A little more of the local Japanese culture

by David A. Chappell

I had a couple of free hours on my final day in Tokyo. I ventured out to visit a Buddhist temple called Sensoji (a.k.a. Kannon Temple) in the Asakusa part of the city.
Kannon Temple (SensoJi)

Outside of the temple there is a marketplace area,

where you can buy lots of low-cost souvenirs.

Just outside of the main gate to the temple/marketplace area, there is a real Starbucks on the main street about 1 block to the left of the gate.

Inside the main gate area, there is a genuine take-your-shoes-off and sit-on-the-floor restaurant just to the left of the gate, where they served a really good assortment of sashimi and tempura.

This was accompanied by some of the best tasting miso soup I have ever had. The place looked fairly rustic inside yet the waitress, who was wearing a traditional Japanese Kimono, took the order by pressing buttons on a handheld device that she carried with her :) Pretty high tech for an ancient Buddhist temple.

Right next to the temple there is what is called the “5 story pagoda”.

The pagoda is a shrine built to hold some of the actual ashes of Buddha. The story goes that some 1500 years ago, when Buddha died, his body was cremated and his ashes were divided up into 5 containers which were distributed to 5 places across Asia. This is one of the 5 places. The five stories of the pagoda signify earth, water, fire, wind, and sky.


On my final night in Tokyo, I went out for a farewell dinner with a few people from Sonic Japan. We went to a place that served Shabu-Shabu. Shabu-shabu is kind of like a fondue setting, where there is a heated pan of boiling water at the center of the table. The servers bring out a large plate of thinly sliced beef, and an assortment of raw vegetables that resembled bok choy, along with some mushrooms and sliced sweet potato.

Shabu-shabu in Japanese means "swish-swish," referring to the swishing action when you cook a very thin slice of beef in hot water. The servers place the raw food in the boiling water a few items at a time, and then deposit freshly cooked food in one of 3 bowls of different sauces that you have in front of you. They just keep doing this until you can’t eat anymore. At the end of the meal, the water they are cooking everything in has become a tasty broth, to which they add some noodles and other items and spices of untold delight and serve it to you as a soup.

I have had this type of food once before where you cook it yourself, but never like this where they did it all for you. The food was very delicious, and the food servers were very prompt and courteous.