November 8 Sumida
Last Day - hourly notes. Ginza, Ningyo-cho
neighborhood and a Sumida River "cruise"
Much as I'd like to, I find it difficult to
record events in that staccato, Quilleresque
style, punctuated with the hhmm's as
they happen - probably because I don't wear
a watch. Sometimes I note down hourly thoughts
and happenings, however; and that's what I
did my last full day in Japan.
Coffee in the 80-year-old Kaisei-ken teahouse,
looking up at its ceiling fan, one of Tokyo's
originals. Now it seems they sell more coffee
than tea, but here was where they allegedly
served tea for the first time made with roasted
tea leaves - "black" tea, as opposed to the
Japanese "green" tea, which is brewed with
leaves that have been steamed.
Ginza - Murazan bookstore browsing and postcard
buying - this is a big bookstore in the Ginza
across Chuo-dori from the central
Takashimaya department store. Just up the street
a couple blocks is the geographic center of
Tokyo, Nihombashi or Japan Bridge, the same
river crossing depicted in the number one of
Hiroshige's 100 Views of Edo.
A lunch of Una-ju (broiled eel on a bed of rice,
more info here)
at one of the restaurants on the top floor of
Takashimaya department store.
Shopping at Takashimaya - thought they might have
good yukata but what was there was
¥5000 and not all that special so I passed.
Also wanted hanafuda
cards which I found in the toys & games section,
near the ancient old elevators. A distracting video
was playing on a monitor in this section, "Space
Battleship Yamato," and along a wall was arrayed
blisterpacks of not just Ultraman action
figures - in fact, everybody in the Ultra family
was available. (Ultra Mother? What is
Walking along back in Ningyo-cho near the hotel I
came across a fabric store with some marked-down
stock on tables set up out front. I found
a quite nice yukata for just
¥2000 - size large, even.
At the Sumisho hotel, in my room, a break. Then back
outside to explore the local shopping street
This was great: fish-shaped tai-yaki pastry
from a storefront takeout on the street called
Amazake Yokucho. Intrigued by the up-front cooker's
animated motions, I watched as he slathered oil,
batter and then sweet an paste into one of his
cast-iron mold-tools, which he sealed up and added
to the queue cooking over charcoal, spinning 'em
occasionally; then he took up the one at the far
end of the queue and opened it, ejecting the big cookie
out onto the cooling rack. I wanted one of those; the
chunky proprietress tried to sell me another
from a batch cooked previously but relented before my
non-verbal gesture of assertion, and I got the fresh
Downstairs to the subway, to ride a couple stops
back to Asakusa, the nakemise and the big
red "Thunder Gates" at the entrance to this ancient
shrine and temple compound. Took this picture of
the Sensoji temple at dusk, its dark shape
in silhouette behind all the lanterns.
Walked east, away from this sacred area, towards the
river, through evening Japanese city blocks, the
exotic environment taken for granted by now, after
two weeks of conditioning. Along Sumida riverbank,
I stroll through light rain, protected by my
umbrella, moving upstream to the pedestrian-only
X-shaped Sakurabashi bridge; then back down, passing
alongside the homeless' blue tarp encampments lining
the river's edge, along the guardrails. The lower
reaches were bare, and I saw why: the wakes from
passing river traffic sloshed up over the edge.
Revolving kaiten sushi in a
place conveniently pierside, just before river-bus
The boat had a recorded voice describing
each of the many bridges we passed beneath.
Two of them I liked especially, one marked
with lights of a distinctive magenta-purple
color, the other outlined with blue lights
and also sheathed in translucent green, a
covering scaffold like it
was being restored.
After docking at Hinode Pier, joined the rush-hour
throngs streaming into and out of Hamamatsucho station
on the Yamanote line. A couple transfers later I
was back in the neighborhood of my hotel.
Back in the hotel room, watching zany TV and writing.
Ningyo-cho neighborhood walkabout, spotting
some places to check out tomorrow before mid-day
Pizza at the Atomic Cafe, of all places.
Had a draft Asahi with, and became pleasantly
woozy. If anything, I've learned this trip the
generic international designation for the style
of pizza I crave: Neapolitini. (Which means thin
crust with cheese, tomato sauce and anchovy - it's
the original pizza.)
Staggering around due to the alcohol, did some
C-Store snack shopping, then back to the hotel
just before midnight.
Watching the television and packing: more
strangeness on-screen, then a commercial of
the bi-racial black/white Ayumi
Hamasaki "LOVEppears" poster I'd been seeing
everywhere. Her CD might be a good souvenir,
unfortunately it won't be released until
the day after I depart.