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04 December 2014 @ 08:51 pm
A Tour of Chiyoda! Part IV  
Shopping Center Thanks
Thanks was built back when the City University of New York had a branch in Chiyoda, and it managed to survive the closure of that university four years later by being the place where the surrounding even smaller towns, like Oasa or Geihoku, came to get goods. We went there a lot, because while it was primarily a grocery store, there were a ton of other smaller stores in there too. An alcohol shop, a bakery, a futon shop that later closed and was replaced with a travel agency (though fortunately after we had bought our futon), a stationary and book shop, a shoe shop, a hundred-yen store, two clothing stores, a pharmacy, a sushi stand...

We spent a lot of time at Thanks, though not as often as other people. While our fridge was around 2/3rds the size of an American fridge, we managed to buy a week's groceries at a time, instead of the two to three days' worth that's more common for Japanese families. softlykarou got some stares due to our bulging shopping basket until people figured that out.

The sushi stand, called 亀家 (kameya), had sales at the end of every day. At 5 p.m., sushi was 20% off, and at 6 p.m., it was 50% off. If we got there in time, before the crush of obaachans picked the offerings clean, we could get a pretty tasty sushi dinner for the two of us for maybe $15.

Michizure
I'm not entirely sure what the rest of the building was for, but the bottom floor was a restaurant that softlykarou and I would go to when we wanted to celebrate some event. It wasn't super high-end, but it was definitely more upscale than Funky Tonky or Iwata or Gusto. And while the internet at large is not too keen on it, we never had much to complain about. There are a lot of seafood-and-rice sets, some huge $100 sushi platters that we never got, noodle bowls, and really good appetizers. And basashi, which is amazing.

If you've heard me tell the story about ordering gekikara tantanmen and getting more than I bargained for, this is where it happened.

Coin Laundry
Yes, that's a raccoon on the sign. That's because the Japanese for raccoon is 洗熊 (araiguma), which literally means "washing bear," and the first kanji there is also the first kanji in 洗濯 (sentaku, "laundry")

We had a washing machine in our house that we washed all our clothes in, but we didn't have a dryer. That's not unusual for Japan, where hanging out the laundry to dry is very common, but during the winter hanging laundry outside is obviously out of the question so we hung it inside. And since our house was uninsulated and Japan is so humid, it would often take two to three days for it to dry completely. It was just awful all around.

It was softlykarou's idea to start taking our clothes here, and while initially I was against it, I pretty soon came around when the benefits came through. We'd drop our clothes off, go shopping or go to dinner, change them, wait for 30 minutes, then take them home and they'd be done. Plus the laundry is heated, and the clothes are super warm when they come out. softlykarou would dump them out on the futon and then just lay on them for a bit, soaking up the heat. I really don't blame her.

Hakkenden
This is another izakaya, though it's part of a chain and much more obviously a restaurant. The name comes from 八犬伝, the legend of the eight dog warriors, though they swap the middle character out for 剣, which is pronounced the same but means "sword." Because it's a chain, you can see their website here and their menu here. There's a ton of pictures, which is quite a change from Iwata, where the menu was just a solid block of kanji and kana in black on plain white paper.

I'm getting a lot of cravings looking at that menu. Hakkenden was the place where I learned about ochazuke and I always ordered that to finish off the meal, but there's a ton of other stuff there and now my mouth is watering. Kushiyaki, ramen and yakionigiri, gyoza and kara-age, spicy pickles and wasabi octopus, french fries and fried cheese, or--still a favorite--raw meat with raw egg and raw onions. Anyone who's seen me get grumpy when scanning the menu at a Japanese restaurant here in America, click those links and you'll understand.

We also ran into the owner of the local Poplar eating with some of his staff there once, and he bought us drinks for coming in and buying so many onigiri and cup noodles from them. That's service you can't pay for.

Town Hall and Community Center
That very uniquely-shaped building on the right is the town hall, where we only went a few times. We were there most at the beginning of our first year, when softlykarou had to go get all her various papers and so on sorted out. Since she was the one with a job waiting for her, everything was in her name, so she had to sign up for utilities, register us for tax and immigration purposes, sign up for car insurance, and so on. Later on, I went there to change my dependent visa to a work visa, and later to look for work in the schools nearby.

The building on the left is the community center where we had our biweekly English class. It caught us by surprise the first time we were asked to teach it, and originally I think we didn't do that great a job, but we taught it for three years. A few people left, a few more people came in, and we honed our teaching abilities. There were some great moments, like when we had to go to a different room and ended up practicing directions by laying zabuton down on the floor, having one person close their eyes, and having the other class members tell them which way to go, or when we had a fake restaurant to practice customer interactions, or when we instituted "What have you done since last class?" time at the beginning so that no matter what, everyone spoke some English during class time.

I wrote a blog post about the last enkai we went to with the group. There's still a passage that sticks out to me:
At the end of the party tonight, we all stood outside and looked up at the full moon, and one of the students said, "When you're in America, you will be looking at the same moon." With all the friends I'll be leaving when we leave Japan, it's a good thought to remember.
I still remember that, sometimes, when I'm looking up at the night sky.
 
 
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