Japan 2022 Day 28

Woo, more adventure.

I got up after got of waking up early and often. To be expected on a day I’m flying. It started out normally…

Then I got a text message at 6:59am saying my flight was canceled/delayed. My 5:20pm flight wouldn’t leave until 12:35am, eventually getting me to Portland about 8:52pm. That kind of ruins my plans for a nice quiet Saturday doing my laundry.

I checked the app like they told me to and there were no options.

Then, at 8:47am I had a message telling me I’d been re-rescheduled for a JAL flight to Honolulu at 9:55pm which connected to a Delta flight to Seattle and then another Delta flight to Portland, getting me in about 11:30pm.

I’d had enough and decided to head to the airport. I canceled my prepaid taxi after finding out I couldn’t push it earlier. No refund at this late date. I called the driver and the local contracting company to warn them what I was doing, and then canceled on the web site and for good measure I called the contracting company again. Then I paid another ¥10,610 to get to the airport, arriving just before 10am. Of course the Delta counter until open 1:10pm. In fact, the Delta counter was an American Airlines counter, and a Korean Airlines counter before Delta showed up. I had to sit with my bags, having eaten nothing, no chance to use the bathroom, until I checked in.

While I was sitting I had an hour-long phone call with Delta to change my flight back to the “late” flight so I wouldn’t have to fly coach. They even offered to fly me to Atlanta and back to Portland but that would be coach as well. And I asked but there were no first class seats open. I got booked on the flight that’s now delayed until midnight and a later flight from Seattle to Portland.

While I was standing in line, the taxi driver and some number in California kept calling me because booking.com is a bit of a mess. Meh.

Check-in was a bit of shenanigans as well. But now I’m booked on a 1am flight to Seattle, and the “earlier” 8pm flight from Seattle to Portland. Delta gave me two ¥1000 food vouchers and I used them to get unagi, which I hadn’t been able to eat during the trip.

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I made it to the Delta Lounge which is wonderful and is staying open late until 11pm for the few people who are stuck here waiting for the Seattle flight. The first thing they gave us was a little taste of turkey and Sangiovese wine. Then I passed out for a while. It’s a comfortable place to wait.

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I asked a bunch of randos if they had the same series of changes I did. Nope. Well I’m headed home. Wish me luck.

Japan 2022 Day 27

Today was my last full day in Tokyo. I was trying to figure out what to do but there were a couple of regular stops that I haven’t made yet.

First, Hoshino Coffee again for the Eggslut. Why not? I like it. I went to the nearby Hoshino Coffee and I think they might have less on the morning set menu than the other one. But it’s close.

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Then I went to Akihabara to see all the electronics stores. I was initially very happy when I got there and then I realized that most of the small stores had closed. All the weird little parts stores and kit shops were gone. It was the saddest I’ve been this whole trip. I realized that I’m just a dinosaur with no job and even my hobbies are leaving me. I didn’t give up for a while. I went looking for a store, any store, that might have a cable tester I wanted. No dice. It’s on Amazon, but I’m leaving soon. I had to get out of there.

I took a train to Shibuya and the whole area is still under a lot of construction. At first it seemed impossible to get out of the station. When I finally got out and got my bearings, I went to the new Shibuya Scramble building to see the observation deck. I found out it’s ¥2000(!) to go up to the deck. Screw that. I got on the next train to Nakano.

Before I went to Nakano Broadway I got out of the arcade and saw a tsukemen restaurant. I have never tried tsukemen so I figured this  was my chance. This is the “medium” sized bowl of noodles and it was a lot.

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I think I’ll have to get used to tsukemen. I’m used to regular udon and ramen which are a lot thinner soup.

Nakano Broadway was the perfect place for this old dinosaur. There are a lot of stores with tchotchkes, mostly anime-related but other stores as well. There’s a LOT of watch stores and I almost bought a Wakmann Cricket alarm watch but it was ¥45,000 and looked in rough shape. I saw some Grand Seikos that were as old as I am.

There were figures that I hadn’t thought about since I was a kid! Obake no Q-taro? The second run of the manga ended in 1974!

Anyway, I felt better and went back to my hotel as the sun was setting. My last tasks were to have some dinner and to buy some new tchotchkes for my sister. I completed those tasks and I’m back in my room.

I got Indian food for dinner because why not? Japanese Indian food is different than US Indian food as it’s probably adjusted to the palate. The butter chicken was sickly sweet, however, and tasted like it was sweetened with honey.

