Tokyo backstreets, bento and baseball food.
If we were to start a tour company, it would have to be called 'Boring Tours of Big Cities'. We just love going on long walks through the back roads and laneways of suburbia, industrial areas and the bits of places that never appear on the travel brochure.
Why do we do it? So we can see the likes of this lovely old lady in her home territory.
Or how regular people get about their day by day activities, what their houses look like, where they shop.
Lordie, what are those stupid pasty gaijin doing here in the boring burbs? What idiots, haha!
When wandering around we stumble upon some gems, such as Ginza Street in Higashinakano, a lovely little strip of restaurants and shops.
We started out a little late and missed breakfast, a missed eating opportunity can never be recovered.. It's lunchtime by the time we find this little bento shop.
This is the store of our lunchtime dreams, every type of bento box imaginable.
All the boxes are cold and can be heated up if you like. Alison still has nightmares about her potato salad being microwaved at a Seven Eleven in Osaka, so we take our bento cold, like men.
You can also pick up a few little extras to go with your bento, little croquettes, fried fish and tempura. Anything that can be coated in panko crumbs and deep fried gets the treatment.
Bento Box 1: Eggplant and veggies, wedges of potato, curry mince and pickled ginger on rice.
Side dish of little fried fishies with fresh slices of onion and cabbage and a wedge of lemon.
Bento box 2: Fresh hot rice (heated seperatly in the shop and added to the box), umeboshi plum on rice, sweet potato, salmon, green beans, pickled cucumber, lotus root, burdock root. The bentos were nice but man-o-man they were salty.
Another side dish of panko coated deep fried mushrooms.
Dessert of a little red bean filled moon cake. We ate all of this sitting outside an apartment building. This isn't the done thing and we raised a few eyebrows, though we did get a few nods of approvals from passers-by. Wherever we are in the world people love it when we hook into the local tucker. Oishii desu!
We continue our walk with the aim of heading towards Ikebekuro. We're amazed to see stores with boxes of stock piled out the front with no worries they might get stolen. Anywhere else this lot would have been wheeled off in minutes.
There's loads of little lunchtime places stuck in on side alleys. Only 1,200 for a set lunch, not much more than our bentos. But it looks a bit posh for us.
We take a quick break and revel in the wonders of Japanese toilets. Even a loo in a supermarket has push-button magic jets of warm water that are disturbingly accurate and pleasant, leaving you fresh and clean with a ring of confidence.
In Zoka Coffee Roaster in Mejiro we're amazed to find a bloody good flat white, complete with latte art. This is the best coffee we've had in Japan, around 380 yen.
This sign is intriguing. What is the bird for?
We continue our trek to Ikebekuro in a vain attempt to find another cat cafe.
We couldn't find the Tokyu Hands Nekobukuro (cat house), even though we've been there before. Go figure! Here's a neat video of the joint somebody posted on youtube.
Alison delicately pats a native Japanese dog, he doesn't look too happy about it. Maybe he's upset because he doesn't have pants.
Chocoholic heaven. Halloween sales were in full swing.
We head back to our hotel to research how to get to the baseball on later that night. We discover there's a subway station right next door, doh!
At first we think these guys are performing some kind of street theatre. It turned out they were just resting in their own unrelated way, wondering why some idiot tourist is pointing a camera at them.
We've become obsessed with this noodle bar in Shinjuku, we can't get enough. We duck in, quack.
Shawn has his favourite soba and broth with raw egg, 300 yen. Often the simplest things are what grabs us. On our last trip to Thailand the favourite snack was simply a soft boiled egg in a glass served on the side of the road. Sometimes food joy is as much about where and when it is available. If we could get a quick soba noodle soup like this next to Newtown station we would be in heaven.
Alison tries a cold ramen with ginger, pork, shredded egg and a dollop of mustard, 550 yen.
The train station noodle joint is fast becoming our local.
If we lived here I think we would come every day.
We finally work out how to get to the stadium - find the right train station and follow the crowds. The stadium is inside a large park quite close to Shinjuku.Tokyo has a few major Baseball teams, this one is the homeground of the Yakult Swallows. Tonight they played the Hanshin Tigers, and we were torn for loyalty. We love Osaka too!
We're ecstatic to find a rare hot junk food vendo. This looks awesomely bad but we can't spare valuable stomach space.
This little food truck outside the baseball stadium is doing a roaring trade but we decide to wait until we are inside to eat. A friendly English speaking fellow helped us to buy tickets. We bought reserved seats thinking it might be good to have somewhere easy to sit, but in the end the unreserved section was more roomy and the crowd was rowdier - much more fun.
Is that a jet-pak? Is it Astro Girl? No, it's super beer vending girl! This is going to be a good night.
Pretty young women with kegs on their backs dish out fresh draft beer. This is heaven. A big cup of Yebisu was a bit pricey at 750 yen, but with a friendly smile like that we didn't care. Bottles were around 450 yen, but not nearly as much fun.
We check out the snacks on offer, the range is much larger range than expected. How could we go past Japanese Footy Franks?
Help yourself to mustard and ketchup, it's like milking a cow.
Japanese cuisine at it's finest, Footy-Franko, 500 yen.
Tokyo Swallow's loudest, happiest fan was sitting right behind us. He made our night.
Back to the snack action inside. Yakisoba was tempting.
Who are those two gaijin on the screen? Didn't we see them walking around Nakano today eating bento on the footpath? We get put up on the big screen twice, even though there was a much better looking bunch of foreigners not so far away. We are recognised on the street after the game. The game was probably televised so we reckon we're Japanese TV stars.
Chicken snacks on the griddle.
Deep fried brown things.
Bottles of sake and wine to choose from too.
Even the Colonel gets a stand here.
Fried noodles, grilled pork and squid, curry and tonkatsu. Oh my!
Pizza by the slice to make you feel like you are at a Mets game.
For dessert, ice cream and waffles.
Chicken bits on sticks with mayo and ginger. Some protein helps wash down all those beers. Where is that super keg girl?
Even if you don't dig on sport a night at the baseball is a hoot. Tokyo Swallows fans are amazing. There's set chants, songs and hand jives for almost every event in the game. Some of the chants involve props such as umbrella dance this umbrella dance performed after each run.
Japanese dagwood dog. Better than the Easter show.
Alison is very happy when a very good looking Japanese fella serves sake, kept them all warmed in a small tray. 400 yen. Warm sake at a sporting event served by a hottie, now THIS is living.
Asahi girl doing her business. These girls (and a few guys) didn't stop all night. Those kegs would have been heavy too, and they ran up and down the bleachers for hours. Alison just missed a great photo of them leaning back to get their kegs refilled - doh!
To celebrate the Swallows win, we headed off back home via our favourite stand up bar for some namu beeru. On the way home we stopped in Yoyogi to buy tickets for Polysics at Zher the Zoo, a tiny little nightclub near the station. We squealed like stuck pigs when the tickets were handed over, very un-rock n roll.
To wash down the beer we had haya yakko, cold tofu with bonito, ginger, negi and a splash of soy. One of our all time favourite bar snacks.
We also repeated our order of a few nights ago of bacon wrapped quail eggs and green pepper. Well, wouldn't you?
Still feeling like there was more we could eat, we tried to get into this great looking grill place. No luck. It has been full every time we've tried to get in. We would try again later...
So we ended our night as we normally did with a trip to the Family Mart for beer and sake. Shawn continued with several trips down the hall to the beer vending machine.
We love Japan. And Yebisu beer girls. And sake boys.