So here I was again, back on the road. The excitement wasn’t overwhelming this time, this was just normal I thought. Constant motion, living out of my bag. Was it losing its novelty, this lifestyle of travel? Was I doing this just because it is what I’ve come to know? As soon as I sat down in 29A window seat, looked out onto the runway these thoughts disappeared. A moment ago I was exhausted and just wanted to wake up on the other side. I guess I was just living in the moment and now this moment was happening. For years I’ve had an addiction of some sort, but now my drug was travel. Compared to the latter, the healthiest but also the longest withdrawal symptoms. The past 6 months I was unknowingly slipping back to the numbness of routine, but still I had this incurable itch, this constant ache. The wheels began to move and all of a sudden my eyes were wide and I didn’t sleep a wink for 14 hours. I was on the edge of my seat, ready to tap that vein to receive my first dose in a while… one night in Tokyo.
Touchdown, I was here. Tokyo is a city, well the country as a whole has fascinated me for the past decade or so. I’m surprised I haven’t yet dedicated a trip solely to Japan. I guess mainly the price point, always trying to stretch my Canadian dollar for a lengthier trip and by no means was this going to do it any justice. Just a tease really, but a taste nonetheless. Maybe just that taste I need.
I grabbed my bag and headed for Asakusa district. A straight shot from Haneda airport on the Keikyu Line on the metro . Time was of the essence as the clock began to tick away my 12 hours. This included unfortunately much needed sleep and transport back to the airport, leaving me with a mere few hours. It was near 8pm by the time I checked in. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the sights at this time, but I was here to stuff my face with as much Japanese food as I could before keeling over in bed. I asked the gentleman at reception for some advice and he pointed me in the direction of his favorite ramen spot. Nearly before he finished I was out the door, hoofing it across Asakusa district.
Ichiran was the place. Through a small entrance, down a set of stairs, tucked away from the unknowing. When I entered I was clearly foreign. Not just based on the fact I was obviously not Japanese, but I had no idea what to do. A waitress was quick to help me out. Opposed to sitting at the table with a menu, the menu was like a vending machine. Place your order by pressing some buttons insert cash and blamo, my ticket popped out. I was directed towards the counter seating, reminding me of a jail visitation room. A personal booth, blinders on either side for privacy with a bamboo curtain separating me from the kitchen. Before handing my order ticket over, I filled out a form personalizing my bowl of ramen. Noodle texture, strength of broth, oil content, amount of spice, garlic and with or without scallions or roast pork.
I sipped on my Asahi, struggling to keep my elbows in, listening to the slurping to either side of me while waiting in strong anticipation. The blind was lifted, the bowl slid forward and shut once more. Privacy while you have your way with it. The intoxicating smell encompassed my personal cubby. It was soothing, taking in my gaze for a bit. My stomach grumbling almost drooling, I snapped out of it. The booth blocking my surroundings seemed to temporarily heighten my senses toward the matter at hand. The flavour of the broth, texture of the noodles and tenderness of the pork. Before I knew it, it was all over and I had to stop myself from a refill. There was more to eat tonight.
Next up… Sushi! I walked until I spotted one that was still busy. Not much was left open this late by the looks of it and I didn’t have the luxury of time. Ultimately anyplace would knock my socks off. I slid the door open and took a seat at the counter. I wanted to watch the chef’s work. Effortlessly my platter was constructed. Tuna, toro, mackerel, shrimp, uni, unagi, salmon roe, omelette and a handful more I couldn’t place. There was no need for soy or wasabi, each bite made to be consumed as is. The flavours so delicate, yet pronounced. This goes without saying but it was by far the best sushi I’ve had the luxury of eating thus far. As I crammed the last bite of nigiri into my mouth, I was beginning to nod off in my seat. An extremely full stomach with incredible food and a massive lack of sleep, it was time for bed. I’d gotten the dose I needed.
Back in the airport for breakfast, I didn’t have high hopes necessarily. A selection of quality food that I’m not used to seeing while waiting for a plane awaited me. With minimal yen left, I opted for something on the cheaper end of the spectrum and I was still blown away. A bowl of sticky rice with silken tofu, puffed rice, scallions and fried shallots accompanied by a small bowl of miso soup and slice of omelette. A great way to fuel up for the day of travel ahead of me. I could spend years here eating my way through this cuisine. This was definitely the taste I needed and could see myself back sooner than later delving much further. This would not be the end of my time in Japan, just the finale of my brief introduction.