Monday, September 28, 2015

Senso-ji, Asakusa, Tokyo, Part II

A few weekends ago, hubby's colleagues gathered for an outdoor bbq on the roof of the Asakusa Ekimise building and we joined them. It was pretty much a roof-top beer garden, and Y-san, bless his heart, worked hard to coordinate as it was a 16-17-people get-together. Aye...

The company was lovely. Hubby's Tokyo office is tiny with just 6 people, and the rest of the folks present were there to meet and greet. So overall the get-together was a success and everyone had a great time, if you're a drinker, that is.

I'll be frank: beer gardens are tricky. When done wrong, it's pretty much a gimmick tourist trap, if not downright a rip-off. Unfortunately, that was what happened to us.

I'll talk about the location first. The Ekimise roof had a great view of both the Tokyo Skytree and the Asahi "poo building." There was even a cute little shrine for a pious one to pay respect and a little ninja-photo setup. But neither that view nor the cute shrine could make up for the scorching hot and humid day in early September. Because get this: there was no shade or cooling fan for the beer garden. No, no, I should be more clear. There were nice canopies with padded seats and huge cooling fans that blew cool mists, for an extra 1,000yen/person that is. Otherwise, we get bbq-ed along with our food beneath the midday sun, in all that humid glory in plastic chairs.

As for the food, it was a "set meal" with nomihodai (all you can drink). Any food ordered beyond the "set meal" was going to be charged a la carte, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was the set meal itself. See the photo--that was a 4-people portion! Each person got exactly 1 pork rib, 2 slices of pork, 1-2 mini scallops, 1 shrimp, a few pieces of cabbage, 1 slice each of mushroom, carrot, pumpkin, and pineapple, and 1 leaf of lettuce and 1 tortilla. I kid you not. And they charged us 4,000yen per person! Were we to get the shade and cooling fan, it would have been 5,000yen per person (~$40).

This is how beer gardens make their money, right? It's all in the alcohol and none in the food. Even then, for nomihodai we got just draft beer and a few other options of chuhai, so by no means this was an open bar. Basically, if you don't drink, or in the case of hubby's colleague, J., who eats neither pork nor seafood, you're just footing the bill for a few bites of veggies. The only cool thing us non-drinkers enjoyed was this automatic draft-beer dispenser.

Another thing that really upset many of us was that the "bbq-ing," done in a pan and not a grill. That means all our meats and veggies swam and deep-fried in whatever grease and animal fat from the meat, because the pan had no means of drainage. Urgh. We must have soaked up a whole ream of napkins' worth of grease just to clean the thing up. Disgusting.

After the unfortunate "bbq," we walked over to Senso Ji which was nearby. The place was as crowded as usual, it being a nice and sunny day after all.

This time, we took time to explore the area around the side of the temple, which we didn't the last time we were there.

Turns out there was another smaller temple to the side of the big one, which is to be expected now that I think about it. These temples are usually in a compound of several and never a lone one.

Leaving Senso Ji, we walked out the front gate through the Asakusa Nakamise, a shotengai that's always crazy packed. The shops are interesting but is super touristy. There was a hat shop hubby and I wanted to stop by for a look. We came up to one particular black baseball cap and I pointed at how funny it is, at which point the shop lady shooed us away before offering some hand wipes. She thought our hands were too dirty to be touching her things, and so we left without either taking her hand wipes or buying her hats. Sorry lady, if you thought our hands were dirty then you definitely don't want our money as it had passed through many many many hands before ours. Sometimes, the xenophobia in this country is startling. Why open a shop in one of the most touristy spots in the damn nation if you don't want anyone near your stuff?

Here's a mini shotengai by one of the Tokyo Metro Asakusa Station exits, though I forgot which exit number it was. I really wanted to shop around there but the group was exhausted from all the crowds and the heat (and the terrible lunch we had...). So we ended up going straight home.

View of "the golden poo" (LOL!) right outside the station exit.

See my previous Senso Ji post.

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