Monday, October 27, 2014

Hawaii and Japan, 2014 - 10/27 - Day 11 - Lots of Nerdy Stuff

We had three distinct goals for today, two of which were food related. The goals were: pancakes, Akihabara, and American hamburgers. 
Number one, since 2013 pancakes have become very trendy in Tokyo, and we wanted to see what the fuss was about, so we headed to a neighborhood adjacent to Ebisu, to a restaurant called Clover Pancake House that was recommended on Time Out Japan's list of "Tokyo's Best Pancakes." As it turned out, they didn't open until 11am (why a pancake house isn't open for breakfast baffles me, but I'm a stranger in a strange land, afterall.)
In the 45 minutes we had to burn, we walked back to Ebisu to visit their small shrine, took some arty photographs, aimless roamed the streets for a few minutes, then headed back to the pancake cafe.
Autumn Pancakes at Clover Pancake House -
Pumpkin custard, chestnuts and apples
Sean opted for some strawberry pancakes, while I got a full breakfast set which included an omelette, done in the typical Japanese way with ketchup drizzled all over what is essentially runny scrambled eggs in a thin protective outer layer. It also had a piece of sausage, a strip of British-style bacon and a little salad. I opted for their autumnal pancake, which looked super sweet but ended up being mild and I very much enjoyed it - it was two pancakes (they use rice flour so the pancakes are quite fluffy), stuffed with sliced chestnuts and baked apples, with a light pumpkin custard over the top.
Elevensies complete, we took the cryptic Tokyo subway lines across town to Akihabara, a neighborhood most otaku will be familiar with, as it is one big technology laden, video game playing, maid cafe having nerdgasm for blocks upon blocks. The noise and visual stimulus level in Akihabara, especially if you go into one of the several arcades, is overwhelming. Barkers shout out advertisements on the street, televisions blare out tv ads everwhere, pachinko parlors pachink, and arcades pour out the ebullient chirping of a hundred dissonant game jingles all at once. My only fixed destination in all of this madness was the vintage videogame store Super Potato, just off the main road. 
Super Potato is full of stuff like this.
It is three stories tall, and its filled to the brim with games from old famicom, super famicom, game boy, Sega master system, calecovision, and every other obscure japanese gaming console made in the last 30 years. Last time I was here I picked up an unopened copy of the original Final Fantasy VI for super famicom with the beautiful original box art. This time I just bought a Black Mages CD and called it a day. 
We also stopped by the Sega arcade, where I spent half an hour playing Street Fighter 3 and remembering how bad I was at it ...I could never get that parry system down right, then we watched some people playing rhythm games. There was a high school aged guy there (keep in mind this was like 2pm on a Monday), who was playing a game where you had to move your hands over a circular screen and tap around the edge of the machine as the notes pulsed outward. He was wearing gloves, gloves that it looked like he wore specifically to play this game, that's how much he played it.
We roamed around Akihabara for several hours, then I decided to seek out the new Square Enix store. The last time I came to Tokyo, they had a storefront outside of Akiba, where we were staying. Now they had moved it to be outside the Square Enix offices in Shinjuku, so we subwayed out in that direction. The new store is called ARTNIA, and it looks like a giant egg, plonked in a square outside of the huge office building that houses their mother company.
I thought this crystal might contain the
Dragoon job, but all I got was Tourist
The store is actually pretty small - just a little cafe and gift shop - but it has a pretty cool back room that houses a bunch of character figurines and an art installment made to look like one of the big crystals from the Final Fantasy series. They were also decked out in Halloween themed decorations, and had an amusing sign out front that read "Happy Halloween!" and then had a bunch of "lorem ipsum" fake Latin underneath it. I bought a stuffed Cactaur for my rearview mirror and squealed over the figures and baubles for a few minutes.
The next food goal of the day was  to have a burger in Tokyo, and we were recommended a place in Harajuku called "The Great Burger," which is a restaurant that is California themed, and promises the "absolute American experience." Why American hamburgers? Because you've got to see how other people perceive your culture, right? What's the point of going abroad if not to adjust your lenses. I got another seasonal offering, because what is more American than a hamburger with kabocha pumpkin, gorgonzola cheese and walnuts? Sean opted for a more traditional bacon cheeseburger, though it is noteworthy that once again, it was the British-style bacon they used, not the American fatback sort. Certainly compared to the last burger I had in Tokyo, which was at a chain called Mos Burger four years ago, this was a much better experience. They don't have everything precisely authentic, but isn't that part of the charm?
We returned to the apartment to finish up laundry, pack and rest up. Tomorrow we check out of this airBnB and head out to Kyoto on the Shinkansen, where we'll be staying at a Ryokan for one night.
Did contain enough Sansho to kill a small horse
This ramen introduced me to the wonders
of Sansho pepper
Oh, right! We did have one more food experience today. It was late by our standards, after we had mostly packed up, we were a little hungry so we went out to a Hong Kong style noodle house just down the road. I got a bowl of Ramen (which is Chinese inspired, afterall) and for some reason decided I was going to order the spicy variety. They use, as the one English language reviewer on Foursquare offered, "enough sansho to kill a small horse." Sansho is a type of peppercorn that is related to Sichuan pepper and has a strong numbing effect on the mouth - it was quite powerful. It was also quite delicious and while the heat lingered, it wasn't at all unpleasant.
Anyway, that's it! Until tomorrow (or possibly the next day, not sure what my internet is going to look like tomorrow at the ryokan.)

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