When we first started planning our trip, we only booked our first five days in Tokyo (or rather Yokohama). It wasn’t until later that we decided to double our stay in Tokyo thus necessitating a second place to stay. We got pretty lucky again and found another AirBnb for only around ~$20 a night for the two of us. It was a one bedroom apartment and we had the whole place to ourselves. It was also a little bit closer to Tokyo than our current place so, as warm and comfortable as our first home in Japan was, we were excited to move on to the next.
After bidding our host farewell we set off to the train station. All of our belongings once again strapped to our backs, fronts, and clutched underneath our arms, we looked even more out of place than your average interracial couple walking around suburban Japan. The first train that pulled up to the station was really crowded. Our hopes were high that the trains shouldn’t be so crowded considering it was around 10:30AM, and so we decided to wait for the next train rather than force our way on with all of our gear, earning the invisible – yet no doubt present – ire of our co-commuters. After another two packed trains passed us by, we resigned ourselves to an inevitably uncomfortable train ride. We managed to commandeer one of the corners of the car to set our bags down. The train only got more and more tightly packed until we arrived at our destination: Ikebukuro Station.
This wasn’t the location of our next AirBnb, but check-in wasn’t until that afternoon and Ikebukuro was on the way. We decided to stop here and leave our big bags in coin lockers while we explored for the day, before resuming our trip to our new AirBnb that evening. We somehow messed up while putting our bags in the locker and ended up with all of our things locked inside but no key code with which to reopen the locker. After a brief moment of panic (okay, after an inordinate amount of swearing, sighing, and fruitlessly fretting about what to do) we made our way to a JR Line service center where the English speaking staff were able to call the coin locker company and have someone come over to help us out. The coin locker guy told us (with the help of a JR service center employee) that we had simply just tried to cram too much stuff inside the locker. That’s what we get for trying to pinch pennies. Lesson learned, for the rest of the trip we each used our own coin locker when stowing our heavy backpacks.
We went to Sunshine City, a big mall with an aquarium and 3-D virtual reality theme park rides, but all of that stuff was pretty expensive for our tightwad ways, so we ended up just wandering around the building. We spent some time window shopping in a Pokemon store that was filled with Pokemon I didn’t recognize (and a few I did). Eventually we happened upon a crepe shop that was having a sale. All crepes were only 300 yen ($3)! That was a win in my book. Now if you’re from a western country you probably have a different image of crepes than what is typical for a Japanese crepe. The crepe itself is the same, but it is typically filled with sweet or savory toppings. The one we got had ice cream, pudding, chocolate, and whipped cream. This was all rolled up like an ice cream cone. Alana didn’t care for it too much so I ended up eating most of it (always a distinct possibility when we try new foods).
After this we took a train over to Nakano Broadway. This is a shopping mall that is famous for selling anime and comic book related stuff. Alana was hoping to get some character themed face masks to bring home as souvenirs for her family, but we couldn’t find any. Most of the shops were selling little action figures and other collectibles.
Next came the true highlight of the day, maybe even of our whole trip to Japan. We had what was hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Whoa, lay off the hyperbole, you might be thinking, you’re only saying that cause you’ve been eating nothing but convenience store salads and rice balls for the past week. I assure you, this is no exaggeration. I would gladly plan a trip back to Japan just to eat at this restaurant again.
We had heard about this restaurant when researching for our trip. The brief article I had read had mentioned something about a tempura egg. I marked it down as someplace that might be worth visiting simply because their specialty was something that wasn’t meat. Well, it was a great stroke of fate that we ended up actually going. The restaurant itself was small and rather unassuming. We actually walked past it once and had to double back again. There were two sets of sliding doors at the front and back of the restaurant. The inside had a bar with only about ten or so seats in front of it. Fortunately there were two open seats available when we walked in (evidently during peak hours the line to get in can stretch down the street with wait times of over an hour).
One of the cooks gestured to the two seats so we sat down. Fortunately he then came over and introduced himself in English. He recommended that we order the dinner set which included the tempura egg, as well as a variety of fish and veggies. When I asked if they could make one with just veggies they were happy to oblige and just made extra veggies instead of the fish for my order. This was nice because the menu was only in Japanese and was written on wooden slats hanging on the wall behind the bar, and they were willing to be a little flexible with the menu.
The first course was the egg. The head chef asked us how we would like our eggs cooked and then proceeded to crack them right into the oil and then bounce the shells off the wall behind him into the trash can. It was a pretty theatrical performance. The egg was served on top of a bowl of rice and was absolutely delicious. Afterwards, the veggies and fish were placed on a tray in front of us one piece at a time. There was sauce and salt for dipping, and the chef that was serving us gave us recommendations on which pieces were best with salt vs. with sauce. It didn’t seem like a lot since we were only eating one piece at a time, but before long we started feeling pretty full. The food kept coming though. By the time the chef told us we were on the last item we both furtively shared a glance expressing our relief.
Don’t get me wrong, the food was incredible. It was a dining experience unlike any I’ve had before. Any vulgar prose with which I might attempt to describe it here would only be an injustice to the true magnitude of this culinary experience. You’ll simply have to travel to Tokyo and try it yourself. By the end of our meal though, I felt fit to burst. We floated back to the subway station in a food induced miracle coma of bliss. The ride back to Ikebukuro was spent fondly reminiscing about the meal we had only just finished eating.
Once there we retrieved our packs from our separate lockers. While just that morning they had seemed an unbearable burden, they now felt as light as air as we continued along, buoyantly propelled towards our destination by the epicurean wonder filling our bellies. Our new AirBnb was in the Adachi district on a small (in Tokyo terms) strip of land in between two rivers. It was only about half an hour from the center of Tokyo, so we didn’t have as far to travel for the next few days.
The apartment was nice and cozy. It was on the second floor of a rather plain looking cube of a building. The front door opened up into the kitchen/dining room. Off to the left was the bathroom and a small washing machine. There was a sliding door that led into the bedroom. The floor was covered in tatami mats, and there were two Japanese style futon beds (not like our futons that are couches that convert into beds, but rather mats that fold out onto the floor) with sheets, comforters, and pillows on top. We set up our beds right away and quickly fell into a deep sleep, dreams of deep-fried eggs dancing in our heads.