Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Japan - The first revolving sushi restaurant

Hello everyone!

Perhaps feeling the effects of pedalling on a lake, or just the lack of sleep from Friday night, Zac suggested we take some downtime in the afternoon in an onsen. What's that, you ask? It's the Japanese equivalent of a jjimjilbang. What's that, you ask? Read previous blogs and you'll see, but essentially it's a spa.

It is a bit different, though. An onsen utilises the heat from the hot springs, so it has more of a natural feel to it. Certainly more natural than the department-store-style Dragon Hill spa in Yongsan. It had more of an outdoor setting as well, not that you would be able to tell from the entrance. Looked like a conference retreat centre for business people to 'relax' and 'make deals' and stuff. I have Peep Show in my mind right now.

Last entrance time was 4, and we arrived with a little bit of time to spare. It was incredibly chilled, and a beautiful setting (once you had negotiated the bland, business-retreat corridors). The outdoor pools had a view of Lake Ashi. That's all I need to say, really. Stunning. After we had dried off I used up just about every molecule of my camera's battery power to take photos of it. It was so tranquil. It wasn't what I was expecting to do on a whirlwind weekend in Japan, but it was most definitely worth it.

We stayed in total relaxation for a while before deciding to start the long trek back to Tokyo as, once again, we had no idea where we were staying. Fumy was busy Sunday and needed to get an early night, as did Zac, so we decided to get some farewell food. There was one thing on the list that we had yet to do, and our excellent friends knew just the place. Time to hit up some revolving sushi!

After seeing my first Asian Hummer, which Fumy was captivated by, we went to one of these restaurants. Two things became apparent on the way. Firstly, my camera was miraculously still alive. Secondly, and far more importantly, both myself and Ellen realised that we were a bit short on Yen. As in we'd pretty much spent it all. I still can't exactly work out where my money went, but I took 40,000Y - which is 500,000W - which is a little under £300 - and had managed to blow it in less than 48 hours. Without really buying many souvenirs, without being permanently paralytic, without doing some ridiculously dangerous activity. And we still had one more day. Guess I've lost the knack of living on the tight budget like I did in Southern and Eastern Europe.

But this place was worth spending money on. It was a cosy restaurant, and a busy one as well - we got there at around 5.30 and were lucky to get seats. Being honest, I'd never been to one of these before, so didn't know how it works. Basically, you take what you want off the belt, eat it, enjoy the sensations in your mouth (or not, if your name is Ellen and you try one that looks like a strange pink pate paste), and then keep the plate by you. There are lots of different patterned and coloured plates, each representing a value. At the end, the value of your plates is tallied, and you pay, getting a bit of a shock in the process.

Two things threw me in this place. One - what is on the plates isn't restricted to sushi. Cake, drinks, even CDs, were available to be picked off by a customer. Bizarre, though I do appreciate a piece of cake. Two - there was no visible way for the cooks to get out of the middle. They can't just lift the belt up, and I couldn't see any sort of catflap for them to humiliatingly crawl through. I guess they're born inside the circle, and grow up learning the ways of the revolving sushi, and being able to know exactly what fish goes on what plate.

The most expensive of these plates was a one-of-a-kind, and a rather staggering 980Y. $10 for two, yes two, pieces of sushi. I don't know what fish it was - I wasn't paying attention, more concerned with my own thoughts regarding the CDs and the cooks - but Fumy and Zac were insistent on getting it. We pulled it off and halved each piece so we could all try a bit. Naturally, being the price it was, we gave it some hype. Wooden chopsticks at the ready, here we go...

Public Enemy once sang a famous song called 'Don't Believe The Hype'. It doesn't apply here. BELIEVE. I don't think I've ever tasted something quite so magical in my mouth. It was so succulent, so beautiful, the most wonderful taste and texture exploding in my mouth with every movement of my jaw. Nothing else tasted quite as good after that. Delicious.

Though I am doing the other sushi a bit of a disservice here. It was all really good, and most of it far better value than the $10 piece of heaven. The final one we had wasn't actually on the belt - it had to be specially ordered. Fumy really wanted this particular one. It was brought out from a different room amid little fanfare, and placed in front of us. Fish eggs were present, as was a lot of standard sushi stuff. And foie gras.

Say WHAAAA? Foie gras in sushi?! It does work, it was wonderful. As well as feeling full, I was becoming concerned at the lightness of my wallet, so we totted up and left. The camera finally lost its battle with batteryitis at this point as well, but I had a plan to resuscitate it which I would try to initiate when we got back.

We said our goodbyes to Fumy - Zac needed to use the train for a half hour or so - and then departed back to Tokyo. I hadn't seen Fumy in almost two years, and it was great to meet up. She was the best tour guide we could have possibly had, and our Japanese experience was far, far richer and enjoyable because of her. Cannot thank her enough. Zac too was a great guy, very funny. We owe him as well, as we, ahem, couldn't afford the train ride back. Trouble brewing. He gave us 10,000 - I will be paying him back, it was the most incredibly generous gesture.

As a result of this money shortage, and the added problem of our foreign cards not working in any ATMs, we decided to have a bit of a quieter time on Saturday night. But I had a plan for my camera, and next time I'll let you know about my trip to Akihabara - the place they call Electric Town!

Love you all


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