Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oishii pizza (that's delicious for you gaijins)

The Japanese have a thing for pizza. The pizza I've encountered here is either very thin crusted and extremely light on sauce or totally peculiar with popular toppings like mayonnaise, eggs and corn. Those are actually kind of good...but eel, dried fish flakes, kimchi, cod roe and scallop balls aren't my cup of green tea. I won't say that they're an abomination to pizza lovers everywhere, the Japanese just have a very unique taste profile. To each their own.

No mention of Japanese pizza would be near as entertaining without mentioning squid ink pizza though. Yes, that dark substance that is secreted out of cephalopods, like a stink bug I imagine.

Secreted, a world I like to think about while eating. Tasty. Squid ink replaces the tomato sauce in an oh-so-yummy, stain-your-mouth-black, tastes-earthy-like-wet-leaves kind of way. Those poor shrimp look like they're dying in black tar. You find squid ink used often here for sauces and pastas.

When the base WTF lives on opens it gates a few times a year to the local nationals, the first place they bee-line it to are our two pizzerias-Sbarro's and Anthony's. These aren't exactly the finest representation of American style pizza but when you've been eating squid ink and scallop balls (do scallops even have balls?) and thinking it tastes good, the doughy, greasy, gooey, cheesiness of a good 'ole slice of American pizza is probably like the search for a glass of water amidst the dry, sandy emptiness of the Sahara. Anything will taste exquisite.

These ladies were sporting pizza box carriers, because cheap grease is best when served from a stylish print.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ikea, say no more

Armed with an iced chai tea latte and my own personal navigator-who as you later will learn is actually no help in reading signs because she's chatting more than paying attention to the road...of course I'm a model citizen, well, a temporary, long-term visitor in this country, and I would never engage in reckless road behaviors that would steal my attention. So with yen on the ready for the tolls, WTF headed northward, maybe eastward-I actually have no idea what direction we were headed, to Ikea in Kohuku, about 40 minutes from the base.

I've waited all my life to go to this Swedish retail giant. I giggle every time I think that I had to come to Japan to shop Swedish. The parking lot was the most ridiculously large structure I've ever seen-I was suddenly very thankful it was a weekday and not a weekend, my claustrophobia could only handle so much and it would have severely hampered my shopping high if the lot were full.

After cruising the second floor first, we stopped in the cafeteria for some totally delish food. Smoked salmon, Swedish meatballs, potatoes and ligonberries, crusty french bread and creamed spinach soup and even though we didn't imbibe, a very inviting wine bar.

And since I've never been to an Ikea before, I cannot say for certainty that this is another stroke of Japanese brilliance, but how clever to have a rolling cart as you make your way through the cafeteria. I didn't notice this until I had already paid, instead I struggled pushing
Kawaii Girl #2 in the stroller and balancing our trays in my hands and on the stroller hood. I was lucky to have made it to the table. There would have been tears if my ligonberries had ended on the floor.

With a full tummy and a shopping buzz, we loaded up the car with our finds and headed for home. Feeling pretty good that I had completed a u-turn, which is most tricky in Japan, we were so proud of ourselves for making it there, making it out and heading in the right direction. Wouldn't you know we spoke too soon.

My personal navigator and I were gabbing away-okay, maybe I encourage our talking as well-and we were a bit too slow to react to the fork in the road and headed off to the right instead of left. In our defense, the text we were looking for was very little and sort of hidden on the sign. Okay, no problem, we had enough yen for more tolls, another 400 for this turn around.

Wanting to be sure of how to correct ourselves, I grabbed my little blue card from my wallet, that says in Japanese, "I'm lost, please help me find my way to Yokosuka." I was so excited to use it. For reasons that cannot be explained, I love figuring my way through this country, making missteps and still accomplishing what I set out to do. Living in a foreign country is, for a lack of a more articulate word, very cool, and whenever the day comes that it is time for us to leave, I will be very sad to say goodbye to this adventure.

Since we were on a time constraint to pick up the other
Kawaii Girl, I wanted to be sure we expedited the exchange with the toll booth worker. So between my limited Japanese and the little blue card, he showed me where to circle around and what turns to take.

He spoke with a bit of English and lots of hand gestures and when he was done, he looked through the window to my friend and laughed, a fairly hearty chuckle. You see, my better shopping half is Japanese, her mother from Tokyo, and looks as if she should know what she's doing in these parts, though she speaks less Japanese than I do, which isn't saying much. He said, "Oh, well, you understand don't you?" and then gave us a confused look for why I was struggling with Japanese and he was struggling with English. I couldn't stop laughing, she gave her very best
Doumo Arigatoo, we paid our toll and got back on the road.

Geesh, you'd think having a Japanese friend would be useful. We laughed the entire way home and are already plotting our next Ikea trip. Our philosophy is to experience Japan one shopping trip at a time, plus we're Ikea Family now and we need to use our card.

Subscribe to Where's the Fork by Email