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Tomorrow is a travel day. The plane doesn’t leave until 5:20 but I have a 1PM taxi scheduled. My unreliable app says it’ll be raining so I’ll probably hang out in my room for as long as I can and then hang out in an airport lounge as long as I can. Basically I get up at the usual time 6am Saturday morning (about 1pm US time on Friday) and try to stay up until 9pm Saturday evening. I don’t even land in the US until 2am Japan time.

Oh well, them’s the breaks.

Japan 2022 Day 26

At some point yesterday I decided I’d just take a bus to someplace in Yamanashi Prefecture so I’d have all the 47 checked off my list. I kind of didn’t want to because that meant one less goal and I’d already checked off all five of the castles that are Japanese National Treasures on this trip (or technically parts of five castles are designated treasures). But whatever. At first I thought I’d just go to Fuji Q Highlands which is a roller coaster amusement park, but then I found I could go to the lake nearby and just see the scenery. I wondered what else it was famous for and what they should list is that it’s OVERRUN WITH CHINESE TOURISTS. OK, not overrun. You have to get the China Chinese and not just the SE Asia Chinese to have it be properly overrun.

The best part? I NEVER HAVE TO GO THERE AGAIN.

Anyway, I finally got my butt out of the hotel and to the bus terminal only to find that the next bus was full. So I got tickets for the 10:15 bus and went to Hoshino Coffee. That would’ve been easier if I hadn’t gotten lost AGAIN. I found a different Hoshino Coffee that was closer to the hotel, in a basement. I sat at a table for one (loser).

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And I had a salad for breakfast. I wanted something different but I used my coin flipping app and landed on salad. At least it was tasty.

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The bus ride was an hour and 45 minutes but the view was nice and as we got closer I could tell it would be a clear day to see Mt. Fuji.

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It’s a fairly quiet tourist area with certain areas where the tourists congregate. I just kept walking around because I had time and there really wasn’t much to do.

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The first thing I found was all the restaurants appeared to be closed (turns out I went the wrong way). I saw a French place that looked open, checked google maps, and found a Japanese restaurant that was quite tasty. Very nice people too. I asked what was the most Yamanashi thing and the lady told me it was houtou, and I could leave and go find it if I wanted. But nothing else was open so far, so I had tendon which was great.

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I walked towards the town away from the tourist area and found several other open restaurants as well.

I took a couple of pictures of Mt Fuji.

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Which really were creative framing because it really looked like this.

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I also saw a huge Toyoko Inn up here.

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The bus trip back took longer because we hit a traffic jam. And then I went to a place called Noah which is Tokyo Sando’s family restaurant. I had a hard time trying to decide what to get because they have everything on the menu. I started with something they told me was the start of Tokyo Sando, an Indocurry croquette.

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Then I had to get the Napolitan spaghetti (ketchup sauce) because I haven’t had it yet.

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And yakitori because it’s Thanksgiving and I have to have some sort of chicken.

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And the rest of the “chef’s suggested items”. Potato salad.

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Satsuma age and tempura of sardines in perilla leaves.

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Everything was great and I got out of there for ¥4200. Pretty light for one of my trips to an izakaya.

Oh, and on the way back I saw this long line. I think they’re buying year-end lottery tickets. With the exchange rate it’s not worth it.

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Japan 2022 Day 25

Not many photos today. it was mostly a travel day, and raining at both ends of the trip.

I just had dinner from McDonald’s and it was AWFUL. I think they use more salt and less MSG here. And this is coming from a guy who has to keep himself from eating Mickey D’s less often than the several times a week he usually has it.

Anyway, I started out in Okinawa and it was a rainy day. It was only sprinkling for most of the day yesterday but at some point in the early evening it started POURING. It rained so hard that someone’s security light kept going on outside.

I actually slept pretty well although I woke up too early. Who wants to wake up before their alarm goes off and not be able to go back to sleep? Anyway, the fact that I slept so well makes me wonder if the heat and humidity are what my body wants. It would be pretty ironic.

Anyway, it wasn’t just sprinkling this morning so I just grabbed some food from the combini and stayed in to play with my computer all morning. Then I packed and got a cab to the airport because i didn’t want to walk around in the rain. I think I left the hotel around 10:45am.

