Japan 2015 Day 16

Time to go home!

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Sorry, but my Paul Bassett coffee wasn’t enough to keep me going on a day where I got up at 6:30AM JST on Thursday after a fitful night of sleep (due to drinking too many tasty Japanese microbrews) and went to bed around 4:30PM JST on Friday. My watch told me I got up at 6:30AM and went to sleep at 10:30PM of the same day, but that’s what time zones will do for you.

So these pictures are late.

I also found out that taking my morning medications with Aquarius Lemon leads to an upset stomach. My check out time wasn’t until 11AM and my flight wasn’t until 5:30PM, so I had time to go to Paul Bassett for breakfast and do some last-minute shopping in Shinjuku at Yodobashi Camera and Odakyu’s athletics department, though I didn’t end up buying anything.

I arrived at the airport very early because there’s plenty of last-minute shopping and food BEFORE YOU GO THROUGH THE SECURITY GATE. Got to the airport early enough to do some shopping there and hit my usual exit lunch at Fujiya. This actually calmed my stomach. Also, see that empty coffee cup? They keep filling it up at the Fujiya in Narita, unlike most Japanese restaurants.

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Oh, the set also came with dessert because why not?

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I got back to Portland and had lunch in the middle of the night in Japan. I was fading fast and took a quick nap in the afternoon.

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Got close to eight hours sleep and I feel jet lagged. But it’s good to be home.

Japan 2015 Day 15

Expect this to be the least coherent of my entries for my trip to Japan in 2015.

I got up this morning not know that exactly to do. I had several possibilities: buy a pair of $200 jeans at Momotaro in Koenji, eat a hamburger in Koenji, and go to the Cheese Festa in Ebisu.

I talked to my sister, who talked me out of spending $1891 for a seat upgrade on my flight back to Portland. She also suggested I go to Hoshino Coffee for pancakes, but they didn’t sell them until lunchtime.

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Fortunately they sold French Toast in a breakfast set.

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Then it really was off to Ebisu to the Cheese Festa. You got coupons to try four different cheeses, three of which weren’t that great. It was also incredibly crowded.

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The Cheese Festa was held in the Subaru building event space.

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I realized Ebisu is also where Blacows is, the place that eataku has the best hamburgers.

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Honestly it was a disappointment. It never seemed that great when I went there there three years ago and they’ve only gone downhill since. They don’t butcher the meat on-site and there’s no longer any indication of which cow the meat came from. The meat tasted like Japanese hamburger meat (pork & beef?) and it was tough like if they salted the meat beforehand.

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So after that I did what I usually like to do: wander around Tokyo. I went from Ebisu to Daikanyama, to getting lost in Shibuya. Look at the weird things I found.

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I had to get coffee and this was smooth and had a peppery taste to begin with.

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I also got a free energy drink on the way back to the train station.

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The PDX beer bar made me want to buy some Japanese beers. I went to the Watering Hole in Yoyogi to start off.

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They sent me on to Baird’s taproom.

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And then I thought it would be a good idea to go to Zoetrope where I talked to a couple from London and a single guy from Manchester.

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And that, so far, is that.

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Japan 2015 Day 14

Wow, I really have no pictures today.

I started out the day with a message from an old high school classmate who I actually met at a summer science camp in 3rd grade. He writes self-help books of sorts. (Is that what you’d call Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? Because he translated that into Japanese back in the day.) We spent the entire morning talking in the club lounge of the Ritz-Carlton. Not quite my regular breakfast spot.

I’m not sure why I felt I had to eat lunch after that, but I went looking for the pumpkin sandwich I had a couple of years ago in Akihabara but the Donq bakery didn’t have it this year. I used the intarwebs and found an interesting-sounding Japanese curry restaurant but couldn’t find it and ended up eating Nepalese curry.

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Then it was time to wander around Akihabara. I found a bunch of stuff I kind of wanted to buy but I bought nothing. I got ideas for a couple of things that I knew would be on eBay for much cheaper.

I made it back to my hotel in time to find that another old co-worker was free, but he didn’t get up until 3PM and couldn’t go to dinner until 8. Since he was laid off from Renesas he’s been doing a lot of nothing. We went and talked for a while over dinner and it was good catching up again.

