Tokyo: Day 2


Ryann and I took about a jillion trains until we finally found the owl cafe. We paid $20 each, gave my name for the reservation (Sayuri), and enjoyed my first burger at a nearby restaurant while it drizzled outside. Afterward, my craving for coffee and Ryann’s hankering for a beer left us with a bit of a conundrum, so we wandered in search of one or the other and found a shoe shop on a lovely walking street where we bought identical (and quintisentially Japanese) sandals to replace my broken ones, and to give Ryann’s feet a break from the blisters that formed walking around so much the day before.

Eventually we settled at a semi-Italian cafe directly across the street from the shoe shop where Ryann and I had three beers and three coffees respectively, and we discussed dinner plans: no question, okonomiyaki for sure. The area was rotten with them, so it only seemed appropriate that we finally try it, a first for both of us. We picked one essentially at random after the owl cafe and had one cheese, and one egg and green onion. The cheese was better, and I can’t wait to try one with a noodle base instead of cabbage. A woman sitting next to us helped us figure out how to cook it properly, and was very sweet and helpful (and spoke some English as well).

Our reservation at the owl cafe wasn’t until 4. A ringing bell nearby the cafe drew our attention, so I went to scope it out and discovered a small shrine down an outdoor hallway. There were small paper packets with something shaped like a box inside on a small tray to the side. I tossed a 100 yen coin into the donation box, bowed, clapped twice, contemplated my existence, bowed twice more, and took an envelope. Ryann and I discovered a small wooden box inside that sounded like it had a coin wrapped in velvet inside. Turns out it was a shiny gold (false) coin with writing on one side and the image of a god on the other, wrapped in a small white piece of parchment paper. I didn’t realize the box could open until five days later when I showed it to some coworkers to ask them what it was for. They must think I have brain damage to not realize the box could open. Still, I learned something fascinating about the box that I wouldn’t even have known to ask about.

It’s made from a wood called kiri (Paulownia tree?), which repels bugs and is difficult to burn. The tree grows quickly, so the tradition associated with the kiri tree is to plant one when a girl is born into a family, then cut it down when she turns 18 so the father can build a cabinet for her dowry. Japanese cabinets are fucking gorgeous, and double as semi-public art. I will own one, one day. I bought my dad a book on Japanese cabinets that I found while working at the LACMA bookstore. I’ll have to ask him if he still has it.

Four o’clock finally found us at the door of the owl cafe, waiting with bated breath with about a dozen others, all Japanese. A sign on the door read that Fridays featured English-speaking staff. Today was Thursday. The long, and likely informative speech given by our hostess was mostly lost on us, but we paid due attention and nodded when the time seemed right, and tried not to look impatient while about two dozen live owls all over the shop tolerated and ignored us simultaneously. Eventually, we were all given permission to walk around, take photos, and soon after, hold them. I noticed a barn owl perched behind a stand, and asked to hold it. It was easily the most beautiful bird in the cafe, and I have a small obsession with barn owls, so I think I might have to go die now. I was absolutely thrilled to be so close to such a flawless animal.

I didn’t get the chance to hold one of the larger birds, but did get to have a bright orange-eyed little guy perch on my shoulder. What a cutie. One smallish owl snuggled Ryann’s face while perched on her shoulder, and she almost died. They might be the cutest couple of all time.
After three trains to another accidentally free ride on the Shinkansen, we crashed at Kenta’s apartment for a half hour before venturing out to take a look at a nearby shrine we had noticed on Google maps. Turns out it was a rat shrine, with freely rotating statues of two rats with hammers, and a starving neighborhood cat who was friendly, but refused to follow us onto the shrine grounds (which is awesome, btw). On the way home we stopped to watch a game of pickup soccer, and some middle school aged boys playing a game of tag.

Back at the apartment, Ryann crashed while I had a late-night conversation with people back home, and ate the onigiri I bought earlier for a midnight snack.


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