Peanut had had enough of being drug to and fro for the past several days... weeks.  It worked out well though as we stayed in, catching up on our lives and daydreaming together about the future.  We spent one very rainy day watching Twilight followed by New Moon, both of which she had sadly missed out on previously.  What kind of friend would I be if I didn't steer her towards 'Team Edward'?  The baby napped most of his day away, a sure sign that he needed the down day, so we stuck in one more and finished up our little film fest with the classic Breafast at Tiffany's.  I loved every minute of this quiet time together.  Fortunately, for both of us, we had enough quiet time, so the rest of the trip wasn't as low key.

Managing to get a day off, KH took over the Peanut's care for the next day and we headed out early for a long day in Tokyo.  We started with breathing in some smoke to aid our good health at Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, followed with a little retail therapy in that area. 

More meanderings through the temple grounds and gardens until we found ourselves on a random side street on a hunt for Japanese curry which she had yet to experience.  Typically in Japan, the smell of curry reeks its way out of every other restaurant filling every street corner, except, of course, for the day you are actually looking for it.  I finally found some plastic curry posing in a display case, so we pushed the curtain aside and went in to find a seat. 

The place was relatively empty, save for two customers, two owners and a Siamese cat so we took a seat near the front window.  They say curiosity killed the cat, but this one was alive and well as it hopped up onto the table beside us, staring sideways at us for a moment.  When BB turned to gaze around the restaurant, the cat took his moment and leaped onto our table, whiffing her with his tail as if to tell her that the territory she sat had already been marked by someone or thing.  I guess it should have phased me more that a cat was strolling across each of the table tops, but as he continued on his way until he was perched on the bar where he could watch us receive our curry lunches, I completely forget his presence. Once again, BB felt that she had not been led astray.  In fact, she loved curry so much that we would hunt it down several more times before the end of her trip.  I'm perfectly shocked that she didn't try to lick the plate here, but I guess she was leaving that for her feline friend. 

Roaming back to the main parts of Asakusa towards the train, we decided it was time to get a nice refreshing beverage for the long ride back.  Ahh... her first chu-hi.  Peach, I think.  A love was created.  So much so that I made a quick call home to ensure that KH had not been driven crazy... yet... by KP so that we could indeed continue on our way past home and on to the first place of the night, a chu-hi stand in Yokosuka.  He said he was fine.  We didn't give him time to change his mind and quickly hung up.

This stand is a local Navy haunt.  It is the perfect place to be reminded of the difference between Americans and Japanese when you are visiting this country.  Everywhere you have gone previously and surrounded by the Japanese, it was quiet.  Here, it was anything but.  Sailors poured onto the streets, brightly colored lime and grape chu-his in hand, laughing ang guffawing at the two lone girls (besides us) who were obviously out for something very different than we were that night.  Still, the drinks are cheap and it is nearly next door to the second place.

After one drink, my favorite yakitori stand would now be open.  We left the sailors behind and made our way there to find our spot on the stools we would sit on for several hours after.  I've talked about this place time and time before.  I love it and so does everyone I have ever taken there.  Even the pot of sauce that looks like it has been sitting out since the 70s, the tiny, grateless charcoal grill, the melted glass screen over the grill, nor the smoke that inevitably fills the room has deterred a soul.  We ordered several rounds of yakitori... chicken/onion, bara (pork belly), gingko nuts, tomato wrapped in bacon, quail egg wrapped in bacon, okura (okra) wrapped in bacon, shrimp wrapped in bacon.  We ordered even more chu-his than food... settling on peach first and then our favorite, the grape.  By the time we left, the nice pictures we had been taking of her time here were going seriously downhill as we played with our food and our drinks.  We're classy like that.

Feeling fine (read: nearing drunk), we decided to call it a night.  Of course, it was a whole 15 minute train ride home, we we stopped for one more chu-hi for the way.  I grabbed them thinking I grabbed peach, only for BB to realize that I had mistakenly grabbed the season's special, cherry.  Still good, in my book.  We passed a daiyaki stand on our stroll to the train.  I never could pass up a good daiyaki.  I think is was good.  But I could hardly remember now. 

I mistakenly caught us a train going the wrong direction - alcohol or stupidity - you be the guess, but it worked out well as we got away from a sailor who had followed us in past the ticketing area and was now asking us where we lived.  Um.  No thanks, dude.  Going home to my hubby and my peanut, thank you very much.  BB's hubby may have been far away, but she wasn't going to take you up on any offers either.

Of course, we couldn't pass the 7-11 on the way home, where I once again had to show my friend something new... soft porn on the display stand.  It is amusing that this stuff is so readily available in such a conservative society.  We ended the evening giggling away the day's antics with KH. 

For her last day here, we had a going-away party to attend for some friends here who are off to a new live in Australia.  The restaurant Watami is one of their favorites, so they had organized a large party there that seemed to consume much of the restaurant.  For two hours, the dishes and drinks kept on coming.  Everything from the usual Japanese cuisines of edamame, shabu shabu, fried fish, tempura, rice, Japanese thin pizza to the more unusual like jelly fish and even the delicacy of horse.  The hosts attempted to get everyone at the table to try it before they said what it was and most complied.  Sadly, BB had been warned by my husband who has been tricked (by me) in the past and refused to allow that to happen to her.  Bah.  Party poopers.  Our large party did manage to drink the place out of apple sour chu-hi style drinks and we were working hard on finishing off the mango too when our time was up.  A few in the group were headed out to a second, third and eventually fourth place, but we were so stuffed full and the Peanut was with us, that there would be no way we would even contemplate a late night like theirs would surely be. 

Instead, we took one last evening stroll around Kamakura and the Hachiman Shrine.

I think BB enjoyed her visit.  I know I loved every minute she was there.  I begged her to stay for the next few months with me, but she seemed hell bent on returning home to her husband.  Bah.  But I'll see you soon, BB... and on your hemisphere!


Anonymous said...

Interesting entry, sounds like you had real fun. What - exactly - is chu-hi?

Love your blog, fascinating info on Japan, keep writing!


Heather Meadows said...

Sounds like a great visit! It is so fun to explore another country with a friend :) I got to visit my best friend in England last year and it was amazing.

Kimono Karen said...

Wembley - Chu-hi is as common a drink as sake here. It's a combination of fruit juice and a Japanese alcohol called shochu (made from either barley, sweet potatoes or rice). It's tastes like nothing but the juice, but they are deadly. And delicious.

Heather - it is so nice to explore with a friend! I just wish more could have made the trip!