Guest blogger: Joey Marsilio
Welcome back! When last we left off, Sheila and I had returned from the Keyaki Beer Festival and the frivolity thereof. With our first weekend concluded, we looked forward to Monday morning and the week ahead. But before I can get too much into that, I need to get something out of the way.
After Shela and I got our first taste, our fiending for chu-hi was severe. We purchased it at 7-11, purchased it at the train station, purchased it from vending machines, purchased it at an underground robot restaurant (let’s put a pin in that one). The only thing we did more often than purchasing and consuming chu-hi was singing the chorus from Usher’s “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home).” And on Monday morning, waking up somewhat groggy from our beerfest adventure the day before, we decided to purchase some for breakfast. We might have also eaten something, I don’t know, who cares. In any case, fueled up by this divine nectar, we sought out to explore Shinjuku, the neighborhood we were staying in.
Naturally, one of our first impulses when wandering around a neighborhood we were completely unfamiliar with, in a foreign country we had never visited before, was to check out their McDonald’s. One of the recurring themes of our trip was the vastly smaller portion sizes of food in Japan compared to the United States. It was almost as if it were a signal that we eat far too much in America, but I know that can’t be true. Knowing this, however, we made a shocking discovery when we entered the Shinjuku Micky D’s: they had an item on the menu more decadent than anything a Western extra value meal can provide. Yes friends, fall to your knees and bear witness to the processed-patty spectacle known as the Mega Mac.
Sheila got herself a Filet-O-Ebi, a shrimp burger not entirely unlike the one I had eaten earlier at Mos Burger, making it another winner. Overall, it was a satisfying meal, and we applauded ourselves for not taking the safe culinary route and really going out there to explore foreign dishes.
After that, we had a pretty low-key day. We wandered the area, exploring little nooks and crannies, while the pale flabby blob that is my body panicked about the sudden increase in physical activity.
After begrudgingly leaving Kabuchiko’s breastfest behind, we tried to figure out dinner. There were countless restaurants in the vicinity, but precious few had the elusive “English Menu Available” sign in the window. As time went by and the stomach rumblings grew more angrily acidic, we began to wonder what on Earth we were capable of ordering for dinner. Finally, Sheila just picked a place that she had a good feeling about, and ended up being right on the money, as the ordering system there was done through machines that had English translation options. Soon we were chowing down on a delicious meal while slowly deciphering what our server’s initial flurry of gestures signified (unlimited rice, as it turns out).
We had a bit of a problem on Tuesday morning. Up until then, the relatively minuscule portion size of Japanese entrées was something of a novelty, just another charming Japanese quirk. However, after several cumulative days of dealing with this, our stretched-out American bellies began to complain, loudly and violently. So when we ordered breakfast at a coffee spot and were handed a sandwich the size of a baby’s fist, things took a turn for the ugly. Our methods of acquiring food were going to have to change, and soon, lest we find ourselves gorging on sweet, sweet human flesh out of desperation and some tiny kernel of shameful curiosity. We determined that the best course of action was simply to go visit a more touristy area, wherein we could see some sights and find some readable menus.
We visited the massive Sensoji Temple, a sprawling area located beyond the awesomely-named Thunder Gate.
After touring the temple and explaining to Sheila that the symbols we kept seeing everywhere weren’t actually swastikas, we decided once more, with great trepidation and even greater hunger, to try our luck at getting a filling meal. After searching once more for the “English Menu” sign, we found a little sushi place that looked quite delicious.
After seeing Tokyo from above, Sheila and I nearly left…until we saw a sign for a place called the World Beer Market. Quicker than you can say “dehydration,” we were chowing down on sausages, drinking strange beers from the depths of Africa and the forbidden land of Cuba, and seeing more white people in one area than we had at any point since the airport. We sat outside, and though we hovered above the nearby rooftops, after the observation deck, our location felt positively subterranean.
Exhausted but thrilled by the sights we had seen, Sheila and I headed hotelward. Now, that day I happened to be wearing the signature t-shirt of New Japan Pro Wrestling stable Bullet Club, because I always do my best to advertise my dorkiness to the world at large. As we walked through the subway station, we happened to bump into a guy wearing a matching hoodie. “Aw, yeah, Bullet Club! This guy gets it!” I yelled, perhaps too enthusiastically. The stranger and I high-fived, and I went on my way, elated. Truly, it was just too sweet.