Japan 2016 Day 15

Sorry, this is a little late. It’s was a long day. I got up at 6:45AM, went to breakfast, packed, went to the airport, got on the plane at 5:30PM, got off the plane at 10:45AM the same morning, and went to bed around 10:30PM but that’s fuzzy. In one time zone, that means I got up at 2:45PM on Thursday and went to bed at 10:30PM Friday. Not real sure why they thought things like that were a good idea for doctors in training.

Lim was bummed about the Nepalese breakfast and she wanted to look for Eggslut (what she called Hoshino Coffee). And according to Google, Hoshino Coffee was all the way across Shinjuku. Two-thirds of the way there we noticed that Google also said they didn’t open until 11AM. What coffee place opens at 11AM? I accidentally found a Hoshino Coffee near the hotel last year and sure enough Google still didn’t know about it but it was there and open. Here we are, slutting it up (we all got the eggslut) morning set.

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The coffee is pretty good too.

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After that it was packing and then heading to the airport.

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Everyone else got off at Terminal 2 to take a flight from NRT to LAX, and then LAX to PDX. I went to Terminal 1 for my more expensive but direct flight to PDX.

I had a lonely lunch in the traditional place. Even had the same thing I’ve had the last few years. The window to my right has a nice view to the runways. It doesn’t make a good picture because there’s a deck between the window and the edge of the building but it’s an OK view.

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I also had dessert because I’M ON VACATION. Plus we were going to get parfait earlier and the restaurant in MyLord had closed. The ice cream was old (had ice crystals in it but it was still a parfait.

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Oddly enough, outgoing customs was a pain in the ass with another long slow line of Chinese people. I’m not sure what they were doing but for me they just unstapled my forms and sent me on the way.

And then it was off to the flight were we had a familiar flight crew (my mom knows one of the flight attendants). Other than the woman next to me coughing the whole time, it was an uneventful flight where I watched Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Barbershop: The Next Cut, and part of Central Intelligence.

Then it was an uneventful trip through Customs & Immigrations and then three tries to get Uber working and an uneventful Lyft ride home. HOME! Time to rake the leaves and go through my email to pay the bills.

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Japan 2016 Day 14

Final full shopping day! We went down to Shibuya because why not? It was our final shopping day. Hachiko was looking good and not surrounded by smokers first thing in the morning.

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We started out on this this Thursday holiday with fairy empty streets. Which was good because our plans were a little messed up and we wandered around for a lot of it. Lunch was at Uobe, the sushi bar with the track system. Oddly enough, we ran into my sister’s friend on our way out. Her daughter was taking classes in Shibuya and it was a school holiday today.

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More wandering around and more coffee for the Oregonian. This was at the end of what I can only describe as a cart pod called Commune 246.

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We were there because Melissa has been talking about getting her hair cut for much of the trip and we finally got a recommendation for a place called Dot+LIM. I knew it  was fate and got us on the subway over to Omotesando.

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She has a really cute haircut now.

After that we went back to an old-school office supply store through incredible crowds in Omotesando and Shinjuku. Our final dinner was at Baqet with the all-you-can eat bread. We couldn’t eat all that much, in all honesty. It’s best when it’s right out of the oven and we got there too late for too many batches to make it out.

It’s time to go home tomorrow!

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Japan 2016 Day 13

Oh boy what did we do today. Where are the pictures to remind me?

We started out with breakfast downstairs again. Today was the “club” sandwich as the daily sandwich. And the coffee actually tasted good today but it was lukewarm.

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So it was off to Paul Bassett before we went to the Ghibli Museum! You can’t take pictures inside, so I have some from outside. It was crowded, but I remember it being much more crowded the last time I went. And the movie was different this time.

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The coffee there was pretty good, too!

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We headed back to Kichijoji through Inokashira park.

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We had lunch at a giant Muji and then it was back to shopping in the boutiques northwest of Kichijoji station. We tried to go to a string store (not my jam, someone else’s) but I did see this odd combination of power wiring.

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And then it was time for me to be completely disappointed by the closure of the Kinokuniya south of Shinjuku station. I made up for it by buying a bunch of stuff at Tokyu Hands.

We were all beat. It was a chilly day and we’d been outside much of the day. Everyone else got dinner at 7-11 but I walked across the street to the Mos Burger. I love Mos Burger!

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Japan 2016 Day 12

Started out the day with another breakfast downstairs. The coffee Quality Assurance isn’t up to snuff and so we went off to try Verve Coffee from Santa Cruz. They wrap the coffee in a “hachimaki” headband. Honestly, it was awful but that’s probably just because I don’t like light & bright coffees. It was good for what it was, but I think sour coffee is awful.