That’s yet another day in Tokyo!

Japan 2015 Day 13

I’m coming down with my usual Tokyo headache that I think has two causes. One is the pollution here. It’s not that noticeable but I’m sure it’s here. I’m also running into more smokers and that can’t help.

My mom asked how fancy my current hotel is and it’s different fancy than the Mitsui Garden Hotel Premier Osaka. It’s like flashy fancy. The lobby has 3m tall ceilings and a balcony with a giant godzilla head.

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I mean seriously, WTF? Giant godzilla head? (I was taking that picture amongst a group of Russians and like my sister said, don’t f*ck with the Russians. It’s my estimation that any one of them, the Eurotrash kind or the gangster kind, can have a person killed without much trouble.)

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I got a slower start overall because I was tired and it’s not a surprise. It’s hot and cold here and I also got a lousy night’s sleep the night before. I finally dragged myself to Paul Bassett and had two cups of coffee and a croissant. It went well with my morning medicine and three Advil.

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I honestly can’t remember the order of crap I did today. I think I tried knocking off what I thought was the LAST ITEM on my mom & sister’s wish lists – an item for my mom that I actually put on the list myself. A gift for my mom, not a wishlist item. But then I realized my sister had an ADDITIONAL item that I needed to take care of. So that’s it, I headed the southside of Shinjuku station where I went to Tokyu Hands. Then it was off to Ginza to the used camera (and watch) store. I spent an hour drooling at watches and keeping myself from spending hundreds or even thousands on a used watch that may or may not work. Actually, I think I also was in Keio Department store looking at Grand Seikos. They’re making Hi Beats again and they’re almost as much as the watch I have now.

Anyway, I left the used watch store with nothing more than when I arrived except a desire for more watches.

I realized I was pretty hungry and that wasn’t going to help with my headaches. Ginza is a weird place (full of high-end stores) and I wasn’t finding any normal-sounding restaurants. So I went to the first place that was on the way to the Apple Store (and the world’s biggest Uniqlo) which turned out to be a Spanish place. The lunch set ended up costing around ¥2000 even though I swear it was only about ¥1000 in the display outside. But it came with a decent sized salad.

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And some appetizers.

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And finally the dish that reminded me of taco rice, actually. There’s crumbled ground beef under that egg.

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I said no more selfies, but I had to prove that I went to the Ginza Apple store.

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After that it was off to the Uniqlo to buy my sister’s shirt. And a souvenir t-shirt for me. And some more underwear. And a pair of sweatpants. Uniqlo has that kind of effect on anyone and this one had TWELVE FLOORS.

I’m not a fan of carrying around shopping bags so I went back to the hotel room.

I realized I had receipts from Tokyu Hands that totaled more that ¥10,000 (about $80 now) so I went to get my sales tax money back. I’m kind of a communist so I don’t really mind paying the tax but, hey, they’re offering it. I’m also a poor planner so I spend more than ¥10,000 at places like Uniqlo and Yodobashi Camera, but never on the same day. So I end up paying the consumption tax of 8% and liking it.

On the way back I went to the soup restaurant that we’ve been going to every year for a while now. Here’s the “anniversary special”. They’ve been in the Mylord building since 1985! Keep in mind it looks like a lot but all the portions are tiny.

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So I went to the other “traditional” place to go: the parfait shop. Because everyone needs a parfait glass full of soft ice cream topped with vanilla ice cream and a slice of tiramisu. Keep in mind this is the small parfait and there were giant ones topped with a vanilla cone (imagine this one with a cone of vanilla ice cream stuck into the top.)

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After that it was time to buy my train ticket out of town (not waiting until the last minute) and then bought a clock for my mom and headed back to the hotel. I was only off by two blocks and I had all sorts of creepy people coming up to me asking if I wanted this or that (pr0n DVDs, time with some questionable women, etc). I knew my hotel was on the edge of the seedy area of Tokyo but it’s really on the very edge of it. Not that it’s that dangerous in Japan. Just don’t f*ck with the guys who look like they shouldn’t be f*cked with. And don’t f*ck with the Russians.

