Ok, to start, the English teacher's I work with at one of my schools gave me this New Year's present that says "Lucky wish you every a lot of happiness" and I thought it was a joke, because you know, they are English teachers for crying out loud and so maybe they would catch that kind of Engrish, but nope. For real. It was the last straw. My lasting homesickness called for a flight from my conservative MidwesternJapanese town to Tokyo! About effing time.
This is my luggage waiting to board the airport limosine. Psyche! Yeah right, like I have this LV duffel!
Kissing Kago goodbye! Seeee ya!
Yes! Tokyo at last! So refreshing to see fashionable people everywhere, and SO many people! Shopping, shopping and more shopping.
Unlike the funny Christmas decorations in Kagoshima, Tokyo's Christmas felt very familiar, and well done!
The infamous Christmas cake. People put in orders for Christmas cake months in advance, and because we hadn't my cousin and I stood in line to get our very own for Christmas cake for ages.
I suppose the Christmas cake is borrowed from various European traditions, like the French buche de Noel, but I had to explain to everyone that we don't really eat cake for Christmas in the US and A when they all looked at me expecting me to be the Christmas cake expert. Uh, apple or pumpkin pie anyone?
The rush to buy the perfect cake.
My cousin made a huge Christmas Even dinner, roast beef and potatoes and all! I threw in some crostini, but of course there was sashimi and other Japanese foods as well.
The Tokyo metro. Everyone is always texting, or watching tv or movies on their keitai. Call me old fashioned, but I am not that into watching tv on the go all the time. I guess it passes the commuting time. People are also really quiet on the subway and I find myself missing NYC's subway performers, though I really doubt that would fly here.
It is a strictly followed rule that everyone in Tokyo stands on the left side of the escalator.
The Tokyo metro map. Aside from being in a crazy different language it is the most confusing metro I have ever been acquainted with in my life! Holy hell! I can't make heads or tails of most of it - you have to make so many transfers and there are always one million people everywhere. Man, I am really working hard on making sense of it. I really have respect for huge cities that have figured out how to manage and move such large populations of people. Ha, Tokyo is the exact opposite of Delhi or Calcutta... there is order and it is a pretty clean city without noticeable pollution.
A museum full of old stuff and foreigners. I guess going to history museums isn't the hot thing for young Japanese people to do.
Yes, it is winter here. Cold!
This is a market called Ameyayoko that reminded me of being in NOT Japan. It is full of people yelling out prices of goods and various ethnic foods... like being in an Indian market but without fearing for my possessions and body. I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to be in a place with action, with diversity of people, smells, and noise! It has been driving me crazy to feel so isolated in Kagoshima!
Strawberries on a stick!
The Asakusa market Senso-ji Buddhist shrine. An old merchant district of Tokyo that one of my cousins lives near.
Out of focus, but that is basically what I look like.
All of these shops are full of great knickknakcs, but I restrained myself, mostly.
And of course, lots of sweets!
Noh masks. I want them all, what great expressions!
One of the shrine's towers. Night view, yeah!
This is fugu, a super poisonous puffer fish that is a favorite delicacy for winter time feasting in Japan. Chefs have to train numerous years to learn to remove the poisonous liver in the correct way. I met with my second cousin's family and we went to a snazzy fugu speciality restaurant in Ginza where we had a full course of fugu cooked in many ways. There was fugu sashimi, fugu salad, fugu kara-age (like tempura), and a fugu nabe (like stew). (Wikipedia told me that because these fish are really violent they often sew their mouths shut when they put them in the tanks together!)
Each table has a heating element so you cook the stew yourself on the table. They bring a pot of broth and the meat, vegetables and tofu and you cook and serve yourself. I really enjoy this interactive eating! Ha, this fugu was so fresh that the pieces were moving!
Me, watching the pieces of fugu moving in the dish.
Me and the Swiss banker my cousin's daughter is marrying.
This was my favorite discovery of the night. It's called fugu hire-zake, and basically they take the fins of the fugu and roast them until they are crispy and put them in a cup of hot sake. At the table they light the sake on fire and then you drink it! I know this sounds weird, but it has this incredible smokey flavor that mixes with the sweet sake and I think I fell in love.