Monday, October 17, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016

I haven't gone anywhere yet today (9:40am) but have had breakfast, which for me consisted of lots of bread..., stewed pumpkin (yummy!), sliced cucumbers, apple slices and mint tea.  Unfortunately my mother-in-law is not a very good cook and some of her homemade concoctions just don't seem appetizing.  I'm also trying to stay away from fried food which is so easy to eat in Japan.  Also, she has so many friends who come over and bring food with them that her refrigerator is packed with a huge but odd assortment of food to eat up.  I've stopped at Seiyu each time I'm out to bring home food, too, so she doesn't have to cook, which she doesn't really like doing anymore.  I don't blame her.

The calligraphy to the left is a small wall calendar that hangs in the kitchen.  All of the poetry and calligraphy is by Aida Mitsuo, an artist/poet, who has a small gallery in the Ginza area that I hope to visit.  I love calligraphy and was enthralled by this little "book" hanging on the wall (about 3" wide x 7" long).

Mama-san translated it to read (from top right to the bottom, right to left):

The flower is supported by the branch
The branch is supported by the tree trunk
The tree trunk is supported by the roots
Ah, but you cannot see the roots.

(Sometimes the most the most important things are unseen.)

Also, as Mariko-san and I were leaving the Fabric Street in Nippori, I passed a tree that I realized I had to photograph.  The trunk of the tree was gnarled and covered with moss, but surrounded with garbage.  I was so surprised, in a country that seems to respect plant life, but maybe because it was the city.

Postcard from Japan: Part 3, Monday, October 17, 2016

Menu posted on the wall of different types of
ramen noodle dishes.

And then we were hungry!  It was difficult to find a restaurant since every store was fabric so we walked for another block and the first restaurant was ramen-ya (shop) and we walked in.

There are always a lot of different things put on top of the noodles and broth and that's what you choose.  Chashu (Chinese marinated pork) was the only thing I could think of that I'd had in the past and like a lot.  Mariko-san ordered something else.  When the bowls arrived, Mariko-san took out the two pieces of chashu in her bowl and immediately put them into my bowl--- she doesn't like meat.  I've never had such tender and huge pieces of chashu before--- and so much.  My bowl alone could have fed at least two if not three people (maybe two men and three women).  I felt embarrassed to leave so much food behind and we both apologized to the waitress and cook.  It was so wonderfully delicious with spinach and chopped scallions top.

By the way, the pink spiralled white ovals are kamaboko, compressed fish left over from processing white fish.  In the US, it's called fake crabmeat.  To me, it's not fake anything, it's real kamaboko!

I wasn't hungry last night for dinner at all.

Postcard from Japan: Part 2 of Monday, Oct. 17, 2016

Monday, Part 2:  Mariko-san and I continued on our day's adventure from having dessert first (not lunch but very filling) to going to an area called Nippori, the fabric capitol of Tokyo.  At least two long streets have nothing but small fabric stores, one after another.  Sometimes there's a store that's nothing but buttons, one just leather (piled so high and wide that the proprietor looks almost buried), one nothing but fur or fake fur.  Some stores have only knits, some only silks ($20-$70/yard).  I had to be certain that what I was buying was different and wonderful enough that it would be worth the cost to buy and the cost to mail it home in a box.

Official map of Nippori
fabric shops
After the filling dessert, I was glad to be able to walk a lot, and we did.

Most of the fabrics, I think are imported.  Gorgeous wools, luscious silks, and a lot of synthetics with photo prints--- that seems to be the rage right now of photographed images (flowers, writing in English or French, leaves) and then Photoshopped with filters for a watercolor look and more.  Fabric is sold in meters which is just over a yard in length.  (I bought over a meter of white wool jersey for 900 yen--- about $9.)  I ended up buying fabric at two different stores and then I was overwhelmed and couldn't face anymore.  #36 on the map, Nagato, is the store at which I wanted almost everything I saw and that did it.  So, I took pictures instead!
#36 Nagato:  I wanted to buy everything.
Trying to find the weirdest, wildest most
wonderful fabric.

And then we went to lunch!  Part 3 on Ramen.
Double knit
Double knit in B/W and gray behind, wool felt in front

Postcard from Japan: Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 - Part One

Did I mention about the manhole covers?  These are a thing of beauty.  Every single cover on the roads has a fascinating and creative shape--- perfect for rubbings and quilt series.  (Even on my last trip in 2005, the women I met said that there were already quilt series done on the many varieties of manhole covers.  Often, each area or city section and each utility will have its own unique design.

