Scrambling in Shibuya, to Dim Joy in Ginza

This is post #7 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip: part 2 of Wednesday, November 8, 2017.

Meanwhile, this was the beginning to Dave’s day: finding his way to the National Cancer Center, south of our hotel, near the Tsukiji Fish Market.TokyoSeoul4A_3

And his day begins…

We both find the rules about smoking in public to be interesting.  Here are two smoking areas near his conference (click to enlarge), and signs on the pavement reminding the citizens of Tokyo:

The one on the left is from Dave’s camera and I took the one on the right, when I was out and about.

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A few members of his group went to the fish market for lunch, passing by the sake barrels (above).  Dave told me that if you are going to go to a fish market for lunch, you’d better go with someone who knows what they are doing; none of his group did, so he pressed on when they stopped, the squid lollypops not really appealing to him.  He never did find anything really great.  We repeated this experience multiple times, eating a lot of mediocre food, not because there wasn’t better food — but because we didn’t know where to find it.

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For some orientation: our hotel in Ginza was probably about where the “z” in the word Ginza is, on the map above.  Getting the doll was in the Shibuya area, and I continued walking in that area, carrying my pink and blue doll bag with a large Blythe doll on the side.

Yodobashi! I thought, as I passed this miniature delivery van.  Add that to the list of things to see.  I walked back towards what I thought was Shibuya, trying to see their famous “scramble” crossing, but went some distance in the wrong direction.  Lost a bit, I figured the crossing must be back by the train station, so backtracked to that place.

I’m trying to head to the sushi place that my brother Andy had told me about; he visits Tokyo frequently, and had mentioned Midori sushi to me.

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Filling one of Tokyo’s vending machines.

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Smoking Area

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Sculpture of children playing, and behind that, the Tourist Trailer.

I duck my head in the tourist trailer which has a young woman at a desk inside and a long bench on the other side, filled with people just sitting there.  After she gives me a map of the area, I ask “Tired travelers?” and gesture to the seated group. She smiles and nods, but this is a truth: there are very few benches or spots to sit down in Tokyo.

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I exit, and try the Shibuya Scramble crossing.

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Then I cross back, and watch the coordinated neon videos of Sing A Song across all the buildings surrounding the intersection.  Then I cross back again, and head up into Starbucks to get a video of it; I’m not alone in this endeavor, but the day is gray and the vantage point is crowded and not high enough, so I give up.

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I still like the Ginza scramble intersection better (above).

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Looks like I’ve arrived at Basketball Street, along with one of the postal workers delivering mail.  It’s weird to be in one very large intersection that is plainly visible on the map, yet be completely disoriented.  I’m looking for my brother’s sushi place, and head up a street, only to be thwarted.  I’m worried about running out a) battery on the iPhone or b) battery for the Hot Spot, so try not to rely on the directions I get on the phone, but instead, try to “feel” my way there.  It’s upstairs, down a hallway, almost kitty-corner from the Basketball Street, and there’s a two hour wait.  Nope.

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So I try Soup Stock, a perhaps fair-to-middling soup/hot meal place (did I mention it was drizzling all day, or perhaps you could see that from the photos).  It was my goal to sit down, take a break, and re-orient.  This was the place where you got in line, ordered, stood there, and they handed you a tray of food.  I had to watch a few people to get the process.  But I had initially walked in, not knowing this, picked up a number from the rack, got my water and set it on a table at the back, past the long communal table (too hard for someone who has no language skills, and besides it was up on bar-level stools).  I didn’t know if my stuff would be safe while I ordered, so I carried it up to order and retrieve my food.

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The dish of food — butter chicken and rice — was really good.  The lady at the table next to me left to get some water at the front of the restaurant and left her purse, her stuff, all out there in the open.  I’m beginning to understand that people aren’t worried about them of their belongings here.  This is a foreign concept to me, who lives in the States, but what a lovely idea it is, to live so freely.  On the other hand, it is true that Japan feels very OCD to me, with all its bowing and rules and everything, but that is also free-ing in other ways.  Lunch over, I pack up, clear my tray to the counter for dirty dishes, and head out again.

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This shopping/eating area I’m in is attached to the train station, so I walked through this large, mural-ed area, then decided to visit the food mall of the TOKYU Department store.  I didn’t know anything about it, but was still looking for eating chocolate, which so far had been elusive.

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Nothing that caught my eye was in the Food Mall, except for strawberries that were $9/small container.  I found out later that they were a special treat at this time of year, but generally we found all the produce to be very expensive here, as we are spoiled by California’s abundance and prices.  I finally did find three little disks of fancy chocolate, but that wouldn’t be enough to keep us happy this week, so I resolved to keep looking.

