Japan Day 73: Back to Portland!

I didn’t sleep that well, and it wasn’t due to all the beer I had. I had tiny beers. Probably some apprehension about FINALLY GOING HOME. I started packing and it was mostly a lot of flailing. And then just piling things in and making sure the suitcase shut, which it did. Then it was off to Pronto for my last morning set for a while.

And then it was downstairs for a 10:15am bus to the airport. Lots of opportunity for napping, but I didn’t take much of it. The leftmost suitcase, and the leftmost duffel, are mine after 2 ½ months. The middle suitcase, and the red duffel, are my sister’s after two weeks. Sadie, who was there for five days, has that giant suitcase and we also had to go get her that Nike duffel.

Of course, we went back to Fujiya for our outgoing lunch. Lots of food on my plate and I wasn’t that hungry. Ha! I finished the whole thing.

And that’s about it. I’m back home and I finally remembered to upload the last few photos. I’ve been trying to dig my way out of two and a half months of mail (mostly recycling, but not all). I had to sort a bunch of ham radio cards and now that I think of it I have to sign up for some more volunteer stuff. I already spent an hour and a half with banking stuff. I better make a list.

Japan Day 72: Tokyo

I was out late having “one or two last beers” so the comments will have to wait. In fact, these photos are probably all disorganized as well. You see, I met a couple guys from Baton Rouge and we just talked a bunch and I was out a little later than I expected.

Started out the day slowly. I wasn’t feeling great. I think it’s because I’m finally going home and I must be anxious because I’m not sleeping that well. Also, my allergies appear to be flaring up. But we went to Pronto for breakfast.

We went to another museum to see one of my sister’s favorite artists – Yayoi Kusama. We got to her museum and my sister had printed out the wrong tickets. She was a little stressed, but I knew we could solve things by just taking a taxi back to the hotel so I wasn’t worried. They looked us up and let us in anyway.

The museum is a little small and doesn’t have a whole lot of her works, but it was fun nevertheless. You get a 90 minute window to go in. If you show up a little later in the window, I think most of the people would’ve cleared out. The current installation doesn’t take the whole time to enjoy.

After that it was another death march, I mean SHOPPING TRIP. We had to buy a cheap duffel for Sadie to fit all her new purchases and went to Ameyoko. Found a nice Nike bag (or maybe not so nice) for ¥3000. Then we were off to Akihabara to see the stuff I usually avoid – the anime/manga stuff.

Lunch was at an udon shop and I think I was hungry. I didn’t stop to take a picture until I was done.

After Akiba we went to get some sweets. It wasn’t great, but it had ice cream.

Dinner was at Shake Shack. No picture. You know what a burger looks like. The Shinjuku Shake Shack was still pretty full at dinnertime and we had to hover to get a table.

Then, while my sister and Sadie went to buy some last-minute items, I went to have my last one or two beers. Hah.

A nice session IPA from Isekadoya.

Kolsch taste from Loco brewing (I had a half-pint later) and I can’t remember where the hazy is from Uchu (who I seem to follow on Instagram.) OK for a hazy, I suppose.

And finally the guys from Baton Rouge broke out some of the favorite that they brought for the bar. It was a really nicely balanced hazy. Gotta go to Lafayette to get it, apparently. I’d say it would be worth the trip.

Japan Day 71: Tokyo

Apparently everyone is afraid of Crabby now. Actually, it’s probably a combination of a limited breakfast set menu at Hoshino Coffee plus Crabby’s crabbiness, but we tried Cafe Veloce today. It was much better than I expected and the Kaiser roll wasn’t the tasteless brick that I used to get in Boston (where they called it a bulkie roll).

Sadie surprised us by saying she wanted to go back to Shibuya 109. Inwardly I was kind of panicking and thinking I was going back to my room to hide but my sister was able to convince her to make the trip solo. Shibuya can be a confusing place (and too full of people taking pictures in the g*dd*mn Shibuya Scramble which is just a f*cking crosswalk you stupid tourist f*cks) but if you go out the right exit the Shibuya 109 is straight ahead. Phew.

My sister and I did some very gentle shopping (old people shopping) in Shinjuku and even had lunch in the Keio Department store, where the customers on the restaurant floor probably all had 20 years on us. And I’m not young. I was going to get the same thing I had once before (gratin & Croque Monsieur) when I saw beef stroganoff on the menu. My mom used to make Japanese beef stroganoff and so that’s what I got.

