It was 1958, and we were hungry. Luckily, we were near Narutabashi Station, where there are at least a dozen ramen shops to choose from. We sat down to big bowls of steaming noodles, and talked about the news of the day… Khrushchev seems a reasonable new leader for the Soviets, doesn’t he? Then my cellphone rang and I remembered: this isn’t 1958. And there is no train station called Narutabashi. The year was 2014 and we were inside Shinyokohama’s Ramen Museum.
Every morning before starting out on another day in Tokyo, I would ask Jürgen what he was most excited about. It didn’t matter whether we were planning to visit an ancient temple, a renowned museum, a crazy festival or a gorgeous garden, his response was always the same: “Eating.” And I would thoughtfully nod in agreement. Of all the things Tokyo has to offer, its delicious and surprisingly affordable food is probably the highlight. This is a city in which it’s almost impossible to eat poorly.
We met Akila Inouye at the entrance to Tsukiji Fish Market bright and early on Tuesday morning, and realized right away that we were going to have trouble keeping pace with him. In the market, he darted ahead of us, racing from stand to stand, comparing prices, and buying everything we were going to need later in the kitchen. It would turn out to be a long day, but Akila never once slowed down… and I don’t think we ever caught up.
Across the Sumida River from Nihonbashi, Fukagawa is one of Tokyo’s original fifteen wards. We spent a day wandering around its uncrowded streets, allowing the district to surprise us with an excellent museum, a tranquil garden and, for lunch, a delicious bowl of the neighborhood specialty, Fukugawa Meshi.
Between the shopping mecca of Coredo Mall and the Tokyo Stock Exchange, we came across a quaint museum which feels completely out of place in modern Nihonbashi. The small and cluttered Kite Museum is hidden away without fanfare above Taimeiken, one of central Tokyo’s favorite restaurants.
Kaiseki is Japan’s haute cuisine, a traditional meal of several individually-crafted dishes. It’s as expensive as it sounds, and since our budget won’t allow us to repeatedly indulge in kaiseki, we wanted to be careful about the restaurant in which we’d experience it. After considerable research, we decided upon Tofuya-Ukai. I doubt we could have made a better choice.
We had spent the morning admiring Kawagoe’s Edo-style kura-zukuri buildings and visiting the museums found along its main strip. After a long lunch, we felt rested enough to continue our exploration of the city.
It’s safe to say we’ve never dined in an atmosphere remotely similar to that of Shibuya’s Alcatraz E.R. The name says it all: this theme restaurant is meant to emulate the experience of eating inside the blood-spattered emergency room of a high-security prison. Have I mentioned that Tokyo is a little strange?
Tokyo’s oldest temple is the Sensō-ji, constructed in the year 645. Like almost everything else in this city plagued by earthquakes and fire, it’s been rebuilt multiple times, but has always been an important place of worship.