Normally, I am not a wild-cabbage-two-nights-in-a-row kind of person. But two Fridays ago, I had the maple-rosemary Brussels sprouts at Terra Plata. And the next night, I set to work making this:
I have our server to thank. Terra Plata serves several veggie-friendly small plates, including:
housemade potato chips cut into unreasonably cute little mini-waffles;
blistered shisito peppers with sea salt and aioli;
risotto with mushrooms, pea vines, and goat cheese;
and cappelletti with rouge de tomme squash, lemon, hazelnuts, and parmesan.
We ordered them all, in spite of not being able to figure out what rouge de tomme means, even with smartphone assistance.
“And you wanted an order of the Brussels sprouts,” our server said.
Notice that there is no question mark at the end of that sentence.
This was a command. A gentle command, but a command nonetheless. Her tone was Obi-Wan Kenobi-like.
Jules and I gave each other our “mutually confused” look, and I explained that we are vegetarian.
The sprouts are usually served with bacon. Our server said that she could remove it from our order, no problem.
No problem indeed.
Bitter sprouts, fried until nutty with crispy charred bits, coated in sweet maple syrup, and finished with rosemary.
We ordered extra bread to sop up every last bit of the sauce.
For dessert, Jules had an apple empanada with crème fraiche ice cream.
And then there were churros.
Sometimes, when I am at sporting events, I smell the smell from the roasted nut stand and I think they are selling churros somewhere, but they are not. Then I spend the rest of the night thinking about how I would gladly gnaw off my left arm and trade it for a churro. That is how much I love churros, so it is not easy for me to say this: Terra Plata’s were all crispy cinnamon-sugar shards on the outside, all puffs of steam and dough on the inside. The taste made up for the presentation, which seemed unnecessarily … swirled. They still paled in comparison to those Brussels sprouts. I continue to sleep with one eye open.
1501 Melrose Avenue (near the South end of Melrose Market)
Seattle, WA 98122
Brussels Sprouts and Tofu with Maple Syrup and Rosemary
A few months ago, I tried a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty that uses maple syrup in a sauce for stir-fried Brussels sprouts and tofu, but the other ingredients (chili sauce, soy sauce) overwhelmed the maple flavor. Terra Plata’s version is much simpler. Obi-Wan explained that they flash fry the sprouts in neutral oil, and then toss them with syrup and rosemary. At home, I used Terra Plata’s flavors and the cooking method from Plenty. We ate ours with brown rice.
Trim one pound of Brussels sprouts. Cut each sprout into three slices, each about 1/4-inch thick. The slices will fall apart in the pan. This is good. Heat about a tablespoon of neutral oil (I used canola oil) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sprouts to the pan and season with salt. Cook the spouts until they all have a few crispy, charred bits. This will work best if you don’t move them around too much. Then remove them from the skillet to a large bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet, and add the tofu. Cook the tofu until golden brown on all sides. Add the tofu to the bowl of Brussels sprouts. Add a quarter cup of maple syrup and about a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary. Toss the sprouts and tofu to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
O.K. so I was totes magotes born too late and I am SO over it. Whatever happened to SIMPLER TIMES when everyone DIYed, you know, EVERYTHING?
So yesterday I started canning, pickling, beekeeping, and raising three chickens. Martha, Peggy, and Dusty. Super-cute names, right? I just bought them a coop at Williams-Sonoma. They all have their own Facebook profiles because I think that’s only fair. 97% of my Twitter followers agree.
Anyways back to canning. History is AMAZEBALLS and the Internet says that John Landis Mason invented the mason jar in 1858 but his invention never made him rich because most mason jars were manufactured by his competitors after his patent expired so he worked as an accountant and there were some MAD rumors that he had his home burned for the insurance money and then he died of an abdominal hemorrhage.
Total bummer, right? I feel like, can’t somebody do something about this injustice, like Judge Joe Brown or Bill O’Reilly or Bono or Kris Jenner or something?
Or … OMG you guys. YOU GUYS. O.K. I’m so evolving a plan here. Call me cray-cray, but what if we travel back to 1858 and preserve John Landis Mason IN A MASON JAR and bring him back to the future to 2012 so he can see that his jars now sell in $30 four-packs at Williams-Sonoma?! ROAD TRIP!
Umm, YES I’m aware that acquiring parts for and building a time machine and casually altering the course of human history isn’t exactly in line with my newfound reverence for the past. DUH. I’ve sort of delegated that part for now so I’m not really that worried. Martha, Peggy, and Dusty are working on it.