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Back out on the street, I thought this wall, dedicated to Hachiko, a faithful dog, was beautiful.  Unbelievably, I missed the actual statue honoring the dog, as is so often the case when wandering around disoriented.  But apparently this is a much-overlooked memorial: “The original design was created by Ryutaro Kitahara, a suiboku (Japanese-style ink painting) artist. He imagined what it would be like if Hachiko had an extended canine family and painted around 20 Akita dogs to accompany the famous pooch, along with a sun, moon, stars and a giant rainbow. Not all of the dogs made it to the mural, despite its impressive size. It measures 4 meters high and stretches 11.2 meters across, and is compiled of over 1,200 Shigaraki ware ceramic pieces.”  (from here)

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Seen  on the street (and in other areas) was this Black Cat pushcart.  I found out they are a luggage delivery service.  One blog writer mentioned that she used them to get her luggage from one hotel in Tokyo to another, as very few bring much on the subways (we noticed).

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Subway scene.

Arriving at my regular subway stop, I followed a hunch and came up into the Mitsukoshi Department Store food hall.  I browsed all the small booths, going up and down the aisles.  At one, they brought out a small plate with three dots of chocolate truffles covered in cocoa.  I tried one…then another flavor..and the bought two boxes of Satie chocolate: one dark, and one milk chocolate (for Dave).  She held up a placard after my sale, which said “No butter or cream in these chocolates.”  Then what? I asked.  She replied in English: “Yogurt and Coconut Oil.”  Whatever: these were delicious.  She offered me one more small dot for the road and I was back outside again.

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I ended up across the large street from our hotel, but had to walk down to the next corner to get across.

TokyoSeoul4_8I followed a woman with a most unusal skirt, as she walked with two companions.  It was like a swirl, the fabric draped in a circle around here, with a angled piece at the lower right (barely seen above), so that it was like a vented skirt.  Such stylish clothing is everywhere.  This woman was easily 70 years old, and still dressing up in tights, pumps (everyone here wears pumps!) and this very cool skirt.TokyoSeoul4_8b

At the corner, there’s anothe woman with electric blue shoes.  (I also liked the bricks.)

The Satie bag, wrapped for rain (L), and the two boxes of chocolate truffles (R)

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Dave had beat me back to the hotel room, bringing this fun can of lemonade (the dots and the yellow!), and a sweet treat, which I don’t remember now.  We head out, with me taking photos of the manhole covers:

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It’s twilight in the Ginza and the streets are coming alive.

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See the Karts in action.

We stopped by Uniqlo for a couple of T-shirts and warm socks.  The people-moving process in this store is not particularly streamlined: up (or down) on escalators, with the occasional use of an elevator (if you are old or have strollers).  We’d decided to buy socks first (higher floor) then T-shirts afterwards (lower floor), then found out if we’d purchased a bit more we could get it tax-free.  Back to a higher floor, then a lower floor, all to get The Deal.  The socks for me were wonderful, keeping my feet warm and cushioned while we walked around Tokyo (and even chillier) Seoul.  My feet hurt constantly on this trip, joining the complaints about a recent trigger-thumb I’d developed, so I was really grateful for cushy stockings.

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These two cool faces were in the Hermes windows, and were made of ordinary objects.  Below, a side view giving hints of what the boy was comprised of.  We went back and forth looking at the side view, then the front view.TokyoSeoul4_17b

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Up in the next block was the retail temple at which I worshipped nearly every day those next few days: Itoya, a uber-stationary store.

From top left, clockwise: wooden Christmas trees I coveted, a collaged giraffe, folded paper, small trinkets, a wall of color for paper choices.

We learnt our lesson from Uniqlo, taking the elevator all the way to the top, then walking down all six floors, looking at each floor’s wares as we descended.  I have in my journal a giant sticker from this store in the shape of a red paper clip: about 1-1/2″ wide and 7″ tall.  For a gift purchase, they’d place it in their signature paper bag and fold this paper-clip sticker over the top, securing the flap. I wised up: many of the objects we bought immediately became gifts.

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Floor Six of this building was a fabric shop.  I was back there later that week.

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Fancy store fronts along the Ginza: we are starting to see snippets of Christmas decorations appear.

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A pair of giant Yeti feet.  See them in action, here.

We decided to try the restaurants on the top floor of Mitsukoshi Department Store.  We took the elevators up, then had several to choose from.  We ended up at one called “Dim Joy.”  It was.

From the pictures, we chose a mixed vegetable something-or-other, a steamed something-or-other, dumplings of several kinds, all with unidentified sauces, even though the menus were in English.

What is “Jasmine Aroma?” we asked each other.  Above, pictures of most of the food.  I did have an obscured view of the Nissan Building, but that was about the most redeeming visual feature.  When we finished our meal, Dave said he kind of had a rule about eating out: you should feel full afterwards.  He didn’t.

So we stopped by the waffle shop and each got a “gaufre.”  Then he got one more.

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I bought an eclair-looking thing in the next shop, filled with raspberry creme.

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Or strawberry.  But the best part of the treats experience is that now, we have chocolate!

 

Blythe Doll

This is post #6 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip: part 1 of Wednesday, November 8, 2017.