The cab driver was a very interesting fellow who gave me his card. He also works as a tour guide from his cab and he was telling me all sorts of facts about the trip to the airport. I forgot to ask him why there weren’t more famous fish dishes in Okinawa.

I got to the airport quite early for my flight. They have an A&W here and I kind of wanted to try it but when I first got there the line was pretty long.

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It just got longer as I wandered around. I wasn’t that hungry so I just got some snacks at the Family Mart and found some tables that weren’t too busy. And there were airport and airline employees eating their lunch here. The tables overlook the departure lobby, too, so there’s something to do.

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The picture isn’t very indicative of the crowds. This is between two packed counters. I’m not sure why there were several hundred people in line at ANA. There were a half-dozen checkin kiosks and no one was using them.

When I finally went to my gate, there was no one there and they were about to close the door on the departing plane. The sign on the board had my flight listed. The departure time was still an hour later, but I had to scramble to make sure they didn’t push up the flight time as I’ve encountered in past travels. No, they just changed the sign very early to panic me.

The last picture of the day is the mini-Coke I found at the airport. They used to sell this size exclusively in Japan, that is, this is the only size I could find when I was younger. I wanted a mini-Coke several times during this trip but this was the first time I found it. It was also the same price as a “full-sized” 350ml Coke.

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The plane trip took about 2 ½ hours and there was nothing much to do on the packed 777-300, a plane I’ve always been afraid to fly on. The flight was a little bumpy too. Fortunately I finally remembered there are card games on my iPhone and when it wasn’t too bumpy I reconfirmed that I’m even bad at Solitaire.

It was properly raining in Tokyo too. I was going to take a taxi but before I could find the taxi line I saw that a bus was leaving for Shinjuku and even stopped at my hotel. I got in my room around 6:15pm, and that included weaving my way through a bunch of Chinese tourists who wouldn’t know a line or waiting for their turn even if it smacked them in the face. I suppose they were from other countries like Singapore, but what do I know?

Oh, and I got the two pieces of luggage I had shipped here but the intern kept taking the wrong slip for their records (it’s a multi-carbon form and they have to keep one of them for some reason.) They even called my room and apologized and came and got the form they gave me in the first place but then swapped me for because they were so confused. I just gave him ALL the copies because I was going to throw them away anyhow. He can put them in his binder or whatever he wants to do with them. Maybe SPINDLE them.

I had to navigate the Chinese tourists to try to borrow an umbrella. I was afraid someone would steal the umbrella because, well, that’s one of the only things they seem to steal here in Japan. That and bicycles. It stressed me out so much that I went to Mickey D’s for the awful takeout food I mentioned (even the fries weren’t great) and popped into a Family Mart to grab a bottle of water. SOMEONE STOLE THE GODDAMN UMBRELLA FROM THE FAMILY MART. Well, I remember what they told me in Osaka when I lived there and just grabbed someone else’s umbrella.

I got back to the hotel and asked the front desk about the umbrella and told them what I had done. The kid actually laughed and said, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t see anything.”

Anyway, I’m back in Tokyo. People seem to love this place but it’s just a place with lots of stuff. The food isn’t the best, there’s too many people, and if I ever move back to Japan this won’t be the place I live. But it can be fun and makes for lots of stories.

Japan 2022 Day 24

This was my full day in Okinawa and if I had a couch in this hotel room/apartment, I probably would’ve stayed in and sat on my ass all day. Just feels like the place to do that sort of thing.

I did stay in until about 10AM. I went out once to get some breakfast and it was pretty limited. I had a Lawson tuna sando (I think I like 7 Eleven better), melon pan, and a juice. I wasn’t feeling hungry until I ate the sando of course.

I finally decided to go to the local history museum and Shuri castle. That took ALL DAY. I don’t know about the history of all the areas of Japan I go to so I like going to the Prefectural History museums. Japan has a long history, back to caveman days. But Okinawa itself is a bit odd. It has a long history but Japan took it over at some point and then the US helped by bombing it back to prehistoric times during WWII and then didn’t return governance to Japan until 1972. It feels different here. I think a lot of the recreated old buildings are just that, recreations.

I saw one of those on the way to the history museum (of course I walked, I am an idiot). It’s 80ºF here, which is hot to me, and humid as hell. Plus the weather report kept changing and it was raining off and on. So it was extra humid and then the clouds would break and the sun would bake down on me. I’m not used to this island weather. But first, the gates to an old temple. If the rocks fit together too well then it’s a recreation.

