At first pass, Tokyo and Seattle seem like polar opposites. I mean, where in the Pacific Northwest can you grab a healthy onigiri (triangular rice ball frequently wrapped in seaweed and filled with fish or pickled vegetable) on your way to work at a 7-11? Or when was the last time the majority of the rush hour crowd was clad in suit and tie?
But during this most recent visit, here are things about Tokyo that reminded me of Seattle:
1) Bike talk - A serious conversation about knife buying in the restaurant equipment district of Kappabashi somehow shifts into a fervent discussion about bikes, where the owner whisks us away to his house four blocks down a narrow alley to show us his bicycle collection.
A few differences, though:
- Did you know riding a tandem is illegal in Tokyo?
- Cyclists can ride on the sidewalk and frequently do.
2) Fashion removes any language or cultural barriers. In this case, nails. I met Yumi at a bunny cafe in the funky neighborhood of Harajuku. At first, there is a polite quietness between the two us, until she compliments me on my bright green nail polish. This immediately leads to a barrage of easy conversation between us ranging from Japanese pop culture to a quick Japanese language lesson.
3) The small, artisan food movement is alive and well. At Coco Donut, an artisan donut shop in the trendy Aoyama district (my favorite shopping for small boutiques), the staff, passionate about what they do, only makes up to 100 donuts per day. They meticulously use a mixture of Hokkaido flour and soy milk and patiently wait for the yeast to rise.
The entire production crew all agree it is the best donuts we have ever consumed.
4) Noodles, noodles, noodles: Thick earthy meaty soba noodles, cold rice noodles, wheat ramen noodles.
5) We all dig pancakes
6) It can rain in the summer. In Japan, umbrellas seem to prevail over Arc’teryx rain jackets, due to the heat and humidity.
7) Love for seafood – Lots of sardines, salmon, tuna, roe and Japanese eel
8 ) Beard Love. One thing that is universal regardless of where I travel in the world- Women are drawn to a fluffy long beard.
10) Ichiro fans in the hizzie