Anyways in the meantime I need to keep up with my steadfast commitment to the lost art of pickling but using a mason jar in any fashion at this point seems totes unfair to John Landis Mason, my new BF4F (Best Friend 4EVA in the Future).
Lucky for me, I found a recipe for Vietnamese daikon and carrot pickles that you can keep in the fridge … I mean … ICEBOX … for weeks totes without a jar or can. You cut carrots and daikon radish into thin matchsticks, massage them with salt and sugar until they release moisture, rinse them off, and then brine them for an hour in a mixture of sugar, white vinegar, and water.
Umm, WTF? Who are you? The Invisible Hand? This recipe is about ME and MY DIYing and MY time travel. You can’t just …
Is that lemongrass? O.K. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that there is no way you grew that yourself. I’m gonna have to ask you to stop right there and …
Is that mayonnaise in a SQUEEZE BOTTLE? PRETTY SURE those weren’t around in the 1850s. You just don’t GET IT. Ugh. Can’t wait for my chickens to get me out of here.
Totes. Not. Cool.
Did they have fire extinguishers in 1858?
If you know, tweet me
- 1 baguette (It should be light and not too chewy; the less “rustic” the better)
- 1 batch of Lemongrass Tofu (Recipe follows. Heads-up: It needs to marinate for at least 30 minutes before you cook it.)
- 1 Long English or Asian/Persian cucumber, cut into thin strips
- 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced into thin rings
- Daikon radish and carrot pickles (Recipe here)
- cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
- 1 lime
Cut the baguette into four equal pieces. You can toast the pieces in the oven briefly if you want. Cut a slit into one of the pieces lengthwise and open it up like a book. Generously spread the bottom surface with mayonnaise. Add tofu and vegetables to taste. Squeeze a bit of lime juice over them. Repeat the process to make three more sandwiches.
Spicy Lemongrass Tofu
- 2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers peeled, bottom white part thinly sliced and finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons chopped Thai chili or another fresh chili
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into strips that are about 1 inch wide
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Combine the lemongrass, soy sauce, chilies, chili flakes, turmeric, sugar, and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth. Place the tofu strips in a large, shallow dish (I used a Pyrex baking dish). Spoon the lemongrass mixture over the tofu. Gently turn the tofu to coat. Put the dish in the ICEBOX and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the tofu and cook, turning frequently, so it browns on all sides. This should take about 4-5 minutes. Place cooked tofu on a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the tofu and vegetable oil.
“Toyko is fast,” Kozue said. “Kyoto is slow.” She was right.
While we are on the subject, I should note that many things are slow when compared to a bullet train ride that stretches telephone poles Salvador Dali-style.
But clearly Kyoto was slow long before we had the Shinkansen for reference. I felt it in my resting heartbeat. Have you heard of shinobi-cha? Kozue told me about that, too. It’s a way of brewing tea with ice as it melts. Drip, drop, pour, pause. This gentleman drinks shinobi-cha tea when he needs to set aside about 3 hours to concentrate on a good book, or a good conversation.
Drip, drop, pour, pause. That is how Kyoto felt. Why? Maybe Kozue just has excellent powers of suggestion. Or maybe it was …
Holy Golden Temple, Batman! Umm, yeah. So maybe it was the temples, each one still and quiet and beautiful, each one reminding me that people always have been, and always will be, puzzling out how to be alive.
Or maybe it was just a food coma. I can never rule out this cause, really.
Jules and I started each day with breakfast at the lovely Hotel Mume. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, breakfast in Tokyo required serious self-control. Breakfast in Kyoto required nothing but total surrender. Surrender to café au lait, to ginger jam, to carrot compote. To peeling layer after crisp, buttery layer off a croissant, and eating them one by one to make the whole thing last just a wee bit longer.
I cannot say enough about this hotel. “Attention to detail” does not begin to describe it.
Just look at their silverware, for crying out loud.
Also, the staff treated us with such kindness that we almost did not know how to respond. Upon arrival, I mentioned that the music they were playing in the lobby (Beatles, Paul Simon) made me happy. The next day, those CDs magically appeared in our room next to the stereo. Hisako, the hotel manager, basically did everything but walk us to the places we wanted to see. She knows the writer of the Time Out Kyoto guidebook. She would like you to know that (1) He is a vegetarian, and (2) His map of the Kyoto city center is upside-down. She has told him that it is rubbish.
Oh, and incidentally, in the bathroom of your room at Hotel Mume, there is a nearly sentient robot toilet that washes and dries your bottom for you. This is very difficult to leave. But leave you must.
Hisako recommended almost all of the restaurants we visited in Kyoto. For our first lunch, she pointed us to the café at Mumokuteki, which is within walking distance of the hotel. “There will be lots of chic young ladies with strollers,” she said. She was right. And those ladies sure know how to choose a bowl of curry.
Later, she sent us on our way to dinner at a restaurant whose name I don’t remember. Perhaps this is because they brought me individually flash-fried foods on a stick until I told them to stop. See? Food coma. After Googling several different phrases (including “Bring me individually flash-fried foods on a stick until I say stop”), I still am not sure what the place is called. I have a blurry photo of their menu that says, “A kusikatu course of the Wabiya.”
Whatever the name, this restaurant brought two primary delights: (1) A small, flash-fried egg on a stick that melted instantaneously upon contact with the roof of my mouth, and (2) A sake-fueled debate with our friend Arai-san regarding the merits of PORTABLE nearly sentient robot toilets.
The next day, we ate soba noodles at Honke Owariya, which has been in business since 1465. 14 friggin’ 65, people! Most of their hot noodle broths are fish-based, but they kindly made mine vegetarian by using soba tea.
After that, we removed our shoes and donned slippers to explore the interior of Ninomaru Palace, which is inside of Nijo Castle. I was quite jealous of the school children on our tour, whose slippers were infinitely more adorable than my plain brown ones.
The palace’s “nightingale floors” emit a bird-like chirping noise with every step. They were constructed to protect occupants of the palace from sneak attacks. One might say that when trounced upon by a group of 8-year-olds, they squawk instead of chirp. Then again, NO ONE EXPECTS an army of Hello Kitty-clad children! Their chief weapons are surprise and rainbows! At any rate, I wish I would have known about this ingenious method of fortification during my childhood. I would have installed a nightingale floor to protect my precious Cheetos from my brothers.
Next, we visited Nishiki Market,
and a half dozen piping-hot soy milk donuts visited my belly.
I have no idea how you make donuts with soy milk, but I’m very glad that someone does.
Here is a travel tip that you won’t find in Time Out Kyoto: If you are planning to eat a multicourse fucha ryori dinner in a private room inside of a Zen Buddhist temple, and wash it down with gold-leaf-infused sake, you might not want to spend your day eating croissants and soba noodles and soy milk donuts. And a bag of fried cherry tomatoes from Nishiki Market. And cocktail snacks and a glass of rosé at Hotel Mume’s happy hour.
I gravely underestimated how filling the delicate, elaborate food at Kanga-an would be. Just 20 minutes in, we were at Course #3, which included tempura flowers and plump green peas nestled in an edible basket made of seaweed tempura.
It seemed almost wrong to eat something so beautiful.
I realize that stuffing myself in said manner probably was not very Zen.
I’m still looking for harmony, for balance.
Between belly and brain, between fast and slow.
Add it to the list of things that will take an eternity.
I have never been particularly good at cleansing, but I do enjoy a light cleaning. You know. Just enough of a tidy-up so the people I’m having over for dinner don’t find out that I was raised by a pack of hoarder wolves with a penchant for Cheetos. Usually this involves copious amounts of Windexing Things, followed by Throwing Things in the Garage.
Unfortunately, these particular strategies cannot, as far as I know, be applied to cleansing the human body. In a vain attempt to imitate one of my glowingly healthy yoga teachers, I tried a full-on two-week cleanse diet last year. I drank green smoothies every day, which did nothing to improve my hand-eye coordination. I started out abstaining from meat (Already don’t eat it! Yessss!), refined sugar (I like agave syrup better, anyway. Advantage, Me!), gluten (Wait, what?), dairy (Please tell me you’re kidding), and caffeine (I’m sorry. Have we met?).
This lasted for three days. On the fourth day, I curled up in a fetal position under my desk at work.
Day 1: Okey-dokey.
Day 2: Darn good. I am so IN CONTROL.
Day 3: Smugly satisfied.
Day 4: Who are you, and can you get me an IV of coffee and/or parmesan cheese?
I’d heard that while cleansing you sometimes feel worse before you feel better, but there was no way I was going to take a sick day as a direct result of a health kick. Luckily, my friend and coworker T. (a.k.a. Master of Grilled Cheese) walked me downstairs to Starbucks and helped me order an Americano. Our barista told me that I “looked confused” and asked me if I was O.K.