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About the time I thought my brain would melt, I made it to the museum. It looks like a bunker and I had to ask someone how to get in.

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No pictures from the museum, but it was pretty neat. I didn’t remember the US maintained control of Okinawa until 1972, for example, and that was interesting. They also went into the native fauna and geology before going into the long history of the area.

Across the way was a small mall. Well, it was a big mall but not too many shops. I thought I could find a place to eat but really didn’t want to eat at a food court, though I did consider it. If there were more open tables I would’ve done it.

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I ended up at a coffee shop at the end of the food court and had their daily special. Fried fish (special fish sticks, really), and fluffy meatballs (still not sure what that means).

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As I told my sister, it was a little weird but it tasted just fine. It also came with dessert and coffee, which were good.

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Google said it was only 30-or-so minutes to the castle but they left out a couple of facts. First, they took me down little tiny paths. I had to turn sideways to get through the last bit of this.

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Around the corner from the path was a hill that felt like a 45% grade. I know hills don’t get that steep, but it felt that way.

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The climbing didn’t let up until the top of the castle.

Just before the castle there was the mausoleum of the kings. They were interred in these urns.

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The urns were then put into limestone caves that were dug out to make more space.

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Off to the castle. Or I should say, up to the castle.

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Shuri castle is kind of neat, but it’s a reproduction from the Heisei era (Heisei started while I was still living in Japan) and then burned down three years ago. I paid extra to see the reconstruction.

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And some rubble.

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And the view.

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I kind of like old castles or castle ruins better than recreations. Here’s some parts of the walls where you can see where the bottom is old construction and the upper part is the sterile new construction.

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There were also some mystery caves that weren’t ever recorded in the historical documents, so they’re not sure what they were used for. My guess is that the king stored his junk in them. Once again, old construction so I found them interesting.

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After that I walked back to my room and it was about 4 or 5pm. I wasn’t hungry at all so I ate a bag of potato chips that I, for some reason, carried from Tokyo through my travels until now. Then I got off my dead ass and went looking for the store the guy at the front desk recommended. It took a couple of tries and also coming back to the hotel once for more directions but it was an old hole-in-the-wall run by an elderly couple and was quite good and very cheap. The lady didn’t really look like she wanted to be there or to help me at all. She pointed out a few things that I didn’t know (Okinawan names, of course) and I had to Google them. I ended up with the stewed pig feet dinner.

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That’s a lot of food and it was only ¥900. I can’t say pig’s feet are my favorite, or that I’m going to want them again soon, but they weren’t bad. Okinawan food isn’t my favorite but I can eat it without too much complaint. Oh, and that’s not water, it’s barley tea. This place was really old school.

And that’s about it. I think I’m going to spend most of tomorrow sitting in an airport waiting for my flight, but I can say I finally made it to Okinawa.

Japan 2022 Day 23

I’m in Okinawa now and this place is kind of weirding me out. I’m guessing it’s like going to Waikiki and realizing it’s not like the rest of the US (says the old guy who hasn’t been to Hawaii since he was 5). But anyway, I’m getting ahead of things like usual. Chronological blog, right?

So I had a hell of a time getting to sleep last night. I kept thinking about things I couldn’t change or at least couldn’t even do until I got home (like deleting all my work email) and thought about quitting the watching of YouTube cold turkey, etc. I knew it was probably because of the STRONG green tea served at dinner last night so I wasn’t really “worried” worried, but my brain wouldn’t shut off. I was OK.

Breakfast was the same “free” stuff as the last couple of days. It’s funny. The potato salad was much tastier today. I think different people make it differently so it’s not just from a box. The fried thing on the right and the brownish bit on the bottom was chicken, and tasty. And, since it’s Monday, it wasn’t that crazy crowded. I think my sister said it was $130US for three nights.

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Anyway, it was a slow morning and then off to Tokyo for my sister, and off to Kobe for me. I was flying from Kobe to Okinawa on what turned out to be a packed 737-800. We both took the same Shinkansen to Kobe and she just stayed on when I got off. I had to wolf down the sandwiches we bought because the trip from Okayama to Shin-Kobe was only about half an hour.

Then I was kind of lost. I asked how to get to the airport and they wouldn’t give me the options. I just said, “How about the bus?” and “How about the subway?” Well the bus only ran once an hour but the next one came in 10 minutes, so that was good timing. I was warned it could be full, but it only had three people on board, including the driver. He said it’s never crowded.

