Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Take Me Out to the Crowd

Well, already our second to last day in Japan, it was time to do the last minute shopping for gifts and souvenirs. But before a day of weaving through the thick crowds in Tokyo's
shopping districts, we needed to fuel up.
For breakfast I went out to a cafe and bought some bagels: pumpkin-raisin, edamame and parsley, 3 cheese and blueberry, and Yoko prepared a beautiful zucchini and cauliflower, golden and delicious from those brilliant Japanese egg yolks.
Then we headed out, and before commencing the shopping, headed over to the National Museum where Kathryn and Mom wanted to see a special exhibition of Buddhist art. I spent my time perusing the building of Japanese arts and saw cool stuff like this;

From there we went to a "flea market" that turned out to be really like
Harujuku without all the manga girls clogging the street, and was a gauntlet of vendors hawking everything from dried fish to designer leather belts. The only thing I bought was some pineapple on a stick, a chopstick, of course.
Next we trekked back to the Tskiji fish market where early in our trip we had spotted some good stuff, and gorged ourselves on pottery and chopsticks. Glutted and tired we headed home, snacked on some leftovers from the birthday party, and headed out for the main
event of the day; the Giants vs. the Tigers game at the Tokyo Dome!
Now don't get confused; I'm not talking the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers - I'm talking the Tokyo Giants and the Osaka Tigers. And I'm not talking American Baseball - I'm talking Japanese Baseball...
Sure, most of the rules and the level of play are the same, but the experience is a whole differen't ballgame (like that one?). First off there's the stadium grounds, called Tokyo Dome City; a crazy complex of the stadium, an amusement park, restaurants, stores and counteless other entertainment centers and businesses, and then the stadium itself which is an actual dome, and I gotta say that watching a baseball game inside is different than at an open-air field.
But that's not all; the fans are a completley different species as well. Sure, we have our fanatics and our leather lungs belting out insults or cheers after a few too many beers, or even the fat guys who paint their chests with letters and wave foam fingers or whathaveyou, but Japan has FANS, all of whome dress themselves up head-to-toe in their team's colors and come laden with paraphanelia ranging from bats to noisemakers to streamers to giant top hats... And to top that off, they sit together in sections based on their allegiance, pitting half the station in a cheering and banner waving match against the other. And these guys don't let up, at all! They cheer the WHOLE game, every time their team comes up to bat, for the WHOLE inning - the Tigers section even had it's own brass band playing anthems to liven their chants.
But this being a food blog, I would be remiss if i didn't mention the different food to be had at a Japanese baseball game than at an American one.
Forget peanuts and cracker jacks and think edamame and dried squid. Instead of chicken fingers, go for BBQ yakitori skewers or the katsudon (fried pork) sandwich. If that doesn't suit you, try the tokayaki octopus doughballs with brown sauce, a cup of pickled
vegetables, or even a bowl of potato salad (that's right folks, potato salad).

Missing the standard hotdog? Okay, you can have one, but get it topped with curry sauce and daikon relish at least, and then top it off with an ice cream burger; vanilla ice cream in a cake cone "bun".
Thirsty? Well you won't even have to leave your seat; just wave to one of the countless young, attractive, neon tennis-skirt clad girls roaming the stands with pony-keg backpacks filled with everything from beer to Shochu and lemon - and we're not talking the usual limited options of Budweiser or Budweiser - there are Asahi Girls, Kirin Girls, Suntory Girls, Yebisu Girls... you can even buy a Sake in a little can or get a seat-side cocktail mixed from the wandering Whiskey Girl.
Yes, sit back, relax, let the food and drinks come to you (because they will) and let the show go on, because here, in Japan, it's a hell of a Ballgame!

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