Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Korea Town in Shinjuku

We had been talking for quite some time about going to the Korea Town in Shinjuku. I guess there is more than one in the Tokyo area, but the Shinjuku one seems the most famous. Shinjuku means "new inn/lodging" and gets its name from early history when it was a crossroads for the first cross country roads that connected the major cities.

Joan had talked with the Takashi's, the farmers she works with, and they proposed that we all go out for a dinner. Both of their daughters were home for the holidays. The elder is a university student here in Tokyo, and the other is a high school exchange student in Canada. Neither Takashi-san nor See-chan had been there, so it was an adventure for all of us.

We met at our newly remodeled train station and headed out. It was really nice to have Japanese friends with us as they could translate both the language and culture. Everything is so much more understandable. It is also an excellent motivator for studying Japanese!

From the Shinjuku train station (one of the busiest in the world with over 3 million people passing through a day), we walked underground for quite some distance, passing through Isetan, a massive, very high-end department store. New Year's is the cultural equivalent for Christmas in Japan, so families get together for parties and gifts are exchanged. Japan is already a gift-giving country, so at New Year's, it is even crazier. It was chaos in the store - overwhelming. Boxes of beautiful arranged food are very popular. However, sometimes they look better than they taste...

We wandered over to Korea Town and stopped in a Korean grocery store, admiring all the strange foods. See-chan and I bought a small drink box of black sesame soy milk and a bag of spicy and sweet snacks. We all tried them out on the sidewalk.

After walking around for awhile, the family chose a basement restaurant and the eating began!
There were way too many dishes to describe them all. Let's just say they were delicious and spicy! See-chan does not do well with spicy food, so she was dying throughout the whole meal.

After dinner, we walked back toward Shinjuku station, passing through Kabukicho, a famous "red light" district in Japan. It is a swirl of neon signs and people, full of thousands of restaurants, strip shows, hostess bars, massage parlors, and love hotels - quite a sight to see.
We finished off by swinging through "Shomben Yokocho," quaintly translated as "Piss Alley," a
narrow warren of alleys with tiny izakayas (drinking restaurants) serving table top grilled meats. The Takashi daughters were not done yet with eating, so we stopped for some grilled chicken
skin, meatballs, pork, and green peppers stuffed with hamburger. We finally dragged ourselves to the station and onto the train.

It was a whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes! When you come for a visit, we'll take you there!

If you want to see a short youtube video, try this link:

No comments: