In an Octopus's Garden in Tokyo / by Deborah Clague

My first night in Shinjuku, jetlagged and lost in translation, I went to the 7-11 at the corner of the block to get something to eat. 7-11s in Japan are slightly different from the model in North America. As few homes in metro Tokyo have space for a traditional kitchen, they act as neighborhood grocers with plenty of take-out food options ranging from traditional Japanese to Italian dishes, not just stacks of Doritos and vats of flavoured slush (although you could get those too if homesick). Combing the aisles and endless options, I found something that resembled the stir-fry consisting of chicken, noodles, vegetables and teriyaki sauce that I love to order at Palatal Mongolian Grill in Winnipeg. Of course, this is what I thought it was as everything was written in traditional Japanese characters and I couldn't read a darn thing. I was tired. It was food. I heated it up in the microwave and was on my merry way. Many of my nights end this way. Sadly and regrettably. 

Shinjuku is my favorite part of the megalopolis known as Tokyo. Known as the "red light" district of the city, it is located next to the downtown core where many, many suits and their briefcases spend long hours strengthening the country's GDP only to spend their evenings playing pachinko! and openly purchasing anime porn. Besides this, Shinjuku is also known for having every square inch of building space lit up in the glow of neon lights. When advertising agencies or music video directors need a futuristic, hip vision that could be earth or could be a newly found planet in an alternate universe, this is where they go.  

Anyway, back at the hotel I turned on the wonderfully weird world of Japanese TV and dug into my meal with a set of plastic utensils that I brought from home. I cannot, no matter how hard I try, ever get the hang of chopsticks. The first few bites of my entrée went down well. They were tasty and flavorful...and mostly noodles. Then I started to encounter a few crunchy bits. "Odd", I thought to myself. "Perhaps they didn't get all the bones out of the chicken?"

I continued eating and watching TV, not paying attention to my plate. The crunchy bits remained (I just spit them out) but then I bit into something that actually adhered itself to one of my teeth. Not between my teeth, mind you...on my tooth. Making my way to the bathroom mirror to investigate, I was grossed out by what I saw: a grayish thing suctioned to one of my incisors. I got it off and immediately went back to see what my dinner actually consisted of.  

It was the first and last time I ate octopus. 

Shinjuku by day: 

Shinjuku by night: 

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