Photo on 11 9 15 at 22 43 PM

Japan 2015 Day 12

The fancy hotel failed me. There was a group of young people on the floor and they made a loud noise every single hour all night long. Either leaving the room or just making thumping noises. I did not get a lot of sleep last night. But I knew I’d better get something to eat because I was on the way to Tokyo, and the train takes a while (10AM – 1:30PM or later). I had breakfast in the fancy hotel’s restaurant and it was as good as the first time.

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After that it was a long ride on the shinkansen back to Tokyo. I fell asleep for a while and a guy showed up and left while I was half awake. When I got to Tokyo it was cold and rainy! Osaka was cold at night but ~75°F during the day. I bet it wasn’t over 60°F today in Tokyo. I bought a ¥200 umbrella and got to the hotel which seems even fancier than the last. No big bath, but the lobby has multi-story-high ceilings and a giant Godzilla head. I’m not sure why they have a Godzilla head.

Anyway, I sat in the room for a bit until I kicked myself in the butt to go get some coffee. I almost just went to Mister Donut again but I figured, hell, I’m in Tokyo, one of the biggest cities IN THE WORLD so there must be better options than that. I found a place that was highly rated using google and man did they take themselves seriously. No pictures were allowed but I got an OK to take a picture of my cup of coffee. They even have Kopi Luwak coffee for ¥3000/cup and I’m tempted to try it.

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After that I went to Nakano Broadway, an otaku paradise. Google it if you’re curious but there’s all sorts of old anime, monster, and science fiction figurines and toys. Also some really fancy watch stores and I have a weakness for watches. It’s not the kind of place where they want you to take pictures, so I don’t have any pictures. Oh, they also had Fire King for those who know what that is.

I went googling for places to eat and I found a yakitori place near the hotel. It was tiny, and coincidentally three Canadian-Asians came in. One works here in Tokyo. I guess that’s a detail that’s neither here nor there.

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Of course I forgot to take pictures of some of the things I got, like something that was supposed to have a fertilized yolk with it, and bonfire (chicken butt.)

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My seat was right at the window of the grill.

Even the chicken wings are cooked on skewers.

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Afterwards I went walking through the rain looking for a whiskey bar that’s right by the hotel I usually stay at. It’s right next to the Jazz record store that closed before I could go and it was closed on Sunday! I’ll try again.

Japan 2015 Day 11

Today was a good day for a nap. It started out a little rainy and cold and ended up just humid most of the day. For that reason I was looking for more caffeine (again). I started out with a different ¥490 morning set at Pronto who had the same deal on Saturday. I think I saw some cheaper sets elsewhere but I’m not sure they were as good.

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I decided to take a leisurely walk down Nakanoshima because, why not? When I got to the end I noticed I was almost to Osaka Castle again. I went the opposite direction and found myself at the end of the Tenjinbashi Shopping arcade (the longest in Japan they say).

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But I just headed back to Umeda. On the way I was tempted by this coffee cup but am I really the kind of guy who has a $60 coffee cup?

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Umeda was crowded, so I stated to the outskirts. My sister suggested a curry restaurant that ended up being in a semi-seedy building and the seating was all crammed in at a counter. So I tried something else.

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After that I walked back to the hotel but my room wasn’t clean yet. I went to Starbucks to kill an hour and found myself falling asleep. When I woke up I noticed other people were doing the same thing. I think it’s the weather.

In the evening I met an old co-worker for dinner. He took me to a cheap tempura place that was tasty and we talked at a coffee shop. Then he took me driving around my old haunts and that was my last day in Osaka!

Japan 2015 Day 10

I’ll try going back to fill in some of the stuff I didn’t write about the past couple of days. It’s Friday night and I’m just sitting in my hotel room (like I’d do at home).

I got off to a slow start this morning because I got in late. I went to see my cousin, and the shuttle stops running early. There’s a giant bath on the 16th floor, so I had to use that again and then bedtime got late. I figured I’d see one or two things, buy the last things on my mom’s wishlist, and then just sit in a park and read a book maybe.

What I found out after going to the Floating Garden is that I’m just not caffeinated to Portland levels. So I started out with an inexpensive but tasty “morning set”.

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Then it was off to the Sky Garden were I had to wait for opening time.

