Chuck a couple of Totoros at a kid and you're laughing, it would seem. She's buggered off to the room to unpack her sizeable haul while I have a cheeky 5 mins in the fresh air. Have to admit, it would seem that underneath all the transient rage, I've got a decent and extremely sensible seven year old in my pocket here. Not that I'd have said that an hour ago upon watching her mimic the 'Ninjas' that were serving her food, with more than a tickle of the theatre that went along with it, but more on that later.
This morning, we peeled ourselves out of bed more than a little bit fucked after a very late night meticulously organising all her gacha to head to the very pretty Mitaka and visit the Ghibli museum.
On the promise of a decent breakfast once I'd got us across the city and hoping (in vain) that there'd be coffee before our adventure began, we made it. An underground, overground and a bus later feeling rather smug with myself might I add, we landed in the gorgeous town to find it was going to be a sneaky onigiri round the side of the shop. To someone to whom eating is as ritualised as breathing, the not eating in the street thing is a real killer. What do you mean I can't stuff my face with foreign deliciousness in public for the works to see?
Not that it was a bad thing, the spicy beef bun that I snaffled in secret presented more than a mild threat to my digestive system (thank the universe for the background noise buttons on these 'ere fancy toilets!). I was more than focused on having to haul a knackered grumpy seven year old through Tokyo first, painfully regretting my lack of parental insistance that she'd gone to bed at a reasonable time. She took the best part of 3hrs to pull round, which she achieved around the same time she first cast eyes on the museum exterior, wide glassy eyes in wonder at the oncoming treasure that is all things Miyazaki and Takahata.
The strict 'no photography' rule is something that I initially couldn't understand, but having come across a Redditor getting roasted for snapping the exhibits, the only pics I can justify are the ones that made my interior design synapses ping like a motherfucker- so much wood, watercolour and stained glass (featuring Kiki, Totoro to name a few!!!! Every corner had little creative surprises that reminded me of Mouseman woodwork back home.
She was transfixed by the Robot statue outside, one of the few things we could full blown tourist over, insisting that it was 'in actual fact mummy' an Antony Gormley and 'how amazing was it that the Japanese people respect his work so much' - (I let it slide).
The cafe was cute but rammed, though was worth it to watch Small neck some roast barley 'coffee' and then have this enjoyably visible dissonance as to where she could dispose of said frothy dishwater in a way which didn't draw unnecessary attention -it was like watching Simba eating bugs in Lion King- still, I'm proud she didn't yak it back up into the cup, Domesticating, and all that. I guess some parents are proud when their darling little spawn 'graduate' reception, write their own name and get invited to every kid's party, I'm just happy when mine doesn't run into glass doors or bang into 'not-things'. Perfect I'd say.
But she acquired a fuck tonne of Ghibli stuff, after I made it extremely clear that she isn't getting much from Santa this year. Unless that is, that I can find a shop selling something Princess Kaguya from a Ghibli shop, and no I didn't fancy the thought of trekking across Tokyo for (wait for it....) the one magnet they do. Now that's a very sentimental Ghibli for Small and I, so we settled for dust bunnies, multiple Totoros and other things that I enjoyed buying but live in the suitcase until we come home.
The day wasn't without the odd mishap however, with Small managing to lose our IC transport cards at least twice, traversing the extremely busy rush hour Ueno station only to have the extremely kind locals chasing us down with a gentle 'sumimasen'- (why the hell didn't I bring any little packaged up thank you gifts today?). And the later 'douitashimashite' when I accidentally careered into an innocent man's leg on pivoting on the spot to look for the extremely verbal but woefully absent Small in th gift shop. I'd have pulled it off had I realised at the timetime and not just now that I should have been saying 'gomenasai' and not 'you're welcome', talk about a lingo faux pas, no wonder the poor fucker looked shell-shocked at my badly babbled sociopathy.
I may have accidentally found myself in the Japanese equivalent of Poundland, B&M and The Range's genetically ambiguous lovechild, Daiso 100. I've you've ever been lucky enough to supervise me on a particularly sensory day on a shopping trip to any of these places, you'll understand quite how determined I was to ensure that at I filled at least one of the extra 2 suitcases we're coming home with stuff from here. For context, Google today shows 1¥ as the equivalent of 59p. And 99% of what we're coming home with had cost just that. I still however managed to spend like I was TKMaxxing and crammed £79 worth of cheap but not shit stuff into the oversize nana shopper (reminiscent of those red blue and white checked ones we all saw in our childhoods), getting a huge discount on a giant teddy which then went in with the fucks I didn't give to the struggle I never anticipated lugging said bag and then two further ones across town, to our dinner reservation.
The food products alone, all the base products that I simply cannot get at home. Bags and bags of unidentifiable dead dried things and miso for miles that I can make gorgeous stocks/soups etc with. We both thoroughly enjoyed playing with our newest acquisitions this evening.
Picture the aforementioned amount of purchased goods, we've survived rush hour subway, and have an extremely easy guide to our dinner reservation at the Ninja Restaurant in Asakusa. There was an entire page in our guide on how taboo being late would be to this, on top of the cultural suicide that is doing this in Japan ever, so I twatted is as much as a fat bird with a shipload of shopping can, before realising I had a kid in tow who was slogging the bag of food and glass bottled ingredients up and down the platforms with each step getting slower and slower, I tried to encourage her in the way that I figure people perceive health promotion advice from people with certain outward appearances. We both knew that the anxiety-induced cold upper lip sweat had more than adequately shifted into a full blown workout that made my body scream in protest as I was practically bathing in my own exertions running up (yes, running....) the 100 something steps that lay before me. I'd relieved Small of her burden thus she watched on with great amusement, little bastard.
It was 16.55, I'd run with said bags through the busiest crossing I've seen yet, upt down and around the same whole corner of a department store that housed Ninja restaurant 4 whole times, before I found it. I mean I know it's basis, but I practically dropped a lung in my attempts to find the bastard.
We were shown into a dark room, my eyes squinting in the darkness in the way they only do once you hit your 30s regardless of whether you wear gigs or not, and stumbled through a fucking maze. Yes, a maze, guided one on one with a 'ninja' who made us jump through spaces, over fires etc into the (unsurprisingly still fucking pitch black to me) dining area. Small loved it, yet I found myself daydreaming about whether there's a special reward for having a heart attack in a themed cafe, in the same way that one usually gets free shopping for life when your waters break in a supermarket?
We had plate after plate after plate. Small got bolder and bolder until she eventually started lovingly harassing the ninja staff with her call of battle. I had to smirk, she held her own and got into the magic of the green-flamed, smoking, sparkling 'treasure' dishes. She quite literally got into as well, despite many a reminder of basic table manners, she went on to digitally explore most of my plates by man handling before some were even out of their box (anyone else's kid a dickhead when they're hungry?) I ate 'big-plate-little -food' grub for the first time without getting pissed off, it was delicious. And I was full, despite sharing mine with the bottomless pit that announced she didn't feel fed enough still. I disregarded through the first few whinges based on the portions at school dinner that she orders making Oliver's Twist's scran look like an all you can eat buffet, but she persisted, so we shared.
She didn't seem that chuffed with the offer of the clam part of the clam chowder. I wonder if throwing up a kilo of mussels still hits hard?
I forgot to mention Derek! Please forgive me, but couldn't help but be reminded of my late Grandfather, minus the vacuous nothingness beneath the samurai gear with the bristle brush style upper lip moustache. He didn't say much, just soaked it all in. Derek sat between Small and I, she picked a few fights with him, but he never rose to it.
We navigated (myself rather blindly still being hyper aware of how bloody dark it was) to quite possibly the fanciest toilets going, to bail on the 40 min journey across 3 stations and a lost fuck to get home by hopping in a taxi. It was quite nice actually, as you'd expect for a £20 sit down, having the local sights being pointed out, feeling incredibly tiny seeing the huge high rise corporations towering above us in the business district, and having the real Akihabara pointed out to us (it was indeed very well lit up, and I gather we walked a good mile in the wrong direction the other night having seen where I should've gone).
Off to Nikko to see the grand shrines and temples, I'm hoping she plays nicely. I can't imagine a point where I could walk up the pebbled footpath (representing walking through water to aid release of any impurities before calling on the spirits) without dredging her back from running over any sign staying keep off/out, pissing someone off with her profound cheekiness, or just deeply disrespecting the sacred ground upon which she stands, usually achieved by caterwauling like the banshee she is. I guess if nothing else we'll get to ride the bullet train, even if she's got the romanticism and spiritualism of a rapidly evacuated dulcolax, making it difficult to fully submerse in the experience.