“You can't really say what is beautiful about a place, but the image of the place will remain vividly with you.”
— Tadao Ando
Crossing the street
I jay-walk. I was born on the West Coast and went to school in Chicago. Nobody waits for the light to turn before crossing the street. Sometimes we don’t even wait for the traffic to clear. On my first trip to Tokyo, the distinction between Japanese culture and my own was viscerally apparent when I jay-walked there. There was a red light at the crosswalk but no cars were anywhere in sight. So I walked. The dozen other local pedestrians on each side of the street looked at me appalled. I felt the twinge of guilt that comes with social judgement. Then I kept walking.
Robots. Rock. Geishas.
There are a few rare places in the world that defy categorization. One of those places is Robot Restaurant. In that grimey Shibuya basement disparate cultures converge, are remixed and then amplified until they become something new. Words and definitions fail to convey the spectacle. It’s part dine-in theater, part electronic rock concert, part manga-themed burlesque show and entirely magical. Things and ideas that were never meant to intersect have been cross-bred and evolved, giving birth to a new cultural specimens, simultaneously foreign and familiar. That is Robot Restaurant.
Next level pancakes
When I visited, the new vogue in Tokyo cuisine was pancakes and french toast. But this was not like any you can find in the West. Tokyo chefs have taken the craft of souffle pancakes and brioche french toast to such a pinnacle that it has become an entire reinvention of Western breakfast. Michelin restaurants have engineered a fluffy state of matter akin to a warm cloud that turns to goo on your tongue.