We Went to Japan: Part 2

Posted by: Peanut in MyBlog

Tagged in: Vacation , Japanese Stuff

After our first walking tour I was a lot more comfortable with exploring around our neighbourhood (also, it wasn’t raining). Rob, Maisie and I went for walks to seek out new places to eat and new things to see. One highlight for Maisie was eating lunch at a cafe with three cats in it. Not a cat cafe, just a cafe with cats. Rob and I ate curry; Maisie had a cat shaped chocolate scone with jam. One of the things I found really interesting on our trip were serving sizes. Everything we ate was just enough food. There wasn’t extra when you were done - which is a good thing because it is important that you finish your food. Beverages were smaller too - I never saw a giant cup of pop - and the coffee cups we got in restaurants were always about the size of teacups  - which meant the creamers were tiny. I found it rather nice to have everything just the right size and it must be far less wasteful. Now, if only I could get the little, single serving sized cups of Haagan-Dazz ice cream from our convince stores in Canada.

In our wandering we also visited a playground, looked in shop windows and spied as many green growing things as we could. About half way through the trip we changed hotels and while Maisie lamented the lack of space in our new hotel, it was a good experience to have to figure out a new route to our breakfast place and enlarge my mental map. It also put us closer to the train station, the national garden and the Kabukicho shopping area. I searched for craft shops on Google and found one just north of Shinjuku station that we all set out to find together. A quick note about using Google maps: it’s not always as useful as you think it will be (and Google translate is really only for entertainment purposes, don’t trust it). In this case we ended up around the back side of the building and had to walk around a bit more before we found the front of the shop to go inside. The shop is called Okedeya Shinjuku. I’m not sure if it is part of a chain. It’s huge. Four or five floors all full of fabric. I didn’t force Rob and Maisie to go through the whole store with me right then but did pick out a few pre-cut pieces of fabric. That was on the Sunday and it was incredible just how busy everything was, especially around lunch time. People and families were out walking everywhere and there was a line a couple of blocks long to get into the National Garden to picnic under the cherry blossoms. Lots of the roads were closed to traffic so the sidewalks were not so congested but we still had some trouble trying to find somewhere not too busy to eat lunch. We eventually decided on some quick konbini food and an early dinner. This turned out to be a great idea because we wanted to try ramen for the first time and the shop was just about empty at 4:30 in the afternoon giving us lots of time to figure out how to get our order tickets from the vending machine. A cook came over to explain things and give us a hand. The shop even had an English printout on the table explaining what all the condiments were and how to use them. The ramen was delicious.

A side note about eating out with a small child in Japan (based on our experience): Almost no restaurants have a kids menu, but they all have kid dishes (bowl, spoon and fork) that they will bring to your table automatically. Rather than ordering anything separate for Maisie we learned to just share a bit of whatever we were having with her. This was great. Not only was there less wasted food (or rather extra food that we then did our best to finish up), she got to try a much wider variety of dishes because Rob and I usually ordered different things and she got to try some of each.

The following Monday we split up and did things separately. Rob took the trains and explored Shibuya and Maisie and I walked back to Okedeya to buy some more fabric. I figured I’d be able to communicate by holding up fingers if nothing else and Rob gave me boost of confidence by telling me that metre is metre in Japanese too. Maisie and I had fun exploring. The shop wasn’t so busy so I felt comfortable taking our time. We both picked out some fabrics and Maisie got some big grins from the staff as she bounced up and down while they cut her fabric. When I paid one of the women asked where we were from and held out a sheet with a whole bunch of different flags on it. I pointed to Canada’s flag and said we were from there. I’m sure they get lots of craft inclined tourists (communicating was really not a problem at all, I even got a couple of half metres without any confusion) and it must be fun to find out where people are coming from. We stopped in at a 100 yen shop afterwards and got a big peony hair clip for Maisie and some peach gummy candies to share with our lunch.

Our lunch plan consisted of getting some onigiri (rice balls with yummy stuff inside) and other snacks from the konbini and then eating under the cherry blossoms in the National Garden. I tried an onigiri with lots of pickle flavours and Maisie had a plain one with nori around it. We also shared some ice cream and some little pancakes (that turned out the have cream and syrup sandwiched between them - buying packaged backed goods was always an adventure). We had to wait 15 or 20 minutes to get into the garden and, unlike all the Japanese people in the park, Maisie and I did not have a picnic cloth and had to just sit on the ground but it was such a lovely setting I didn’t mind at all. When we finished our lunch we spent some time walking around and admiring the blossoms and taking pictures. Maisie was particularly interested in the fish in the pond. We met up with Rob when we got back to the hotel. Ramen for dinner again but from a different shop so we could sample some of the variety available.