Japanese airports are funny. The liquids check went like this: “Have you opened this bottle yet?” “No.” “Well, OK then, you’re good.” Kobe airport is one of the smallest I’ve been to and I’ve been to the corners of Hokkaido.

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The plane to Okinawa was packed and I made a huge mistake. I wore my compression socks but didn’t take baby aspirin, or Sudafed, or use my Afrin. Ignoring my continually stuffy nose was the problem. On descent the pilot changed the pressure suddenly and I thought someone had stabbed me in the eyes. At least I knew what it was. My stuffy nose was getting its revenge (revenge for what I don’t know). I stumbled out of the Naha airport which is HUGE and made it to the WRONG information booth (don’t go to Information, they only know about the airport). At TOURIST INFORMATION I was told to take a bus which would cost ¥240 and they DON’T TAKE SUICA down here. Oh well. I had some change, fortunately, and the change machine took ¥500 coins.

Then I got to my “hotel”. It’s fine. But it’s a repurposed apartment building and the “front desk” is only open from 2PM to 8PM. I’m in an apartment, complete with washer/dryer (though I shipped all my dirty clothes to Tokyo) and I think I have the run of this place until I check out. At least they put in two days of toothbrushes and towels. And the TV is huge and has Netflix. You have to use your own login, but I’m OK with that. It’s also dead center in the busy part of town.

As I said, Okinawa is kind of weirding me out. It has a decidedly SE Asian vibe (not helped by all the SE Asians here). I went to dinner and to have Okinawan food and it was being prepared by South Asians. There were Japanese people there but it was about half and half.

I must say, I found out I am not a huge fan of “traditional” Okinawan food. It might grow on me but most of it was kind of meh. For example, the goya champuru. Goya is bitter melon. I thought, “How bad could it be?” It tastes like poison.

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Oh the Orion beer is fine. It’s probably cheap Kirin in a relabeled bottle.

Next I had the purple sweet potato croquettes and fermented tofu. Too sweet on the croquettes and the tofu just tasted like it was soaking in cheap liquor.

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I had the simmered pork belly and really liked that but I’ve had it before and I knew I liked it.

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Finally I got something that was described as an Okinawan pancake and it was like a flat okonomiyaki. It wasn’t bad.

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Then it was off to the Lawson before I headed back to my Airbnb or whatever it is I’m staying at. I got some strawberry almond candies which were good but were regular Japanese candies and not Okinawan.

So now it’s time to watch some Netflix and get some rest. My plan is to just take it easy here and be warm. I think I can do that.

Japan 2022 Day 22

Yet another day where I think I might be trying to eat myself to death. Not entirely my own fault but if it’s on the plate in front of me I usually just try to finish it. At 58 years old it’s a little late to change that without some serious effort.

Anyway, breakfast was downstairs and it was about the same as yesterday. Not great, not awful, and part of the hotel rate.

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Then after a rest in the hotel, it was off to meet Yumi. She had scheduled a tour of the Okayama Kirin beer factory, which is kind of a sterile tour but very, very polite. They even provide a taxi from the train station. Yumi said when she called to make the reservation they told her which trains she could take and scheduled the free taxi to the plant which is only about 10 minutes away walking.

As you can imagine, they make a LOT of beer here. All the Kirin beer for Okayama Prefecture, part of Hyogo Prefecture, and all of Shikoku, plus chuhai, and happoshu, etc. They have you smell the grain and the hops (the two ingredients of Ichiban Shibori). They have you taste the first and second pressings of the wort (they only use the first). And then they show you the equipment. I kept asking dumb questions because, well, I’ve done this before and asked when the rice goes in (there’s a clearly labeled rice cooking vat) and they said it didn’t for Ichiban Shibori.

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Fermenting tanks.

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Canning line.

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Anyway, I also asked when they hopped the beer.

We got our tastes of Ichiban Shibori.

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They cheat on the head. The machine pours beer when you pull the handle and pours foam when you push it.

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They also gave us really good snacks to go along with the beer. There’s always snacks with beer in Japan.

We also got a taster tray of Ichiban Shibori, Premium Ichiban Shibori (it’s sweeter), and dark Ichiban Shibori (which tasted a bit salty at first).

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Then we found out what happens when Yumi has some beer and goes shopping. She bought a LOT of stuff in the gift store. I bought nothing (I wanted a bottle opener).

Oh, remember when I said I was cutting down my alcohol intake? I finished all that beer.

After that we got a taxi ride to a nearby town that has a shoyu factory because we wanted to try the soy sauce soft ice cream. But first, lunch. We found a curry shop that looked really sketchy because we entered from the parking lot. It was a bit fancy and I ate too much. I had the Setouchi Seafood Curry on a Bizen-ware plate. Local seafood, too. Those shrimp weren’t the usual rubbery frozen things I’m used to.

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Afterwards it was off to the Shoyu factory and the ice cream didn’t really taste of soy sauce but it was quite good.

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There’s only one train back to Okayama per hour and we walked to the station. This is what is there instead of an automated gate. You can also buy tickets from a vending machine.

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And here’s the station.

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We made it back to Okayama, did some shopping, and walked to Yumi’s favorite Japanese restaurant.

I had the Setouchi sushi. Very local, very tasty. Smack dab in the middle is a piece of beef sushi! 

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I ate too much, like I said.

Japan 2022 Day 21

Today we met my sister’s friend Yumi and went to a small art island we’ve been meaning to see, Inujima. It’s not the big one, Naoshima, which we’ve been to a couple of times. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We had the “free” breakfast at Toyoko Inn first.

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I was being clumsy and dropped the potato salad tongs on the floor. But then another guy dropped his tray on the floor so I figure I wasn’t the only one.

Anyway, Yumi drove us to the ferry that took us to Inujima. It’s a short 10 minute ride on a 16m ferry boat. It was a little crowded on the way over because there was a class of high school kids on it with us. On the way back it was just the three of us with one other passenger.

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The main art installations of Inujima are built around an old copper smelter that ran from 1909 to 1919. There are bricks made of slag all throughout the old plant.

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It’s much more than that with an interesting installation that I wasn’t able to take pictures of.

There are also old houses that are repurposed into exhibits around the island.

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And a giant dog house (or is it a house dog?) since Inujima means dog island.

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It’s a beautiful little island and worth a visit.

We had some time to kill before dinner and before we went to see the light exhibits at Korakuen gardens, so we went to see the newly refinished Okayama Castle.

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They did a nice job but I warned them the inside of the castle would probably not be that interesting and it wasn’t. It’s not an original castle so it’s mostly a museum inside.

I didn’t take any pictures of the light installations at the gardens because they look way better in person than as iPhone photographs. Here’s one of the castle lit up, though.

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And then it was back to the station for dinner. We went to a ramen shop and I had the fish-based broth. It was great! Of course I started eating before I took a picture.

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You can also get one free “refill” of noodles. After that they’re ¥160.

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I ate too much and I’m paying the price now. But man that ramen was good. My sister and Yumi said after I ate the ramen was the happiest I looked all day.

Japan 2022 Day 20

Didn’t sleep great, because I woke up at 5am thinking I had a stomach ache. I had a slight stomach ache and I think I’ve come to the realization that I can’t drink Japanese sake just like I have to cut way down on the beer. Oh well.

I’ve told my cousins about my fantasy plan to move to Japan and I guess if I move out into the sticks it would cost me around $250k to build a house out here. I think it would probably be at least 10x more near Tokyo, but this is the sticks. And brand new apartments are selling for about the same amount. Of course, that’s with today’s favorable exchange rate. In any case, it would be much less than my house in the US. While I really do like it out in the sticks, I think I’d get lonely out here with no one I knew.

Anyway, back to the food pictures.

Breakfast was a buffet at the semi-fancy hotel. I got a little bit of everything, and overate again. My only complaint was the natto was better in other parts of the country, but my cousin was complaining about it too.

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Our Shinkansen didn’t leave until 12:28 so we had time to kill and we walked around my aunt’s old neighborhood, where I’m considering moving if I didn’t think I’d get too lonely. There’s some neat temples.

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They’re confusing because they combine parts of temples and shrines. Like the temple incense burner.

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And the gong like a shrine.

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Oh, and we saw some turtles sunning themselves and it took a minute to realize they were real and not statues.

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There’s also new boutique shops popping up and rental sauna rooms.

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I finally visited the Shunan City Library (you can Google it to see how nice it is) which blends a library, bookstore, and a Starbucks and was disappointed to find out that the wall of books was fake! No picture because there was a sign that said “no pictures”.

We made it to Okayama in under an hour and I took a nap during the trip. We checked into our hotel but couldn’t get into the rooms until 3pm. My sister wanted to see the local TeamLab exhibit, TeamLab: Tea Time in the Soy Sauce Storehouse.

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It was pretty interesting. You go down into a dark space and drink chilled tea. Your interactions with your glass changes the sound and light coming from the glass. If you drink it all, it’s over and you get 30 minutes to just relax and enjoy the space.

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I’ve been in the soy sauce storehouse before. It’s used as a gallery for art installations.

After that it was some more wandering around and the back to the station for dinner. I ate too much again (I’m already planning on a diet when I get back because I can’t afford to eat like I was for both health and financial reasons and to keep from being pestered by my cousins.)

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But until I get back, TONKATSU.

Japan 2022 Day 19

We had a travel day to where my grandma used to live and my aunt and cousin still live. We came to see my elderly aunt, but unfortunately my aunt is in a care facility because she needs more help at 94 than my cousin can give her. You have to schedule time to see people and even then it’s like visiting a prison where you see people through a glass over a phone (I guess, I’ve only seen that in a movie.

Anyway, my sister got us a fancy hotel room and my cousin and her husband decided to join us.

Oh, first I should mention breakfast. My sister said we should ship one of the suitcases to the airport (actually a giant duffel filled with clothes we bought) and they couldn’t figure that out. I shipped it to my Tokyo hotel instead. Then we went to get a combini breakfast and I realized I had very little time to pack and eat the sando and bread. I ended up downing some coffee and shoving the sando in my face and leaving a juice smoothie box and corn/mayo bread in my bag for the Shinkansen ride.

Our cousin came to get us and we went to lunch at a hotel on a nearby island. It was an interesting buffet and pretty tasty and the views were great.

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This coffee cup is tiny btw. 4 oz?

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There’s a ship repair facility nearby.

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And a giant ferry anchored in the waters.

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We went to check in at the fancy hotel (it’s an onsen hotel that unfortunately has a couple of families with kids visiting too) but very near where my aunt used to live. Here’s her last house. Someone bought it and made it even fancier.

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I watch YouTube videos from TokyoLens and he’s so amazed at some of the small towns he tears through. Well, he never had to stay in them for weeks or months at a time visiting relatives. There’s nothing to do. It’s fun to visit though and I might even end up moving to one of these places (a fantasy of mine is to move to Japan, probably somewhere not Tokyo).

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There are at least a half-dozen small shops that weren’t here before. Boutiques, coffee shops, bakeries, etc. I should make a couple of those singular. I think there’s one new bakery.

Anyway, Another fantasy is to come out here and fish off the dock every day. Seems better than pachinko.

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We got back, hit the onsen (little kids were running rampant in part of it and I didn’t want them to give me the ‘rona) and waited for dinner. The dinner was great.

Appetizers and great sashimi. (It pays to visit fishing towns.)

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I was complaining to my cousins about ankou nabe (monkfish) and of course it was part of dinner. There’s “Sterno” underneath and the nabe cooks while you wait.

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Yeah, I can’t remember what this was. Simmered fish at the top and some soup with yuba wrapped something. It was good, but I can’t remember what it was.

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Here’s the Matsumoto beef plate. Some roasted vegetables and four slices of roasted and chilled steak. I made an instagram post about why I wasn’t an influencer. I’m more interested in eating the food than taking pictures of it.

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Instead of just rice, we had lightly grilled omosubi ochazuke. Put the sliced shiso in the bowl and pour the tea on top. It was very flavorful because of the miso on the rice.

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And finally a small fruit plate. Persimmon, apples, and melon. I ate that before I remembered to take a picture as well.

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And there you go. This is basically the area my family is from. My mother’s parents had rice paddies here and my dad’s family is from the mountains nearby. Not sure what they did. Not much going on here but then again there’s a Komatsu (tractor) factory, a Hitachi plant that makes Shinkansen trains, and old chemical plants that are supposedly shut down but I saw flames coming out of the refinery so some of it is still going.

 

Japan 2022 Day 18

I did not sleep very well last night (big surprise) and I’m about to pass out. We spent the day doing a shopping speed run, going to a mostly uninteresting museum, and going to visit my cousins where we yakked for hours.

In any case, I won’t have a job that much longer and there are options I’m supposed to decide, remotely, without any access to any information. More later. Sleep now.

