Tokyo Day 3

Trine has been a treasure trove of information about the Japanese culture and language. She's always been fascinated by languages - a sentiment I can appreciate but which I only act on with my native tongue. At the izakaya last night, she asked the server if they had any dishes with burdock root - we'd been discussing it, she loves it, and I wanted to try it. His voice took on a somewhat nasal quality and the literal translation of what he said was something along the lines of "it is difficult ..." You don't say "no" in Japanese (they have a word for it, so rudeness is possible), but to a native Japanese speaker they hear "no," but in a polite way. Bizarre.

There was a light-to-medium rain all day today, so I started out at the JCII Camera Museum - although I arrived later than I intended as I got lost. Fortunately, the Japanese are quite helpful - even when the language barrier is nearly insurmountable. The JCII Camera Collection is quite spectacular (although probably only to a mechanical engineer turned photographer) - as they own thousands(?) of cameras going right back to the dawn of photography and right up to the current day. They have a fine selection of Canons, Nikons, Leicas and Rolleis - and obscure and expensive stuff like a couple Petal cameras. Ironically, photography was not allowed inside the camera museum.

I took a quick look through the adjacent photo gallery, but they didn't have much that I liked.

Next stop was the Mori Art Museum at Roppongi Hills (a famous and expensive development in the heart of the city) ... but they were closed to set up their next exhibit. However, they also had an Alphonse Mucha exhibit, so my disappointment was considerably tempered. Mucha is a Czech artist that I made much of during my visit to Prague: the man almost single-handedly started Art Nouveau, and I really like his stuff. As it turns out, this was a really good touring display. They hadn't sent any of the 19 or 20 pieces from "the Slav Epic," but given that they're mostly around four meters on a side it's not a huge surprise. I saw three or four of them in Prague - those things are HUGE. I also felt a bit like an art snob looking at reproductions of them and thinking "they really don't give much of a sense of the shear scale," and then thinking that colour on the stained glass reproductions was off ... Heh. In some ways it's weird to have traveled so much.

photo: Outside the Tokyo Midtown plaza building

Cherry trees in bloom, rain-slicked pavement, and a restaurant balcony.

I went to the Suntory Museum of Art next, but it was also closed. As far as I could tell, they had a new exhibit coming up an April 17, but the sign was of course in Japanese so I'm not entirely sure. And then to the National Gallery close by - which turns out to be closed on Tuesdays. So not my best day.

I met up with Trine around 1700 and we went to a kaiten sushi place in her neighbourhood that she hadn't tried before. "Kaiten" is "conveyor belt," and you just snag whatever appeals to you off the belt. It's kind of fast food / low-end sushi here, but - as I was told by some friends back home who had visited Tokyo - it's still better than pretty much any sushi I'd ever had in Toronto. Your bill is totalled by the type/colour of the plates you've accumulated, and all of ours were (without even meaning to) at the cheapest price, 120 yen. That's about $1.30 each for usually two pieces of sushi. We had a reasonable sized meal for about $20.

We went to the Isetan department store where Trine dropped a huge bundle of money on a perfume she's been wanting for forever, and then wandered around the basement food department. Almost all department stores have food in the basement, generally high quality prepared foods at reasonable (but not cheap) prices. And Isetan is the place to go. It was everything it was reported to be, and we finally found Karuizawa whisky. This had proven difficult to find, so I bought a 200ml bottle of Sherry casked, 12 year old, cask strength (? 60% alcohol) for $55 to drink during my visit. The salesman told Trine that it was exclusive to Isetan - another thing that's common here. Do small runs, sell them as exclusives. As it turns out, that quality may be its most important one: its taste is ... sherry sweet, but otherwise harsh and unspectacular. Sadly disappointing. Perhaps it will grow on me, I guess we'll see. I looked for the Karuizawa because I had some at a whisky tasting about a year back, a 15 Y.O. that was an order of magnitude better than the much more available Suntory.

I'm going to get up obscenely early tomorrow and head for Tsukiji Fish Market. Sushi breakfast.