Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tokyo, Day 1

Today was another day of traveling. My travels, however, were complicated by the fact that I couldn’t find a hotel to stay in – in three different cities! I was going to spend another day in Kanazawa, but because the 20 more or less affordable hotels I tried didn’t have any rooms available, I decided to look elsewhere to park my weary body for a day or two. Since I’d be leaving Japan from Tokyo, and because I needed to take a train from Kanazawa to Yuzawa in order to get a connection to Tokyo, and because Yuzawa is the unnamed town where one of my favorite novels, Snow Country, was set, I thought I’d try to stay in a ryokan there for a day or two.

However, the same thing happened – I checked about 10 different places and found they were all fully booked. So I decided I’d just go to Tokyo and spend my last three days there. Again, though, it took me over two hours of searching hotels to find a decent and affordable place to stay! I ended up reserving one night’s accommodation in a charming Tokyo neighborhood called Sangenjaya, in Setagaya district. I was a bit worried that it was too far outside the city, but in fact I was quite happy here for a night.

It's amazing how a life-size King Kong figure atop a convenience store roof increases a street's charm factor...

Once I arrived and checked in to my hotel, I decided to wander the streets in hopes of finding a bookstore with a decent selection of English-language novels. I did find several bookstores, but none that had what I was looking for. I grabbed a quick coffee, inadvertently sitting in a room reserved for smokers, and as dusk soon fell upon Sangenjaya I stumbled back into the fresh air and wandered down an alley full of streetlamps to see where they would lead.

About an hour later I decided I should get dinner, so I came back to the street where my hotel was and tried to find some homey-looking restaurant. I found an inconspicuous noren with the word tonkatsu on it, and so I climbed the stairs behind the noren and came into a room with three people who probably weren’t expecting to see anyone like me enter.

By speaking a bit of Japanese to them, though, they seemed to relax, and then pointed me to a table by a window with a view of the street.

I ordered chicken tonkatsu and a beer for ¥840 ($9.93), and was happy to see it came with steamed rice, miso soup, pickled veggies, and a small square of tofu. Aside from the deep-fried chicken, which was very good (especially after slathering it with tonkatsu sauce), this was a light and healthy meal. I sat there half-stunned at having stuffed myself so much, and for a while I could do nothing more than watch a TV program about Japanese seasonal vegetables that had the restaurant workers in absolute thrall.

Across the street was a small bakery, so I went inside and ordered an orange muffin (¥200/$2.36) for breakfast tomorrow – or, if I don’t have it for breakfast, then as a snack for later in the day. Again, not a particularly exciting day, but I was just glad I had a place to spend the night...

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1 comment:

  1. It's great to stop in and see you back to traveling and sharing those travels. We had to start a monthly Ethnic Exploration series on our blog because the travel part wasn't in the timeline for now. You can always bring the food to you, even if you can't go to the food. Enjoy your travels!