Toast and Jam

March 23, 2012

I started waking up at 5am but was so exhausted I couldn't move.
Tim woke up around 6am singing "Mr. Roboto bring me some nachos."
We opted to try breakfast at one of the three restaurants in our swanky business hotel but the only vegan options were toast, salad, coffee, and kiwi.  I think it cost 100,000,000 yen.  Tokyo is expensive.

My fatal flaw. My Achilles heel. 
When I travel, I pretty much can't stop being hungry. And when it hits, it hits hard. And I need food now. Right now. Which is almost always problematic. Vegan food on the spot in countries where nothing is labeled in English and everything looks like it came from the deepest depths of the ocean is not an easy find. So here I am at the National Museum, in desperate need of food with only an apple to curb the pangs (did you ever notice that eating apples when you are hungry makes you hungrier?). What to do? I left Tim to hunt for food.  The main cafe looked like they didn't have anything suitable for my needs and since the women behind the counter didn't speak English, I sat at a table and sulked.  I then noticed a long chain of vending machines (Japan LOVES vending machines) and went to scout it out.  Still nothing I could understand so I bought a hot tea.  Well, I bought a cold tea, but not on purpose.  

I put on a smile and walked around the Museum to find Tim.  And then walked around again, and up, and down, and completely around.  Where did he go? I sat on a bench in a tiny vestibule with large glass doors looking out onto the garden.  The walls were clad in metallic tones that complimented the gray sky and the tinniness of falling rain.
Tim was finally hungry too and we sought out a well known vegan ramen restaurant, T's Tan Tan, located in the heart of Tokyo Station.  Tokyo Station is a city within a city; world within a world; boundless, endless, and completely flooded with people.  As our history here has already shown, we walked in circles trying to find the restaurant before giving up.  The woman at a help kiosk spoke enough English to understand "T's Tan Tan," whipped out a map and drew us a path.  We found the restaurant, a bright sign in English at the entrance and a menu completely in Japanese.  What could have been a complicated interaction proceeded smoothly, thanks to the generous use of pictures in menus. Since everything was vegan, we just pointed and were served.  The ramen was amazing (twirl and slurp), as was the pudding, and the fake chicken tofu gluten nugget things.
Everyone (minus Ashley) arrived that night and we shared our war stories of time travel exhaustion.  Tim, Al, and I went to get dinner at the Vegan Healing Cafe in Shibuya.  The website said it was open until 9pm with last orders at 8pm. After getting lost for awhile (the map on their website was wrong, really, it wasn't our fault) we got there at 8:01. Closed. We stood in the rain and laughed. We didn't map out another restaurant before we left the hotel and I didn't bring the paper city map. Al suggested that we ask the guy cleaning up inside if there is another vegan restaurant around.  I hadn't even noticed anyone inside and before I could weigh in on the question, Al knocked on the the window.  The guy opened the door and Tim tried to ask if he knew of another vegan restaurant in the neighborhood. The man didn't speak any English and Tim does all sorts of wild gesturing. The man smiled, said "ok ok ok" and motioned us inside.  He scrambled to set up a table as we awkwardly approached the chairs, uncertain if we should ruin his evening for the sake of our grumbling bellies.

I genuinely think he thought Tim was pleading with him to let us out of the rain.  But we ate fried soy meat and dal curry, and as much as I wanted to, Tim told me I wasn't allowed to ask for dessert. Boo. 
On our way back to the hotel, we walked through Shibuya Crossing, the busiest place in Tokyo? Japan? The Universe?  Based on a tip from the Lonely Planet Guide, we went to the second floor of the Starbucks in a building overlooking the intersection and watched colorful orbs of umbrellas fly across the street.

shibuya crossing