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Here’s my one selfie for the trip. Behind me is where I used to live somewhere in all of that. Huh, It’s kind of blurry, too. Well, whatever. Look at the panorama above for a better picture.

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At the bottom there’s a warehouse district and I saw this sign painted on the side of a building.

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So I sat outside and had a pretty good coffee and surprise, surprise, I wasn’t so tired any more.

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What I was is foolish and I saw this on a pamphlet at the Sky Garden:

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One stamp from the Sky Garden and one from Osaka castle and I get a prize! So I went to Osaka Castle hoping the stamp was outside and I wouldn’t have to pay the ¥800 to get in. I forgot how far it is to the castle from any of the stations! (See the castle in the distance? It’s 20 minutes walking from every single station.)

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Turns out I had to pay ¥800, so I went up to the top. Somewhere I said Fukuyama Castle was a nice ferroconcrete castle. No, THIS is a nice ferroconcrete castle. The exhibits are well done with placards in English and if you don’t watch out you might learn some Japanese history about the Tokugawa Shogunate. Here’s a picture from the top back towards the Sky Garden.

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I promised myself I wouldn’t take a picture of the castle (I have plenty) when this golden boat came by. The geniuses at Apple Computer SCREWED UP THE CAMERA so it doesn’t always take pictures. If you press for two long it’s between taking one picture and taking a burst and it takes ZERO pictures. I just finally figured this out and that’s why I’ve been missing pictures during this trip. Anyway, here’s the tail end of the boat. Photoshop would help this picture.

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So after that it was off to Shinsaibashi to try to find my mom’s face cream. My sister sent me a photograph and I’ve been showing it to drug stores all over Osaka. They usually start talking to me in English thinking I’m one of the bazillion Chinese people who is buying a shitton of whatever it is they buy tax free in the drug stores to take back to China.

After feeling like an idiot in another half-dozen drug stores, I went to Daimaru to try to get a massage. The information desk sent me to the 7th floor, and that didn’t look right. I remembered there was a coffee shop near the massage place and I finally found the spot it should’ve been, but there’s renovations going on. I went back down to the Information desk where the regular person was back (I think the other person was covering for lunch) and they looked it up and told me that “Grand Raffine” went out of business completely! I needed some cheering up so I went to Mos Burger for their karaage chicken sandwich (only available for a short time!)

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Feeling better, I decided to try a few more drug stores and I finally found one with a Kanebo representative and she told me that the box for my mom’s face cream had changed. So it’s not:


It’s now:

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Whatever. It’s what my mom wanted and I’ve checked a dozen or more stores and had them look at me like I was a moron.. So I knocked off a few more items off the wishlist at Daiso, the ¥100 store (why can’t the dollar store be more like Daiso?) and back to the station to get some matcha soft ice cream. (It looked better at first but I took a bite before I took this picture).

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Now down to two things on the list and I was able to go to Kinokuniya Bookstore to get it down to one. Coming out of the bookstore I found a Queensway massage parlor and I went in for a 50 minute foot and calf massage! I was successfully finishing everything on the list! One last stop to get my prize, and I got a kaleidoscope! (Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.)

I went back to the hotel to drop things off, and back to Umeda to get some dinner. I was considering skipping dinner, but there was a demonstration (anti-nuclear?) at Kansai Electric and I could hear it in my room. I think I can hear everything from the street in my room but there’s nothing going on in the street most of the time. Anyway, turns out I was hungry and the okonomiyaki at Grand Front was excellent. Not cheap, but what is?

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Japan 2015 Day 9

I’m running late because I went to visit my cousin. I’m going to post some pictures and then edit this in the morning.

Woo, it took even later than I thought because of server certificate errors. Sheesh.

The breakfast at the Mitsui Garden Hotel Premier Osaka is as fancy as you’d think for a place with a name like that. The price is fancy too but there’s some of anything you’d want. Comparable to the Castle Hotel Fukuyama. Good thing, too, since I was also doing laundry and the washer/dryer combo takes TWO HOURS to finish.

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There’s even breakfast for dessert!

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Today was my shopping day to try to get all the things on my mom and my sister’s wish lists. Who knows, I might find some stuff for myself as well. One of the hardest things to find was my mom’s face cream and I took pictures of some drug stores that I tried. They’re full of Chinese tourists buying lots of drug store things. I don’t know if it’s cheaper than China or if they don’t trust Chinese manufacturers.

