Day Four in Tokyo: Jiyugaoka

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Although my friend had told me our schedule would be jam-packed, it turns out that we had time to spare before I was to head back. So on Saturday morning, after a long day in Shinjuku and Harajuku, we slept in late and headed out for Jiyugaoka, a suburb of Tokyo. It was on a different JR line/system, about 25 minutes from Oimachi. The weather was great and everyone was out, and the streets were laid out very comfortably ... it reminded me, oddly enough, of Boston's Newbury Street (what doesn't, these days?), and at times, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

It was sort of like a glorified outdoor mall, laid out over many and many blocks.

We had lunch al fresco, at a place called La Bohème. My friend ordered iced tea, which came with a giant spherical ice cube, which I thought was the bee's knees.

I couldn't resist ordering their limoncello mojito ($8 or $9) ...
Mojitos are one of my favorite alcoholic drinks. This one was just okay.

I thought I took a photo of our dishes, but I guess not! My friend had an incredible mushroom risotto, and I had a spinach salad which was alright.

While sitting there (listening to children crying out on the patio), I spotted the Doughnut Plant next door! I had no idea Doughnut Plant had gone international and insisted we grab some doughnuts to go after our meal was over.

I wanted to try the matcha doughnut, but this white chocolate lemon cake doughnut sounded
different. It was too dry and too sweet, but my friend loved her Valrhona chocolate yeast doughnut ...

We spotted this orange house from far away called ... Orange House

A florist ... and gelato!

Me being me, I went with the oddest flavors ... basil ("basilico") and sakura
The friendly guy asked if I wanted to sample the basilico before I ordered it, 
but I said no ... I've had it before! (Somewhere else, though, obviously.)

I had no idea what the sakura flavor would taste like, though. I imagined it would taste like cherries, or maybe cherry vanilla. 
It tasted like cake frosting! Very interesting. The texture of both was great.

After buying a few souvenirs for friends, we headed home for a relaxing evening of hot food from the grocery store and television. I loved Jiyugaoka; I think it was my favorite part of the trip ... it probably had much to do with the fact that we weren't under any real time constraints, and we were outdoors. I think if or when I return to Tokyo again, I'll have a completely different experience if I travel with someone who doesn't treat it like an extended shopping trip. I would have liked to have seen more art museums (along with parks, I have a thing for those) and maybe a shrine or two. Oh, and the Fish Market!

Breaded pork cutlets and rice with seaweed and sesame

Calpis ... in cooler form! This was interesting ... not bad, but not my favorite.

That was my last full day in Tokyo ... the next morning, we woke up late and I had breakfast in front of the television before heading off to Haneda Airport for my flight back to Taipei.

Look how spacious the toilets are at Haneda Airport! All travel depots, take note!
I always have trouble squeezing my duffel bag, etc in the stall with me ... not here.

My last purchase before heading back to Taipei ... a small bottle of a sour cherry-flavored drink

Overall, Tokyo wasn't what I expected it to be ... I thought it would be a lot of extremes: teenagers dressed kind of funky, and extraordinarily gracious everyone else. Not that they weren't, but I was relieved to find that subway manners weren't that different from those in New York City (well, minus the cell phones and occasional rudeness). The greatest standouts to me were the level of service everywhere we went, and the efficiency of absolutely everything. Everything was so well thought out, and sufficient. To me, Tokyo seemed like a more artistically inclined, smart, clean and polite "version" (I don't know how else to say it, though I don't really mean to compare) of New York City. Just like Athens and Rome are dirtier, crazier "versions" and Paris is a ... French "version" of New York City. (I hope I haven't offended too many people haha.) 

The more I travel, the more everything looks the same ... Just like the more I get to know the Chinese language, the more I marvel at how sayings or metaphors are the same in English as they are in Chinese (and German and Japanese, apparently). This makes me think that some things are just instinctive, like the words "mama" and "papa." And how alike we all are, in spite of manmade "barriers" like language, class and culture.

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