10 December 2015

Yakitori - Japan #1

I have decided to make a little trip down memory lane - my trip to Japan has by no means taken up enough space in here, so here we go. I am sure you would love to hear more about it as well - I on my behalf would love to think back on it because I had the trip of my life and my man is a bit tired of hearing all of this so that 's where you guys come in.

The decision to go to Japan by myself was based on the fact I had decided to leave my job and move with my man back to Copenhagen and since I had a really long notice period I figured I could need a motivation treat. To have a trip on the end of this period felt like a good idea. 

Getting "lost in translation" and feel completely out there was something I longed for. I wanted to loose the ground under my feet and feel a little scared. But being paranoid and a safety junkie - I decided to travel to the most secure place in the world. Or so it seems. Traveling on my own is something I have done for work quite a lot and I like it - I find it easy to get in touch with people and enjoy just hanging out and observing. Doing things in my own pace and feeling a little lonesome was something I really needed. 

 So there I went - spent quite a bunch of my savings on my first trip to Asia.

 I would spend almost 2 weeks in Tokyo - with a short break in between where I would travel for 3 days to the more traditional Kyoto. Some asked me if I didn't want to see more of Japan - since it was my first trip. Well I guess that was my privileged to completely decide for myself, that Tokyo fascinated me so much I was eager to just hang out and explore the different neighborhoods. Looking back - this was one of many good decisions.

On my first day in Tokyo I had to stay awake to avoid jet lag. So after I had found the hostel I was staying and leaving my bag behind - I was pretty surprised that I was ahead of my time schedule ... Maybe even a little stressed that I had so much day left before I could go to sleep because I was completely knackered and over enthusiastic about everything already. 

But I decided to leave for an area called Ginza - my aim was Tokyo's best ramen. 
I had heard that if you went out the exit north you would come up and see a line with a soba noodle sign and then you would be at the right spot. Well I am sure for those of you who have been in Tokyo - you are now laughing at my naive approach.  Ginza feels like a mutant of Times Square and the exit north is pretty darn huge. No sign to be found - not even the newspaper lady understood when I was looking at her, patting my belly, saying yum yum ramen and expected her to point me in the right direction seemed to help. I ended up exploring the crazy department stores around the Ginza area - and my fashion heart was excited. I gave up on my ramen mission and ended up in a small street with tiny wooden houses and white curtains in front. 

I later learned that the white curtains have a history of being used a cloth to dry your dirty hands on before entering the restaurant. The more dirty the cloth was the better the restaurants. For your info - these were all crisp and white but the tradition is not so common anymore I have been told. 
Inside there was a Japanese chef - shouting "yakitori" in my face, along the counter there were only Japanese men in white shirts eating and the lady came closer and continuously shouted "yakitori" which unfortunately was not yet a part of my Japanese vocabulary. I got so scared and baffled that I went outside again. 

I was thinking maybe it means Japanese only. Or men only. Or something completely different. Along this street there were several restaurants looking alike - so outside the next house which was slightly smaller I asked a Japanese man, my age if he though it would be ok if I went inside, clearly not being either Japanese nor a man and he just laughed and nodded his head. So I did - here another Japanese chef came towards me saying the same word aloud again but this time I showed her that I did not understand and she started to chuckle and mimicked the movements of a chicken ! 
I was relieved, yakitori must mean chicken ?!  And for the next 2 hours I simply did everything she said and mimicked. The other guests at the counter would tell me if I did something wrong. They asked me where I was from and how long I would stay. And I enjoyed a delicious meal of grilled chicken skewers. All parts of the animal I assume - chicken wings, chicken liver, crispy chicken skin on small wooden sticks - marinated in the thickest sauce I had seen. in my life.

While I was sitting here, every time a new person walked in the complete kitchen crew shouted out their greetings. For the first few times I assumed they were regulars - but when I noticed they did this with everyone I guess it was their way of greeting. When I ate at typical Japanese places during the rest of my trip I saw this many times. It also amazed me that because the space was so small I had to leave my bag in a shelve at the door. But the other bags were by far more expensive then mine so it felt fine.

I was euphoric when I went out - if the rest of my two weeks would contain this I was in heaven. Completely lost in Tokyo eating stuff I had no idea what was - but which tasted amazing.