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Somehow ran into a campaign truck. The election season is just starting here.

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Another drug store.

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I took a break for lunch at the “wired cafe”. I think they used to have LAN cables for your laptops back in the day. Now it’s all wireless. It’s also one of the few places I know where you can get “taco rice”. I got the combo. In the lower left is a “burrito” (a ham and cheese is what it really is) and the fries had sugar on them! It was all tasty, though and spicier than you’d expect in Japan.

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Most of the other pictures I took are just things I was sending to my sister to make sure I was buying the right thing. I ran into people promoting a region just north of here along with their mascot.

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After that I went to my cousin’s for dinner. She had a stack of books for my mom. It’s only about 20 minutes away, I think, but it took a while to get there. First, there was an accident delaying all trains going towards Kobe (I think a suicide) and then there was a fire on the walk to her house. I wasn’t that late (even though google maps confused me) and I had a good time talking to her and another cousin who stopped by.

Japan 2015 Day 8

I probably didn’t sleep well last night because I didn’t think I was going to sleep well last night. I didn’t like the hotel much and that affected things. I kept hearing weird rumblings like there was a train station closer than it actually was. Maybe it was the subway. This hotel seems a lot better but we’ll see.

Breakfast wasn’t bad. It was no Castle Hotel Fukuyama, but that place is special.

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The only real weird thing is the cappuccino machine wouldn’t shut off. I guess if you push the button three times it gives you 3x what you think and somehow it thought I pushed the button three times.

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Before I left Kobe I made a quick trip to Ikuta Jinja because, well, it’s kind of my thing.

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After that it was off to Osaka. I left my bags at the hotel and took off for Dotombori-ish. I had to go to Nihonbashi and the National Bunraku Theatre to pick up my mom’s calendar like I do every year. Bunraku is her thing. I stopped at the Mizukake Fudou because it’s on the way. It’s a Buddhist statue that people splash with water instead of going normal offerings, and it’s covered in moss.

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I wandered around the shopping streets of the area, including Kuromon Ichiba. Everywhere is geared toward Chinese tourists and there’s plenty of them. I see way more Union Pay signs (a Chinese credit card) than Visa. I avoided them by going to places they were unlikely to be, like Yasaka Shrine or the kitchen shopping street.

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Even the giant sporting goods store I was looking for has turned into a “tax free” Don Quixote discount store. It still says “Spotaka” on the top but it says “DonQui” on the front.

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I made it back to Umeda and started my shopping for the family back home. There’s a short list of things my mom and my sister want and it’s going to take a bit to find it all. Wish me luck.

Oh, here’s where I had dinner.

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Because there was live music!

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Check out what this girl bought. I asked what it was and she said, “Minion!” I asked what was inside and it was full of popcorn!

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Japan 2015 Day 7

Did I just pay $155 for a steak dinner?

I started out the day in Fukuyama and I slept about as well as I thought I would. The shinkansen trains started before 6AM and they woke me up a couple of times. The hotel full of doctors was about as quiet as you’d expect, so that wasn’t a problem.

Breakfast was even fancier than I’d expected. As soon as I sat down they asked if I wanted a custom-made omelet (of course I did) and they even had French toast. Here’s what I picked out, though.

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Quite worth the whatever-the-heck I said yesterday. Oh, and I did end up hitting the bar. It was a little weird and brightly lit, and they kept wanting to mix different cocktails, but it was fine.

I got on the train for Kobe and went looking for my hotel. Of course I kept running into Chinese tourists who were either blocking my way to the trains (and I missed one because of them) or generally just getting in my way. All the way from Shin-Kobe station, off the subway to Sannomiya, and my hotel ended up being next to Chinatown! That’s some planning on my part.

I ended up doing the whole wandering around thing like I usually do. I went up to the old foreigner’s residences but didn’t go into any of the buildings. I was thinking, “Who cares about a bunch of fake-European houses from the early 20th century where the round-eyes used to live?” I did make it to the tippy-top where there was a shrine.

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Oddly enough there was a classical choral concert going on as well.The view was pretty great.