In the afternoon it was off to Team Lab Borderless to meet our friend Chico who my sister knew from high school. I don’t know if my sister got the picture right but there were lots of people getting their picture taken on the top of this rise. Many of them were women who would look over their shoulders and give a slutty look. I tried making faces but I think she missed it.

A lot of it was kind of dumb, but a lot of it was kind of amazing. Dumb was the mirrored room full of hanging lamps that would change colors in waves. After waiting for 40 minutes and finally making it inside, my heart sank because it just looked like the showroom of Globe Lighting. It was disappointing.

Lots of people taking pictures or just looking at their phones. I guess my sister took another picture of me in the LED light room which was one of the amazing rooms.

Team Lab Borderless is in Odaiba, which is an island built on an artificial island. We decided to go to dinner on the island and it was a long slog. A lot of the malls had awful food and our first try at finding an udon restaurant was a bust because at night they switched to just an izakaya.

We finally decided to go to Bills and that was pretty good.

We got back late. If we keep this up I’m going to need a long vacation from my vacation.

Japan Day 70: Tokyo

Oh boy, I’m too old for a full day of shopping, but that’s what we did. I think I may ditch my sister and Sadie and hide somewhere tomorrow. I know that won’t happen but I can dream, can’t I?

I also didn’t sleep well. Neither did my sister. I think the tiramisu we both ate had a bunch of caffeine in it, but that’s just my guess.

We went back to see Crabby at Hoshino Coffee and my sister confirmed that she is not only crabby but kind of frightening as well. I was happy to find out that I wasn’t just imagining things.

After that it was off to Shibuya to the Loft, and then I suggested Sadie go to the Shibuya 109 because it’s meant for young girls and not for creepy old dudes like me. I refused to go in. Later I was told by someone much younger than me that you probably have to be in your early 20’s at the oldest (and female) to shop there. Sadie never made it to all the floors and went back after lunch.

Lunch was at Harbs, a restaurant/cake store where my sister and I got so much sugar that we felt sick afterwards. Fortunately, the lunch set only came with a half-slice of cake. We didn’t get much of a choice, either. Everybody but me got the rare cheesecake. Everybody but me go the bacon, spinach, and tomato pasta. I had chicken and mushrooms and some sort of cake that was more fluff than anything.

A tiny piece as well.

Sadie went back to Shibuya 109, as I said, and we went to Don Quixote where my sister found special Q-Tips. Or should I say “cotton swabs” since they weren’t the nasty Q-Tip brand. Then we went to a bookstore and then we both dragged around and waited for death. I mean, we waited for Sadie to finish shopping.

For dinner we went to eggslut and I had the something-something 20 burger again. I forgot what it’s really called. My sister had the slut and a salad. It was as tasty as I remember.

And that’s it for today. I may pass out soon, but I really want to finish watching Mission: Impossible 4. I’ll have to find some sort of compromise.

Japan Day 69: Tokyo

So much for getting up on time. I drank a bunch of Japanese beer last night and slept quite well. Got up a couple of times to go to the bathroom, but I don’t think I drank too much because I didn’t have the usual tossing and turning and felt quite good in the morning. However, my Bose Sleepbuds cut out in the middle of the night so I didn’t get an alarm there. And the alarm clock in the room didn’t go off so I ended up oversleeping. I heard my phone buzzing and wondered why in the heck it wasn’t muted since it was the middle of the night but no, it was 7:25am, almost an hour after when I planned to get up!

I was still able to pack all my crap up (we gained a bit in Okayama, including some fabric my sister told me would be heavy) and get on the road just after 8am. We stopped in the same coffee shop that I went to in Okayama Station.

Then it was the Shinkansen for the four-hour trip to Tokyo.

As soon as we got to the hotel, we met our friend’s daughter Sadie and we all went to have lunch. The lunch was so filling I only ate snacks for dinner (the Jagabee I bought a couple of days ago and that I’ve been carrying around with me).

After that we actually checked into our rooms and immediately went shopping. Not so much for me, but Sadie’s only here for a week so I didn’t get much down time. And it was raining in Tokyo again!

Fortunately my sister and Sadie had an appointment at the manicurist (a place where I had to go and confirm the reservations for them on my previous stay in Tokyo) and I got to sit in my room for a while while they went. I think I’m still kind of tired from not waking up normally. Fortunately, the Sun Route in Shinjuku has comfortable rooms and if it’s the same as last year, it’s pretty quiet.

