Continuing Saturday… another park!

This is a continuation from another post.

After eating my takoyaki lunch, I wandered around a bit more, primarily seeking a trash can.  (Yes, they are very difficult to locate)  This gave me another view of the area around the temple and showed me a few more shrines that I’d missed earlier.  I was also looking for Chingodo-ji shrine that pays tribute to flying raccoon dogs with large… um, assets.  Unfortunately I didn’t find it and only now, as I’m writing, did I look at the map to realize it was on the outer edge that I didn’t explore.  That’s too bad… but next time!

I eventually found the trash can – when the vendor woman that I’d bought the tako from approached me, took it from my hand and put it in the bag attached to her stall.  D’oh.

I decided to leave the temple grounds at that point (not because of the vendor!) and find something else to explore.  My intention was to hop back in the train and go someplace else, but as I found the station entrance I decided against it.  I noticed a bridge with a crazy looking building on the other side and thought that was worth investigating.  Eventually I’d walked all the way over the bridge (Azumba-bashi) and was heading down some sort of riverwalk path.  Luckily there were some nicely informative maps along the way that showed a park (Sumida-koen) up ahead, so I figured I’d just keep going!

The park had incorporated the garden / grounds of a former shogun (?) residence.  There was a pond in the center that had once raised and lowered with the tide and it was surrounded with rolling hills.  You could feel the history and age to the place… but unfortunately you couldn’t quite see it.  As I entered the park my first impression was of the number of homeless (at least looking) men in the area.  I wasn’t quite sure about going in much further, but I thought I had might as well look.  When I got to the pond I walked on an extremely worn path to the top of a small rise.  Walking through you could see old trees that, if landscaped well, would be stunning in their beauty.  I could just imagine the state of the gardens ages ago… wiping away the bits of trash scattered about or the overly worn paths.

Next to the pond was a man playing a traditional Japanese instrument and singing.  It couldn’t have been more appropriate to be in a shogun’s garden listening to traditional Japanese sounds.

Within the park grounds was another shrine – Ushijima-jinja.  This shrine, especially compared to where I had been a little bit earlier, was very serene.  I went ahead and did the cleansing routine just to be respectful and then headed into the shrine area.  There were some very cool statues inside the gate, so I took photos of those as well as the building. What sort of broke the mystic of the whole place, though, was the souvenir stand – they were selling bobbles associated with the Tokyo Sky Tree.  I guess times are bad for the temple?

I spent a little more time in the park, walking further away from my starting point.  I found another pond where you apparently pay to fish.  It was behind a gate and it was surrounded by older men tossing lines in.  I didn’t see anyone catch anything, so I’m not sure just how good of a fishing spot it was.

As I headed to that pond, a late 20’s, early 30’s Japanese guy on a bike passed me and got off at the toilets.  He was staring at me really, really hard, but I just ignored it – staring happens a fair bit around here for some reason… trains, shops, everywhere.  This guy was a little more intent in his staring, but that’s ok.  As I walked back from the fishing pond, he rode around on his bike and stopped at the toilet again.  Again he stared at me.  It was a bit of a fluke to see this guy twice, but hey – it’s not a big park and maybe he’s got stomach issues today.

I did some more exploring on the side of the park opposite where I started and as I headed back toward the tidal pond, he rode around on the path once again.  This time, as he rode, he swiveled his head to stare at me some more.  Now I was thinking “WTF is your problem.”  I planned that if I saw him once more – and trust me I really wanted to – I’d make a face at him.  I figured the best was to open my mouth wide and roll my tongue out, sort of like the demon masks.  I figure thats what he had marked me as anyway…!  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I didn’t see him again despite spending just a little extra time in the park.

I started making my way back to the train station, choosing to take the path next to the river instead of the one I used to get in that was slightly higher on the slope.  There was a guy practicing his saxophone, standing underneath the expressway flyover so that the sounds of cars whizzing by mixed with his practice.  Maybe he didn’t want people to hear him as much?

At this point I was feeling a bit weak and missing my family / friends.  The common theme of wanting to have someone there with me to share the experience got a bit of time in my mind.  I was a bit frustrated that I didn’t have any paper with me at the time to start writing all these things down, so I had to use my Blackberry instead.  I started to worry about what I’d do with the rest of the day – it was only 4p or so.  I worried about work and wondering what I’d gotten myself into with this decision.

These thoughts didn’t last too long because I made it over the bridge and back into the crowds.  I spotted what appeared to be a large department store and headed that direction.  As I approached the entrance, however, I noticed it was a train station… and department store.  I went into the store, finding some food stalls and walked toward the clothing.  The clothes, however, for as far as I could see, were for women.  I figured I had stumbled into a women’s clothing store, but maybe that was just this floor.  I went up the escalator, following another man, and went to the 3rd floor.  (The 2nd was only the station)  Again, it seemed to primarily be women’s clothes… then there were books… then there was a store.  Apparently this wasn’t as much a department store as it was a collection of various shops… like a flea market, only well established, organized?  I still have no idea.

