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.

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!


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.

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.

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.

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 had been collecting used books from her friends for my mom and asked which books I thought my mom wanted. I called my mom back in Portland using Google Voice for “free” and said she wanted them all! That means 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 rancid 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.

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 to one of my sister’s favorite fabric stores in Osaka. More of a boutique than a full-on store and 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. Unlucky for me, 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 so I have to ask at a lot of stores before I find them. It was a long and tiring day and I never did find the pills. 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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Japan 2016 Day 3

Today was our trip to Naoshima, one of the art islands in Japan. I was there with my sister and mom in 2011 back before it was very popular and now it has been on countless blogs and in print magazine articles making it a lot more crowded than before. Last time we went on a Monday and a lot of things were closed but this time it’s Sunday.

We went with a party of nine, including an English teacher from Baltimore and a professor from The College of William & Mary.

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I don’t have a lot of pictures because what museum lets you take pictures? We went to Chichu Art Museum, saw most of the Art House Project, and wandered around. I also had some of the local beer.

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It was a much nicer day than yesterday (it was raining a lot yesterday).

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Met a lot of new people, including a German tourist who has a British father and spoke excellent English with an interesting accent. He’s staying at an airbnb in northern Kyoto and makes day trips all around the country.

We made it back to Okayama and had dinner near the hotel at Moby, some sort of meat restaurant. Well, I thought that’s what it was because I had a hamburg steak.

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And that’s about it for the pictures I have for today. I wish I could’ve taken pictures of the installations or could tell you which Monet paintings we saw, but I can’t. I would recommend seeing it for yourself.

Japan 2016 Day 2

Oh boy am I tired. Not that I’ve done all that much, but the jet lag is catching up to me and it sure doesn’t help with the sleep at night. And the shoulder pain I got from doing too much of something at the gym hasn’t completely gone away.

I’m here with my sister and two of her friends, and the daughter of one of the friends. It’s been pretty easy so far, except they took a much cheaper flight which was delayed three hours and I had to sit in Narita airport at 6PM (2AM PDT) and wait for them.

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Fortunately the movies I watched on my flight gave me ideas on what music I could blast through my headphones to keep me awake. I watched Star Trek: Fast and Furious, Central Intelligence, Zoolander 2, and Hail, Caesar! I have to admit I enjoyed them all.

We took took the train to Shin-Yokohama, mailed some packages, and by that time it was so late that we just ate food from Lawson, the Japanese convenience store. Today we travelled to Okayama, met our friend Yumi, and did a bunch of pseudo-shopping in Kurashiki. I can’t really say it was shopping when all I bought was a soft ice cream. Oh, and some coffee.

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I suppose my sister did buy me a matcha beer.

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I also went and looked for those obscenely comfortable silk & denim jeans and I couldn’t find any my size, even when they checked all of their stores!

It’s raining now and I’ve armed myself with a 150yen umbrella. Wish me luck!

Photo on 10 22 16 at 21 58 PM