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Ramen, Pachinko, and Don Quijote: Tokyo, Japan

My mission today is to get to the Tokyo Sky Tree.  Somehow, I veer wildly off course and never make it.  Instead, I discover ramen, pachinko, and Don Quijote.


The hungry belly demands attention and I am seeking tempura.  Unfortunately, I never find the place that is recommended because I can’t read Japanese and I’m too hungry-angry and bashful to ask anyone.  So I turn to Yelp and am informed that the best ramen place in all of Tokyo is just steps away.  Cool.  I’ll try ramen again.


Ramen in Tokyo

Ramen in Tokyo


Vegetarian broth is not an option so I ask the waiter to simply hold the pork. The piping concoction is expediently delivered and if looks were everything, this dish was a ten.  Thin pale noodles hide under bean sprouts and a soft boiled egg, with sliced chive and mushroom islands in a fatty, frothy, silky broth.  Seaweed sheets hang their feet in the pool.  But looks aren’t everything and once again, my palate snoozes throughout the meal.


Now listen — people are saying that this is the best ramen in Tokyo!  So I see that I am the one with the problem.  I must be like the kid raised on processed cheese who doesn’t like a fine English cheddar.  Because I love the ramen that comes in a dry brick and costs 20¢ regular price.  Apparently, I dislike the taste of quality.  Good to know.


With a belly full of lacklustreness, I take a stroll, and amongst the hotels and shops, I notice a pachinko parlor.  Recalling a television program about Japan’s obsession with the game it invented, my interest is piqued for the cultural experience of gambling with the locals at a game completely foreign to me.  Now, you faithful readers might be saying “Laura, shouldn’t you stay away from gambling because you have a gambling problem?”.  And I would say, “Yup”.


So, anyway, I went in.


Pachinko balls

Pachinko balls


I quickly note that I’m the only Caucasian present and the majority of players are older men.  A cacophony of sound assaults my ears — the screaming music from the brightly-lit machines and the pings of thousands of metallic balls weaving their way through thousands of metallic pegs on several hundred machines is nearly deafening.


I walk the aisles undetected by the zombies at the machines, examining these technological masterpieces of visual seduction. They are beeee-aaa-uu-tiful.  I find a machine featuring cartoony girls with gigantic eyes and tiny bodies and the word POWERFUL emblazoned across the front.  “That’s me!”, my unconscious mind surmises and my butt sits down without my consent.  Now, what?  An attendant approaches and hands me a paper with English instructions.  You mean you can tell I’m not a professional?


My pachinko machine

My pachinko machine didn’t pay. Or I didn’t know what I was doing.  Or gambling is a losing game.  One of those.


Essentially, the pieces with which you play are gorgeous, brilliantly shiny, pea-sized metal balls.  These go in a feeding tray, if you will, and you launch the balls like you’re playing pinball into a vertical space covered in pins and bumpers and lights and when balls hit certain things or fall in certain places, you have the potential to win more.


I found myself absolutely hypnotized by the sounds and the razzle-dazzle sparkling beauty of these machines.  If there is skill to this game I never acquired any.  It took me about an hour and $40 lost to realize I had no idea what I was doing.  But it was fun while it lasted.  And now I know what it’s about.  Thank God I didn’t win or I might still be there.



In case you get bored while having your corneas assaulted with lights, your ears nearly deafened and your brain’s electrical system fried, you can turn your attention to the sumo wrestling on the left screen.


Just down the street, I walked into a store called Don Quijote which beckoned with multiple marquees and neon signs.  My God,  it was a wonderland of weirdness.  There were four stories packed to the brim with everything under the sun and things I never knew existed.  Squid costumes!  Wasabi Kit Kat!  Eyelid Trainers!  Zebra print toilet paper!  I spent nearly an hour just on the grocery floor.  I’m not much of a shopper but this was extraordinary entertainment and I felt proud to escape with only $32 in purchases when I wanted to send a fully-loaded cargo ship home.


Maybe I’ll get to the Tokyo Sky Tree tomorrow.


Photos of Tokyo, Ramen, Pachinko and Don Quijote:




  1. its all getting too weird for me now…

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