The Magnet 077: Tokyo Journal 2023
In May, my family and I took a two-week trip to Tokyo to visit our favorite neighborhoods, along with some new ones. This is part 2 of my journal. (See part 1 here.)
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April 30, 2023: Korean Barbecue
After checking in at the APA Hotel in the late afternoon, we searched for food. The hotel was near Ōkubo, a neighborhood known for its large Korean population, so nearly every restaurant specialized in Korean barbecue. We wandered into an appealing restaurant named Tonchan Shin-Okubo Betsu-Kan. Once we had settled at a table, we noticed a cartoon pig on the menu and realized it was primarily a pork restaurant. I am OK with eating pork, but Carla isn’t as enthusiastic about it. We briefly considered sneaking out and finding another place to eat, but my daughter Jane, with her decent command of Japanese, asked the waiter if they also served beef or chicken. Fortunately, they did. In the end, we ordered an excessive amount of food: beef, chicken, and pork (thinly sliced for grilling), three large soups (each bowl was enough for four people), salad, and a dish of melted cheese. Grilling the chicken and beef ourselves on the charcoal brazier in the middle of our table turned out to be an enjoyable experience. We were beat when we’d finished eating, so we headed back to the hotel for hot showers and an early bedtime.
May 1: Park, Sushi, Shopping
In the morning, we woke up early because of the time difference between California and Japan. We ate breakfast in the hotel and walked to Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu Shrine, which is something we always do on our first morning when we arrive in Tokyo. Located in the heart of the city, the park is large (133 acres), beautiful, quiet, and green. Old men in uniforms are constantly raking the wide tree-lined gravel paths with handmade brooms. Every square inch is manicured.
We spent a good amount of time looking at the little wooden votive tablets that people write prayers on and then hang onto the walls of a structure next to the shrine. I felt overwhelmed with emotion being here with my family and reading the heartfelt prayers people had written, such as:
“I pray that the difficult time is finally over. Wishing my parents, especially my dad, a speedy recovery and staying cancer-free for many years. Wishing myself strength and perseverance for anything that might be ahead.”
“I WISH TO RECONCILE WITH MY DAUGHTER SUSAN BEFORE I DIE”
“I wish happy and healthy. Beautiful like a princess. When I grow up I wish I can be a good business woman just like my daddy.”
My older daughter, who spent a couple of months in Tokyo last fall, told us about a good coffee place near the park’s exit. We followed her to a long wooden building with a sign that said “CAFÉ Mori no Terrace.” We enjoyed our coffee at an outside table. The weather was perfect.
Since we were in Harajuku, a fun shopping area, we strolled around Cat Street (known for its numerous boutiques). We visited our favorite store, Kiddyland, until it was time to have sushi at Kaiten Sushi Ginza Onodera. It was only 10:30 am, but the restaurant was quickly filling up. A Michelin-star chef runs the place and serves conveyor belt sushi of exceptional quality. The salmon and fatty tuna were amazing.
After our early sushi lunch, we walked up Takeshita Street and went to Laforet Mall, which has Jane’s favorite clothes store, Heihei, and a lot of gothic lolita fashions. Jane and Sarina each bought some clothes there. Jane was getting tired by this time, so she and Carla returned to the hotel. Sarina and I went to a coffee shop, drew in our sketchbooks for a while, then headed to the artist Rockin’ Jellybean’s gallery, where I bought an art book. We met Jane and Carla at a Wagyu beef and organic vegetable market at 6 pm