Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sit. Stay.

My lower back (or so I thought) has been really bothersome recently. I took 3 days off (no running, gym or yoga), assuming it would chill out. Nope!

So, off to the seikotsuin (or better yet in English, the bonesetter's), who told me I do not have sciatica, but rather something going on with the hip and rotor joint... after poking and prodding and digging his thumbs into bits of bone I never realized existed. Ouch. Since my reaction to this kind of pain is to laugh (weird, I know), the poor osteopath was a bit bemused.

The verdict: no running for another 5 days, a series of stretches throughout the day, and another session of pokies (which thanks to Japanese insurance, it is only 1300 yen!).

Admittedly, I am currently hobbling about with the approximate grace of a drunk turtle (and the same speed), but the 'no running' bit is really hard. Exactly how am I supposed to get my endorphin fix?

This is what I get for signing up and looking foward to a race... even this gourd feels sorry for me!

It is actually painful to walk, and even shifting my weight can make me buckle. So I walk slooowly. And take the kakueki train so that I do not get jostled or leaned on, and maybe even get to sit. Which takes forever. And get up and turn carefully. Seriously, being injured takes up so much time!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Zen in Unexpected Places

Kaitenzushi... it is a somewhat meditative experience for me. Sitting quietly in a row, watching as dish after dish of things I mainly do not eat flow by without cease.

Kaitenzushi is actually a huge boon for vegetarians. I love sushi, but facing a sushi chef and ordering is something I try to avoid at all costs.

If you think about it, these guys (because the world of sushi is intensely male-dominated) have spent many years learning how to get each cut of fish to the perfect thickness, in order to showcase the taste of each individual fish. And then I show up, asking for kappa, inari, tamago, ume shiso etc...

Needless to say, it kinda gets on their nerves.

But here, at the kaiten, I do not have to upset the chefs, and in addition pretty much everything I eat is on the 100 yen plates! Total bargain. Admittedly, the quality level is not the same, and it can get a bit noisy, but at the same time it has a strangely relaxing effect.

Maguro, maguro, aji, corn salad, shrimp, cake... a conveyor loop of bite sized, relatively innocuous junk food.

It makes me wonder what other kind of kaiten might do well... a fancy sweets kaiten, all of the desserts on Delft-printed plates and little doilies? Cheese kaiten, small bites of unusual cheeses, with choices of breads, crackers and honeys to accompany them? I found out about a wine equivalent in Ginza, which I must go check out.

I find this passtime particularly satisfying on days I know that dinner/ drinks will be extremely fancy and high grade. There is just something about getting the cheapest and priciest in one day, combini onigiri and 3 Michelin stars.

The contrast this time was with the unbelievable KitaAoyama Salon. The dark, antique-filled space. The terribly discreet little door. The mind-blowingly delicious cocktails, champagnes and hand-made truffles. Even I, who usually stop at two drinks, was swayed by the sheer quality of their creations, like the ginger /copper-infused cocktail and the shiso mojito. This place is a gem... but take note, like all precious things it comes at a price.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Recent Lovelies

Hmmm, it seems like Autumn has forgotten to show up... despite everyone already promoting autumn foods, beers and Halloween decorations.

However, this does not stop me nor my crazy appetite for lovely tasty things. Especially when it comes to gyoza. I love gyoza, so very very much. But, not surprisingly, it is extremely difficult to find vegetarian gyoza in Japan... until now!

A five minute walk from the West exit of Ikebukuro, hidden amongst a plethora of rabuho (including the rather nice Petit Bali) is 線條手打餃子専門店 (sorry for the kanji, but I cannot remember the correct reading), which has any kind of gyoza you can imagine, including a couple vegetarian options. The style is Taiwanese, so they have a more complex flavor than your average gyoza. I had two platefuls of sheer joy, and they also have cheap teishoku sets if you want a more balanced meal.
Another recent lovely was a Hash run in Shimokitazawa, where besides enjoying abundant portions of Indian food and a long trail, I also came across this hyotan store. The gourds are, for some reason, immensely fascinating and cute to me, and apparently here you can make your own... probably quite a niche market!

One non-lovely thing is that my camera has sand stuck in it, so needs to go for a professional cleaning... and I am stuck using my phone to inadequately try and capture the deliciousness of the coconut cocktail at Teyantei, which is a really awesome Okinawan joint in Shibuya, and the coffee and quiche combo from Paul Bassett in Shinjuku.
But, to return to happier things, a non-Japan related lovely, but long standing passion, are corgis. Seriously, the corgi is possibly the most amazing canine breed ever. I miss mine terribly, and thus squeal delightedly every time I see one nearby. All corgis seem to love me, although sometimes their owners are a bit taken aback. Mine has a tendency to give me looks like the second corgi in the line below, always wondering what weird thing I am doing today.

Monday, September 3, 2012

What to do on a rainy weekend

Just my luck. After planning to spend Sunday having a nice stroll around Yamate and Motomachi, perhaps stopping somewhere for tea, the weather gods decide: 'Hey, its time for some rain!'. Admittedly, the downpours have definitely cooled down the city, which is nice. But it still feels like such a waste when it is grey and rainy for an entire weekend.

So, what DOES one do on a rainy afternoon in Tokyo or Yokohama?

Go to the Spa, of course!

There are several to choose from, depending on your location. LaQua in Tokyo, EAS and Manyo in Yokohama, Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Chiba. What is great about these places is that they not only have onsen, but also ganbanyoku. The spa provides you with a set of clothes, which you wear to enter the ganbanyoku, so genders are mixed. Naturally these places tend to be popular date spots, but they are also really good for those who want a bit of a spa experience, while avoiding the nakedness requirement of onsen.

We went to EAS, and spent a good hour or so trying out the different heated rocks. My favourite was the quartz-floored room, which also had big blocks of slowly evaporating sea-salt. The sauna, scented with essential oils, was also lovely. Having tried out one of those 'fat-busting' massages (it was cheap, and an excuse to get a deep massage on my ever-tight calfs), followed by a fast training run, my legs were tired. However, after stretching out on the rocks and a few minutes in the onsen (including a wonderful sparkling water bath), they felt light and bouncy again. You can literally spend the whole day there, and there are lots of resting rooms where you can nap and relax.

While EAS has several cafes (and a tabehoudai right outside, oy very), it is also very close to my friend Wave-chan's cafe. I had gone there before and really enjoyed it, so it was time for another visit. Lu's Cafe is a puppy-friendly cafe, with a good basic menu and large portions. We opted for a couple types of pizza, the blueberry-mint soda and a chocolate chip chiffon cake. Amazing!

 The reason I can fully recommend their desserts is that Wave-chan makes them all! And, as her sharemates, we often are set the taxing task of sampling her experiments... I know, my life is sooo tough.
 So, thats my two cents (two yen?) on making the best of a rainy day: spas and tasty cafes. Anyone have any other suggestions?