Monday, August 14, 2023

Ernie's First Look at Tokyo

We had a long journey to Japan, so our first day in Tokyo mostly involved trying to stay awake an appropriate number of hours until we could pass out again.

The hotel room had a magic toilet that did not disappoint with the number of buttons.

Lydia is a fancy pants and got us a hotel in Ginza.

Like the very first thing that I wanted to do was go to a convenience store(conbini) and buy every single thing inside of it. I hadn't been to Japan in like 7 or 8 years and my hunger was vast.

I was amused to see Spam musubi on the shelf next to the onigiri.

FamilyMart saves the day!

I destroyed a melon pan bread loaf thing. I had a salmon onigiri and a milky tea drink thing. Hurray!

I have some Japanese subway system experience under my belt but doing it with a baby in a stroller was definitely on hard mode. Sometimes it took us a while to find the elevators we needed anytime we wanted to enter or exit the labyrinth.

Sometimes I got tired of searching for elevators and became an elevator myself.

Lydia loves desserts and ice creamy sorts of ones in particular. She was excited to try some kakigori.

It started downpouring on us after we arrived in Shibuya and we fled to another convenience store to buy some cheap umbrellas. We've been living in Seattle's sort of misty pretend rain for so long that this amount of water falling was a surprise.

My Japanese ability is a funny beast. I know that I've probably forgotten 90% of what I knew, but the fact that I can remember any of it at all is kind of amazing considering it's been mostly sitting on the shelf since I stopped living there in 2009.

The first person who I made suffer through my attempts at remembering was this poor lady at the kakigori shaved ice joint Sabo Okuno Shibuya.

These guys are known for their seasonal flavors. I went for the peach cheese when the lady said that that was popular. I didn't 100% understand what that was going to entail but it was pretty amazing.

I want to say you boil a whole peach to peel the skin off, pit it, then stuff it with a cream cheese type situation. It was really good sitting atop its throne of delicious ice.

Lydia got blueberry.

Included in the deal was your choice of teas. Lydia went with a legit matcha.

I got the more complicated genmaicha which is green tea mixed with roasted popped brown rice.

While we were enjoying our treats the ice man showed up in his cute little truck with a couple blocks of ice for reinforcements. I thought that was a nice little retro slice of life.

There was a corn flavor that the worker was trying to steer me towards but I was not having that.

In retrospect I think I made a mistake with this whole trip. I knew that breastfeeding in public was probably frowned upon, and maybe there was a bit of Lydia's discomfort as well, but we decided that we were going to breastfeed in designated breastfeeding rooms. We learned that those often ended up being in department stores, so we spent a lot of time on this trip in department stores feeding the big man. This ate up a lot of time and was often a source of stress trying to constantly hunt them down and also having anxiety about straying too far from them. I think that I may have caused this situation and I think that if we went back to Japan I would try to be more chill about it for all of our sakes. In most countries we can kind of use ignorance of local custom as a shield to take care of Ernie in our own way while on the move, but here I felt guilt that this was supposed to be "my place" and if that was going to be true I should try to follow the rules.

Anyway the family areas in the department stores were often very nice, and while Lydia and Ern were occupied I could explore the numerous floors of shopping. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself about the breastfeeding rooms. I mean we had a 4 month old with us so we weren't exactly going rock climbing even if Lydia had been willing to whip her shirt off in the middle of the street. It's funny, I feel like gap year teenagers are the ones who go one trips to "find themselves" but I'm a new dad and what my self is now has changed. So being on this trip with the whole crew was an opportunity to find myself all over again. Who is the dad version of John? What has changed? What has stayed the same? 

One thing that has stayed the same is my love of Japanese food. Department stores' basements are usually bursting with food so this was a win.

There was a strange fashion brand Budweiser collaboration in progress that I made sure to report to my old Anheuser-Busch buddies.

Ernie helped me pick out some nice looking tuna sushi. This was chu-toro which means medium fatty tuna.

Ernie asked for some but I had to remind him that he doesn't have any teeth.

We showed Ernie the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing where a zillion people all cross in different directions when the walk light comes on.

He was impressed. It was pretty hot out but his little fan kept him comfortable. He's such a trooper and I was very proud of him on this trip.

This was Ernie's first scramble but he quickly got the hang of it. 

Unsurprisingly we hit another department store. But not just "any" department store. This is the famed flagship Nihonbashi Takashimaya.

The architecture alone made the place worth a visit. Department stores in the US barely exist if at all, and this place has marble statues of angels outside the door.

Lydia has been pretty excited about the baby equipment for sale at the various stores. One of her complaints about this whole child rearing thing is that there aren't very many stores in the Seattle area that have strollers and car seats on display where you can check them out. Here they seem to be everywhere.

The ladies that work in the stores like to interact with him and try to make him smile.
They ask me how old he is and I always make them guess. Sometimes they guess pretty close despite the fact he is a giant which is impressive.

One fancy and unique part of the mall is the elevators. They are antique and beautiful, and have a lady elevator attendant in each one. She helps people on and off the elevator as if it was an elegant train, then announces each floor and what is sold there at each stop. So fun.

We split the team and Lydia went to feed the milk monster while I collected some delicious foods for us to eat back at the hotel. Nihonbashi Takashimaya is a bit unique in that is has a lot of regional foods on offer here from mom and pop places across Japan. I can't really "read" so much of this was lost on me but it was still fun to look at.

Among other things, I got us some various yakitori chicken chunks on sticks.

Ernie was feeling pampered in the luxurious baby room.

We kept it together on our first day of Japan time zone with a baby. I think that's a win by any measure.

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