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The thing on the list was to take the young’un to Akihabara, but the ladies all wanted to go to the fabric store first. It’s not too far from the hotel I stayed at last year and there’s old Godzilla watching over the lobby.

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We finally made it to Akihabara and met my sister’s friend Yumeko who always has insanely funny stories to tell us. She suggested a French toast restaurant where I had soufflé pancakes. They weren’t the production that Gram was and were also much cakier. I kind’ve liked them better, but the best were probably at Hoshino Coffee in Kyoto.

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I had to ditch everyone to meet old co-worker Suzuki-san in Koenji. I just picked Koenji because, well, why not? There was a big sign for “Craft Beer Market” and they had Japanese craft beer and grilled meats. What could be better? They also seemed to know Tsutsui-san from Shonan Brewing and I found out that Tsutsui-san grew up very near there!

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I got back late and had to mess with my computer for a while. You know how it is.

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Japan 2016 Day 11

Wow, it goes to 11.

We’re staying at the Mystays Nishi-shinjuku, I think. It used to be called the Nishishinjuku hotel and I’ve been staying here for YEARS. It’s not the best place, but it’s close to Shinjuku (a nice central spot in Tokyo) and except for one year it’s pretty reasonable. This year the restaurant downstairs is doing breakfasts again and it’s pretty good. I forgot to take a picture, but there’s only four choices so I’ll probably get one tomorrow.

We went out to Harajuku and Omotesando today and since it’s Halloween, the young’un got dressed up again.

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We got there fairly early in the morning and the stores opened about 11 so we had to walk back and forth a bit. We did get to Streamers and several of us had the Military Latte (matcha and white chocolate latte).

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I was unsuccessful at maintaining the correct caffeine balance and felt slightly jittery.

Streamers is also right near the PDX Taproom, a place I’ve only been to when it’s closed. I even talked to the proprietor on her opening day, several hours before opening.

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Note the tap list is all things I can get when I get home.

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I sent an identical message to several of my friends and to Facebook today:

I am in Omotesando with my sister and her friends. Shopping. Basically I am in hell.

We had lunch in the Aoyama area and I ordered the bolognese, but the young’un in our group ordered cheese pizza and it was, well, unique. Sweet with a hint of cinnamon. She couldn’t eat it and I knew I could so we traded.

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After that she and her mom had to do some shopping in Takeshita Street and it was a lot more crowded in the afternoon.

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We got back to the hotel and took a bit of a rest. Then off to dinner. Since it was 10/31, the young’un got dressed up for the occasion. Note the stylish coat and purse she just bought on Takeshita Street.

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I suggested going to Takashimaya, and somehow I ended up with a steak. I figure this is my chance at eating some semblance of a steak this trip, unlike last year when I had two or three.

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Afterwards I finished my limited clothes shopping at Uniqlo and we headed back to the hotel. We saw a street band playing, “Isn’t She Lovely,” quite well and I was impressed that the saxophone player was able to play through his mask!

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 And that’s it for today.
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Japan 2016 Day 10

Please forgive the extra incoherence today because I’ve had a couple more pints than usual. That story at the end.

We started out the day in Kyoto at Hoshino Coffee, which turned out to be underground and it took me a while to find everyone. One of the things on the morning set menu was an ??????? (Eggslut) which took us aback. But reading the description, it’s based on an LA restaurant called Eggslut and the chef is from Oregon Culinary Institute. Here’s a picture of Melissa, which my mom requested since she’s the last one in our group I’ve put on my blog.

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Wow, the Eggslut was tasty.

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We went back to our respective hotels and started packing for our trip to Tokyo. I had to get a can of “Black Boss” because it’s funny. Unfortunately, “Premium Black” is much, much tastier but where’s the fun in that?

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We got bentos we ate on the Shinkansen. My sister had a two-layer bento and also crammed herself into the seat with her giant suitcase.

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Lim had something also tasty-looking.

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I had the Kansai special. It’s a bit messy because I dropped it before I opened it.

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We made it to Shinjuku and took the young’un to Nakano Broadway where her mom also found a store that she was really crazy about. I found a bunch of stuff I’d like to have, but only if I was an intarweb bazillionaire. For example, there was a ~$5000 metal robot and a ~$4000 used Grand Seiko HiBeat wristwatch.