Today on the walk to the Narimasu Station, I was intrigued with the parking "garage" that elevated the cars into a grid.  In a country of very little extra space, this is often a necessity.

Mihashi Restaurant which specializes in
sweet red bean paste desserts of anmitsu.
Anmitsu desserts
Mariko took me to her favorite dessert restaurant in the basement of Tobu Department Store:  Mihashi.  It's specialty is anmitsu, a sweet red bean paste.  The bowl of anmitsu is combined with many possibilities.  The one she chose for us has vanilla ice cream, mochi (glutinous pounded rice cakes), and kanten squares (clear gelatin made from seaweed).  I never used to like anmitsu but I do now!  Next time I want to get the one with the green tea ice.

The basement of Tobu Department store has many restaurants and food counters.  This restaurant features Japanese-style curried rice.  I love the plastic display display in the window that serves as an initial menu for customers.

I love the young women who greet you at the front of the store, answer questions and graciously pose for pictures.  Part 2 tomorrow on today's events!
Tobu Department Store's greeters.
A restaurant featuring curried rice.  The
display is plastic samples of the menu.

Postcard from Japan: Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016

My mother-in-law, Akiko Suwa Traylor, and Mariko Tanishima

I have decided that I have to go to Haneda Airport in order to rent a Pocket WiFi.  It seems that this is the only way I am going to connect to the internet anywhere in Japan.  It takes about an hour and a half by train.  With Forde Sakuoka's help, he shows me the Tokyo train/subway map and what trains to take.  (By the way, I have solved the problem of the flight to Okinawa.  Mariko-san has called SkyMark--- she has a big cell phone, and found out the schedule.  So I call and talk to an English-speaking agent, Mr. Shibamoto, and reserve a seat from Tokyo to Naha, Okinawa, and then from Naha to Kobe when I visit another friend.)

The trip starts at the Narimasu station which has both train (above ground) and subway (below ground).  I'm taking the train on the Tobu Tojyo Line due east to Ikebukuro.  There I transfer to the Yamanote-sen (line).  (The Yamanote Line is famous as the train that goes in a circle around Tokyo through many of the most famous places such as Shinjiku, Tokyo, and Ueno where the zoo is.  At some point in my stay I'm going to take the train all around the circle to see all the sights--- like circle line cruise.)  Today I'm going south on the Yamanote-sen and getting off at Hammamatsu-cho.  Because it's Sunday the train is packed and there's only standing room until a couple of stop later.  

Now there are screens above the doors with digital moving signs telling you what train you're on, what station is next and where you're stopping.  There's also this information over the loudspeaker in both Japanese and English (women's voices because it's considered more gracious and kind---and maybe more understandable?).  Since the summer Olympics back in the 60s and the winter Olympics the first year I was here (1971), the signage everywhere in both Japanese (Chinese characters and phonetics) as well as English is so incredibly better than even when I was here last in 2005.  

Monorail leaving Haneda Int'l Terminal
At Hammamatsu-cho, I take the Monorail to Haneda Airport which is south of the city.  This is an adventure!  There are three terminals and I go to Terminal 1 first because that where SkyMark Airlines' flights depart from.  I want to know ahead of time how long it's going to take to get there from Narimasu (almost 2 hours).  

Then it's on to find the NinjaWiFi desk.  The Information Center agent (I wish I'd taken her picture because she and the other women are dressed in white dresses with large round black circles, stylish white mesh hats and white gloves) tells me that I have to go to the Int'l Terminal by way of the Monorail or the Free Bus shuttle.  So, I find the Free Bus Shuttle stand outside and have another nice ride on a limo bus.  Then it's inside, finding the escalator up to the 2nd floor amid all the people.  I have to ask another Information Center agent where it is, but she ushers she around the corner and there they are!  Very helpful and friendly.  

I've accomplished my two goals so I've got time to walk around the airport terminal taking pictures of the building and structures.

All the mass transit vehicles are so very clean and professional looking.  It's rare to see litter or a dirty window.

On my way back to my mother-in-law's, I relax and can appreciate the huge buildings along the Keihin Canal.  The Monorail runs along the canal which empties into the Tokyo Bay.  The images are somewhat out of focus because of the Monorail's movement and speed.  In some places, the scene of the boats on the canal take on the look of Venice and its waterways.  All over Tokyo you see huge buildings and constant construction everywhere.
Inside the Monorail is very spacious.