The convenience stores in Japan, much like in Korea, are excellent sources of food and alcohol. You don’t go to a 7-11 here to grab a coke slushee. No, you go to 7-11 and get steamed buns, rice balls, udon, soba, sandwiches, fresh brewed coffee, green tea lattes, and chuhais. I’ve gotten dinner from 7-11 many times, including dessert.
If you visit Japan, go to a convenience store. You won’t be sorry.
And since we’re talking about food…
I’d also like to put in a good word for grocery store sushi. It’s amazing. And if you go to the grocery store after around 6:30 pm, they put all their prepared foods on sale. I got all that sushi in the photo for around $12. I go to the grocery store after 6:30 pm a lot.
My cousin D loves Japan and lives in Korea which is only a 2 hour plane ride away, so she decided to come visit me pretty soon after I arrived. Like it hadn’t even dawned on me that I was in Japan yet, and I was still staying in a hotel. However, my cousin speaks Japanese, and I was planning to use this to my full advantage, so I told her to fly on over. And also I wanted to see her of course. Just like she was visiting to see me, not just because she loves Japan and will come visit every chance she gets. We love each other.
I got in to Tokyo a little early the day she was arriving and decided to try some Japanese ramen. So of course, I Googled away and found a place called Ichiran which had a lot of reviews, served ramen, and, most importantly, was nearby. Perfect.
The way these ramen shops work is you walk up to what looks like a vending machine, feed it some money, click some buttons, and the machine spits out a ticket with your order written on it.
I had heard of the ramen vending machines before and I was quite disappointed that the machines do not actually vend you a steaming hot bowl of ramen. It was nowhere near as high tech as I thought it would be. Where was the beep boop beep-ing?
You take that ticket and fill out a sheet of paper to choose your desired level of oiliness, noodle softness, and amount of flavor.
Then, if you are there solo, you take your ticket and the paper and go to an open solitary booth that has dividers between them like you’re at a library. There’s a small opening at the front of your library booth where you can see the disembodied hands and lower torso of your server (perhaps robot hands?) and you pass your paperwork over and a disembodied voice thanks you. The robot hands take your papers, and a few minutes later, push a bowl of steaming hot ramen out to you. Then you see the top of someone’s head (so there is a whole body back there) as they bow to you before promptly lowering a screen to cover the small opening leaving you all alone, just you and your bowl of ramen.
It was an interesting experience and I could see why people say that the Japanese have perfected the art of eating out for the introvert. I never really had to look a person in the face through my whole ramen experience. I was in a huge city with millions of people bustling about around me, but this experience made me feel effectively alone.
*Note – I noticed upon revision that not including what I did the rest of the day while waiting for my cousin made it sound like I immediately went from eating to eating some more. I did other things in between. I think.
Cousin D flew in pretty late in the evening and we immediately headed out to find some food after a quick stop and drop at our Airbnb (dropped our bags, not a deuce). I, the self-anointed Google Queen, got to Googling and found a spot that seemed to marry technology and efficiency with sushi which was intriguing. Plus it wasn’t too far. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this is a very important factor for me.
After a bit of a wait, we entered an establishment where everyone seemed to be eating sushi while playing games on a computer screen in front of them. Then we realized they weren’t playing games; everyone was ordering their sushi on their own individual screens. We sat at the numbered seats we were pointed to and placed an order.
Within minutes, a plate of sushi came rolling up in front of us like a tiny train rolling in to a train station carrying huge sushi instead of people. Cousin D and I were amazed. How did the sushi know to stop in front of us? What was this sorcery?
We scarfed down a dainty seven or eight plates each and then headed out to see what the Tokyo nightlife had to offer.
First, it offered chuhais of course.
Then, Shibuya Crossing.
Then a club called T2, where they not only provided mouthwash, pads, and girls wearing sky high heels and what can only be called panties, but also free hair styling services for girls! That’s a full service club right there.
At the club, we did a lot of this:
and met some transvestites
and even danced a little. I have no pictures of that because we were too busy dancing, duh.
Overall, I would say it was a nice, tame introduction to Tokyo nightlife. I didn’t take the plunge; just dipped my toe in. I mean, we still didn’t end up walking back to our Airbnb until around 3:30 am, but we were sober. The sun was already rising because, during the summer, the sun gets very confused in Japan.
My full on swan dive turned belly flop into Tokyo nightlife happens a little later, so you have that to look forward to.
The next day we barely dragged our butts out of the Airbnb at 10:30 am (checkout was at 10). At this point, both of us wanted to give up, crawl back to my room at the Kanto, and sleep the rest of the day away, but we also didn’t want to pop the other person’s bubble in case the other person wanted to seize the day and start exploring Tokyo.
Well, turns out neither of us had a bubble to pop and no one wanted to seize anything.
We somehow made it back to the Kanto and straight in to bed. We only woke up in the evening for a few hours to eat pasta and buy a ton of the weirdest snacks we could find at 7-11. Then I proceeded to Snap Cousin D taste testing all of it. None of it was good. Except for the cake. The cake was amazing.
Over the next couple days, I shamelessly used Cousin D’s Japanese skills to get myself a haircut
for which she punished me by dragging me to this godforsaken, unreasonably large store where they only sold Pokemon toys
but then we made up over shabu shabu.
Cousins forever, because that’s how family works. ❤
We went to Odaiba
where we said hi to Lady Liberty (I’m not sure why, but they have several Statues of Liberty around Japan)
and ate ice cream. They call it “soft cream” or “softo” here in Japan. It’s Japanese soft serve and it’s magical.
We went to Oedo Onsen, which is a huge onsen in Odaiba. We got naked and bathed with a bunch of strangers
and we ate more ice cream.
It was a great trip, although I omitted all the parts about walking around in the miserable heat and humidity of Tokyo’s summer. But overall the visit was fun, and it made me realize how much easier it is to communicate with someone if you speak the same language. What a revelation. Jot that one down in your notes, y’all.
I can’t wait for her to visit again. I need another haircut soon.