Memoirs of a Harjuku Girl, Part One: Tokyo, The Feast

Gallivanting abroad these days isn’t the quixotic breathtakingly unique adventure it used to be. Let’s be honest, you’re more likely to experience the unfamiliar watching the Animal Channel than you are hopping a 747 off the Uncle Sam mainland into the continents beyond. KFCs and Ikeas are ubiquitous. There are however exceptions to the rule and lucky for me, I found it in my adventure to the land of the rising sun. Upon learning I’d hit the keno jackpot and would be going to T’Town Japan as part and parcel of my ceremonial duties as the Czarina of Global e-Health, I confess that a potent mixture of girlish glee and thirty-something dread quietly crept over me. In my mind, the real Tokyo has always been a dizzying mix of a Harrison Ford post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick and the Last Emperor, with silk robes flowing, talking so fast that subtitles simply wouldn’t do and a thousand cherry trees in bloom. Turns out I wasn’t that far off. In design, deed and culture, the town is very uniquely Aeon Flux cum Hirohito, although with its industrial feel and old steel bridges, strangely reminiscent of Pittsburgh, PA in the late 1970’s.

Where to start? Let’s dig in at the Tameike-sanno beginning. My journey to the island began with a bang as they say, or more specifically, an ouch! During a grueling flight, I consumed my weight in therapeutic cranapple juice and obtained a personal best… in lavoratory passes that is…25 trips to the littlest girl room this side of the date line in a mere 14 hours. UTI’s it would seem, know no geographic boundaries and provide for great anxious hand-wringing when one needs uber-drugs upon disembarkment and can’t speak a lick of Samurai. Luckily, just as a blobby pink figure in a dress is the ubiquitous woman’s potty symbol, so to, is pointing to your pelvic bits and frowning, the sign for girlie plumbing distress.  To wit, the lucky nurse speaking one word of English “Pain” was a willing audience for the symptomatic pantomime show I put on upon my arrival.

Treating my condition was a real case study for the unheralded efficiency and hospitality of the Orient. Immediately after my steps off the plane in Narita, a full-service health clinic and six airport volunteers offering me directions quickly came into view. Who says service with a smile is dead? Important note: in Japan, it just comes with a paper sick mask. I was so shocked at all this Miss Manners civility and pre-occupied with my ailment that I nearly missed my friend Tetsuo (Ted) dutifully waiting for me as I passed through customs. Ted is a true cultural hybrid, growing up in Western Japan, and spending stints in Tokyo, Palo Alto and DC. In keeping with Japanese tradition, he showed me one heck of a Shogun good time. This included a trip to the hailed Edo Museum and a 14-course vegetarian traditional Buddist monk feast.

I can not extend high enough praise to the restaurant Bon. If I were Japanese, I’d give it twenty bows. Featuring individual rooms for each supping group with bamboo and native woods aplenty, this is a culinary zen paradise complete with wheat, soba and tofu in every imaginable genre, including almond flavored, gelatinized treats. As an added bonus of seasonable bounty, I consumed cherry blossoms in at least four distinct forms: leaf wraps, tea base, tempura temptation and in the Japanese equivalent of the veggie burrito. Good thing these tasty delights bring luck. Otherwise, I’d have a bright pink-tinged tongue for nothing. I’ve learned something about eating yummy nuggets across the ocean. There is seemingly no limit to the fortune that can come from consuming it. Food really is worth its weight in gold..flecks that is, which grace virtually every dessert. Precious metals it seems and sucking, instead of biting your sugar candies pleases the Gods. Did I mention that our din-din included two other special guests, an IT guru and a professorial transgenderism expert? This along with the explanation of all of our consumables led to one savory time at Bon. I’ll leave you to chew on our menu of 17th century soup and Sen Cha while heralding my chomp-chomp bravery. Meantime, stay tuned for our next installment when TLRG takes on the Tokyo transit system!

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