Monday, June 11, 2007

Ogikubo Yuki

I have no idea who this Ogikubo Yuki chick is, but she must be pretty famous, since they are always talking about her at the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line stations: 「一番線に荻窪行きが参ります。」

Lyani and I left a sleeping Kai in his grandmother's loving care and set off for Ogikubo this afternoon. We walked the back way, and were treated to parts of our picturesque little neighbourhood that we've never seen before. Suginami-ku is overflowing with greenery and flowers (those of you who think Tokyo is an ugly city really need to pop over this way and have a look-see), providing a lovely olfactory as well as visual treat for the pedestrian. This we knew. What we did not know is that people with a penchant for building unique and at times bizarre houses seem to flock to our little section of the -ku. There are two houses that we know of that are completely covered with ivy, with only the main door clear. There are houses that look like they belong in 17th century Holland, and houses that look like they belong in 23rd century floating cities. Words really cannot describe the fascinating stuff around here; I owe you all some pictures. Stay tuned.

We went to Ogikubo ostensibly for some grocery shopping, but mainly just to take a walk and enjoy each other's company. Mission accomplished, we arrived at Ogikubo Station with light hearts and lighter stomachs. Kentucky Fried Chicken I had a craving for some greasy chicken, and The Colonel was only too happy to oblige. I got the "Red Hot Chicken", which lived up to its name only inasmuch as it had a slightly reddish hue. The hot? Not so much. I also got a biscuit for desert, and really craved some butter on it, so I asked the cashier if they had any. She looked at me as if I were crazy and said no. I sighed and accepted the packet of Honey Maple Imitation Sweet Sticky Shite Sauce that comes with biscuits here in the Land of the Rising Diabetes Rate and started humming "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" softly to myself, a nostalgic tear forming in the corner of one eye as I dreamed of buttermilk biscuits slathered thickly with high-fat butter, washed down with a thick glass of buttermilk, extra butter please.

Give me butter!

Speaking of butter, we went to this fancy-smancy French restaurant a couple of weeks back when my boss was in from Seattle, and they had this butter that cost ¥500 it was so good. As if the Hokkaido butter that they dispensed gratis was not good enough. But, to quote the immortal John Travolta when presented with a five dollar shake, "Goddamn! That's a pretty fuckin' good milk shake pat of butter... I don't know if it's worth five dollars, but it's pretty fuckin' good."

I also was pleased to see that I spoke better Japanese than the Japanese register jockey. The fast-food staple phrase, "For here or to go?" in Japanese is rendered, 「店内でお召しあがりますか?」 ("Ten'nai de omeshi-agarimasu ka?"). To which the お客様 (okyaku-sama--the customer/god) replies 「はい」 (hai) if he is, or 「いいえ、持ち帰りです。」 ("iie, mochi-kaeri desu"--"no, takeout (please)") if he's in a hurry and must to blow this popcorn stand. But this teenager had shortened it to 「お召しあがりますか?」 ("omeshi-agarimasuka?"), which means, precisely, "Are you eating (oh most honoured and wonderful customer/god, to which I am not even scum upon the pond into which you urinate, most honourable and with a vigorous golden stream, glistening in the sun that has risen solely to honour your most honourable self... &c.)?" I should have replied, 「いや、見るだけのつもりですけど。。」 ("No, I was planning on just looking...").

Japanese people do not know no keigo no mo', unlike me, master of my own language and dabbler in theirs. Ain't ah thuh most smartest kid in skool, Mamma?

Anyway, we had us some finger-lickin' good chicken, then hit the Seiyu for to get our grocery on. I hit the jackpot by locating ice cream, which has all but disappeared from Japanese grocery stores and konbini in the past year (any Japan experts know WTF? Ota? Matthew?)--I am convinced there is some sort of conspiracy on. Maybe the Keizai Yakuza are shorting chocolate or something.

Then it was back to our station, where Lyani lit out for home with the hard-won chocolate ice cream clutched tightly in her hands, and I popped up to スタバ to procure some Arabian Mocha (also known as the crack rock of coffees).

cocaineThat reminds me of a funny story Keith told us at lunch yesterday. This Bolivian guy is stopped at the airport in Zurich by Swiss customs officials. He's importing this big 13kg (26 pounds or so) wheel of Bolivian cheese. Into Switzerland, a country famed almost as much for its cheese-making. as for its banking and chocolate producing. So they inspect this wheel of cheese, and needless to say (so why am I saying it?), beneath a thin veneer of cheese was tightly packed Bolivian White. Yeah, cocaine, baby. Awesome.

Teppanyaki chefStopped by Mitsuya's Liquor on the way home to pick up a bottle of Red Stripe and one of Tusker. Oh yeah, and a bottle of Napolean brandy, which is the closest thing to rakiya that I can find in Japan. Sam was there, so I asked him more about his personal history, and it turns out he spent 10 years in the good 'ol U.S. of A., in Tex-ahw and North Carolina. He was nothing other than a teppanyaki chef at Benihana's. I asked him if he can still do all the samurai badass stuff on the grill, and he said, "Yeah. I wanna do that stuff out on the street near here. There is this big festival in the summer every year, and I keep meaning to do a demonstration. It would blow people's minds, man."

Teppanyaki, you see, while not exactly a for-export-only product, in Japan is is just basically stuff cooked on an iron grill (鉄板 means "iron plate", and 焼き means "to grill"), minus all the showmanship.

Sam never ceases to amaze me. The next entry will be solely an advert for his beer store, with fancy Google Maps and the whole nine yards.

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