Hmm. I feel the earth move as I type. There was an earthquake too last evening, as my friend and I were chilling out at the Imperial Palace. It was pretty strong. A hostel mate just said his friend missed his flight last night because the quake had disrupted local train services to the airport. I hope to get to the airport without sweat tomorrow, although I really would not mind staying put in Tokyo.
I began Saturday with a resolution to find the Totoro cream puffs from the Shiro-Hige Cream Puff Factory. Ever since my friend told me about these last October, I’ve been quite determined to see and taste the real deal. The bakery is way out west, in the neighborhood of Takaido and pretty close to Mitaka where the Ghibli Museum is. The Miyazaki animation studios are also apparently out west in the same neighborhood. It is my goal to go there. Okay, a 5th trip to Japan already on the cards 😉
So having a map didn’t really help especially if you cannot read katakana and hiragana, and your kanji skills are not superb. I went on a wild goose chase for the puffs when it was really, really close to the Takaido train station. That, or Totoro was hiding from me. It was nerve-wrecking because on one hand, I didn’t want to give up after coming so far from Asakusa, but on the other, I had arranged to meet my friend who loved Totoro as much as I did at 2 pm and the only form of communication I could have with him was email (I didn’t have a Tokyo cellphone number) so I couldn’t tell him that I’d be drastically late. I hate waiting for people, so likewise, hate having people wait for me.
So fortunately, just before I had to pull the plug on my mission, I met a lovely elderly couple (after another helpful lady who had a map and pointed me in the right direction). Because I couldn’t understand Japanese, they walked with me some ways until they could point out that all I needed was to go straight and I’d find the bakery. I was lucky, and extremely grateful for all these kind people along the way. I think my pronunciation of “sumimasen” and “arigato gozaimasu” improved by leaps and bounds in that hour of my Totoro hunt.
I managed to make it to the Ginza Apple Store where we arranged to meet at 14:20 to find his email saying he would be late too. Phew. What a relief, although I wasn’t relishing the sight of of sweat patches on my t-shirt. It was a warm day in Tokyo.
So he showed shortly after and we walked down to the Tsukiji riverfront to enjoy the ultimately kawaii Totoros. There were 3 flavors for the cream filling – custard, chocolate and strawberry. The strawberry flavor changes with the season. For summer (from June to Aug) it will be peach and so on. I bought all 3 flavors, they’re all too cute and my tired brain refused to choose!
So we shared the Totoros, splitting them quite grotesquely down the middle of their heads, oozing out the delicious cream and biting into the crispy pastry. Super yummy, they rock!
Damn, I would buy a ton of Totoros for my family and friends back home but now home is Shanghai and my circle is now too limited, at least those who would appreciate Totoro. Feeling a little homesick because of this. But whatever …
It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. We decided to trek out to the Imperial Palace after getting a chiding from my friend “What kind of tourist are you” that I’ve never been there before despite visiting Tokyo for the third time now. So as we sat in the compounds of the Palace, we were rocked quite strongly for half a minute. All the people continued to mill around as if nothing happened. So we turned our attention to a family whose little girl was trying to take her family’s portrait with her dad’s huge ass DSLR. That was a funny sight, it rocked.
My friend, knowing he was relocating to Tokyo, had made some Japanese friends through a language exchange website, so he could learn the language faster. We met up with a couple of these guys who were cool, nice and really fun to hang out with. Their English was rather poor, some parts of conversation had to be repeated, but it was all part and parcel of the learning process. I learned some Japanese catch phrases too, which I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten most of it. Shame on me. So the guys had several rounds of beer (off limits to me because I couldn’t handle alcohol well) and snacks at The Dubliners before it was time for us to head out to SonarSound.
So my friend and I hopped on the train from Shinagawa to Shin-kiba. The event was cool, there were 4 major tents with different musicians spinning different sonic flavors for the crowd. The one we saw first was an intense coordinated static noise that was so brilliant it was music to the ears. It was really amazing also that there were computer graphics accompanying the music and the zealous DJs and music artists’ movements all in sync in an orchestra of melody, static noise, beeps and sonic bumps and whatnot that our eardrums can catch.
It would have been really lovely night had my friend not, who had been plagued by a sinus infection since earlier in the week, started to feel really ill. He decided in the best interest of his health to take the infamously expensive Tokyo cab home around midnight after the trains had stopped running. After he left, it was not so much fun really. There was a pretty good set by Flying Lotus that got me dancing like mad and almost in a trance like I had so much angst that I needed to shake out for about 30 minutes. I was pretty much exhausted after that, so I went out to the bar area. Coincidentally, a couple left their precious seats and I took one immediately and hogged it for the rest of the night until morning came and trains started running again. The festival rocked, but bummer, friend was sick and I hope he’s doing so much better now.