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Today is the day I’d set aside to track down a Blythe doll in Tokyo.  I was determined, equipped with a hot spot and working phone, to track this tiny shop, Junie Moon, and buy myself a doll.  They are pricey little creatures in the United States, but if I picked one up in Tokyo, it would be about half the price.

Dave went off to his meetings, I figured out my transit and headed out.  Here’s some of the sights that morning:

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Upon opening the hotel room blinds, I see that the rooftop garden has been thoroughly excavated, and now they are working on another section.

A block down the street, the make-up teams and dressers are welcoming the contestants for the 57th Miss International Beauty Pageant, Tokyo.  I am always so taken in by the uniformity of everything: all the dressers/make-up team are dressed alike, down to the types of shoes they wear. (click to enlarge the photos)

I figure out which train to ride, loving the conductor for the previous train gesturing out  his window as he took off.  The train car I was in was like a curated art exhibit for the watch Why Knot, which looked to be one of those watches for which you trade your firstborn son.  By the time I watched the little video above my head, I’m convinced it was the best watch on the planet, and not just because it reminded me of my father, who is always asking “Why Not?”  I snapped a photo and sent it to him along with a short note on the jiggling Metro car.  I realized I could get very used to having a hot spot/portable wifi when we travel.

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I always think I’m prepared for travel, and then I get upstairs out of the tunnels and am completely flummoxed, as even though I know which stop, I don’t always know which exit to use, which is usually a critical piece of information.  I stop to ask the station master at his window.  Just as I was about to ask, a young woman came rushing up, asking him (in rapid Japanese) a question.  He put up his hand to indicate I should wait a second, then answered her first.  I suppose there is a protocol for attending to tourists, and having been in her shoes, she had the greater urgency.

I follow his directions to go down the stairs and out, but to “please use the pedestrian bridges.”  Will do.

I only took one wrong turn, which is pretty good.  The day was threatening rain, but so far — no drips.  The street I walked along was next to part of the train station, and I could hear the little tunes they play when the trains arrive and leave.  They are called “eki-melody” and each station has their own jingle, which is played when the train enters the station (although some say, as it departs).  Luckily I don’t have them fixed in my head, or they might drive me nuts.  Here’s one of them in Tokyo.

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I catch a glimpse of the Junie Moon Shop, as on this drab day, it’s like looking at a pink doll house.  It’s the first floor of a building, with mint-green shutters and large pictures of the Blythe doll, whose claim to fame is that she can have her eyes moved into three different positions, each position a different color.  I know, I know.  This doll also has a bit of a cult following.  Some resourceful people take the basic doll and change it, either via wigs or sanding down the face and applying new color, or adding eyelashes, or changing facial characteristics.  Lately I’ve been seeing a lot that are elven in quality.

I arrive at 10:57, and knowing about Tokyo’s punctuality, I wait outside until the young woman looks at me at 10:59, and I decided it’s okay to go in.  I’d been following the Blythe craze since it first started around 2010 or so, and you could buy them easily in the U.S. but I never had the funds to be able to buy one.  I’d put them in my Amazon cart until someone else purchased it, then repeated this until there were none available.  I was still wasn’t 100% sure I was going to buy one, even though I was here.

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The shop was like being at an art exhibit with posed tableaus; these dolls aren’t for sale.  In the middle of the shop were round tables with doll merchandise, books and accessories, including different wigs.  I rifled through the book on how to personalize the doll, but it was in Japanese.

I finally looked at the dolls for sale.  The shopgirl (I began to think of all these young woman as shopgirls) spoke no English to speak of — about the amount of Japanese I speak — so there was a lot of gesturing, and me pulling out my Google Translate. I bypassed the smaller dolls, with no moving eyes or moveable joints, in favor of the taller dolls.  In my journal I wrote “I probably should have purchased one of each?”

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One of the two dolls looked so pale: no color, no lip color, as if it were a doll to be personalized.  The other doll had a shiny face, which I wasn’t that keen about.  I asked about the matte face, but the shopgirl said “Special order.  Two months.”  By now I had decided that I was leaving with one of the dolls.  I compared two more (did I mention that these dolls cost some serious change?), and went with the one with more hair. I did add a pair of glasses to match mine. I pointed it out to the shopgal, and she took it to the register.   Below is the website description:

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Then I had to read the agreement to purchase, and sign a paper saying I agreed with it. I signed.  As I was signing the register tape receipt, the time stamp was 11:20.  All of this only took twenty minutes.  She put the doll in a large shopping bag, slipping a clear plastic bag over the handles and taping it on the bottom.  “For rain” she said.  She gave me two extra stickers and I was off.

I retraced my steps, heading towards what I thought was the Shibuya scramble intersection, but it was the wrong direction.  I retraced those steps, heading up and over the pedestrian walkways (thank you, Station Master).  I felt incredibly conspicuous with my bright pink Junie Moon bag with a large Blythe doll looking out at people, but I had come to find a Blythe doll, and it was mine.  Now to get it home to the U.S., but I wouldn’t have to worry about that for a while.

Next post: Shibuya, lunch, home, then out again.