Edit:

OK, it’s not the morning, but the next evening. Sorry, travel day. Anyway, about yesterday. I found out my job was “gone” (as did another person who is older than me) so this sounds like classic age discrimination but whatever. We’ll let the lawyers decide and I’ll get another $5 from a class action suit or something. Anyway, I’ve been told I can wait ’til I get back to take care of this stuff.

Back to what we DID do. We went to the Tully’s in the MBS (Mainichi Broadcasting System) lobby for breakfast. We’ve been there a few times and it’s usually very empty with lots of space.

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As a plus, Tully’s coffee is better this year too.

We were off to see our cousins, but had some time to kill, so we went to the Mister Donut/Duskin museum. I think it’s the corporate headquarters and it’s located behind this Mister Donut that’s tucked away on a back street.

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There wasn’t all that much to see. It’s just a little more than what you’d see in a corporate waiting area describing the company. There’s also a couple of kid’s displays. I think you can decorate your own donut and upstairs you can use various Duskin cleaning appliances in a simulated room. And I think there’s a shooting game.

My sister said we should get donuts as long as we were here. We thought about getting lunch, but the lunch at Mister Donut is limited.

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Instead we went to Mos Burger and I have to say I was a little disappointed. I remember it being better.

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We went to visit my cousin, and I think I had the time wrong. I thought we were supposed to be there at 3pm (we were a little late) but she started sending me messages at 2:20. Of course she doesn’t know how to use her cell phone so all her messages come via email and I didn’t see them until later that day.

We saw four cousins (one is a cousin by marriage) and most of them are pretty smart. One is kind of a redneck and he was spouting some interesting right-wing stuff. I also found out that my grandma’s house was probably modeled after a samurai house and that’s why when I tour old samurai residences i think it just looks like a very nice version of my grandma’s old house. We also talked about the old goemonburo, something that the foreign YouTubers always talk about being so odd. Yeah, I had to use one when I went to see my grandma.

Anyway, we made it back to Umeda (where our hotel is) and had some omurice for dinner.

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Oh and I had a side-salad. They also brought us little paper cups of miso soup. That was kind of funny.

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And then it was back to the hotel where I thought about posting this blog but I passed out early instead. Tomorrow it’s off to visit a different cousin!

Japan 2022 Day 17

Fortunately, I went to bed a little early last night and that’s what it took to make me feel better. Or something. Either way, I felt better today and I suggested we go to Uji just south of Kyoto.

First, we went to a breakfast place and I got my bad luck for the day out of the way. We ordered a small sandwich set, which was pretty simple. Let me show you.

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Somehow they lost our order. Then they delivered the wrong thing. It took half an hour to get this and Japan is usually a place where things come fairly quickly. It wasn’t much of a problem, but we were sitting right next to the door and it was a little chilly.

Anyway, off to Uji. It has a lot of matcha stores and the Byodoin Temple. It also has a shrine that didn’t seem like much but a web site I looked at said it’s the “oldest extant shrine in Japan”. I guess the tea is famous because Uji is “believed to be the original site of tea cultivation in Japan”. Or something like that.

We got there around lunchtime so we had some matcha soba. Well, I had nishin soba, which has a herring simmered in soy sauce and mirin.

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Then it was off to see Byodoin. I’ve been here before, but I never did go into Byodoin. It was quite impressive.

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You have to pay to get in, and pay extra to go inside the main temple.

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You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, so this is it. You line up and cross that bridge to the right and go into the large structure in the middle where there is a seated Buddha surrounded by ancient paintings and carvings. There’s also a museum with examples of the paintings and carvings that’s part of the main entry fee.

Afterwards, we went to get a matcha soft ice cream from a traditional stand.

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Just kidding, I just wanted to show that the Starbucks blends into the local architecture. Here’s the ice cream.

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Uji is an interesting place. I think they do cormorant fishing here as well. Never been here at night.

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We took a route back that wasn’t recommended by google, but was a lot more fun and had nicer train cars. And google said the Keihan Uji station was busy.

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Anyway, we made it back with no problem.

We went to the Daimaru department store for dinner and some shopping. Can’t go to Osaka without having okonomiyaki.

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And that’s about it. I’ve been laying off the beer because I was thinking it was upsetting my stomach. My stomach is upset all the time anyway, so tonight I’m having one beer.

Cheers!

Photo on 11 15 22 at 20 14

Some people don't believe my luck.

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