Today, I went to Asakusa for the first time. It was absolutely mind-boggling... It was like I could feel the spirituality and tradition of Japan just present in this one place. We walked around, ate a lot and learned a lot too. It was seriously like ROOTS!! ^_^ No amount of written description will do this place justice, so here are a bunch of pictures.
What you see after going passing the first lantern.
Katsura: Traditional Japanese wigs
WTF: Traditional dog wigs?? You'd have to be a pretty sick person to do this to a dog.
The second lantern ;]
This guy is making ningyoyaki-- a deep fried pancake sort of thing with azuki (red bean) inside. At first I thought, "Ningyoyaki? Is that fried mermaid?" Turns out the word for mermaid is ningyou, and not ningyo.
After we went to get lunch, we passed the second shrine to try out Mikuji (fortunes). You take this big metal cylinder full of these sticks with numbers on it and you shake it until one of the sticks comes out. You find the matching number in this big case of drawers and you pull out the first fortune in the drawer. I got a bad fortune!! X_X When you get a bad fortune, you fold it so that it's thin enough to tie around this metal bar thing (above) and the bad luck goes away. I bought an omamori (good luck charm) in case that didn't work!
The smoke from this incense is supposed to heal the areas of your body that are most vulnerable-- so of course I covered my head.
After I got that bad fortune, I tried taking more pictures... but my camera got all shaky--- like it was recording an earthquake or something!! I was like W T F THIS IS SO SCARY. Bad fortune and then broken camera? HOLY AGU%IQ%)(*#@)$*)#!!! I'M TOO SUPERSTITIOUS TO ENJOY THIS IRONY!!!
The third shrine (probably the most beautiful one) was under construction. Guess I have to go back!!
Inside the shrine. People throw money between these slats and then make a wish.
The ceiling inside the shrine. It was GORGEOUS!
After we left the shrines, my camera went back to normal... but that was because I had entered a hell beyond all comprehension.
It was Kappabashi, which is mom's version of heaven, and my version of hell. All the stores in Kappabashi are restaurant-related. There were dish stores, sample (plastic food) stores, neon light stores, uniform stores, knife stores, and God knows what else. I'm not exaggerating when I say that mom went into EVERY. SINGLE. FRICKIN'. STORE.
Here's what a typical store in Kappabashi looks like. Floor to ceiling of goods! Normally I would have enjoyed an outing like this with my roommates or if I was by myself. With my mom-- I was this close to completely losing it. Every store was almost identical-- besides, what could she possibly need at a RESTAURANT SUPPLY STORE?!
I ended up taking a chill pill after I realized that this was my mom's last official day in Japan. I let her do what she wanted and was finally zen when I realized that I've got 4 months to do whatever I want. Giving her a day of completely monotonous shopping seemed only right. I just waited outside knowing that things could only go up from here.
I got to see sakura at night in Mori Park in Roppongi~! You can see Tokyo Tower from here!
This beauty of the sakura at night just lead us to the next best thing: nirvana. Otherwise known as Restaurant Omae in Roppongi. It has a Michelin star! HOLY BALLS!!
The dinner we ate tonight was... UNDOUBTEDLY the best meal of my life. Yes, I realize that I've used that expression to describe the dinner on the first night-- but I'd like to retract that statement and present these pictures as evidence:
First course: beef tare tare with some kind of carpaccio. The beef was served on top of this ice cream cone and the carpaccio was served with a basil sauce. IT WAS SOOOO DELICIOUS I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF.
Second course: Shrimp, tofu and caviar. Enough said.
THE BEST SCALLOPS I'VE EVER EATEN. I DON'T EVEN LIKE SCALLOPS!!
Holy crap, those scallops were served with this white wine and butter sauce with this snapper that was wrapped in wakame. It was my favorite portion of the dinner by far. I've never eaten anything so slowly. I wanted to savor the taste for as long as I possibly could!!
This was our Chef, Abe Tetsuya. Verrry nice guy. Tatsuya and Atsuko (who treated us to this AMAZING dinner) were listening to the chef working at the other table and they said he was NOT nice. Abe-san explained everything he was doing as he was doing it. He told us all the ingredients and even presented it in English for me... because I was too busy drooling instead of trying to understand him.
Main course: SU-TE-KI! Suteki means beautiful and suteeki means steak. It was indeed a suteki na suteeki! The dipping sauces were garlic, Kumamoto soy sauce, salt and pepper. MY DAD WOULD HAVE LOVED IT BECAUSE IT WAS COOKED TO PERFECTION!!!
Mashed potatoes and horse radish (on top) that came with the steak. I usually hate horse radish-- but this place made me change my mind.
The final course: FRIED RICE. I KNOW-- WHAT? FRIED RICE? I will never eat fried rice that's this good... ever again. Sorry Mom and Dad-- it just... won't even compare. Abe-san fried this rice using salt, pepper, shoyu and mirin sauce and then raw beef flakes. *DROOOOOOOL*
Ok, so this night-- this experience, rather, would not be complete with out a few faux pas. The guy in this picture is the owner and chef of Restaurant Omae. He's Omae!! He's also Iron Chef Morimoto's protegee! I didn't know that when he took our order for dessert...
Our friend Tatsuya asked him for his recommendation, and I chose something else. Faux pas numero uno. When I found out he was the owner I was MORI-MORTIFIED. How could I NOT have ordered what he recommended?! HOW INSULTING OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. I just thought he was some waiter! Why would the head chef and owner take a customer's order?!?!?! I took a picture with him just to show that I knew who he was and how privileged I felt to be in his presence.
It's ok though because Atsuko ended up ordering his recommended dessert which was this pistachio cake thing. PHEW~ SAVED! Omae-san even came back to our table to grind some fancy lime rind (sort of similar to yuzu) on top of the creme brulee I had ordered (against his recommendation). It was SUBLIME (hah)! I actually think it was waaaay better than what that pistachio cake!! Too bad I ruined it with faux pas numero dos: laughing like an ass in the middle of this classy restaurant.
So while we were waiting for our dessert, we were exchanging funny restaurant stories and experiences. So of course, I told them the story of when mom and I went to Nobu in New York, ate at the bar and the lady next to us who started hysterically sobbing. Tatsuya (who is low-key hilarious) said, "Oh, was she crying because she saw the price?" I burst out laughing because he's never made a joke in front of me and that actually was funny. It came out at about 10 times the necessary reaction.
I wanted to kill myself. Omae-san saw me too. God. God. God. God. He must think I'm a total hick.
Despite all that though, the night ended smoothly and was still the best dinner I've ever had.
2 faux pas down... they won't be the last... hopefully they don't get any worse though!!