Thursday, August 19, 2004

authentic Japanese food and drink

Liz thought it was strange that on Wednesday night, my first night here, I ordered the fried chicken dinner from the hotel room service rather than trying some actual native cuisine. My reasoning was that I wanted something normal after a long day of traveling, and that my colleagues in the office here would take me out for authentic Japanese food during my stay. And I was right.

For lunch on Thursday, we went to a teriyaki restaurant and had breaded & fried pork, shrimp, and some kind of creamed crab meat, with rice, cabbage, and iced green tea. When we sat down, they gave each of us a ceramic bowl filled with black and white sesame seeds, and a wooden pestle. We ground up the seeds in the bowl, then dumped the mixture onto the cabbage and meat, along with sauce or salad dressing.

We went to Shinjuku for dinner. Shinjuku is similar to New York's Times Square: lots of neon lights and shops, and the train station there is one of the busiest in the city. We ate at the bar at a yakitori restaurant in one of the shopping malls. The grill cook worked in front of us, cooking skewers of chicken on what looked like popsicle sticks. I don't know what parts of the chicken we ate, just that everything was delicious. I had two glasses of sake, served in champagne flutes, and we were in a hurry to leave to get to an electronics store, so I drank the last bit of sake in a few gulps. That wasn't the best move, because when I got back to my room, I think I fell asleep for a while and forgot about the snacks I bought at 7-11 for dessert. (That's OK, my Haagen-Daz red bean ice cream will keep in the minibar freezer for a few days.)

I had about 10 minutes to browse for MP3 players at the electronics store. Just as I found from my online research, the players I want aren't any cheaper here than they are in the US, and in fact they're a little more expensive. My Hong Kong counterpart who is with us here in Tokyo explained that the ones I like are Korean, so they're imports here as well as the US, thus the higher prices. He thinks I might find better prices on them in Hong Kong.

Today (Friday) we'll be working late on a server upgrade that is after all my reason for coming to Tokyo. We might get the chance to sneak out of the office at lunch to go shopping again, or on Saturday afternoon and evening if we're not exhausted from working all night tonight. The office is on the top floor of an office building that overlooks the Imperial Palace, and there are some excellent views of the city from the conference rooms. My only complaint is that the Internet connection in the office is soooooooooo sssssslllllllloooooowwwwww. They connect to the Internet through our conference center in midtown Manhattan, so the data has a long haul to get back and forth. It took me half an hour to download a 5 mb file. Like every other foreign office, my firm provides free drinks and snacks here. I had a can of cold green tea yesterday, which was better than I expected. I now know the Japanese symbol for tea: a thing that looks like a H with a long crossbar, over a house on stilts. (Unfortunately, to me a lot of the Japanese characters look like houses on stilts.)

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