Yesterday, I took my very first trip on the Tokyo subway. And quite the experience it was. Having put down some 25 different desserts over the course of the day, I was feeling mighty exhausted and looked forward to a leisurely cab ride to our dinner destination – Morimoto XEX – but Jessica was having none of it. She figured that if she could make the hour and ten minute subway ride from Chiba (and another hour and ten minute ride back), then I could brave the measly ten minute ride from Shibuya to Roppongi. “It’s really easy and convenient,”she insisted.
So, we headed down into the subway station where, first, I had to buy a ticket. After consulting one of the handy wall maps, she directed me to some unfathomable machine where I deposited the equivalent of $2.70 and received a ticket. Mistake #1. I’d purchased the wrong ticket. I should have purchased the $2.60 option. No big deal. They could keep the extra ten cents and I could go on my merry way, right? Nope. We had to explain the situation to a guard who escorted us over to a ticket booth where I was refunded my 2.70 after which I returned to the machine, deposited $2.60, and purchased the correct ticket.
Jessica flashed her subway pass and walked in. I followed, feeding my ticket into the appropriate slot and following her through. “Take your ticket!”she cried. I glanced back and noticed my ticket had sprung up on the other side of the turnstile. As I reclaimed my ticket, she explained that I would need it to transfer onto another subway and, eventually, use it to exit the subway station at Roppongi. Huh? The whole process seemed needlessly complicated. Back when I was living in Montreal, riders paid a flat fee to take the metro anywhere. And, as an added bonus, they didn’t require a ticket to leave the station. No wonder Tokyo is reputed to have so many derelicts living in their subway stations. They were probably once functioning members of society who had the misfortune to misplace their exit tickets.
Anyway, my Get Out of Jail Free ticket firmly in hand, we headed down a level to catch our subway. And then another level. And another level. And another level after that. We were pretty damn deep into the bowels of the Earth by the time we reached the appropriate platform. How deep? Well, I can’t exactly say for sure, but I think I saw a family of Morlocks boarding the Oshiage line to Ningyocho.
A clock helpfully informed us that the next subway would arrive in exactly 3 minutes. It did. And, two minutes later, we caught our transfer (after depositing and retrieving my ticket once again, then heading down another two levels) to Roppongi. There, it was only an insurmountable climb back up to the surface and we were out in the night air once again, declaring Operation Tokyo Subway a huge success. In retrospect, it’s something I would heartily recommend trying out – like skydiving or eating fugu, only once in your life.
Dinner was at Morimoto XEX, the Tokyo teppanyaki restaurant of the Iron Chef himself. We were greeted at the door by a couple of black clad staff members with earpieces. As we were led through the darkened slick black, metal, and glass surroundings, I couldn’t help but pick up on that faux-chic vibe the gang over at the W seem to have gotten down to a fine poseur art form. Down a spiral staircase and we were in the teppanyaki chamber where we were seated at one of two teppanyaki tables. We ordered a couple of the set menus.
Earlier that afternoon, in discussing the history of cupcakes, Mark, the owner of Notting Hills Cakes, mentioned that the term “Fairycake” was initially used to reference a cake “the size of two fairies could enjoy”. Well, when it came to some of the appetizers at Morimoto XEX, I imagine those two fairies would have had to fight it out over some of the offerings. The foie gras, for instance, was the size of a quarter. Jessica’s buffalo mozzarella salad was so tiny I wondered why they’d even bothered. An ensuing dish led me to wonder the same thing for a different reason. It was a tuna tartar served in a frame, topped by a thin layer of caviar and flanked by layered accompaniments. Our waiter demonstrated how to use a wooden spoon to scoop the tartar and then dab it onto the various condiments. While it wasn’t exactly rocket science, I found it all a little needless and silly.
All that said, we did enjoy some excellent dishes: scallops, lobster, and, of course, the beef. For dessert, we were invited up to the dessert lounge. We were escorted to an elevator and sent up a couple of levels. The doors opened and the same guy who’d escorted us was there, awaiting our arrival. Seriously. All I could think of was this guy waiting for the elevator doors to close before abruptly turning and charging up the spiral staircase at breakneck speed in order to beat us to the third floor – there to greet us, all smiles, his affable demeanor belying his rapidfire heart rate. We sat in the lounge and had desserts and tea. My mascarpone ice cream was excellent but, sadly, befouled by fresh fruit. Jessica had a specialty tea – plum and seaweed – that tasted like chicken soup to me.
After dinner, I walked Jessica to the subway station and then, of course, caught a cab back to my hotel.
Now, for some reason, of late, I’ve been waking up incredibly sore. It could be the way I’m sleeping, or it might be the bed itself, or it may just be the mass organ failure I’m experiencing as a result of my recent eating habits. Whatever the reason, I decided to take a break from all the walking and eating and hit the spa. So, following an early lunch at MOS Burger where I enjoyed a pretty good not-as-spicy-as-advertised cheeseburger with plenty of diced onions and no napkin support which would have been greatly appreciated given that the whole thing fell apart on me two bites in, I returned to The Peninsula for my scheduled Keihatsu Enlightenment Massage.
I was seated in the little lounge area overlooking the pool and served some matcha and a big-ass chocolate macaron. Then, my shoes were taken away. I assumed it was Japanese tradition but, looking back now, I think it’s probably their way of ensuring customers don’t run off without paying. I was then led downstairs where I was given a tour of the various facilities: a relaxation room where I could relax prior to my massage, the sauna, the steam room, and, finally, the locker room. Once the attendant left, I took a shower, then put on the special underwear awaiting me. Even though the packaging said XL, it was an immodest little number. Initially, I thought I’d put the damn thing on backwards, but quickly discovered that they were sheer all the way around. Thankfully, I was also provided with a much-appreciated bathrobe.
The first thing I did was check out the steam room. Merely poking my head inside sufficed. I imagine that when closed to guests, this room is used to cook lobster and assorted seafood for the hotel kitchen. The sauna, by comparison, was a balmy Mojave desert toasty. I lasted about five minutes and then checked out one of two cooling showers – the tropical rainforest and the icy mist. I then retired to the relaxation room where I dozed off.
Eventually, I was awakened by the lovely Tomoko, my Keihatsu Enlightenment Masseuse who led me back to the massage room and got to work. We chatted travel, I complimented her on her English, she complimented me on my Japanese, I got a terrific massage (I made a point of requesting no deep tissue, please, as the last time I’d received one I’d actually awakened far worse off the following day) and, somewhere between my head and shoulder treatments, I dozed off again. The next thing I knew, a little bell went off and it was an hour and fifty minutes later!
Much relaxed, I returned to my room where I resisted the urge to nap and, instead, updated you, dear readers, on my Tokyo happenings. In a nutshell so far today – not much.
Tonight, I’m off to Kanda with yet another new Tokyo friend, Kay. Unlike the other restaurants I’ve visited, this one expressly forbids photography on its premises. Thus, I can only assume its clientele is mainly made up of spies and wanted criminals. Sounds exciting. I’ll report in tomorrow.