I was O.K., after a long sip of sweet caffeinated elixir. I managed to make it through the rest of the week abstaining from everything requiring abstinence except for coffee. I did not really feel healthier, but I stopped hallucinating, and had only a few dreams in which I was being chased by a baguette.
Speaking of anthropomorphized bread: If you are feeling blue, you should read this essay by Henry Alford. In it, he details his attempt to follow a diet that required him to repeatedly imagine the foods he wanted to eat, and then not eat them. It’s called the Imagination Diet. The idea is that you trick your body into thinking that you have already eaten the cake, cookie, pizza, jar of mayonnaise, etc. that you have just imagined. Mr. Alford ends up seeing a family of bagels get off a train at Grand Central Station. It is wonderful. May it turn your blues to beignets.
But back to my light cleaning. So I made it through the work week by adding caffeine back in, but the true test of my cleansing mettle was still to come, at the Seattle Sounders soccer game that weekend. Jules and I sat in our regular seats, abstaining from stadium food. (He was cleansing, too). I sulked. At the half, we went up to meet T. and her friend, who were sitting in the All-Inclusive Food Section.
Yes, I said All-Inclusive Food Section. This means that with your ticket, you get all-you-can-eat snacks, including unlimited popcorn, unlimited soft pretzels, and unlimited nachos. Jules left to use the restroom. It was time for decisive action.
I approached T. “Princess!” she whispered, peeking over my shoulder to make sure Jules was out of earshot. “Quick! Have some nachos!”
The chips. They sang to me:
Now that I think about it, these nachos probably were not prohibited on the cleanse, as I doubt that the cheese sauce contained real cheese. But at the time, I felt like I had tasted forbidden cheddar nectar. Once, when I was a kid, we bought our sweet little Cockapoo a giant bone for his birthday. It undomesticated him. He snarled the lone snarl of his life, snatched the bone from my hand, buried it, and sat guarding it for two days. In that moment, with orange goo dribbling from the corner of my mouth, I at last knew how he felt.
Three months into the new year, and status post my gorgefest in Japan, I’ve restarted a bit of a cleanse. I’m trying to be nearly vegan during the work week, and will let you know how that goes. I also have tried a few recipes from Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse. I’ve lunched several times on whole wheat toast topped with mashed avocado, red pepper flakes, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. And I’ve breakfasted several times on vanilla-scented quinoa that, to my amazement, reminds me of one of my favorite desserts. I hope I’m not hallucinating …
Vanilla Bean Breakfast Quinoa
Adapted, slightly, from Epicurious
Makes 4 servings. I make a big batch at the beginning of the week and refrigerate the leftover quinoa (without the toppings, so they don’t get mushy).
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
half of a vanilla bean, split
1/4 teaspoon salt
Toppings, for your consideration:
*Sliced banana; toasted, chopped pecans; maple syrup; 1 pitted, chopped Medjool date; and a pinch of flaky sea salt, such as Maldon. This flavors in this version taste shockingly similar to the hot date cake with banana ice cream at Poppy.
*Almond milk, honey, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and orange zest. If you are making this version, you might add a few slices of orange peel to the quinoa while cooking.
Wash quinoa in several charges of water in a bowl, rubbing the grains and letting them settle before pouring off water, until water is clear. Even if the bag says the quinoa is pre-washed, doing this will make the end product fluffier, with less of a grassy quinoa taste. It’s a bit tedious, though, so don’t worry about this step if you are pressed for time.
If you washed the quinoa, drain it in a large fine-mesh sieve.
Combine the quinoa, water, salt, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork and keep covered to keep warm. Remove cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean. Divide among bowls and top away.
About halfway through our visit to Tokyo, Jules and I came to terms with the fact that we would get lost at least twice on the way to any restaurant. Oh, how we walked. With deliciousness at every turn, we needed the exercise anyway.
O.K. I needed the exercise anyway. Jules probably burned off a little bit of deliciousness running the Tokyo Marathon.
I did a lot of food-related research before our trip, and I wanted to share the results of all our exploring with you. Here are three preliminary suggestions:
(1) If you have a smart phone, learn how to take a screen shot of your web browser window. Before you leave home (or your hotel, if your room has WiFi), bring up a Google map of the route to your dining destination. Take a screen shot. Now you have a custom map that you can use without an Internet connection. If you look closely on the Google map, you should be able to see which subway station exit is closest to your impending meal. On the iPhone, you take a screen shot by pushing down the top power slider and the bottom round button at the same time. Am I the only person who did not know this?
