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Yurakucho and Tokyo

Posted on 2012/01/22 18:07:25 (January 2012).

[Tuesday 17th January 2012]
With Chie's help I had done some research prior to this trip to find vegetarian compatible eateries in Tokyo, and so this evening set about going to find one. This led me in the direction of Tokyo station, which I headed for by way of Yurakucho, where I was keen to go to a funny little bar oddity I'd actually seen a short feature about on TV in the UK a while back. It's a tiny little bar - more of an alcove on the side of the street really - where all the drinks are sold from vending machines. Whilst this vision of an entirely automated drinking establishment might evoke futuristic notions, the fact is that vending machines have been widespread in Japan for decades, and in fact this "bar" is pleasingly old and really quite grotty. So I rather enjoyed a very quick drink here, more so as it was so cheap. A strong yen has made just about everything else feel very expensive on this trip.

So next up I walked to Tokyo station, and attempted to find the vegan ramen place I'd read about in this rather vast sprawling complex. I incorrectly started my search in the North of the station, and was amused to discover that the maps inside the station only really tell you about the section of the station you're in - because if you're in the North West quadrant it's of course completely inconceivable that you could have any interest whatsoever in any amenities that exist in the South East. Big stations like this in Japan often serve lots of different lines, often owned by different companies, and often there are multiple clusters of shops, bars and restaurants associated with the different lines. So I imagine regular commuters typically just stick to one little area of the station, and are probably blissfully unaware of what shops etc exist in some of the other bits.

I eventually found T's Tan Tan Ramen in a little shopping precinct called Keiyo Street (presumably known only to users of the Keiyo line), and after some initial hesitation went in, spent a while struggling to read the menu, and eventually ordered the shoyu ramen. The soup was perhaps a bit too simplistic in flavour for me, and it was my first time to have tantanmen, which are a bit different from normal ramen noodles, being somewhat softer and more elastic. So I didn't enjoy it as much as the ramen Chie and I make at home (usually a modified version of some vegetarian instant ramen Chie buys on the internet), but still it was interesting, and I'd definitely go again to try something else on the menu.

I went back to Roppongi (where regrettably my hotel is) a fairly circuitous route by way of Ueno. I wanted to revisit an izakaya called Daitouryou, that I'd been to with Chie on the last night of our previous trip, and I'd found to be rather lively and fun. It wasn't quite the same the second time round, perhaps partly because of the time of year. In September they'd had tables spilling out into the alleyway, particularly fun as said tables were rather cheap and not very sturdy, and would routinely collapse, littering the floor with broken bottles and glasses, and prompting a pleasingly sardonic member of staff to trudge over with a dustpan and brush. Unsurprisingly in January it was a much more indoor venue, and the jolly carefree revellers of the late summer had given way to the rather grizzly chainsmoking hardened drinkers of mid-winter. I sat on a tiny stool sandwiched inbetween two such types at the counter, and somehow didn't think they were particularly delighted about my presence, so I had one quick drink and left.

On the way back to the hotel I had a mail from a colleague inviting me to join a few of them at a "craft beer" bar in Roppongi. It just seemed very expensive to me - I had the "regular" size beer, a rather cloying and unpleasant Japanese IPA, which was 900 Yen (7.50 at the current exchange rate), and less than a pint in volume. The "large" size, which I assumed to be a pint was 1200 Yen (10). Roppongi is known for being expensive even by Japanese standards, but that was just insane. I was not compelled to linger.

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