Japan Day 68: Okayama

Another day with very few pictures. My sister was running part of the Okayama Marathon today so I woke up early thinking about how I could try to get her a taxi using the Japan Taxi app. Unfortunately everyone takes their own taxi to the start of the marathon and the app did nothing. But I got up early to start fiddling with the app. My sister just asked another guy who was taking a cab to the start if she could share a ride and she made it there.

I went back to my room and eventually made it downstairs to have breakfast. It was underwhelming. I kept seeing opportunities to buy APA curry, and the curry in the APA hotel wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad either but whatevs. 

I got on a train to Senoo, and then caught a cab for our usual cheering spot. The cab driver made the same mistake my friend AJ made and couldn’t make it through the marathon. I told him how to get to where we needed to go (the long way around) and we got there with time to spare. We missed seeing the fastest people, but we did see our friends running.

My sister bailed out at the 25km mark and I think our cheering spot is at the 26km mark. Instead of taking the bus back she caught a cab with us to the Senoo station and then we took a train and a cab to the end of the marathon so she could pick up her stuff. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering back (eating this lunch below) and shopping.

I spent a lot of money.

In the evening we went to the usual after-race party with our friends. I just showed up to eat and drink, of course, not being a runner.

Japan Day 67: Okayama

I’m pretty tired and I can hardly remember what’s going on. It’s only 8PM but I had a rotten nights sleep last night. My sister will probably tell you it’s because we were just at dinner at a friend’s house and our friend’s dad was giving me “tastes” of sake and shochu. However the walls at Toyoko Inn, where we stayed last night, are VERY thin and people just going in and out of the rooms make sounds like they’re pounding on the walls. Oh well, the place is pretty nice otherwise and the women running it are great. I’m guessing the place was full last night and lots of people were coming and going.

We had their free breakfast, which was OK.

Then it was off to meet our friend so she and my sister could pick up their marathon packets. This is just the volunteers at the train station giving directions to the athletic stadium.

There was the usual fair outside the stadium, and I got some sticks of meat.

We spent the rest of the day walking around Okayama. Our friend got her leg taped up by her chiropractor, and we also had some matcha ice cream.

Later we had dinner at our friend’s house and it was no joke. I think I had enough shellfish for a while now. I think we also had steamed fish and some roasted fugu. And, as I mentioned before, I had some tastes of saké and shochu. Woo.

Tomorrow my sister runs part of the Okayama Marathon. She doesn’t want to beat herself up, so I think she’s getting on the bus after about halfway through. Should be a hot day for a marathon!

Japan Day 66: Okayama

Now I remember why I don’t stay in Toyoko Inn more often. The rooms are large but the walls are paper-thin. It’s the opposite of the weird old hotel we stayed in last night. It used to be quiet except for the ambulances going to the Hikari City Hospital, but they moved the hospital closer to my cousin’s house and away from the train station and the hotel. We also heard there was no breakfast at the hotel but they had breakfast sets! Other than the weird tasting fruit, it was pretty good.

We got on the old country train and went to the shinkansen station where I slept through the trip to Okayama.

My sister is running part of the marathon in a couple of days and so we just took it easy today. Lunch was at a crazy café where you could sit at a table or eat in a bed. I’m not sure what the point is, really.

Most of the day was just wandering around the station. My sister tried to bully me into buying an expensive jean jacket, but so far I’m holding out. We had dinner at a tonkatsu place, the same place I went to last year when I was in Okayama.

After dinner I went down to get some local craft beers. There’s a taproom IN THE MALL. Well, I should have a better memory because this is the third time I’ve come and the beers are not that great. Too sweet/malty.

And that’s it for today!

Japan Day 65: Hikari

Today we left Osaka to go to Hikari to visit my aunt and my cousin. We’d already packed the night before and sent my duffel onto Tokyo, so it wasn’t hard to get ready to go. My duffel seems to be on its last legs and that’s kind of sad. I’ve had it for seven years and I think it cost me a whole ¥1000. It’s a perfect size and has held up but what do you expect for such a cheap duffel?

Anyway, we went back to Pronto and we saw the dude. The other interesting thing we saw were two women putting on a ton of makeup. They looked good afterwards, but yeesh. Couldn’t they do that at home?

It takes three trains to get to Hikari, and the middle one is the bullet train. If you get a railpass you have to take the slowest Kodama, but if you just pay for a Nozomi there are two faster trains that stop in Tokuyama every day.

