Well, my three-month Vietnam visa expired today, so I needed to leave the country in order to get a new one. Although there were plenty of options available to me, in the end I decided to travel back to Japan and visit a city I’d never been to before – Kanazawa, in Ishikawa prefecture, on the Sea of Japan.
Kanazawa isn’t on any of the direct rail routes connecting with Tokyo or Osaka, which means that to get there by train one has to change lines once or twice. Because I’d be leaving Hanoi at 11:30 p.m. and arriving in Narita at 6:35 a.m. – which means a night without sleep, basically – I decided to forego the train option and take a flight directly to Kanazawa. The only problem with this plan is that no flights go from Narita to Kanazawa. I had to transfer by bus to Haneda airport, which normally wouldn’t be terrible, but since I was already exhausted by this time, and because the bus ticket for the 80-minute ride cost ¥3000 (~$36), I wasn’t exactly thrilled. But it was fine. Because I was in Japan. And I like being in Japan. Even when I’m exhausted and it feels like my wallet is hemorrhaging money.
Anyway, my first food foray on this trip to Japan was at Haneda airport. The food wasn’t great, and the wait staff there seemed to be functioning without sleep, too, but it made for a nice photo opp, you know?
I ordered washoku, which is just a generic term for a Japanese-style breakfast. Mine consisted of salted salmon, two small pieces of fish cake, grated daikon with tiny fish on top, a half boiled egg, rice, miso soup, some seaweed, and hot green tea.
Typical for most airport fare, this was an underwhelming, overpriced meal. But at ¥980 ($11.74) it’s not nearly the rip-off that so much food at airports in the U.S. is, plus it’s clearly quite a bit healthier.
I arrived at my hotel about 90 minutes before check-in. I rarely have to wait until the official check-in time at most hotels I stay in, but here there was no negotiating. No matter that I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, no matter that I looked like hell. It was a 3 p.m. check in, no getting around it.
I didn’t want to stray far, as I knew I’d get lost, so I just headed back toward Kanazawa station and, at a department store nearby, took an escalator to the food court on the building’s sixth floor.
I chose a noodle and tempura shop, thinking I’d get a light meal.
I ended up ordering a lunch set being offered that day – and way more food than I wanted. Which isn’t to say that the food wasn’t good, but it was simply too much. I ate it all anyway because, as it’s said in Vietnamese, I’m a thung nuoc gao. (Basically, I’m a human garbage disposal. In Vietnamese, this literally means a human pig trough.)
I finished, went back to my hotel, and checked in at 3 p.m. on the nose. I immediately slept for three hours, woke up to my alarm, showered, checked out the hot bath on the top floor, and decided after a while to walk to Omicho Market and get something to eat. Unfortunately, the market starts to close at around 5 p.m., so by 7:30 p.m., which is when I finally arrived, I could only find one restaurant open. It was a sushi shop, and I don’t think I could have gotten luckier with what I found.
I wasn’t all that hungry, but I did manage to order and stuff myself with nodoguro, amaebi (a kind of sweet shrimp, this one with blue shrimp eggs scattered over it), buri (a type of yellowtail), and zuwaigani (snow crab from Hokkaido).
All of it was outstanding, and so was the draft Asahi I washed it down with. It’s a shame, I suppose, that the bill came to ¥2340 ($28.03), but hey, how many times do I get to Kanazawa, where all of this is in season and is a must-try for Japan-food lovers? The beer, it turned out, effectively washed away all my guilt.