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tokyo, quietly.

25 Feb 2013

Before I left for Japan, everyone had warned me that someone as crowd-averse as I am (yes, yes, despite living in NYC) might find Tokyo a bit …. much.  And sure, there are spots where the hustle and bustle of commuters, tourists, and just general people-ness is indeed overwhelming.  But by and large, like any other big city, Tokyo is full of quietness too, what with all the crazy little alleyways and charming little storefronts, and what appears to be a national obsession with potted plants.  The Hasselblad was able to capture some of the epicness of the place; the Leica, on the other hand, was able to take in, a bit more discreetly, the smaller moments.  Here are some of my favorites.

Above: Potted plants!  Below: One cabbie offered free candy.  (And yes, all the cabs in Tokyo have doily seat covers.  For reals.)

Safety-helmetted children running through Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens:

Also part of the quietness: when you’ve got jetlag, you become much more familiar with dawn.  The combination of very faint blue tones, stillness, and silence are really quite something else.

So many great little streets and alleyways to wander around (and almost inevitably get lost in).

. . . . . . . . . .

Lest anyone have the impression that I failed to eat on this trip, let me assure you: I have never eaten so well in my life.  Not an overstatement, my friends.  Maybe even somehow something of an understatement.   Most of the meals weren’t documented on film — neither my Nikon FE or Pentax Spotmatic, with their food-closeup-capable 50mm lenses, made the trip — but I did manage to capture a few meals on the Leica.

On Wednesday night, we went to Amoroso, a great (well,  quite tiny) place run entirely by one guy, chef Maeda-san.  Seriously, it’s an 11-seater counter space and he alone preps, plates, and presents all of his Japanese-inflected Italian dishes, with exceptional wine pairings (he started out as a sommelier).  He’s amazing, and the food is spectacular.

On my last full day in town, friends had recommended that I go to Butagumi, a tonkatsu place specializing only in pork tonkatsu.  That’s right: all sorts of differently-raised pigs, from all over the world.  Their menu details some 20-odd possible kinds of pork (like Mangalitsa, something I think called the Super Tokyo, and many, many others) , and in pencil someone checks off which of the types of pork are available on that day.  Seeing as how it was my last day and all, I splurged (also not an understatement) and got the Iberico pork tonkatsu lunch.  It was fantastic: rich, juicy, with a great crispy outer shell of deep fried panko crumbs.  Ridiculously good.

What with Tokyo being full of these narrow alleyways and often no street names to speak of, it’s often difficult to know for sure if you’re headed in the right direction.  Butagumi has a great crescent-shaped window on the second floor, so as you approach the building and see the signature crescent moon, you know you’re where you ought to be.  You might even luck out, as I did, and get the table by the window:

So, yeah: Tokyo — full of people, and also full of little moments, all differently and fully savored.   I loved every minute of it.

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