Monday, December 10, 2007

11/11/07: Last Day in Japan - "Depachika" Experience

After 9 full days of fun and adventure, I craved my last day to be low key and relaxing. After spending the morning and early afternoon shopping then packing, I decided to spend the evening to take in and fully appreciate all the great memories that were created. I cannot thank everyone enough for their amazing hospitality and incredible companionship. As silly as it may sound, for all the fun, I am most grateful that the way of saké provided me with an avenue to deeply connect with my heritage.

I decided that the perfect way to unwind is to have dinner bought at Depa-chika (デパ地下), or "basement of department stores." ("Depa" is short for "Department" and "chika" is Japanese for "basement.")

Naturally, the question is: with all the options around, why get a food from the basement of a department store?

The concept of basement is fascinating in Japanese metropolis like Osaka. The basement is connected to a large bustling underground city, connecting public transportation hubs, buildings (often departments), and hotels. In Umeda (梅田) area of Osaka, the tunnel network includes three major train stations (JR Umeda Station, Hanshin Umeda Station, Hankyu Umeda Station), subway stations, major stores (Daimaru, Hanshin, Hankyu, Yodobashi Camera) and Hotels (Herbis, Hilton, etc.).

In New York City, there is the undeground concourse connecting north exit of Grand Central Station to Rockefeller Center extending as far north as 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. Imagine if the tunnel extended to include Port Authority, Times Square, NY and Penn Station/Madison Square Garden, with easy access to stores.

Getting back to the departments,groceries and food courts are typically housed in the basement in one-stop-for-all layour. One of the reason for that is the proximity to the subway stations to lure rush hour crowd (the other reason is the low cost of routing water, gas, and electricity.) I chose Daimaru right next to the hotel. My dinner (and leftover for breakfast) included: Fried Potstickers (焼き餃子), Croquette (コロッケ), Salmon Rice Ball (おにぎり-鮭), Ume/Shiso Rice Ball (おにぎり-梅しそ), Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets (鳥竜田揚げ), Deep Fried Pork with Vinegar Sauce (酢豚), and Kyoho Grapes (巨峰).

The drink of my choice was the leftover Koto Sen-nen Junmai Ginjo (古都千年) and small bottle of Super Nikka Whiskey, which was very sharp and dry from oak tannins unlike Nikka Yoichi 10 Year Old. Not surprisingly, it didn't pair particulary well with the food, but it had to be "sacrificed" to make space for rest of my luggage. Either way, Depachika was the perfect remedy for this weary traveler.

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