August 2006

This is one of the Tokyo Tower‘s Noppon Brothers (charisma mascots). Almost everything in Japan has a charisma mascot of some or another sort. They are usually furry, like my favorite Morizo, but sometimes they are weird things, like the Noppon Brothers, who appear to be a pair of daikon. The Noppon Brothers are even stranger when you delve into their backgrounds. Here’s what the Tokyo Tower brochure says about the Noppon Brothers. See if you can sleuth out something odd about this pair.

Age: 10 years (male twins)
Character: Older brother (wearing blue overalls), a shy boy, cool and silent. Younger brother (wearing red overalls), cheerful and lively, but often he feels lonely and misses people
Hobby: meeting people, sunbathing
Goal: To become top stars

Sunbathing! With what we now know? No one has sunbathing as a hobby anymore. Very suspicious.

In any case, they’re already stars in my book. To thank me for going to the Tower, Brad bought me a toy of the older brother in a blue racing car.

The past week, Brad and I have had a series of unforgettable meals, which I will now proceed to blog about under the heading “Food Porn”.

Let me start with last night’s dinner, brought to us by our new friends Patrick Kane and Yukari Kane. We were in Ikebukuro touristing Otome Road. Ikebukuro, which was described to me as something of a quiet Tokyo backwater popular with what we in New Jersey and in San Francisco would call the “bridge and tunnel crowd”, is nothing like that. It’s not a skyscraper filled Shinjuku, but it still has more the manga shops, puri-cura, pachinko, Tokyu Hands and Tobu department stores than you could tourist in a year. It also has one of three branches of Sakana Takewaka, a “live kill” restaurant, which was where the Kane’s had made a reservation for the four of us. I’ve posted photos and descriptions of the meal here on flickr.

This was the menu:

First course: Asparagus halves served over a white asparagus mousse with ika sauce.

Second course: crab, snail, eel nigiri, lime rind stuffed with something spicy and fishy

Third course: Hirame sashimi

Fourth course: Ika sashimi, with two sauces, a soy with a raw quail egg in it, or a vinegar/chive option.

Fifth course: “ekimono”, which was crab and braided sardine with a mignonette garnish, olives, pine nuts, edamame and fried tortilla chips.

At this point, the tail and bones of the hirame and the head and body of the ika came back to us fried and served with lemon.

Sixth course: Inadvertent path to Hell. See the photo for the reason why.

Seventh course: Buckwheat soba with shredded wakame, served in a crystal bowl on ice. On the side are chopped chives, wasabi and finely sliced onions.

Eighth Course: Dessert

This is a portrait series of many of the robots that we’ve seen (met?) since we’ve been here. link

I have a feeling about the set overall, but I’ll be interested to hear what you guys think.

Robot Dinosaur

Why don’t you?

Brad’s latest column, Japan’s Love Affair with Androids opens a window into how we’ve been spending our time here, but it doesn’t tell the whole truth. For example, it doesn’t tell how we also have been having a love affair with robots.

Here are the directions I gave Dan Moniz when he was in town and we had drinks and dinner together. I wanted him to meet us as Cask, a bar (extremely expensive, as I was to discover) up the street from our apartment in Roppongi.

Take the subway to Roppongi Station. Follow the signs towards Exit 4A and 4B. When you get near those exits, you will see signs for Exit 5. Take Exit 5. When you are on the street, keep going in the direction you are already pointed, downhill. Go about two or three blocks. The facade of Cask is on your right hand side, is fake granite stones, and rounded outwards. If you reach a something in Japanese “Cafe”, which is not a cafe, you’ve gone too far.

Here are a few photos from our trip to Kawasaki for the RoboOne demonstration today. In a few days, I’ll have some great photos of the robots.

Tokyo is a city where most of the streets do not have addresses. It is no great matter to stumble upon some place fantastic. But one of the biggest and most amusing challenges is to find somewhere in particular. The directions that friends give each other for meeting up are little poetic koens telling something about the state of city, and what one person thinks will stand out as a noticable landmark for another person. Here are the directions we were given for a dinner date we had this evening with a political web designer/consultant and WSJ reporter:

If you’re walking or taking a cab from the roppongi area, head down roppongi dori, walking on the left side of the street, towards Hiroo/Shibuya. When you hit the gaiennishi dori crossing, cross the street, walk past the hobson’s custard store and then make your next left (it’ll be right after a chain bakery/pastry shop called almond). Head down that little restaurant-infested street until you see an entrance on your right that has a rusted door/facade. There’s no sign outside. If you go by a fancy hat store, you’ve gone too far.

By the way, we touristed the Hobson’s Custard Store on the way home.

One of my photos of a man playing videogames in Shibuya was selected as the art for Brad’s story about Japanese arcades in Newsweek’s international edition. Yay! link

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