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After some more hilly walks I made it back to Shin-Kobe station (where I arrived earlier in the morning) where the “Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum” is located. They have recorded explanations in several different languages that they’ll lend you. It started out slow talking about stone vs metal axes in the oooolden days and moved onto talking about the carpentry of temples. I was pretty fascinated and spent a couple of hours there (I have a thing for temples and shrines after all) but I never did make it through all the recordings. The woman at the front desk laughed when I mentioned that. There was a live demonstration of Japanese hand planes (pull planes), with two foreign examples (push planes), and a Japanese spear plane! And after the demo you could try them all yourself!

(Woodworking nerds will understand how cool this all was.)

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Then it was back to the hotel, and I’m kind of disappointed. It’s twice as much as the fancy place yesterday and it’s not as fancy. It’s probably trendy and it’s plenty fine, but I usually don’t pay this much for a room so I was expecting something fancier. I suppose I’m just being picky.

I asked the front desk what I should eat and they said, “Kobe beef!” We get all sorts of things called “Kobe beef” back in Portland, and it certainly isn’t. In fact, there’s almost no beef allowed into the US from Japan. In any case, I had to do it. And I paid $155 for the privilege.

The fat in Kobe beef melts at a lower temperature, so it feels like it melts in your mouth. It lacks the crunchy outside of properly grilled Matsuzaka beef so it’s still just my second-favorite.

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The chef was excellent. Look at the care he takes in frying the garlic to go with the steak.

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When I asked him if it was OK to take pictures, he asked me if I wanted him to take a picture of me! Why not? I don’t have any other pictures of me on the trip.

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So I’d definitely recommend Moriya. I was told that the Chinese tourists love it there too and you have to get reservations on the weekend or for lunch. Tuesday dinner wasn’t that big a deal but boy it was tasty.

So onto my last two stops. Four days in Osaka and four days in Tokyo. The shopping for my mom and my sister starts soon!

Japan 2015 Day 6

I left Kokura and the semi-creepy hotel to get to Fukuyama and a hotel that’s creepy for a completely different reason. The Ail Inn (I mean really, that started things off weird) was just weird because it was dark. And there were no phones in the rooms, probably because no one was ever using them. When I finally realized it was a BUSINESS HOTEL, it all clicked and the place wasn’t that creepy any longer.

HOWEVER, my new hotel is creepy because I don’t think I belong. The place is crawling with what I expect are rich doctors. There are EXPENSIVE kimono and flower shops and a wedding chapel here. It’s fancy and bright and only cost me ¥6,400 for a night but dinner here would’ve cost me ¥3,000 minimum (I saw some options at ¥8,500) and breakfast is ¥1,600! In rough dollar conversion that means the HUGE CLEAN ROOM WITH TWO DOUBLE BEDS AND THREE CHAIRS was only $53.07 but dinner would’ve started at $24.88 and gone up to $70.48 and breakfast is $13.27.

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Oh, huh. The weak yen is making things look a lot better when I convert them. In any case I went out to dinner and paid ¥1,490 at the station.

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And I got dessert and an English language newspaper.

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But I left out where I started. I had another big breakfast at the Ail Inn. That’s not even everything they have there. There’s miso soup, and curry, and fish I forgot to get. The toaster is an industrial strength track job so you can put cheese and onions and tomato sauce and ham on your bread and make pizza toast. And there’s cereal. It’s one of the best spreads I’ve seen.

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Then it was off from Kokura to Fukuyama. I was looking at the wrong ticket and could’ve missed my train but I got bored and decided to take a non-reserved seat on what I thought was an earlier train. Basically, I got a non-reserved seat on the train I was supposed to be on in the first place.

I got to the fancy pants Fukuyama New Castle Hotel, left my bags (that they delivered to my room) and went exploring. The first stop was Fukuyama Castle, which I’ve seen for years from the shinkansen.

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If you get a chance, go see Kumamoto Castle instead. Kumamoto has multilingual signs, better displays, NEWER displays, and the chance to go into three turrets as well as the main castle. And Kumamoto Castle (like Hikone castle) is made of wood inside so it feels realer. Fukuyama Castle is a ferroconcrete reproduction with faded displays in Japanese only, but you do get a good view at the top.

