My favorite memories of living in Japan involve tea and cake. I found I really connected with my friends and family in a tea-and-cake shop. The menu offered the best black, green, and oolong teas in the world and a few cake options. Fewer stuff on the table allowed me to better connect with my companions. After a long day of navigating crowded trains and streets, it was a relief to sit, talk, and have a pot of tea.
Almost every weekend, my friends and I traveled to the Tokyo metropolis. We would spend over 10 hours walking around, eating, sightseeing, and shopping. Strategically located in shopping districts, tea-and-cake shops offered a brief respite from walking and standing. Tokyo shopping districts are mostly outdoors and have no seating. During the New Year’s holiday, my sister visited me. For the first three days of the year, departments stores have great sales. I took her to the oldest and most expensive shopping district in Tokyo – Ginza.
Ginza boosts the most expensive real estate in Japan. All the premier department stores, fashion brands, and electronic brands had stores there. Next to the modern brands, you find 300-year-old kimono shops or 150-year-old tempura shops. In addition, Ginza has boutiques, art galleries, kabuki theaters, and museums. I joked that I could not afford to walk down the street. However, my sister is a shopaholic and I wanted to show her the ultimate shopping experience. We spent two hours in the Sony building. I saw one of the first blu-ray TVs! While wandering around the narrow back streets, we found a sake shop. It was located near a large billboard watch ad with Brad Pitt. It was a small, cute shop, but we knew little about sake. Deciding to find food, we left the shop.
We found an affordable Irish pub, where we ordered fish and chips and a pint. I know this is not the typical Japanese dinner. However, British- and Irish-style pubs are popular in Japan. It is a refuge for European expatriates and young Japanese professionals. After dinner, my sister decided she wanted sake after all. For those who have visited Ginza, you know that there are few street signs. We literally had to retrace our steps from an hour before from memory! It took about an hour, but we found the Brad Pitt billboard. Thank goodness there was only one in the area!
We sampled five sakes; my sister brought a few as souvenirs and gifts. I bought one bottle. The hour of backtracking made us hungry again. We went in search of dessert and a pot of tea.
Near the train station, we found a tea-and-cake shop. It had an ultra modern design – white tables, chairs, and walls. The menu had teas from India, Sri Lanka, China, and Japan. We each ordered a pot of black tea and scones with cream. Over tea, we discussed our adventures that day and my sister’s impressions of Japan. I enjoyed having the space to just relax and rejuvenate before our long journey home. We had to take three trains home, almost a two-hour trip.
For a year, I spent almost every Saturday night sipping tea, eating cake, and talking about our day and our impressions of Japan.