The store at the end of the hallway was “UT” and it felt strongly like Old Navy.  I went through the men’s clothes and looked over the children’s.  I considered buying a graphic tee with something about king of the heart pirates or something, but decided against it.  Apparently it was from some sort of long running television show, according to the tag.  I saw a rack of socks in every color imaginable – men here wear a lot of colors, including a vast array of pastels.  I almost bought Olivia something, but I couldn’t decide if it was a shirt or a dress, so I decided against it.

It did bring up an interesting point that I’d thought of before I left the states – we’ll have to figure out our measurements in cm and for Olivia kg.

I left UT and headed to the basement floor.  Here I found a vast array of food stuffs.  Again, it was the stall set up with lots and lots and lots of different options.  Nearly every clerk of every stall was calling out a variant of ‘sumimasen’  in what I figure was intended as ‘how may I help you.’  Unfortunately plenty of the people did it in a nasal-y, sing-song way that was really annoying.  Oh – which reminds me about the guy in UT… his was absolutely the worst.  Which is amusing… makes it even more like visiting an Old Navy.  You’ve got some late teens / early twenties kid with a headset in their ear asking, without caring, if you need help.  How funny!

At one end of the food stalls was a grocery store.  Here I came face to face with a lovely array of vegetables.  I just about bought a container of tomatoes just to taste veggies again.  I decided against it because of my train ride home as well as the extremely limited space in my hotel room.

Seeing all these things and desiring them made me equally excited and frightened about cooking here.  Will we be able to find a store stocked like this near our apartment?  Will we be able to transport what we want back to our apartment reasonably?  Will we be able to locate the ingredients we know how to use?  I have a feeling that we won’t be leveraging quite the same recipes we are using at home…

Being the grocery store, amongst the old ladies, was the second time I returned to thoughts of my grandmother.  I think this is a little more clear – she is very associated with cooking in my life.

Finally I left the store, hit the train, and headed to the Roppongi area.  I had my mind set on visiting the French bakery in Ark Hills… so I did.  I had an awesome vegetable covered thing and then a chocolate filled thing.  I’ve got no idea what these guys are called other than delicious.  Being close to all these bakeries may have the potential to finally make me gain weight!

After the bakery I visited the grocery store, picking up spoons (!), a 3-pack of yogurt, and a pair of apples.  The apples almost always come wrapped in a little plastic cushions – I’ll take a photo – presumably for the long shipment as well as the Japanese desire for ‘perfect’ looking fruits and vegetables.  I left the store and made my way to my normal train station.

I made the train just before it left by dashing down the stairs… saving me at least 3 minutes wait for the next one! 🙂  Because I did the mad dash, it put me in the first car of the train, but because I know this train well, I knew that for the most efficient walk to the exit, I should be in the last car.  Finally I understood why I’d see people walking between the cars – and I did so.  I made my way back 5 cars of 8 before I just didn’t care as much and sat down for the rest of the trip.  In one of the cars I paused for a bit and got the staring treatment again.  At least this time it was a reasonably attractive young woman instead of some weird dude on a bicycle.

At the hotel I worked through the first blog post, then went out for dinner.  I chose to repeat the ramen restaurant, hoping to find out what one of the other buttons did.  I got there, could see open seats and went inside.  One of the chefs from my last visit was there.  I inserted my money, pressed a new button and got my change back.  I had sort of intended to find a button for beer – I even looked up the kanji for it before I left – but it wasn’t evident.  There is a chance that it is written in hiragana so maybe later.

When my food was delivered I found nothing different.  There may have been a change in the stock, but I’m not positive.  Whatever the case, I ate it still without achieving the slurp and left.  I still wanted to have that beer, so I wandered around the block for a while looking for someplace that looked warm.  Across from the ramen place was “Bar Taru” which was on the basement level and had a sign outside saying “Thanks 50 years” or something along those lines.  There was a faded menu with english on it, but I decided I didn’t really want to wander down a random set of steps tonight.

As I went around the block I found a Citibank ATM, which provides me an option against the pee-smelling one in Roppongi.  It also smacks me in the face for not having known it was there last week, but I’m not so concerned about that aspect.  I never did find anyplace that I felt like going in, so I just went back to the hotel.  I found that I was pretty tired as Susan and I talked a bit, so I passed out around 9p.

There are so many other things that I haven’t included in this post, again in an attempt to keep things manageable… I’ll probably write another soon with just quick observations…

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