Out and About in Tokyo

Anita and I started the day looking for a gluten free bakery about half an hour away by subway. Navigating the subway system started to be easy.  And Google Maps is very helpful with walking directions. Unfortunately we didn’t think to check Instagram. If we had, we would have known it was closed for its annual break. 

Never fear, there was another gluten free bakery a twenty-minute walk away. It opened at 10. We arrived at 9. There was a Starbucks open nearby, and we got some hot tea (powdered matcha). I found it odd that there was no brewed green tea, but Starbucks is a coffee store. At that point, we’d been up for four hours and I needed food so I got a shrimp and avocado wrap.

We strolled the neighborhood until 10, and found several shops that sold fashion items for dog owners. There were also lots of stores that sold fashions for people, and one small store that only sold masks. Such variety!

The bakery was amazing, and a young Japanese woman who spent time in Vermont seemed delighted to help us. Anita bought two slices of pizza, a braided bun, a cheese bun, a cinnamon roll, and after the staff said they wouldn’t be ready for 15 minutes but they’d make one specially for her, a cream puff. She ate that after her pizza for lunch and started contemplating a return tomorrow. 

We came back to the hotel to cancel our storm water collection caverns tour*, then set out for Fabric Town. First though, we saw two sights in the hotel’s neighborhood. The first was the Hei Shrine with its staircase of red tori gates. When we got to the top, we discovered a local festival was underway. It was a local event. We were the only white folk there. 

Next we walked over to the Japanese Garden at the New Otani Hotel. They were spacious, and in several spots camellia bushes had been pruned for effect. One had puffs of greenery like some pine trees. Others form a carpet of greenery. By the bridges, there were huge koi — at least two feet long. On the bridges, there were some young women in Kimonos enjoying a photo op. 

Back on the subway for us, for a trip to Fabric Town by Nippori Station. It was maybe six linear blocks of fabric stores, notions stores, and everything you might need to sew. It was both amazing and overwhelming. At the largest store —Tomato — I felt a bit like I did when we went to Mood in Los Angeles. Mood provided the fabrics for the tv show Project Runway. There were bolts and bolts and bolts of every type of fabric. Impossible to decide; impossible to see the trees through the forest. 

In the end, I didn’t buy anything. I’ll stick to my local stores even though I can’t get any quintessentially Japanese patterns. 

From Fabric Town, we ran into our first subway challenge. The line we were on, a loop line, had a gap in the loop due to heavy construction. Everybody off, the announcer said. We took what we thought was the next best thing.  That, too, seemed to stall out at the next station. Third time lucky, and we found the station near that very famous intersection where pedestrians cross in every direction and it looks like there’s a thousand people crossing at any one time (Shibuya Crossing). We witnessed the madness, and it honestly didn’t look that bad. We were there around 5 p.m. on a January Saturday.

Our next destination was a restaurant with gluten free ramen. When we left the subway station, we spotted some people who were tourist helpers. They couldn’t agree on directions, and argued between each other. It was quite funny to watch.

After we were on our way, a Japanese man stopped us asking if we were English. We said yes, and he said we didn’t sound like it. Our accent was wrong. We’re from Canada. Oh. Montreal? No, near Vancouver. Less impressive, from his expression. When we told him the street we were looking for, he told us it was shady. Lots of trees, Anita asked. No, red light, he replied. Once warned, we went on our way.

Then it was time for some shopping. First store was Loft, a department store without clothing departments. Second store was the Disney Store, because we are still trying to by tickets to Tokyo Disneyland. The third store was Tokyo Hands. Then we went to Don Quixote, a store with much brasher visuals. 

Finally, it was time to go back to our hotel. The subway station was easy to find. The platform was easy to find. The way out was familiar. Phew. 

Twelve hours and 22,000 steps. We’re both tired and happy. 

*Some friends will know that we were very excited about the storm water tour. When in Canada, we were told that English-speakers needed to be accompanied by someone fluent in Japanese. We found someone to help us. Unfortunately, on the day of our tour, our guide was not healthy. He bowed out, and we rearranged our day. It’s something to look forward to on our next visit.