We stopped off at a cafe with an impressive display of unique purses, all belonging to the owner.
We stopped off at a cafe with an impressive display of unique purses, all belonging to the owner.

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I stopped to ask this guy for directions, but he didn't speak English.
I stopped to ask this guy for directions, but he apparently didn't understand English.

I bid a fond farewell to the life I used to know.
I bid a fond farewell to the life I used to know.

In case you're wondering, the English instructions are even more complicated.
In case you're wondering, the English instructions are even more complicated.

Right through here and don't forget your ticket if you're every planning on leaving the station to resume your life on the surface.
Right through here and don't forget to reclaim that ticket if you're ever planning on resuming your life up on the surface.

Taking the Tokyo subway.  Me and the molemen.
Taking the Tokyo subway. Me and the molemen.

Watch your step!
Watch your step!
And right this way...
And right this way...

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What's cookin'?
What's cookin'?

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MOS Burger burger
MOS Burger burger
Every time I come to Tokyo and walk by this area of Ginza, there is always a huge line-up of middle-aged people waiting to purchase tickets from a kiosk.  For what, I'm not sure exactly.
Every time I come to Tokyo and walk by this area of Ginza, there is always a huge line-up of middle-aged people waiting to purchase tickets from a kiosk. For what, I'm not exactly sure.
While they waited, this fellow would walk up and down the line, entertaining/haranguing them.
While they waited, this fellow would walk up and down the line, entertaining/haranguing them.
You call this a line up?  Why, in my day, lines used to be ten people deep and wind all the way around the block!  Twice!
You call this a line up? Why, in my day, lines used to be ten people deep and wind all the way around the block! Twice!

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.

39 thoughts on “December 1, 2008: Tokyo Travel Day #9, My Big Subway Adventure, Checking out the Iron Chef’s Dark Digs, and I Take the Day Off

  1. “The doors opened and the same guy who’d escorted us was there, awaiting our arrival.”

    Maybe he has a twin brother. JK.

    Sorry if this sounds stereo-typical but have you seen any restaurants where all the waiters were robots? JK again.

  2. Hello Joe,

    So this is the third date with Jessica and she travels over an hour each time to go out with you? I think she likes you. 😀

    The subway sounds hilarious. Reminded me of The Amazing Race. You’d do well with the food challenges.

    I think we ought to make a medic-alert bracelet for you with fruit on it and you could show it to the waiter at each restaurant. No more disappointment.

    I’m finding the Tales of a curious Canadian in Tokyo fascinating. Looking forward to tomorrow’s tale Dining with the Mob.

    Cheers, Chev

    p.s. drink more water

  3. I am not too sure which is the more terrifying – the underground system in Tokyo or the hairy rat that didn’t speak English.

    I hope that you are doing some Christmas shopping whilst you are there – and buying gifts for Fondy an the furrybairns.

  4. Ah, you have discovered the reason why I find those high-end restaurants over-rated. The portions are too tiny!

  5. I really, really enjoyed today’s morsel. (Not that I haven’t enjoyed the other days, this one just tickled me for some reason.)

    Especially the “morlock” shot.

    I would be one of those lost souls living in the subway forever (& never getting any Japanese ice cram or matcha cake). It’s a wonder I make it out of the parking garage without handing over my firstborn sometimes!

    I think I need a massage…..

