Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 8: Weddin' day!

Another quick post since we have to check out in a few minutes.

Yesterday was AJ and Ai-chan's (third) wedding. The Japanese wedding is broken up into three parts. For each part, Ai-chan wore a different outfit. Two different kimonos for the first two and a more western style wedding dress for the final party. First, there was a ceremony at a shinto shrine. This was really beautiful, though we couldn't really understand what was being said.

The pictures don't do this kimono justice. You can kind of see some of the details in this picture, but in person they were much more visible:

Ai-chan's family:

Rice hung to dry. I'd never seen this before:

Everyone gathering after the ceremony:

After the ceremony, we were taken by taxis to the reception dinner. The reception is only for family and close friends so it had a nice intimate atmosphere. We had a great meal and they went around and introduced everyone and asked people for stories about AJ and Ai-chan.

Downstairs from the reception. The studio wanted to film the big fight scene in Kill Bill in this place but the restaurant couldn't rent it to them for a whole month. So the set in the movie was built to approximate the restaurant:

After the reception it was on to the next event, called the nijikai (basically, the second party). Family isn't invited to this party. It's for the couple's extended circle of friends. They rented out a bar for this and it was packed wall to wall with their friends. There were a whole series of events and games. It was a great time.

Pouring a champaign tower:

Day 7: Akihabara

Quick posts today. We've got to check out of our hotel soon and go to Nikko for a couple days (don't know if we'll have net access there...).

We were on our own today, so we tried to go to the Imperial Palace and Gardens in Tokyo. Unfortunately, we didn't know that the gardens are closed on Fridays (who closes on a Friday?) so we'll have to go back next week. Still, the outside was pretty.

After that, we went to another little park to figure out our plans for the rest of the day.

Finally, we decided to check out the Akihabara neighborhood to see the Electric City area which has shops selling all kinds of electronics. It turns out that this neighborhood is also known for anime and maid cafes. So as you're walking around the area there are girls dressed in maid outfits advertising for their cafes. For whatever reason, they also pretty much all wear cat ears. The place had a pretty wierd vibe to it, but we did find some really cool stores.

There were a bunch of little stores like this selling every imaginable electronic component. If you really want to build a computer from the capacitors up, this would be the place to do it:

Michelle with one of the maid cafe girls:

Star wars stuff:

Final Fantasy toys:

A giant camera store:

The Windows 7 burger, which I'm told is only in Japan:

Later that day, Chun-Fang's flight arrived so we met her for dinner. We ended up in a really cool place, but I couldn't manage to get a good picture. The restaurant was all booths with translucent walls and curtains that they closed once you got in, which gave you some privacy but didn't totally cut you off from the restaurant. It was really nice.

Wagyu beef. Yumm:

One of the walls surrounding our booth:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 6: Kappabashi

Yesterday we went to the Kappabashi neighborhood of Tokyo, which has a ton of restaurant supply stores. The main thing that brought us to this area was Michelle's quest for a sashimi knife (she found a nice one). They had stores totally packed with cooking utensils, serving dishes, and everything you could need for a kitchen or restaurant. It's a shame the ceramics are so heavy or we could have picked up some really nice plates and tea cups.

Cute kids in yellow hats:

Giant temple that we stumbled upon:

Entrance to Kappabashi:

Store selling tons of different plastic foods:

Scary-looking knives for cutting soba noodles:

Kappabashi means "kappa bridge". This is a golden kappa:

Michelle's sashimi (sushi fish) knife:

After shopping, we went to a restaurant for dinner. This was a special reservation that Ai-chan's parents made for us so we could try fugu (blowfish). Blowfish is lethally poisonous if you just cut it up and eat it, but there's a certain way to carve it up safely. In Japan, you have to be licensed in order to legally serve it and this place had a license.

This was the most exotic meal we've had by far. Along with the puffer fish, we were also served squid and halibut so fresh that the uncooked parts of the fish were still moving (but not really alive) when the dishes were brought to the table. This was pretty freaky, but the point is to show that the fish just came out of a live tank. (They don't do anything special to keep the heads moving; if they didn't put them on the plate, they'd still be moving like this in the garbage.) Every part of the animal was used in the meal. After eating the raw squid and halibut meat, they took away the heads to use them for the next dishes. The halibut head was cut up and put into miso soup for flavoring and the squid head and tentacles were deep fried (calamari, basically).

They also served turtle in the meal. First, turtle blood served mixed with apple juice and served in shot glasses. Then the raw organs - heart, liver, gall bladder, and shoulder. Finally, the meat was used for turtle soup.

This meal was definitely challenging at times, but it was good and a really unique experience.

Squid (ika):

Halibut (hirame):

Blowfish (fugu):

Turtle soup:

Video of live squid outside the restaurant:

Video of live blowfish outside the restaurant:

WARNING: This is where it gets real. Video of the squid tentacles still moving on the plate. If you're squeamish or think that animals can live a long time without their vital organs (they can't), you might not want to watch:

WARNING: This is where it gets real. Video of the halibut reflexes still working on the plate. If you're squeamish or think that animals can live a long time without their vital organs (they can't), you might not want to watch: