We rain dance back to the New Urban Space Time Machine and hit the french jazz button above the bed. Zou bisou bisou! Kick off the rain soaked kicks and take a break with a room beer. These cans have an amazing and simple feature that I wish the western hemisphere would adopt. There’s a little space under the beer tab that your thumb just slides right under for easy opening. This is an incredible upgrade for people with chewed to the stump fingernails like me.
We’d like to keep the sci-fi theme to the day going after that outrageously awesome spectacle at the Robot Restaurant. I remember seeing a Science Bar somewhere near by. Lab coats and drinks mixed in beakers and test tubes sounds fun. A quick search on the wizzles says nope, it’s closed today. Well maybe we could go back to the Golden Gai or… zzzzzzzzzzzzz…
…bzzzzzzt… bzzzzzzzzzt… whoa Tha Queebs and I totally crashed for a bit. We’re still not adjusted and also running off just hours of sleep in the past 2 days. I wake up to the vibro-buzzing of my phone. McBurger is messaging me with real-time intel from the secure Agency line.
He’s written me an encoded, top priority message entitled “Adventure Detective Chow”. There is no intro description, just a small list of things to fork plow in Japan. The first entry reads as follows:
CoCo Ichibanya: Japanese curry is a bit different than other curries but it’s the bomb, and this chain does it better than any of the others I tried. They have a scale from 1-7 (or 1-10 maybe?) and anything over halfway is serious business. There are about 100 different combinations of ingredients, I recommend the pork cutlet & mushroom. (You might’ve even run into this chain in Taipei, I saw a few of them around there.) Keep an eye out for this logo:
Looks like we’ve got a dinner mission! We’re on the case…
Mission: Find Coco Ichibanya
We suit up and umbrella out into the night. One of these curry joints is literally on the next street. Mission accomplished!
It’s slightly nicer than your typical fast food style place but has that same basic feel. We grab a table and a nice server drops us English menus to peruse. Damn, McBurger wasn’t kidding there is a bazillion combinations of things to build your curry dinner from. Here’s how to order:
On McBurger’s recommendation I choose the pork cutlet and mushrooms. I biff some corn and cheese in the mix. The server talks me down from spice level 6. I’m pretty sure I can handle a 6 regardless of how much their cute little heat square mascot is suffering in the description. But she is giving me the polite face for don’t you do it. Fine. I go with a spice level 4. We get some Kirin to wash it down with. Feeling pretty peppy after that nap actually.
Well McBurger is right, this is some good chow. Quick, cheap, tasty and customize-able. I could have totally done the spice level 6! I knew it. My nose isn’t even running. Eyes aren’t sweating. Spice level 4 didn’t come close to that razor thin line between delicious and completely ruining my meal that I like to ride. Maybe it’s for the best. All in all Coco curry was a good recommendation.
Next mission: Find Watering Hole
Our friend Arturo posted a few decent looking craft beer spots on my facebook page when he found out we were in Tokyo. One called Watering Hole looks walkably close.
It’s a slight jaunt through the dark rain and a totally dead industrial area of Shinjuku. We pass through some road construction and spot it across the street. Still open, sweet. We put our K umbrella in a bucket and head inside.
Decent lil craft beer spot with a dozen handles and half as many patrons. There are some Trip Hop tunes filling the airspace with ambient groove a la Massive Attack and Co.. We sit down and they give us a warm towel to wash our hands with. This keeps happening at places, it must be a Japanese tradition.
Watering Hole end up being a really cool spot. A lot of California beers on the list but also some things I hadn’t tried yet.
We get a flight for Narcopiggy. I notice the bartender is wearing a Hitachino Nest shirt. We had debated making a trek East of Tokyo to check out their brewery but decided there was so much to do here already and then we’ll be heading in the other direction. The bartender says he won the shirt there doing…..something? He says it’s a fun place. Maybe we’ll consider it after all. He gives us a taste of their lager since we hadn’t put it on the flight.
The guy sitting next to us is from Atlanta. He’s drawing a tiger in his notepad. He only seems partially interested in conversation so we just leave him to it. When he gets up to go to the bathroom Queenie tells me that he drew a bunch of mushrooms on the other page and then started putting faces on them. Little mushroom guys possibly fighting a tiger? That’s rad.
The bartenders are really engaging and want to know what we’re doing, how we heard about the place, etc…. We tell them about the recommendation and they seem really interested in sending us to more craft beer spots. Yeah, for sure!
