USA/Japan diary, day 12

Wednesday, 24 February, 2016. 22:02

I woke up even earlier this morning, at 05:30. I puttered around a bit, checking email and news and so on, before heading out at about 06:30 to find some breakfast. I planned to go to the same Sunkus convenience store in the Queen’s Square again, but when I walked over there the plaza building was locked. Coming back over the footbridge, I saw a promisingly illuminated store on the ground floor of the main Pacifico Yokohama convention centre building. I went to investigate and found it to be another convenience store, but it too was closed, with a sign saying it opened at 07:00.

Yokohama dawn
Dawn over Yokohama Harbour, from my hotel room window.

So I went for a bit of a walk, around the hotel to the waterfront and along there a bit. The weather was bitingly cold, but there were the odd walker or two, with a dog, and a jogger. I didn’t dawdle, but instead sought shelter from the cold back inside the hotel lobby for ten minutes or so until the convenience store opened. Then I dashed across, bought a couple of prepacked rice snacks, a fresh hot croissant, and a tub of blueberry yoghurt, which I took back to my room to eat for breakfast.

The ISO meetings began at 09:00 again, and it was a packed day, with the first session going overtime and then trying to squeeze in extra sessions so we could have Thursday afternoon free after attending the CP+ trade show which starts tomorrow, and for which we as ISO committee members get press passes to. We broke for lunch a little bit early, but started again half an hour early, so the lunch break was actually shorter than scheduled.

A group of us went for lunch to the same basement area in Queen’s Square. Margaret and Scott decided they wanted the same sushi as yesterday, but Jonathan and I wanted something different, and hot to fight off the cold weather. Albrecht joined us, and we found a place that specialised in a type of stew made with your selection of ingredients, which was served with a raw egg cracked on top, and a bowl of rice on the side. There were various seafood and meat options, but I chose a vegetable and mushroom one. You also had to choose your rice size, small, medium, or large, your broth flavour, from salt, miso, and something else, and your hotness level, from one to six, with two being “normal”. Jonathan and Albrecht chose two, while I opted for level three. The bowls were delivered with the soup still bubbling hot, and a quick swirl of chopsticks through the raw egg dispersed and cooked it through the stew. At the table were disposable bibs, which people were wearing to prevent splashes from the soup getting onto clothes. The food was good, but we had to eat in a hurry to get back to the meeting after the shortened lunch break.

The afternoon session dragged on, and there was some serious disagreement on one of the topics, with the chair having to call for a ten minute “cool off” break to allow the parties to reconsider their positions and attempt to negotiate a compromise. The scheduled end of the day was 17:00, but we went half an hour over.

I arranged to meet Margaret at 18:30 to go looking for dinner. We invited a few other people, but they all had other plans already, so it was just the two of us. Before we left, I chatted with M. on FaceTime for a bit.

Beef, for cooking in shabu-shabu.

Margaret decided she could brave the cold night air enough to walk as far as the World Porters shopping centre to try something different. She’d heard that there was a good sushi place there, with a name starting with M, and when we got there it turned out the only place fitting that description was the one where I’d had lunch by myself on Monday. We didn’t go there though, as we browsed the mall shops and eating guide leaflet, which was available in English, and found a place up on the fifth floor called Syabu-Yo, which did shabu-shabu.

On arriving, we got a table and the waiter raced away to return with a menu with some English on it. It seemed that for dinner there were only two options: pork and Mexican beef, or pork and Japanese beef, with the latter being more expensive. With either of these meat options came an all-you-can eat buffet of dozens of vegetables, a dipping sauce mixing station with hundreds of combinatoric possibilities, unlimited soft drinks, and desserts. Oh, you also got to choose your broth flavours, and we opted for miso and ginger. While we piled plates high with veges from the buffet, a waiter set up the boiling broth on our table and delivered five trays of paper thin slices of meat.

Dinner at Syabu-yo
Shabu-shabu dinner.

We returned to the sauce station to create three different dipping sauces each, carrying them back to our table in small trays. We tossed some veges into the broth, then grabbed slices of meat with chopsticks and swirled them in the boiling water until they were cooked, then dipped them in sauce before eating. The “vege” section also included noodles of various types, gyoza-like dumplings, tofu, and some sort of vegetable “meatball” things, as well as four or five different types of mushrooms.

Margaret went to get a drink and reported that there also seemed to be a free alcohol bar, with a fridge full of beer, many bottles of wine, and dozens of spirits and mixers. I asked a waiter if the alcohol was included in the buffer, or extra, and he said it cost extra, though I didn’t figure out how they knew what you’d taken in order to add to your bill. After finishing off all the meat, and a good chunk of vegetables, we had some soft serve ice cream from the dessert bar, but it wasn’t very good. It was kind of icy. Once done, we called a waiter and asked for the bill, only to have him pull an already delivered bill out from a hidden drawer in the side of the table!

Sweets crane
Sweets Cranes. Win a slice of cake. Maybe.

After paying, we had a look at some of the other food places up on this floor. One was very weird: a place with a row of those arcade “skill tester” machines with a mechanical claw with which you have to try to grab a prize item. Only here the prize was a slice of cake, or a cupcake, or in one of the machines, a crème brûlée! It cost 100 yen to play for the chance to get a piece of cake. One would have to figure why not pay 300 yen and just get a guaranteed piece of cake? I wondered about the freshness of the cakes, but the machines were refrigerated and there was actually a woman sitting behind a counter nearby, with several large cakes in a display, presumably so she could cut new slices and refill the machines when (and if) somebody won a slice of cake. A sign said in English that the cakes were not for sale – you could only get a slice by playing the claw games.

We wandered back down to the ground floor. I showed Margaret the sushi place, and she said maybe we’d have to try it for lunch tomorrow. On the walk back out of the centre, we passed the ice cream place I’d had some from on Monday, and Margaret was tempted by the fondant chocolate, while I noticed they had maple walnut. So we both had a single scoop as we walked back to the hotel to return to our rooms and get some sleep.

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