Next I was off to historic Tomonoura, which is an old town with a few things to look at. Old is right. The place is full of temples and graveyards but no shrines. For some reason I’m pretty much over the temples this trip. I wandered around town looking at the outside of a lot of old houses that could’ve been anything and finally stopped at a café for lunch. The pasta wasn’t the best (I should’ve tried the “oil-based” sauce).

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But check out the view!

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Those legs to the right were an old dude who I thought was just bored but knew a lot of stuff about the town. He sent me on a trip up the mountain (like I said, I’m pretty much over the temples) that he said would take me 30 minutes. Well, I had another disagreement with the map but I made it back in 45 minutes, I think. Everyone else was dressed for winter, and I was down to my t-shirt because of the humid trek through the woods. But the view was worth it.

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My last stop in town was at the green spot on that peninsula (if I can even call it that) in the middle of the picture. Here’s the view back towards the hill.

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After that it was back to the fancy hotel and trying to find dinner, etc. I think this will be the first night with no beer even though I have a discount ticket to the bar downstairs. This is one of the louder places I’ve been so far. Here’s the view from my room and I can hear the trains loud and clear.

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Japan 2015 Day 5

I started out the day at the castle, taking the picture that disappeared off my phone yesterday.

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To be honest, I started out the day eating breakfast and not taking a picture for my sister. Fortunately, I’m here for another night.

I took the train to Mojiko, and  was half a bust. Don’t trust the people who hand out the maps. I got on the “Town Discovery Course” and promptly got lost. The scale is all weird and I overshot the railway museum. I finally figured out and backtracked and the museum was worth it, small but definitely cool.

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That’s one of the old sleeper trains that no longer runs. We took that when I was a kid. I’m guessing it was cheaper than the shinkansen back then. There’s some exhibits and a fun train driving simulator inside (¥100). Like I said, small but worth it.

Then I got lost again. I ended up where I was before I backtracked and saw lots of flags for a shrine. I have a thing for shrines so I headed up the slope. And up. And up.

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It was a tiny shrine and they were cleaning it up. I guess they were having their yearly “festival” and one lady told me that it’s the only time anyone’s there. She gave me some gifts and I was on my way.

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Honestly, after than, I shouldn’t complain about the rest of the mess. In order of the places the map led me to next:

The Sakaemachi Gintengai Shopping arcade was mostly closed. The Showa Retro Gallery no longer existed. The Ohara Market was closed on Sundays. The Central Market and Omatsu Shopping Center were the same. The Matsunaga Library had moved. The untitled “cultural asset of the city” is also kind of an eyesore.

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I finally decided to heck with following the route and went to the Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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From there I went back to the Moji Telecommunications Museum (lots of cool old phones!) and then went off the track completely. There were lots of people on the “Aruku-ing” walk and I decided to follow their path, albeit much later than they were. I went all the way to the Mekari Shrine (from 700AD and the northernmost shrine in Kyushu).

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From there I decided to walk in the underground tunnel to Shimonoseki, under the Tsushima strait, mainly because I could. There’s an elevator that takes you down to the tunnel, and it’s about a 15 minute walk one way.


Here’s the view from the Kyushu side,

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And here’s a view from the Yamaguchi-ken side.

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I walked all the way back into town and went up the “Mojiko Retro Observation Room”, 31 stories up. Here’s picture of the bridge that’s over the tunnel I just went under.

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After that it was time to wander around the touristy parts of Mojiko. One of the first things I found was a “ji-biru” brewery (local brewery). Of course I had to try a bunch of them. The beers, while tasty, were oddly odorless and not living up to the bitterness that was promised. I suppose that’s just the Portland influence.

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I also ate the odd Mojiko specialty: yaki kare. Japanese curry rice, on a hot skillet, with cheese and an egg inside.

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I spent another couple of hours going through the tourist traps and remaining couple of museums. I got back to Kokura and hit Mr. Donut for a cup of coffee.

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I was about to skip dinner but then I thought, why? I’m on vacation. So I went to Bikkuri Donkey and had a hamburg steak! (and some more beer) This hamburg steak is hiding cheese and potato salad inside!

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