  6. Joe! You are such a girly! Purses??! 😆 I wonder what Benedicte and Claire would say about that?!

    Morlocks? 😆

    Skimpy undies?? 😆 (Not sure if you’re bragging or not, but still…the mental images THAT conjured up rivaled those of Edward Sleazyhands strutting around the hive in a leopard print thong… 😯 Not sure I’ll ever be able to look at you straight in your crazy person eyes ever again! )

    This was quite an amusing entry to wake up to! Thanks for the laughs!

    das

  7. Hi Joe

    Just wondered if you have time to try the Great Japanese whisky as Advertised by Sir Sean Connery i think it is called ‘Fu Yuk”

    Sam

  8. Having put down some 25 different desserts over the course of the day

    Reading about your culinary exploits has me wondering when I’ll be hearing/reading the following news report:

    Canadian tourist in Tokyo explodes into gory mess following latest lunch! Authorities baffled! Film at 11

  9. Hi Mr M!

    Well, you can’t be in Tokyo without at least trying YAMAZAKI Single Malt 18-Year Old Whisky as oroduced by our good friends Suntory (CF: Lost in Translation) A pal of mine (who visits Tokyo regularly…in fact you just missed him – he stays in The Penisula!) brought me back a bottle of same a couple of years back – WOW talk about blowing your head off – both barrels…..any-hoo, being Irish, we can appreciate good whisky makers (note the absence of the “e” in whisky)

    Continued good wishes to you on your Dining Exploits!

    Bet ya Marty G wishes he could have gone now!!!

    Shirt’n’Tie

  10. Coucou joseph! Sa va ?
    Moi oui trés bien, j’ai de trés bonne note en ce moment au lycée, donc c’est cool =)!

    Je vois que vous vous faites encore bien plaisir =) tant mieux, a force sa doit coûter tout cela?? vous avez du économiser toute l’année pour faire ce voyage. Ofaite dans combient de temp vous rentrez au Canada?

    Quoi, on vous fait des massage??..ahh je vous voit bien avec une petite serviette blanche juste a la taille et….blurppp non je m’égare, c’est bon je range ma libido lol XD

    Aller passer une bonne journée! Bisou

  11. Joseph, your stories have not disappointed me yet. I was definately laughing hysterically at the underwear, too funny.

    The subway looks clean and well kept and doesn’t look too crazy other than the whole ticket system.

  12. Since you love food, have you ever considered buying a restaurant and thus share your passion with others? You could choose the menu, meet a whole bunch of people and have your own atmosphere…maybe your little figurines could finally leave the Bridge studios…or not ! lol
    Anyway, you’ve probably been asked that before but I know a nice institution for sale in southern France 🙂 Traditionnal french cuisine, with lots of sun, french bulledogs and ederlies…what’s more to ask for ? 😉

    oh, what flavors were the Hermes Macarons ? they looked yummy… tried the olive oil one ? different but good.

  13. Having to retrive your ticket. Sounds like our transit system here in Vancouver Joe. Took me a few times when I started riding the buses to remember that!!!

  14. Joe, Could you put up the address for the studio, so I can send the chestnuts. Fresh from my sisters chestnut farm in Gainesville Fl. Home of the Florida Gators! She uses them in stuffing and cheesecake- Wonderful! I’ll send directions on how to cook them , too! Have a fun and safe rest of your vacation! Anne Teldy, did you get my letter? Contact me.
    sheryl

  15. What does your work out consist of?? With the amount of food you consume, it’s incredible you aren’t overly obese with 5 chins!!

  16. Good Lord, man, I can navigate Tokyo subways, in heels, drunk off my ass, and still catch the trains to Yokosuka before they stop running. Ha, I say, ha! (cough (wimp) cough)

    I’ve been catching up … it all sounds fabulous. Even the mixed-up okonomiyaki. Much better than a Thanksgiving meal without pie. Sigh. Family, can’t live with ’em, can’t shoot them during the deer hunt and leave them in the hills. Sugarless pumpkin cake squares, thumbprint cookies, non-fat banana cake and two kinds of faux marshmallow fluff do NOT replace pies as traditional Turkey Day dessert. Sigh. Since when did going to Wal-Mart replace family activities like driving down to the farm to visit Uncle John and Aunt Cleoris? Sigh.

    Yes, I have an Aunt Cleoris. Hubby’s kin. Sigh.

