Luckily, we were able to meet up with an old college friend of mine during our time in Japan, as well. We met Masayuki at the Kagurazaka Station, which is located in a charming, European feeling neighborhood. Kagurazaka is an area known for its French population and its sloping street lined with many cafes, shops and French eateries. Masayuki, a Tokyo native, took us to a lovely cafe for some tea. It was a very windy day again, but the cafe staff were nice enough to bring out blankets for everyone waiting outside in the chilly conditions. (Service — one thing I noticed the Japanese are very good at.)
From there, we headed over to Akihabara, popular for its diehard anime and manga fan culture, as well as its many electronic shops. We didn’t linger long, mainly just walked around a bit and explored an arcade full of video games and near-R-rated anime figurines and prizes.
Not far from the busy entertainment area, we came across the Kanda Myojin Shrine, a Shinto shrine with almost 1,300 years of history. According to the sign at the entrance, the Kanda Shrine is the tutelary shrine of all Edo (the former name of Tokyo) and has been designated a National Cultural Property. Enshrined here are the guardian deities for 108 Tokyo neighborhoods, and prayers to these deities are “particularly efficacious for family happiness, marriage, prosperity and success in business, recovery from illness, and protection against accidents and disasters.” If you’re looking for a shrine that isn’t super crowded with tourists, this is one of those. It was small, tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, and we got to see some kind of traditional prayer ceremony being performed.
The highlight of the evening was definitely dinner. A very thoughtful, elegant dinner Masayuki planned for us. I wish I knew the name of the restaurant! Will was excited when I’d told him earlier what we were having — sukiyaki. I had no idea what it was, and then he told me. All I heard come out of his mouth was, “you dip your meat in raw egg”…what?!
From the minute we stepped into the restaurant, I felt under-dressed. What a classy joint. The attention to detail, the amazing service, wow. Our meal seemed to have endless courses, from an assortment of very fresh raw fish, to various teas, to the main course, to soup and rice with egg after the main course, to dessert. Not to mention the delicious sake. For the main sukiyaki course, they hand you a bowl of raw egg and then proceed to cook an assortment of vegetables and thin-sliced beef at your table. When the beef is mostly cooked, they place it in your bowl of raw egg. I’ve always said I’m willing to try something new at least once. I’m not keen on the idea of eating raw egg, but…here I went! Verdict? I enjoyed it! The dish was so flavorful, that it made me forget I was eating raw egg. Really, I just had to stop thinking about it. It helped that there were veggies and rice to accompany it. All in all, a very fresh, decadent meal. We ended our last night in Tokyo with our bellies and hearts full.
Up next: Exploring Ueno Park and views of Mt. Fuji from the skies