We tell them we’re going to Kyoto and also Hiroshima. Hitachino Dude grabs a pink notepad and starts writing down other places to get craft beer at. I mention that the notepad is kind of funny and he says it’s from an old… tv… thing? A show? A commercial? Yes! Commercial. There’s a classic saying on it apparently but I never do get what it is.
He brings the owner over and they discuss some good beer tasting options. They also give us an entire craft beer map of Kyoto and circle some things on it too. Hell yeah, we’ve got an awesome new mission now!
Secret Mission Acquired:
Craft Brew Tour of Japan!
Ok next question: What the hell is that weird figure on the bar? Hitachino Dude says it’s the mascot from Osaka. I guess a famous artist, Taro Okamoto, made a giant sculpture called the Tower of the Sun for the Expo/World’s Fair that was being held in Osaka back in ’70. Since then it has basically turned into the symbol for the city and, of course, made into a mascot. Because everything in the country needs it’s own mascot.
There’s a cute girl at the end of the bar eating french fries with chop sticks. I’ve never seen that before. Queenie tells me that she used to have a roommate that was a clean freak and he ate potato chips with chop sticks. Keeps the fingies nice and clean. I’m going to start eating pizza with chop sticks.
The only other white dude in the place yells down at us from the far side of the room, “Hey! Where are you guys from?”, “I’m from Canada, she’s from Taiwan. We live in California.”, “Canada? me too! I’m from Winnipeg”, “Ahh Winterpeg, I’m from Nova Scotia.”
I don’t think people from Winnipeg actually refer to it as ‘Winterpeg’ or enjoy that reference but most people who’ve been there agree it’s an accurate descriptor for the city’s fucking cold as fuck winters. This dude is unphased and rolls onward asking questions about our trip and plans. He basically concurs that the things we have lined up are in fact the right things to hit and wishes us good travels.
We wrap up our tasting and a few more beers and decide to head back to the space time machine. We thank the bartenders for their time and the new craft beer mission. They’ve been really swell and Watering Hole was another great recommendation.
We take a different stretch of pavement on the way back and end up finding another cool section of Shinjuku that has a ton of bars and restaurants. Everything is closed given that it’s late Sunday evening. Ohhhh wait… we find a sign for… Bar Soundgarden? Looks like it closes at.. 29 o’clock? That’s not even an o’clock! I’ve only heard of there being 24 o’clocks. 29 o’clock? Isn’t that beyond the wheel? Does that mean 5 in the morning? Hmmmm maybe they are open, we’d better investigate.
Bonus Mission: Bar SoundGarden
Bar Soundgarden proves difficult to find (doesn’t help that I’m searching with my good eye closed). By crooked steps we enter a room a thousand years wide. In the right rear corner there’s a rhinosaur in a rusty cage eating the bones of birds. We cross through the superunknown and stumble upon a place called Shiget’s. You want a bar full of shits and giggles: Shiget’s!
For shits sakes forget Shigets, it’s closed! Keep it off my wave. We finally find Bar SoundGarden down on the upside in the depths of some apartment complex but it’s closed as well with a lengthy note on the door. Damn! I was so curious. 29 o’clock? I think the note reads that there is some family emergency, someone fell on black days or some such urgent divergency.
C’mon, it’s Bar Soundgarden. Clearly this knob should go to eleven:
Well that’s a bummer. Outshined, Queenie and I decide to hit the Family Mart for a few cans of night caps just in case every other bar on the way back is closed.
Hot drink section? That’s badass.
We get some ice cream treats from the cooler too. Mainly because the packaging makes it look like you’re eating the delicious heads of some amazing little society.
Right next to NUTS there is a bar open! We take our chocolate helmets inside and grab a drink from the girl there. Soju green tea. There’s only one other person in here. I think he was working here earlier and is now just catching pokemon at the bar. This is a cozy little place complete with a comfy seating area and fireplace. Cool little local spot. It might be called.. Diningbar?
These little chocolate helmets are pretty good!
Classy spot. I go to the bathroom and get completely fooled by the space aged super toilet again. Seriously, how do you flush this thing? Ohhhh there’s a whole cut out of the wood over the back beside the kleenex hiding the button. Wtf, not fair Diningbro.
We finish up our drinks and it’s basically closing time (29 o’clock already?). We boogey across the rainy street back to NUTS and pack it in. Another big day tomorrow, we’ve got to get up and switch hostels over to a place in Ryogoku which is closer to Akihabara and Asakusa where there’s the Skytree and the oldest temple in the city, Senso-ji. Still lots of Tokyo to discover. We’d better make sure Narco is nice and dry