Thursday, July 16, 2009

Toushe, Tokyo (多謝,北町ほろよい通り)

Japan is a different country, and there are different attitudes toward a number of things (plus they have a different word for everything!). One of the really weird ones there is...drunkenness. Public drunkenness.

In Japan, it's just OK! It's fine to be that guy who's too drunk to walk, thus just falls asleep on the train station platform. Or on the train, if he falls asleep on someone else, there's mild disgust but not much more. The station people, general passersby, the carabinieri...they all tend to just help out.

Another thing that's OK - cliche's. (Let's not talk about, poor punctuation, but that's probably OK too). Koreans are passionate and spicy! Foreigners steal bicycles! One reasonable cliche that I'm not sure of the existence of would be "Country people drink a hell of a lot!".

Put these together, and you'd have something like "In a northern town, it's OK to be drunk in the streets", which is pretty much how I'm translating 'Kita machi horoyoi dori', the name of the 2nd-floor eating area of Tokyo Station (this is above Kitchen Street, if that helps). But seriously, the most literal reading is "Northern Town Drunk Street", which would be a pretty weird name for a public area in America.

All bets are off if I've misunderstood the language. As I said, they have a different word for everything. [7/17: And Koala tells me that the name actually sounds 'cute' to her, more like 'Tipsy Street', and with an overall positive/good timey connotation. "Like Omoide Yokocho." I stand corrected, but partially unconvinced that this isn't illustrative of societal attitudes. Onward.]

Well, I swear they've upgraded this street since the last time I was there. The floor looks different and newer in places (it's now wood) and it really looks like they've put in a superior ventilation system, in the process lowering the ceiling to about 7 feet. It's claustrophobic. But the restaurants are pretty much the same - beer, fish and noodles (of various species) with a healthy pinch of sadness sprinkled over the lot.

It being summer, and fully hottified, recently, I've been dreaming of cold noodles. My usual favorite cold noodle is tantanmen, which is a sorta ramen-y wheat noodle with spicy sesame-pork sauce, shredded daikon and mizuna (yes Dad, that's the 'weedy' or 'dandelion' one!). Other ways to eat cold noodles include, ohhhh, I dunno, Italian cold pasta or maybe cold Chinese noodles (冷やし中華), which have various shredded toppings like cucumber, egg, ginger and pork and come in a cold broth.

A more marginal way to eat cold noodles is 'Ja Ja' style, which always makes me think of Jar Jar Binks. In my understanding, this is more of a northern / Korean style noodle topped with niku miso (miso with ground meat), cucumber, ginger and vinegar. (Some readers may remember eating this at a tiny place in Morioka after Taking a Train Up North.). But when I saw a plate sitting outside Toushe, and further with the heading "Recommended Lunch", I was sold.

Having wasted all this time and column space, I'll just keep it short by saying that the miso was artificially thick and gummy and the noodles were strangely flavorless. I DID enjoy the punishingly hot spicy condiment in the plastic jars on the table, but overall see little reason to visit this place again.



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