We went back to the “soup place” (bread bowls!) in MyLord for dinner. Beef tongue isn’t my favorite cut of beef and it wasn’t my first choice of what I’d put in stew, but they were out of the pumpkin special.

After that I split off on my grand adventure to find Japanese craft beer. My first stop was “Craft Beer Tap” because it was closer to the hotel than my first choice. Bad idea. It was on TokyoCheapo, but I spent ¥1814 ($17.32US) for 330ml of a beer I didn’t like that much. That translates to about $25 for a US pint of something I thought was only OK. And they only had three Japanese beers on tap. And the bartender was talking shit about foreigners and one of the foreigners was smoking. No oshibori either. Basically, I’d call it a shitshow.

So screw that, time to head to The Watering Hole. My first beer was an IPA from Shonan, which is where the Japanese brewer I was translating for is from. It was great. I also had a Berliner Weisse because I was busy talking to the staff and a Swedish guy I met at the bar. It took 20 minutes to walk back and it was worth it. Plus, it only cost me ¥2200! How silly of me to go anywhere else!

 

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Japan 2016 Day 9

 

It’s so much nicer to be wandering around Kyoto when it’s not pouring rain. We started out at a coffee shop again, this time Komeda. It was right across the street from a Toyoko Inn and my phone kept trying to steal their Wi-Fi.

Then we were off to Fushimi Inari. My brother-in-law lived near there for a few months forever ago and he’d be very disappointed if we didn’t visit. Of course, half of China was there too. And plenty of Europeans thrown in for good measure. I didn’t take many pictures, but here’s one of the the craziness we saw. Plus there were people stopping in the tunnel of torii to take selfies and you couldn’t get around them.

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We went off on a side path after a while and there was almost no one there. But after we got back down we went down to the temple market because that’s something you should experience, plus there’s FOOD.

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I saw a lot more crazy food and I’m thinking it’s the international (i.e. Asian) influence. More meat, and who ever heard of cucumber on a stick? Of course I joined in and got beef on a stick. It was delicious.

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We didn’t have a proper lunch, but what am I going to do, starve? I also had an excellent macchiato.

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And a sweet potato soft ice cream that they made by putting a pod into a machine.

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The young’un in the group (my sister’s friend’s daughter) wanted to try on a kimono, and why not? She’s exactly who should be in a kimono walking around Kyoto. You’re only young once. Actually, I take that back. Anyone who wants to should be able to do it. Why not? You’re on vacation.

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And then it was off to Kiyomizudera. I had no idea how much construction was going on there. I shouldn’t be surprised. It takes a lot of maintenance to keep old structures from falling down. (Note my camera technique where I keep my finger in the picture.)

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Another temple market after Kiyomizudera.

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And one of the group split off to go to a boutique while the rest of us ate at 7-11 and my sister found giant cotton candy.

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OK, so that’s just the perspective. IT was still pretty big.

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It was so fluffy and delicious that we finished them both! I guess that’s what you get when Japanese are making the cotton candy and not some carnies.

After that Sadie returned her kimono and we went to Sanjusangendo Temple. You’ll have to google for images as photography isn’t allowed. But it’s breathtaking. A huge building housing one giant seated Kannon and one thousand standing Kannon statues, each one about five feet tall. A THOUSAND. And there are twenty-eight guardian statues as well.

We had dinner at the station, an excellent tonkatsu restaurant where you grind your own roasted sesame seed and add tonkatsu sauce for dipping. The only reason I don’t have a picture of this is because we were tired and ate it all before we even thought about taking a picture.

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Japan 2016 Day 8

Well, this is late. We packed all our crap, got on a train, and made it to Kyoto today. Of course since I’m here with who I’m here with, what did we do in a historic city full of world heritage sites? Shopping of course. And as soon as we got here it started to rain.

Somehow we ended up in a vegetarian restaurant for lunch. Even before I realized this I told my sister, “It looks like a bunch of stuff that’s good for me.”

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But it’s not like I didn’t eat it all.

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Then it was off to Nishiki market (no pictures from me) where it was incredibly crowded. Then we took a walk towards Kiyomizudera but I think they spent an hour in two shops (I stood out in the rain for most of that time) and it got dark before we reached it. We called it early and went back to our hotels to do laundry.

My sister and her friends are in a hostel or guest house or whatever that thing is. I’m in a proper hotel with a giant bath on the 13th floor. They only have three of my least favorite combo washer/dryers here and it took three hours for a load to finish. There was only one empty so I crammed it all in and it’s not exactly the cleanest stuff. Just cleaner than when it went in. It’s not like the giant Samsung washer I bought my mom.

