Eleven stories below my hotel window, the bullet trains glide in and out of Tokyo Station. On the other side of the station is the Ginza, where I went strolling yesterday after I got checked into the Marunouchi Hotel. I'd imagined the Ginza as one broad avenue, lined with pricey stores, neon displays blazing, and jostling throngs filling up the sidewalks. It certainly is that, but it's also a warren of little side streets, barely wide enough for a car to bump alongside the pedestrians. Along these streets are the little specialty shops, restaurants and tiny bars opening out onto the street. I wandered aimlessly for an hour, not too worried about getting lost -- all I'd need is for someone to point me back in the direction of Tokyo Station, after all.
I'd slept about two hours on the plane, but that was about it in the last twenty-four hours, so my energy was flagging a bit, and I stopped into the Hills Bar for a drink. They had two little tables outside, so I got a scotch and a glass of water and went to sit and watch and write. There was a dress shop across the way, a grandmother and small child sitting in front of it, watching the street and waiting for mom to come out. Many young couples out strolling, and the occasional black sedan slowly inching along with a couple of elderly ladies in the back, all dressed up and gazing impassively at the shops as they slid past.
The young bartender came out to join me. He'd been to college in Seattle and we talked a bit about his days there and this being my first trip to Japan and the differences in the weather down in Alabama and other bits and pieces of small talk.
Back at the hotel, I had dinner in the French restaurant, curious about what a fancy French place in Tokyo would be like. For my appetizer I ordered something that was translated as "just caught raw fish with shellfish and crustacean." It turned out to be a bowl of various morsels of seafood in some kind of thick greenish broth topped with a lightly poached egg that had the reddest yolk I've ever seen. Served cold, and with a variety of textures and tastes that puts it well in the running for the most unusual thing I've ever eaten -- certainly I've never seen anything like it in any other French restaurant! Then onion soup and a rack of lamb -- these both much more familiar, although still with distinctive touches. All of it quite delicious and marvelously presented.
Jet lag was finally catching up to me, however, so I skipped desserts or coffee and headed up to the room and to bed. Nine hours of sleep and I woke to another gray, monsoonish Tokyo day. This is the one day of my trip that I get to do some sightseeing, so one of my hosts is meeting me later this morning to take me around. I have no idea what we're going to see. I can't wait.