  17. MR. Mallozzi I know that this isn’t a response to your trip, but I just wanted to give a comment on casting for Stargate universe if you don’t mind.
    I know that you will be filming SGU in Vancouver, so I thought that I would suggest some great vancouver actors that I am a fan of for the roles.
    I saw the Character Breakdown for SGU at moviehole.net.

    Colonel Everett-Warren Christie (Very Talented and he would bring on some female fans because of his looks, he was very talented on October Road),

    Tamara Jon-Crystal lowe (she’s Asian, hot and strong),

    Chloe Carpenter- Chelan Simmons (she’s a Sci Fi Queen, she’s hot and sexy, and an incredible actress),

    Eli Hitchcock- Casey Beddow(perfect genius, he is a really good actor, very funny).

    I really hope you consider these people for your cast, I think that they are all very talented and perfect for the roles for SGU. Thanks so much for your time Mr. Mallozzi

    By the way your blog is so entertaining, keep up the great work.

  18. Glad to hear that you didn’t get caught in the catacombs that are Tokyo’s subways. At least you tried it, right? Any plans to brave their bus system?

  19. There’s a chef opening a fancy restaurant in Vancouver next week. In his newspaper interview, he said he’s cooked for pretty much every US President and has a whole set of restaurants in New York, but Vancouver is his most terrifying food-challenge yet. I think you’re getting a rep as a food critic!

    SG:U was asking my department for a science consultant today. Have I let you down? I’m heartbroken! 😛

  20. Since I haven’t had a chance to comment or really view your blog in about a week (!), I just wanted to make a quick couple of comments before I’m back to my job search.

    1) So glad you finally hit MosBurger. Hope you liked it as much as I did.

    2) BananaFish (in Japan) is a shojyo (girl’s) manga that is *extremely* popular.

    So, hope to catch up on all I’ve missed tonite. TTFN – !!!

  21. The “take the ticket or forever be stuck in the bowels of our city” thing seems to becoming the norm for subway systems. For the sake of your readers I’m glad you managed to navigate the subway system. It’s a distant, but still pleasant memories to the days I got to go to school using the Tokyo subways…
    It sounds like you treated yourself to a well deserved break in the form of the massage. You are a wise man to avoid any but the “Swedish” massage, since it seems all other forms are designed to make people pay for the privilege of being tortured by having their deep muscles mauled. Thanks for the report, and just one request. Can we get a bathtub tour to go with the toilet video? Thank you.

  22. Hey Joe!

    So, you finally got to try the Tokyo subway eh? I was wondering when you were going to, and was looking forward to reading your experience as I’ve read about other experiences from people in regards to their subway. Thank goodness you got out so you could give us this blog entry and continue to write for Stargate. 😀

    As always, the food looks amazing. That burger looks very good, makes me want to reach into the screen, grab it, and take a bite out of it. 😛

    Enjoy day 10, and thanks as always!

    – Enzo Aquarius

  23. The Door Guy — either a clone or maybe a Replicator that got away.

    The Subway Levels — one more and you probably would have come up in Time Square!!

    BTW, have you checked the Canadian news online? Looking like Dion is going to be PM!!!? The other parties are ganging up against the Govt. And the TSX took a major a$$ kicking too… So you might want to keep track of what’s going on over here between meals…

  24. Morlocks ha ha ha that was on t.v. yesterday. Nothing like watching “The Time Machine” ridiculously hung over.

    Don’t be afraid of the subway, next you should try the tube which has a similar system and the New York subway which is not as sketchy as one might think.

  25. @mr M

    as post previously. The Montreal subway uses basically the same type of ticketing system as in Tokyo. They just switch over to the current new system.

    And you miss all the political upheaval in Ottawa . The right honourable Stephen Dion appears to became Prime Minister of Canada after the next confidence vote in the House of Commons. The soon to be ex-Prime Minister Harper manage to united the combine opposition parties over some political buffoonery (including the BQ!!). Of the most interest is the restoration of funding to the arts & culture as a goal of the new coalition government.

    I hope you are having some work out after the gourmet avalanche. Enjoy the last few days of gourmet excursion.

  26. Today’s entry was particularly funny. I don’t know how you can consume as much food as you do. After the first two or three deserts I’d have to be pushed out of the place in a wheelbarrow. I have to say, the undie description was absolutely hilarious!!! I haven’t slept in three days and that laugh made things a little better.
    ~Amber (anxiously awaiting the next entry)

  27. Hi Joe could you tell me what ‘degustation’ means please. I have hear dthe term on Top Chef, but I am still none the wiser.

  28. cat4444 wrote: “Canadian tourist in Tokyo explodes into gory mess following latest lunch! Authorities baffled! Film at 11.”

    😆

    Ewwwww!! That’s almost a worse visual than Joe in skimpy underpants! (Sorry, Joe. We love ya, just not in *that* way. Paint yourself green and don a long white wig, and then maybe we’d be talkin’… 😉 )

    das

  29. Seeing that photo of the ticket kiosk reminded of if this video I found while researching learning abilities in primates:

  30. Oh, you poor thing! No one warned you about subways? My first experience with one was when I went to London the first time. I actually enjoyed taking the tube. Now, those in Italy? Not quite as much. Try losing your companion because people won’t let you off and being lost in Rome because the metro operators only speak Italian. Ugh. Of course you go prepared, learning the language and all. I’m not that smart.lol But every subway I’ve been on you have to keep the slip and if you go outside the district in London, you have to pick up another ticket!

    Sorry about the somewhat disappointing dinner at the Iron Chef’s. Hope tonights was better!

  31. Sherwood Forest Maiden
    Hi Joe could you tell me what ‘degustation’ means please. I have heard the term on Top Chef, but I am still none the wiser.

    The Thesaurus Legend states:
    Noun – degustation – taking a small amount into the mouth to test its quality; “cooking was fine but it was the savoring that he enjoyed most”

    Mika … SG:U was asking my department for a science consultant today. Have I let you down? I’m heartbroken!

    Awe… Mika, I hope they don’t over look you, but I have a feeling that Brad and Rob are making those decisions. I know Joe must respect your work other wise he would not have asked you to guess blogged back in September.

    Keeping up good thoughts, may be they just assumed you be the choice of your department, given your experience on SGA. I hope so!

    Cheers
    Patricia Lee

  32. I’m not sure what’s worse, skimpy disposable underwear (and yes, thank you for the mental image) or the type I seem to get which makes me feel like I’m wearing an oversized nappy. It’s rather demeaning and quite difficult to relax when your dignity was left in the change room.

    In one of the resorts in Thailand we stayed at the “Wellness Centre” had Coi throughout. So, so relaxing watching those guys in your oversized nappy.

    When you think about things such as the waiter sprinting up the stairs to meet you do you find you smile openly?

    When I have a “Scrubs” moment sometimes I laugh audibly and cause those around me to think I’m a little loopy(er). Yay to being blonde. There would be so much more explaining to do if I was a brunette.

  33. They make you wear sheer underwear? Wow. I can only assume they’ve got secret cameras stationed around the place and are preparing blackmail files on everyone who goes there, just in case.

  34. @ ishshahpat:
    Thanks for the vote of confidence! The comment was intended as a tease — they originally hired me to for alternate universes; how could they know I’m also a rock jock? Seeing the notice made me laugh and Joe does make it so easy to tease him with a comments section on his blog.

  35. Oooh, subway adventures =)
    I’m more excited about the massage, though! I could really use a massage right about now… any sort would do, for me! All that bus travel to and from home for Thanksgiving really killed my muscles!!!

  36. It’s dawned on me that you never discuss any fine wines accompanying your meals, or the perfect cordial to go with your luscious desserts. You don’t imbibe? or just aren’t that interested? Seems odd, given your gourmet tastes.

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