Japan trip, day 15 – a foodie day in Ginza

On Wednesday morning, we decided to have a long lie – hoping to avoid the worst weather that Typhoon Wipha was bringing to the Tokyo area. When we woke, the skies were clear, and there was little sign of the devastation the typhoon had wreaked just south of the city. I still think of Japan as a country recovering from the effects of the tsunami and resulting nuclear incident – and thought it really unfortunate that more suffering was taking place again on the island.

We were headed to the Ginza area of Tokyo today – we had a couple of intriguing restaurants we wanted to check out for lunch and dinner, and also a couple of stores to check out. The Ginza area was where I stayed on my previous visit to Tokyo, just over a year and a half ago, so it was strange to be back in the same station and being able to navigate around pretty easily.

First stop was at the post office – I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before or not, but getting money out at Japanese ATMs can be tricky if you’re using a chip enabled Mastercard issued outside Japan. The only ATMs that currently accept these cards are situated in post offices – thankfully there seems to be plenty of them!

After that, we headed to a well known Japanese toy store – which also sells wacky and unusual Japanese stuff. Hakuhinkan has several floors – with the more fun stuff on the bottom floor. After that it’s mainly stuff for kids. Maybe I’ve been here too long, but this time, I managed to resist buying any more Japanese items!

By this point, it was time for lunch, so we went off in search of a restaurant Ailsa had had recommended. Abura Soba in Ginza isn’t your usual soba noodle joint – first of all, the noodles they use are ramen style rather than soba. And secondly they don’t come in a broth – they come with a bit of sauce in the bottom of the dish, to which you add vinegar and chilli oil.

We stumbled – literally – across it, recognising it from a photo. It was tiny – just about eight seats at the bar, like a lot of Japanese restaurants. Also – like many eateries here – you didn’t order by speaking to a waiter.

You ordered from a machine. Basically you insert your money, select the dish you want, and hand the resulting ticket to a member of staff who then ensures your meal is with you promptly. I guess what’s clever about that is that people have decided and ordered before they sit down, meaning more people can pass through the restaurant.

I chose the Spicy Miso option, while Ailsa went plain. Five minutes later, the meal was in front of us, and it was delicious. Slivers of pork lay on a bed of noodles, spring onions and other bits and bobs.

Unfortunately for me, spicy miso was quite spicy, and within three minutes I had sweat on my forehead and my nose was running. Still it was a delicious (and very reasonably priced) meal.

After that, it was shopping time. We checked out a couple of stores in Ginza (amongst which are foreign names like Barneys New York and Printemps from Paris). I made a trip to an amazing food shop called Akomeya.

It’s literally a shop devoted to rice and everything you need to cook with it and would want to add to it. It was a really, calm shop with lots of Japanese delicacies and really pleasant staff.

We then had time to check out three of our favourites – this time in a new location – LOFT, Tokyo Hands, and the biggest Muji in Tokyo.

Believe it or not, by the time we had wandered all over the place, and made a couple of small purchases, it was honestly time for dinner. This time, we headed to a Izakaya – or a bar that serves small dishes of food.

To be honest – Tsuki no Shizuku’s location in the basement of a shopping centre didn’t look that promising. We found it and entered, took our shoes off, and were shown to a small private room. The waiter explained that there was a touchscreen that we ordered food and drink from, and it would be delivered straight to our room. Class! Oh – and the touch screen menu had an English option as well, which was handy.

I didn’t have a problem with the food at all – I had tofu wrapped tuna, avocado and cream cheese, and a bowl of BBQ beef on rice.

Ailsa… well she didn’t have as much luck as me. She was put off a bit by the horse sashimi, chicken gizzards and octopus on the menu. When some salmon sashimi arrived she couldn’t eat it because it had a couple of scales left on it. Chicken meatballs that she ordered never arrived, and instead of the grilled eggplant she thought she’d ordered, she got tofu and eggplant tempura.

So, while I really enjoyed it, she was definitely out of luck!

We just headed back to the hotel after that – not a particularly eventful day but thankfully the weather had been kind. I headed to the hotel bar for a glass of Australian chardonnay and to write up my blog for the day.