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Seafood and Wednesday: Edo-Tokyo museum

I forgot to mention. Tuesday, the family friend took me to a sushi place, with illustrated menus in both languages, single-piece servings, a wide variety, and him paying. So I decided to be bold and try things like sea urchin, herring roe, long-necked clam, arc shell (like the Shell oil company logo, supposedly), and a couple of identified fish nigiri that I was initially given in place of my sea urchin, because someone messed up in the ordering process.

Conclusion: I was closest to liking the arc shell. Clam was chewy, herring roe (a solid yellow mass, not like salmon (big red balls) or the other one (tiny red balls)) was weird and salty, urching was yellow, pasty (as in like paste) and salty/sea-ey, fishes were okay. Nothing to challenge the hegemony of salmon, tuna in all varieties, eel (I had eel and sea eel, didn't notice a big difference), egg, and yellowtail.

But friend and I got to totally mutually geek out with each other about omega-3 fats, mercury (he says selenium neutralizes methylmercury, and hey, there's a lot in seaweed), Okinawans, and other food/health/aging/exercise issues. It was very gratifying; usually I get "please don't read the ingredients to us, Damien, we don't want to know".

Wednesday I found a Chinese place so went there for brunch. She probably knew Chinese and Japanese, he knew some English but only the Japanese words for what was on the menu, so I just took option A. That turned out to be shrip, bamboo shoots, mushrooms (which I tolerate much better in Chinese than Western contexts), and a small spiny thing I want to say was a cone snail. Decent, not great; I reflected that a week of Japanese food spoiled me for the greasy glop of cheap Chinese.

Then, a place I'd noted from Buddhist Ceremony Day last week: the Edo Tokyo Museum, across the river. It's just one stop away, but I took the train to avoid melting and save my legs for walking around the museum. I think I was in there for 4 hours. The permanent exhibition is in two parts: on Edo, the capital of the Tokugawa shoguns, and on its post-Meiji (post-Perry and forced opening to the world) Imperial incarnation as Tokyo (to-kyo, east capital, Kyoto being the original one.) It's not completely bilingual but there's a fair amount of English signage on the exhibits, and I think Engish audio guides, which didn't take because I never take audio guides.

What's to say? There's a lot there. Large if not full size models of a bridge and a few buildings, much smaller models of whole areas of Tokyo, various items of art, and tools, a box (chained) of gold coins that you can pick up, to see what 1000 gold coins feels like, small model of a ship, stuff on publishing and commerce, food production, the Meiji era, changes in housing, WWII (or rather, the Pacific War.) I'll note a few things that stuck me.

A wooden aqueduct pipe, square-cut; don't need metal or concrete for such things. Edo period saw invention of the dry-goods store for Japan, selling goods in the store rather than peddling them around, and taking cash, no haggling. Increased commerce led to advertising, such as flyers, or logos on jackets; how modern! That sort of thing always tickles me. There was a model of a bookshop of light fiction, which tells us about printing efficacy and popular literacy rates, as does the busy-ness of the shogunate's censorship. They had full color prints of course, when they wanted, ukiyo-e. 22 was the average age of death for common brothel girls; I wonder what they died of. STDs, bleeding in pregnancy? I mean, that's young. A couple of schoolgirls treated me to the first native "kawaii!" ('cute', ka-weye-eee), in response to a little model of Hokusai's workshop. (And I got to see a wide variety of schoolgirl uniforms while I was there.)

Tokyo era... a visiting American, (?E. T.?) Morse collected lots of information about way of life and crafts, and also noted that early Tokyo was cleaner than Boston, with better life expectancy. People bathed, waste got taken away rather than accumulating (night soil, human crap, went back to the farms that fed it.) Housing went from horrible to just cramped. Japan got broadcast radio only five years after the US, partly because people were annoyed at the communications breakdown in the Kanto earthquake. The museum has the Pacific War as simply starting, with no attribution of agency to either side. The effect of firebombs on a cramped wooden city were graphically noted.

After all that, I wandered away, north and back across the river via Kuramae-bashi, and found a tonkatsu place. After looking fruitlessly at the menu, I ordered "tonkatsu", which produced pork cutlet, rice, salad bits, and I think miso. O-cha was not available, however, just water, this in a place apparently run by some old couple.

Then back to the hotel, to do laundry, learn that Obama played D&D in college, do laundry, discover the hot water maker in my room, so I could make tea with the free bags (good), make incomprehensible notes in my journal ("Fisher! Fun. Tired."), do laundry (630 yen for a half-load, I hope that's hotel rip off pricing, not standard), and read yet another round of ludicrous attempts by people on the Right to understand the Left, over on johncwright's LJ. The only time I've seen that end well (read: exhibit any actual clue of grasping what leftists or liberals are about) was in an essay by Carl Milsted, a right-libertarian who re-invented left-libertarian property concerns, with resource tax and basic income solutions, at which point I don't think he's really Right anymore. By understanding the Left he became the Left, or at least something decently hybridized.

Depending on restaurants, or now hotel, I've drunk a lot of green tea, 5-10 cups a day sometimes. Clearly I like the good stuff, unlike my mother who thought it was all boiled water (which, to be fair, a rather faint tea brew isn't much different from.) Clearly I need a better way of making it at home, where I have 1 or 2 at most.

Internet continues to be for crap, with "can't access server", "network unreachable", or LJ and webcomics not loading all their CSS and image files.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 21st, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
Wow--thank you for the review of the museum. *adds it to her list of places to go*
Aug. 21st, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Japan sounds absolutely fascinating and I've definitely been enjoying your description of your visit.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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