Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's

Just because, here are a bunch of random pictures from the New Year break. I did a lot of eating at home, so restaurant reviews start in earnest from the 4th along with work.

I have to suspect that only in Japan would consumers buy $100 of sliced raw fish at the supermarket as a nice party platter for New Year's Eve (actually for NY Day considering Japanese customs). On the other hand, they had many of these trays left on the 1st 2nd, so perhaps not that many Tokyo people want to lash out like that either.

Atmosphere on the 1st - Eitai Dori is packed with walkers shuffling to and from the station, shrine, and temple, and of course various stalls selling them food. These stick around for ages - even on the 5th there are plenty, and on the morning of the 6th there's still trash pickup happening.

Lines are a common feature of New Year's. The custom is to go to a shrine or temple to ask for blessings on the new year, etc. (Don't ask me why you can go equally to a (Shinto) shrine or (Buddhist) temple - Japanese people don't talk about the inconsistent subtleties of their religion.) This is the line to pray at a minor subsidiary shrine of the main one near my place. The main line was 100+ meters long for almost 3 days straight - we didn't get to go until almost 8 PM on the 3rd, at which point there were only about 20 people in line.

Traditional holiday soup, ozoni, for New Year's day. It's more or less chicken soup with sticky rice and vegetables, but it tastes better at home. I'm a big sucker for fresh yuzu in just about anything. I even put it in miso soup the next day, which was a weird thing to do.

The other good thing about not having any expectations or pressure is that you can eat whatever you want for the holidays, skipping all the 'locusts and seaweed boiled in sugary soy sauce' crap. Evidently smoked duck and cured ham are high on my menu of dietary wants, along with lots of pickles, egg, and someone's homemade black beans, chestnut mash and chicken-miso meatloaf (the last isn't traditional, but it was good).

The night of the first, braving the crowd to hobble around Monnaka. There's a good selection of festival amusements - several streets and the shrine and temple approaches all get lined with them. And during this period, it's all packed to the point that it's difficult to walk.

Many times I've considered walking around Monnaka on one of these days to get pictures of all the different food groups available from stands and then make that into a post series. Street food in Japan is pretty good, but it's not like there's any secret that makes it taste amazing. Other than the outdoor ambience and beneficial effects of fresh air, your giant-hot dog-on-a-stick is going to taste the same, and fried noodles or pancakes or other average foods are going to be better if you get them in a restaurant. Well, the fried noodles maybe not. And octopus balls, those might be better on the street too. Could you get them in a restaurant? Those Gindako places are practically street food. Oh, what about that nice place in Tokyo Station?

It's a little blurry, but I've really come to treasure the pictures where I think I'm being all stealthy in my photography but someone is looking directly at the camera like "Whassup gaijin?"

And likewise the ones that capture some moment of time, like this woman looking at whatever she's looking at.

Or these people at work in the pancake tent. They had a special machine that took a whole head of cabbage as input and sliced it into thin ribbons in a trash can. Hopefully not just to dispose of it more easily. This tent had a kerosene heater with a pan of water on top - that's how they were warming the sake. And they were distinguished for having the worst amazake I've ever had the pleasure to drink.

Asakusa on the 2nd, having a walk, doing errands, taking more pictures of the Sky Tree, in this case with the Asahi headquarters building (unfortunately you can't see the neighboring Golden Turd in this shot). I thought it would be cool to go to Sensoji for the first temple visit of the new year, but the line went all the way down Nakamise Dori, through the front gate, and out into Kaminarimon Dori, this street. On the map that looks like at least 500 meters. That is not a cool line to wait in. We had ice cream instead, wait for the next post...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the New Year tour of Tokyo. You should start a new blog about your dining in. Happy new year.