Dinner was from Lawson and had a tiny bit of meat in it. Pizza bread, corn/mayo bread, quattro cheese Pringles, and a Calpis Orange. And two craft-ish beers (both companies being bought by the beer giants in Japan).

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Japan 2016 Day 7

It was a beautiful day but we took it easy because we’ve been out quite consistently all week. We started off at Tully’s in the lobby of the MBS building. I never did see anyone famous walking through the lobby, but I bet they have their own entrance that normal people can’t see.

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Then it was a leisurely walk to the fabric store with a stop at a fantastic bakery with good ice coffee as well.

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While they all shopped at the fabric store, I just sat on a park bench. Other than the guy next to me smoking, it was a great day to be out in the park.

We wandered through an even nicer park a couple of blocks from the fabric store when we saw this rock star.

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After that it was a walk back to Umeda and a quick pass through some stores and lunch at an okonomiyaki restaurant. I’ve confirmed that I’m not a huge fan of modanyaki (okonomiyaki with noodles).

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Like I said, we were taking it easy today and went back to the hotel to relax. Lunch was late so dinner was ice cream!

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I also got a sandwich on the way back to the hotel which I inhaled before I could get a picture of it. Katsu sando.

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Japan 2016 Day 6

Woo, tired. I had to needed the coffee at Starbucks to get going in the morning. The coffee with the morning set is tiny. (Yesterday’s picture again for you of a morning set.)

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Went shopping. Boy did we go shopping. But at least we spent a lot of time at Loft, and they have things I can buy. I bought a new pair of eyeglass frames to take back to the US for new glasses.

Overate at Mos Burger. This is a picture of my second order. The first was a Mos Burger, chicken leg, and a coke.

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After that we did some girly shopping ending with an afternoon snack at Toki. This is a picture that I probably post every year because i get the very same thing.

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After that I went off on my own adventure. It was pouring, but I took a taxi from the hotel to Kuroneko Yamato to mail my mom’s books to Narita airport so I don’t have to lug them around. Then I went to visit my friend who I used to work with back in my Japan days.

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He took me to an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant and oddly instead of having a buffet you just kept ordering dishes off the menu. Afterwards we tried to make it to Minoh Beer but their last order is at 8:30PM. Phooey.

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Japan 2016 Day 5

I’m a little tired. I’ve been sleeping OK though I wake up from all the unfamiliar sounds (like the weirdo who left his radio on all night next door in Okayama and started pounding the walls in the morning and the trains by my current hotel room) but I’ve been sleeping to my alarm, unlike my sister and her friends.

Today was a long day out. I started out having breakfast with the group.

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For a little more than the price of a cup of coffee, you get all this. And then I was off to see my cousin to pick up some books for my mom. My cousin asked which books my mom wanted so I called her and she said she wanted them all! That meant a heavy addition to what I have to carry back from Japan!

I rejoined the group around lunchtime but they were in full shopping mode and we didn’t eat until after 2PM.

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Which was odd because there was a pancake shop we had to try with fluffy, custardy pancakes that were limited to 20 per day (or was it 20 three times a day?) and we had to get there at 3PM. Well, we did both.

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My sister asked me if I wanted an order to myself and I said, “Sure, why not?”

I know I’m getting picky because I tasted something off in the pancakes, like maybe some bad oil, and also I thought the soba and tempura could be a little better. Not that they weren’t really good, just that they weren’t excellent.

After that we continued shopping until 8PM or so about the time I thought I was going to fall over. It was fun, though. And I finally found my mom’s stomach medicine out by my cousin’s apartment.

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Japan 2016 Day 4

Oh boy, I’m too tired to describe much of what we did today. We travelled from Okayama to Osaka, dropped off our bags, and then tried to go tone of my sister’s favorite fabric stores in Osaka. More of a boutique than a full-on store. Unfortunately it was closed today but we did find a tiny pop-up shop with interesting things that my sister’s friends bought.

But most of the afternoon was spent in Shinsaibashi, dodging Chinese tourists. Unfortunately I was going into a bunch of places that the Chinese tourists congregate: Japanese drug stores. My mom wanted me to pick up some digestive pills for her and they’re getting rarer lately and I have to ask at a lot of stores before I find them. It was a long and tiring day. But we did get in some eating including very fluffy and caky pancakes for a snack.

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Oh, and what the hell. I can’t avoid Micah Camden even in Osaka.

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