Monday, November 2, 2015

Ebisu-Tokyo Living

From the palatial halls of the Beijing business class hotel we are delivered to an efficiency Tokyo apartment that we booked via AirBnB. There's a hallway/kitchenette and the main room with the bathroom partitioned behind a glass wall, so that the bed is actually jammed against the bathtub. The three of us, our three pieces of luggage, two backpacks, Bowie's utility tote, a stroller and a car seat, all fit inside, just so. Seen another way, we're severely under-utilizing the space. If we consolidated our luggage and hooked the ladder over the door, two more people could use the bed in the attic space.

The tiny apartment is a thing of beauty. Several things make it so: tall ceiling in the room and the window that admits plenty of light by day; large sink in the kitchenette; a washing machine and an ingenious drying rack in the closet; a small shallow pool outside the bathtub that, when I unplug the tub, automatically fills with warm water--to keep my feet from getting cold while I'm drying the rest of my body with a towel.

I also love the fact that the apartment is keyless. A combination code opens the door to the unit, and the front door opens like the entry booths in San Francisco's subway, with a tap of a plastic card. At least three security cameras monitor the entrance, and I have a feeling that these are not pro forma, somebody is truly watching and monitoring the security of this building. Upon our arrival on Friday night, the card that opened the front door was missing from the agreed-upon location, and so we were milling about outside while Dave texted with our AirBnb host. One of the neighbors let us in (taking pity thanks to Bowie, who was babbling plaintively from his car seat), but wouldn't do so until she confirmed we had the right combination code for the unit.

My first impression of Tokyo? I had no idea how many stereotypes about Japan I'd consumed. My imagination was largely fueled by the few novels I'd read (Murakami, Kobo Abe, Amelie Nothomb) and movies (Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Spirited Away, a recent art film The Great Passage)--in addition to WWII stories of bombings, geishas, and vets, occasional news stories about financial crises, electronics empires, fashion crazes, overcrowded subways, alcoholism, and overwork. As is the case with China (though China's case is more extreme), this media diet now seems extremely one-sided and largely negative (at best, Japanese customs might be represented as "odd"). In short, without thinking about it, I'd been expecting to meet sad and depressed loners (mostly men and young school girls), subservient and prone to suicide. Needless to say, this is like picturing all Russians as vodka-guzzling murderers of old women and prostitutes. Argh.

We're staying in the Ebisu area of Tokyo, a fun mix of fairly gritty bars and noodle bars and a maze of alleys with the yuppiest establishments I've seen anywhere. Think: a cafe that imports beans from Yemen, ice cream topped with honey comb, another ice cream shop that makes its own square cones and serves up vanilla-azuki bean flavor, a flavored canele craze, with competing pastry shops serving up their own versions of this French pastry. Bowie's nap schedule and the weather (o joy! it rained hard this morning) continue to set the pace for our journey, so we're fully enjoying exploring the alleys, the cafes and the playgrounds of our neighborhood. The party sometimes comes to us: apparently, this area is Halloween central; so on Halloween night, Dave and Bowie got into the midst of it--Dave's posting his pictures on his blog.

A novel way to travel!

Yemeni cafe in Ebisu
A preternaturally calm poodle getting a haircut

How about a fistful of noodles


  1. the small pool next to the bathtub-- read that twice because it's so far afield of anything I've ever seen! and the ingenious drying device-- fun to imagine

  2. I'm collecting photos to show these in action :)