December 15, 2012

Nice Melons

Another day done and two more goals to check off my list!

My first mission today was to find $100 watermelons, and while I was technically not able to complete that goal, what I found was so much better. A quick Google search last night returned a number of articles about the world's most expensive produce shop: Sembikiya. I did my research and found that this 170 year old company operates 14 stores around Japan, with the most decadent of them residing in Nihonbashi. I had my destination.

How decadent, you ask?

Not your average produce shop

$25 per apple
$75 and $100 grapes. Grape to meet you.
Have you ever seen more perfect strawberries? For $113 they can be yours!
From L to R: $251, $188, $150. How they know that one is $100 more than the other is beyond me.
The owner of the store says "$150 for a melon? I call that a bargain"
$75 watermelons. So close! But can you imagine the cost of a regular sized one? 
It took a great amount of restraint to not purchase this $31 bottle of grape juice. It's not even wine, yet! 
80% of the purchases are gifts, which means 20% of the customers are ballers
For hundreds of years it has been a Japanese custom to give fruit as a gift, and while this store started off as a bargain fruits and vegetables shop, it has clearly grown into something that you could really only find in Tokyo.

There was no way I was going to walk away empty handed. I surveyed the refrigerated displays until I found the $12 pears. I opted for these over the $6 tangerines because I felt like a pear is a much more complex fruit as it's equal parts taste, texture and fragrance. I of course didn't think this yesterday, but I had to justify spending $12 on a single piece of fruit.

I stashed my bounty into my backpack as I wanted to share the experience with Catherine and Lizzy, who I was meeting up with later in the afternoon. I have never been more careful of how I handle my backpack. For weeks I've been carrying my laptop, sunglasses and occasionally iPad in my bag, but it wasn't until the pear that I became hyper aware of people bumping into me on the subway or my carelessness as I tossed the pack next to my seat. Precious cargo on board, please drive carefully.

A particularly beautiful sight as I made my way through Tokyo
As I was waiting for the girls in Harajuku I found a café called "Café FOB" that seemed to only cater to French people. How appropriate a name! I finished my curry (which is the food I have grown to love here in Japan) and found the girls. Our first stop, before getting dinner and then seeing our friend Shu's show, was a rabbit café! Goal 48 is "play with a kitten at a cat café" which are just what they sound like: cafés where cats roam around to play with. But you know what, I hate cats! What a shitty goal. And also, I imagine dining at a cat café is a lot like dining at a crazy cat lady's house. No thank you! So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that there are a few rabbit cafés. Now that's something I'm into.

Ra.a.g.f. stands for Rabbits and grow fat. Your guess is as good as mine
The entrance looked like someone's apartment
We found the place using Google maps (which has finally been released again on the iPhone) and ascended the steps of what looked like an apartment building. We found the door above, tried to enter, but much to our horror it was locked. I figured we just needed to ring the doorbell so as not to carelessly open the door and let the bunnies out, but the ding-dongs fell on deaf ears. As it turns out, the bunny union has a strict "no work on Fridays" clause in their contracts. But I ask you, what sort of business, especially one catering to tourists, is closed on Fridays?! Is it the Sabbath?

Incredibly disappointed. Had tos troke Catherine's Rabbit-fur beanie but it just wasn't the same.
The girls pretended to be rabbits, which cheered me up a bit
I honestly thought today was going to be a three-goal day. I also thought I'd be able to share hundreds of photos of me surrounded by bunnies. I even sensed a new profile picture, but that may be going too far. I certainly could imagine the tens of "likes" I'd receive on Instagram though... This was really an upsetting blow. It was going to take a lot to lift me from my lack-of-bunny funk.

We left Harajuku and walked towards Meguro. Well, the girls walked, I sulked part of the way and then moped the rest of the way. Where were the bunnies, if not at the café? Do they really commute to work? You'd think they lived at their place of business, no? I couldn't get my mind off those furry little creatures and Catherine and Lizzy's sweaters weren't helping.

My disappointment slowly turned to hunger though, and just in time for what may have become my new favorite restaurant in Tokyo, if for nothing else that it looks EXACTLY like the Apple Pan in West LA:

This restaurant is fantastic! They only have one thing on the menu: breaded, fried pork with a side of rice, miso, and cabbage. Yum, yum yum! You walk in, tell them how many are in your party and then wait until people clear from the bar. Once you sit, your food is ready. The rice and cabbage are endless. Om nom nom.

Step 1: Bread the pork
Step 2:  Drop it in one of three large cauldrons of hot oil
One gentleman makes sure it's cooked to perfection and then hands it off to be sliced
Well fed and happy
I loved this couple eating in their matching sunglasses
And then I turn around and they had been replaced with this couple in their matching sweaters!

Like I said, today was a two-goal day since we finished the night at a bar in Shibuya where our friend Shu was performing some of his music. Goal 16!

I had kept my pear safe all day and was ready to enjoy
Each bite was about 50 cents
Spreading the love
So what does a $12 pear taste like? Well first imagine you've purchased a normal pear from your local super market. You got that imagine in your head? Now pick it up, feel the weight in your hand, and bring it to your mouth. You still with me? A normal pear is a little crunchy on the outside and then gives way to firm and juicy fruit-meat inside, right? Well so does a $12 pear. In fact, the only thing separating a normal supermarket pear and the one I purchased today was the lack of doubt I had that it would be anything less than perfect. There's always that hesitation when biting into a piece of fruit that perhaps it will be rotten, but when you're paying top yen, that fear dissipates. Unfortunately, all you're left with is a good pear. Maybe even a perfect pear, but I think there's a limit to how good a pear can be, and that limit is well below $12. 

Shu helping us make scented candles
Discover and see a Japanese band: check.
The show ended and we started to make our way back to Shibuya station where we had to part ways, perhaps for the very last time together in Tokyo as Catherine leaves tomorrow for Los Angeles. It was a sad occasion, but luckily we knew a guaranteed fix to raise our spirits...

"Oh my girl love!"

"Nikorasu & Miyuki & Liz We are best friend!"

OMG indeed

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