(2) Perhaps you are thinking, “I am going to Tokyo! Home of awesome, out-there fashion! Surely I will need my four-inch stiletto booties! Surely I will be riding the subway most of the time!” Later you will understand how hilariously wrong this is. Put down the stilettos and pack another pair of sneakers. They can be cute sneakers. I also got a lot of wear out of my flat black boots. Dressy enough for a nice dinner, but also comfortable.
(3) On ordering: Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants below have English menus available and/or have English-speaking staff. Many Japanese restaurants have photos on their menus. If you are already in a vegan or vegetarian restaurant (like T’s Tan Tan, below), all you really need to be able to do is smile, point, and say “thank you.” Watch VegOut Tokyo’s Simple Japanese for Vegetarians to learn some helpful basic phrases.
Vegetable Sushi Potager
Closest station: Roppongi
Location: In the Roppongi Hills shopping behemoth
Worth the walk: Sushi without the fish! A tomato filet that’s a dead ringer for tuna sashimi, a sweet potato mont blanc with salted caramel ice cream, and a server who acts as … are you sitting down? … your own personal vegetable sommelier. Ours was French. Jules and I each got the Hisui omakase menu, which included eight pieces of vegetable sushi. For four of them, we selected our veggies from a basket of gorgeous produce.
Overheard: “Ah, tomato! Excellent choice, Madame. We have three different kinds of tomato …”
Casual Lunch or Dinner
Worth the walk: Vibrant, mysterious veggies; a lovely patio; and tiny, heart-shaped vegan shortbread cookies from the Brown Rice Deli next door.
Overheard: “I have no idea what this is, but it’s delicious.”
Closest station: Omotesando. Same station as Brown Rice Cafe, but they are a bit of a walk from each other, as the station spans several blocks underground.
Location: Detailed directions are here. The restaurant shares a building with an Aveda salon.
Worth the walk: A set “deli plate” dinner that includes small portions of their daily veggie specials (pictured below), caramel banana pudding, and a sake kasu muffin for breakfast tomorrow (See breakfast tips, below). They also sell vegan cookbooks full of mouthwatering photos. Alas, all of the recipes are in Japanese.
Overheard: “I seriously need to practice reading Japanese.”
T’s Tan Tan
Location: Inside Tokyo Station.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find: Tokyo Station is a massive tangle of shops, restaurants, and train platforms. T’s Tan Tan is in the Keiyo Street retail corridor. You’re getting close when you see a Uniqlo and a bunch of shops selling sweets and pastries.
Worth the walk: Piping-hot ramen noodles in a spicy broth made with sesame and red pepper. If this stuff tastes half as good as meat-based ramen, I understand why the Japanese love it. The menu is in Japanese only, but there are photos, and everything is vegan.
Tempura Tsunahachi, Main Shop (there are several locations in Tokyo)
Closest station: Shinjuku or Shinjuku-Sanchome
Location: 3-31-8 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Worth the walk: The mind-altering smell of batter frying, fresh bamboo tempura, and a trio of flavored salts for garnish. We went here with our friend Kozue, who researched vegetarian options and helped us order in Japanese. They do have an English menu, but the vegetarian set lunch option was only listed on the Japanese menu. It included a fish-based soup, but the tempura and rice were more than filling. I suspect that if you went in and used your basic Japanese veggie phrases, you would be fine.
Overheard: “I feel … lightheaded.”
Eat More Greens
Closest station: Azabu-Juban
Location: Very close to the station, especially if you come out of Exit 4. There is a good map on their web site.
Worth the walk: Vegetarian Japanese-style curry with both cooked and raw vegetables, spooned atop a pile of nutty black rice; cozy atmosphere; a bakery case full of vegan donuts and deep-dish pie slices.
Overheard: “There’s no way that apple pie is vegan.”
Gorgefest at the Isetan department store depachika (basement food hall)
Closest station: Shinjuku-Sanchome. We walked there from our hotel, which was near the West entrance to Shinjuku Station.
Location: 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Worth the walk: Sorry Tokyo Disney, this is the Happiest Place On Earth. They have lots of vegetarian things because THEY HAVE EVERYTHING. Including Pierre Hermé macarons. Including melons that cost about $131 each. Have you been to the basement of Harrods in London? Take that and double it. Regarding ordering: This is the ultimate “smile, point, and say thank-you” destination. That said, the very kind information desk concierge who helped me find the Sadaharu Aoki boutique spoke English.
Overheard: “Sensory overload! Sensory overload! Sensory overload!”
