TOKYO TERMINAL DIARY 3
by Patrick Macias
August 19, 2010
Food, folks, and fun (as well as slot machines and statues of one’s self) are always on tap at the Antonio Inoki Saka-Bar.
Document Three: “Blitzkrieg Magic Battle! A Program of Assassination”
The question of the age: Whatever happened to Tokyo Terminal Diary? Why, it seemed like only a few weeks ago I was hitting new standards of Japan reportage with my complaints about the summer heat and how I’d poured water all over and into my helpless laptop computer. And on top of it all, I’d done all of this while laying on the floor of the bathroom. Don’t believe me? The previous entries, complete with full and shocking details, are now required reading
The menu. In retrospect, this is where I should have jumped out the window to get away fast.
So what explains the substantial time slip between those entries and this one here? I got sick! And if there’s anything that can make me slack off from responsibilities faster than a set of unspeakable stomach issues, fever, and general ill being, I don’t want to know what it is. A case of simple food poisoning will suffice for now, thanks all the same.
Yes, good old-fashioned food poisoning! I’m pretty sure that’s what it was.
Now whom can I blame for giving it to me? I’ve donned a deerstalker cap and picked up a magnifying glass and come up with two likely candidates. One suspect is Tokyo Daihanten
, a gorgeous upscale Chinese restaurant in the Shinjuku ward. Part of the fun of this place is that the interior looks like the set of a Shaw Brothers kung-fu film, like say, Five Fingers of Death. Also, the food is really good. The last time I ate here, it was October 2009 and back then, everyone thought they were going to die of swine flu. The staff served us in medical gauze masks and the place was totally empty, which made for a genuinely creepy experience. This time, no one was sporting a mask, and at least a few tables were filled. And I feasted on shrimp and raw chicken and other delicacies that in retrospect seem like likely candidates for a case of food borne gremlins. But I can’t prove nothin’.
The venom of the Cobra Twist sausage is primarily neurotoxic.
Departing Daihanten, I made a beeline for the Ikebukuro ward and the Antonio Inoki Saka-Bar for a nightcap with a friend. If the name “Antonio Inoki” does not set off air-raid warning sirens in your vicinity, then you’re in luck. This new invention called “The Wikipedia” has a decent entry on him. In a nutshell, Inoki is a living legend of Japanese pro-wrestling; like Hulk Hogan mixed with Andre the Giant with Jay Leno’s massive chin grafted on to face for good luck. Part of the “fun” of being an Inoki fan is following the trail of destruction that make up his assorted hair-brained business schemes. Inoki routinely rents out his iconic likeness to any number of silly products ranging from bottled sake, to motivational self-help books, GPS navigational systems, anything and everything to give customers that extra additional “fighting spirit.”
His latest venture, the Antonio Inoki Saka-Bar
, is a national chain of restaurants that superficially resembles a sports bar… if the only sport that existed was pro wrestling and the only athlete alive was Antonio Inoki. The first thing that greets patrons at the doorway is a statue of the Man Himself along with a trough of Inoki merchandise. The second thing that greets you is a waiter who loudly strikes a boxing bell announcing the commencement of the fight: the food vs. you.
The menu is a doozy and contains fearsome items named after Inoki’s signature moves in the squared circle such as “karate chop” hamburger steak, “Achilles tendon hold” beef stew, and most terrifying of all, the two-foot-long “Cobra Twist” German sausage. Not feeling up to the challenge of any of these heavyweights, we ordered a few beers along with some raw (there’s that word again) cabbage with miso, and “submission” deep-fried chicken cartilage for appetizers.
By an astonishing coincidence, I had this same look on my face every time I “sat down” three days after visiting this resturant!
While sipping and noshing, I took in the décor. Widescreen TVs played nothing but classic Inoki wrestling matches from the glory days of yesteryear. Curiously, he never seemed to lose! The walls were lined with championship belts, magazine covers with Inoki front and center, and a plethora of autographed memorabilia. Meanwhile, multiple Antonio Inoki slot machines and pachinko games stood ready to suck up any spare change. The patrons were a mix of people with no better place to go and intimidating muscle-bound salarymen who clearly felt right at home and we’re ready to start slapping and challenging each other to a fight at a moment’s notice.
And of course, the next day, my stomach was ruined. But you already knew that. Was Inoki’s cabbage and chicken cartilage to blame? Did someone simply spit in my food at Tokyo Daihanten? I guess I’ll never know. But just to be safe, I’ll never visit either place again!