Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lighthouse Revisited

This is where I left the Lighthouse before I flew to Japan. Yes, I worked on it for a couple of days and in the end I decided to bring it with me after all. I had it packed to work on during the plane trip, but instead I watched three movies (Catch & Release, Breach, Premonition) and slept. I found the pattern for this here, though I did not download the PDF. I just printed out the picture and am stitching from that.

Narita Airport turned out to be not as complex as I had imagined. I picked up our prearranged cell phone from Gphone (few American cell phones work on Japanese systems), exchanged our prepaid Japan Rail vouchers for real passes, and got reservations on the next express train to Tokyo. The most exciting thing was meeting some friends of ours, Scott and Jane from Lexington, KY, at the Gphone booth. We often run into other convention members before Worldcon as many of us spend a few days sightseeing before or after the convention. We checked into our hotel, changed and went out to find something to eat.

If you have not traveled to a country that does not use a Roman character set, you have no idea how hard it is to figure out what you are looking at. You may not know that "poisson" means fish in French, but when you find out what it means and see it again, you have a better chance of remembering it than something that just looks like a bunch of lines and crosses. Japan does have a lot of English (Romanji) signs, but the local restaurants have menus totally in Japanese. After wandering around Nihonbashi for a while we gave up and ate in the hotel. It was good, but not the Japanese experience we were looking for. Before the meal was over we were falling asleep at the table. This was the first night we were able to sleep for eight hours in days.

The next morning we headed out to explore the Ginza. James said he didn't want to shop, but he was the one that bought chopsticks and ceramics. The street is closed on the weekends and they set out chairs and umbrellas. These were wonderful places to rest when the incredible heat started bearing down on us. We did find a traditional Japanese restaurant with a menu in English and ordered two Bento Boxes.

And here is where we learned how "westernized" the Japanese food in the States really is. The miso soup (very good), the tsukimono, and the tempura were about the same as I had had before, but other than the "California roll" and grilled salmon in the sushi basket, everything else was very strange. There was a giant snail that I gave to my husband and a sweet egg yolk wrapped in clear gelatin that he also ate. The "dessert" was a very sweet gelatin in purple shaped like a flower. I am not fond of jello, so odd shaped and flavored gelatins are not very appealing to me, though I did like the pickled bamboo shoot and I did eat something very chewy that looked like it had been fried in a coating of sweet rice.

Food got even stranger when James decided to get dinner from the Mitsukoshi Food Garden. This is an entire floor of a large department store filled with individual stalls selling food items. Here you can only guess, "animal", "vegetable", or "mineral". Yes, that thing with eyes and scales is a fish, but there were a lot of panko coated fried things and lumps in sauce and odd bread products. I bought some goyza that I got to sample first. Then we bought some bread things, one of them a long stick filled with walnuts and cheddar cheese. Even though I hesitated to eat much of what I saw, it was all very, very beautiful.

Today, having conquered the Tokyo subway system, we are heading out to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art and the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.


Jennifer said...

Oh what fun! I would love to visit Japan some day. I'm not a huge fan of Japanese food though, much to my grandmother's consternation. Visit a noodle shop, that should be tame enough. :P

Susan said...

It sounds as if your visit to Japan is off to a great start. I spent one night in Tokyo in the '60s and it was quite an experience! For someone who doesn't eat fish, it can be a very hungry time, too. =)

stitcherw said...

It sounds like you're making some wonderful memories, it all sounds so different and exciting. However, I'll bet you're exhausted by the end of the day as well with dealing with everything that is so different.

Nice progress on lighthouse before you left, the coloring is so pretty.

Itching To Stitch said...

Your Lighthouse piece is pretty and almost finished! I've starve to death if I went to Japan, I hate fish ;)

Chiasmata said...

Sounds like you're having an amazing time. Asian food can be a real mystery, and sometimes it's better not knowing what you're eating. Have fun at the museums!