Finding breakfast in Tokyo was difficult. Here is a Chowhound conversation on the topic. According to our friend Arai-san, Japanese people do not really eat breakfast out, and most restaurants are not open for breakfast. Some of the big hotels have buffets with both Japanese and Western-style breakfast foods. The buffet at our hotel cost about $30 U.S. per person per day. It was nothing special, and it featured many meats. One morning I had pancakes at Royal Host, a chain restaurant that was kind of like Denny’s, but way cleaner. The meal was inexpensive, but again, nothing special. Also, they do not have many other vegetarian options.
Pure Cafe opens at 8:30 a.m. They have a set breakfast that includes toast with peanut butter or hummus, soup, a side salad, and a drink. (Soup for breakfast is a great idea. Warm, comforting, and a nice way to get some veggies.)
That said, I think it’s better to do a little pre-planning, and take advantage of Tokyo’s incredible baked goods. The city is full of bakeries where you can pick up a little something for breakfast the night before. Then make coffee in your hotel room, and save your yen for an early lunch. If you have dinner at Pure Cafe, get an apple or sake kasu muffin. At Brown Rice Deli, get a barely sweet chocolate muffin topped with almond slivers. If you happen to be near a depachika while you’re out sight-seeing, the sky’s the limit. The Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku has a shop called Poppins that sells fluffy basil-cheese rolls. Can you say “grilled cheese in pastry form”? Refraining from eating them until the next morning was the most difficult part.
I’ll be back soon with more resources and suggestions.
I have just returned from Japan, where I encountered the following small, adorable things:
(1) Bento box supplies at the Tokyu Hands Shibuya branch. Have you ever wanted to make a hot dog (or maybe a veggie dog) into the shape of a miniature octopus? This aisle is for you.
(2) Pink, pint-sized arcade games near the Hello Kitty Pancake Party at VenusFort. I do not have words to describe the color in this place. “Death by glowing cotton candy” comes close.
(3) Chocolate bonbons from the Sadaharu Aoki boutique in the Isetan depachika. Flavors, from left to right: Black sesame, coconut, wasabi, bamboo, yuzu, passion fruit, Valencia orange, strawberry, raspberry, caramel, coffee, blueberry. I am shocked that I refrained from eating these long enough to photograph them.
(4) A single glistening, candied kumquat, part of an everything-in-its-place set lunch at Brown Rice Cafe.
(5) A pristine pick-me-up at Chatei Hatou, a kissaten where, per Oliver Strand, “coffee is prepared with such intensity and grace that it feels as if time has stopped.”
Let me explain. Perhaps it is just because I am an overseas-travel novice, but I cannot get over the fact that my body crossed the International Date Line. Contrary to my expectations, when this happened, Captain Jean-Luc Picard did not beam down into the airplane cabin and ask me if I wanted to join his crew IN THE FUTURE. I just dozed lightly, in my usual mid-flight manner, and then poof! Today became tomorrow. In Tomorrowland, I could read few signs and fewer advertisements. I did most of my communicating by pointing, smiling, and saying “thank you.” I felt a bit like a Martian. Or an artist. Or both.
Now I sleep, and Japan is awake, and the good people of Japan are rushing to catch a train.
And they are hoping and praying.
And they are wishing for love and luck. And perhaps neither comes.
Fold heartache neatly, tie it in a knot, and walk away.
The good people of Japan are also trying to get to work. On our first day in Tokyo, Jules and I entered Shinjuku Station around 7:30 a.m., when approximately everyone in Tokyo was exiting Shinjuku Station.
I used to think that there were two types of people in the world: (1) People who look where they are going when they are walking, to avoid collisions, and (2) People who just walk. Neither type is necessarily bad, I theorized, while secretly congratulating myself for being the responsible, collision-avoiding type.
Shinjuku Station during rush hour taught me that this is just about the stupidest idea I have ever had. There are so many people, and so many trains, and so many zig-zagging paths, that if you tried to avoid collisions in Shinjuku Station, you would never move. You just walk, and hope for the best. The same principle applies while crossing the famed Shibuya Scramble.
Now I am back to my wishes, my prayers, my commute, my work. There are taxes to be done and decisions to be made and I am annoyed that the bus smells like a McDonald’s hamburger, when no one on the bus seems to be eating a McDonald’s hamburger, and I have yet to unpack, and I need to clean the house before the housecleaner gets here.
And it is already tomorrow in Tokyo.
We are such small, adorable things. All of us.