For lunch we had ekiben! It wasn’t bad. I’ve never had a great ekiben, but they’re usually pretty good.

Tokuyama is now called Shunan, but renaming a train station probably takes a lot more work than changing the name of a city. The Tokuyama train station has been improved and now there’s even an elevator! One of the train lines is the Gantokusen and it’s a one-car train!

We got on the bigger four-car train to Hikari.

Hikari is pretty small. There’s no elevator and there’s no way to get from the eastbound tracks other than a overpass with stairs. It’s really not ADA compliant.

My cousin had a fancy Balmuda toaster-oven and I didn’t know what the big deal was. It just looked like my Panasonic at first. But you see the top looks a little different? You pour in a teaspoon of water and it steams your bread before it gets toasted.

We had to try it and it really did make fluffy toast!

After that we went shopping at the one mall in town. My sister and I love it because there’s a clothing store she really likes and I always find sales on insulated coffee mugs. I think it’s the best pricing I see on the trip for those. Unfortunately, it’s the ONLY choice so my cousin doesn’t think that much of it.

We went to see my aunt, who has lost her vision, and she’s in her own little house behind my cousin’s. She comes over to my cousin’s house for dinner, but she spends the rest of the day in her house. She seems happy enough, but it still made me a little sad. It doesn’t help that we’re staying in a sad little hotel near the train station that stopped doing a breakfast service. At least the intarwebs seem to be working well.

Japan Day 64: Osaka

I don’t know why, but I had a craving for tuna fish. Maybe because I’ve had it over and over while I was here in breakfasts and in the combini sandwiches and I just hadn’t had it lately. Luckily my sister agreed to go to Tully’s and the coffee was pretty good today.

After that we went to Kuromon market, where we just walked through and didn’t really stop. There’s a pretty amazing assortment of food there but it was absolutely packed with Chinese tourists, much more than when I was there last. It’s definitely worth seeing.

My sister also wanted to go to a unique ice cream store and that turned out to be next to a bakery. The bakery also had a separate café and restaurant and we ate in the restaurant for lunch. The sandwich was huge and I ate most of it.

The ice cream looked great and tasted even better. It was almost like a light gelato.

I was tired and had to go back and take a nap. Then we wandered over to Nakazakicho to see all the shops. My sister saw a sign for a bar with craft beers and Landnneur had four taps all with Japanese craft beers! And they were good, too. A couple of the breweries were new, but the beers were good. I had three of the smaller glasses and chatted with the owner.

The area is kind of hipster, with lots of vintage goods, and we even saw a real Japanese food truck!

I wasn’t going to have another pork cutlet for dinner but my sister picked a curry place and what’s better than katsu curry?

And that’s about it for this day. Tomorrow it’s off to visit another cousin and my aunt.

Japan Day 63: Osaka

A fun day with not that many pictures. We went to Pronto and saw the dude. I think my sister snuck a picture. He wasn’t just reading his book today, he had a little keyboard he was typing on.

Then we walked around and wasted some time before I got my fancy ¥4950 haircut. It really isn’t that much when you consider I got a shave, face massage, shampoo, cut, and another shampoo. I think it would be more in the states.

Then we went back to the omurice soufflé place and I got the same thing I got last time.

After that we got massages and I was ready to pass out. But we went to my cousin’s and saw several (2 of 4 living in the area) and one spouse for dinner. Sanma, my favorite.

And that’s about it.

Japan Day 62: Osaka

I stayed out too late and then my blogging software was acting up. So much for timely updates.

On our first breakfast in Osaka my sister didn’t want to risk a smoky environment, especially not after she’d been sick for a while, so we went to the fancy bakery. You do get what you pay for there.

I think our second stop was our friend’s favorite FamilyMart across the train tracks from the hotel.

After that we were off on our adventures to the biggest Muji in the world, and some weird clothing store my sister likes. It was getting late so we had lunch at Mos Burger.

Then we went to Toki for matcha shiratama.

I met an old work friend, Moriwaki-san, for dinner and we got okonomiyaki near where we used to work.

Later he took me to the old Mitsubishi Kita-Itami plant and the guard let us look in near the gate. They’re torn down all the old buildings and replaced them with gravel lots. The newer buildings that Renesas built are now being used by Mitsubishi and Renesas has moved completely out. What a difference!

After that I took the express train back to the station and called it a night.

 

Some people don't believe my luck.

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