Japan 2017 Day 8

Oh boy. I slept eight hours, waking up a couple of times, and I was dragging when the alarm went off. Ah well. It was a rainy morning anyway and we got a late start and I wanted to try the hotel’s breakfast buffet. It’s a standard Japanese buffet and I should’ve taken a picture of the perfectly round sunny-side-up eggs. Actually, I think they were basted or whatever you call it when you cover them and steam them for a bit. Here’s a picture of round two for me.

Being that it was rainy, we just tried to make the most of just going underground from place to place. Did some shopping and wandered around a couple of underground shopping streets. As I was expecting, lots of places were way too hot and humid.

Made it to Nana in the Grand Front Osaka building for lunch.

Also went to a couple of places in the Hankyu Department store. All places we’ve been before but really both my sister and I just like wandering around Japan even if it’s familiar.

Plus, the food is great. We went back to Grand Front Osaka for okonomiyaki. We went to the okonimiyaki store in the north tower, but it’s on the hipster food floor with loud techno and they require you to buy one item and one drink. It was weird. In the south tower there are two okonomiyaki stores side-by-side and we tried the one that I hadn’t been to before. This one was weird too because you put the sauce and toppings on yourself.  They came out nekkid.

Here’s how they should look.

They were tasty, but they fell apart as you ate them. I think next time if I have the choice, I’m going back to the store on the left. (All counters, no tables.)

Japan 2017 Day 7

Kind of a limited day today and for some reason I was still sleepy. Did I sleep well? No. I’m thinking that this aging thing isn’t agreeing with this jet lag thing. However, the morning was the time to rally and get some breakfast. Of course my sister wanted to go to Pronto, especially because it’s really cheap.

Then it was back to the hotel before my sister had her appointment to get her hair cut by a hairdresser who used to work in NYC and has cut Donald Trump, Jr’s hair. I think she now has cooties. I noticed that I only had another day’s worth of clothes left, so I did laundry while she was at the salon. The New Hankyu Hotel Annex (which really isn’t very new if you look at the fixtures) doesn’t have an on-site coin laundry like many Japanese hotels do and they sent me to a place in the neighborhood that was in the same direction as my sister’s hair salon appointment. So while she was pampered, I got to stand around here.

The view out front was equally awesome.

I saw a Sagawa Express office, and it had a sign that said it was open 8-5, but the door was locked. We went back to the hotel so I could ship the books that my cousin had given me for my mom. You can ship things directly to the airport very near the check-in counters which is very convenient, but Sagawa Express really didn’t know what I was talking about. The hotel sent us on a merry chase to an office that was a block further than they let on and this office was also 8-5 and locked. The building manager tried to get us some help but we just had to wait for a truck to finally pull up. And the guy in the truck had no idea what I was talking about.

So, just like last year, I took a taxi to the south side of the station and went to Kuroneko Yamato Express, and they sent my package to the airport for me in a Sagawa Express box.

After that my sister had much better luck returning an item to Mont Bell that was destined to be too small for my brother-in-law, and we went to Yodobashi Camera’s restaurant floor for lunch. We went to an omurice shop that we’ve been to before, and I ate way too much Japanese curry.

We went through all the floors of Yodobashi Camera and they don’t seem to be nearly as good as they used to be. One floor is completely under construction and the clothing floors are missing large sections of stores, including the t-shirt shop we were looking for. They also seem to be missing some of the electronics stores I was expecting to see. I guess it’s all just progress.

For some reason my sister and I were quite tired and decided to go to Toki (our usual matcha dessert stop) for a treat. I finally filled up my points card and next time I get ¥500 off!

Then it was back to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening my sister wanted to check out some shops in Grand Front while I went to visit my old co-worker Moriwaki-san and his wife. We ate at a yakitori restaurant where you ordered on a tablet computer. The floors were surprisingly slippery as if they’d coated them with cooking oil, but the yakitori wasn’t bad.

Afterwards Moriwaki asked if I wanted to see anything in particular and I said we should try Minoh Beer. Last time we went they were closed (they close at 9PM) and this time we arrived around 8PM.

I had a seasonal beer that is supposed to be infused with maple leaves which tasted sweet and grape-like and I also had their prize-winning W-IPA. It’s good, but not my favorite. I think that’s what I was told I’d say by some other Portland beer aficionados.

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And that’s it for the day!

Japan 2017 Day 6

This jet lag thing isn’t getting better very quickly. I guess that just means I’m getting old. My sister didn’t have the greatest time with it either, but that didn’t stop us from getting out for breakfast. We decided to go to the Tully’s in the Mainichi Broadcasting building, and in true Seattle form they kind of half-assed the food. It was tasty, but the toast wasn’t warm. Mariko had an egg sandwich and she wasn’t impressed either.

It was a beautiful day and Mariko wanted to go to the old Expo ’70 site. We went when we were 4 and 5. It’s a park now, and it was a great day for walking outside. They still have the Tower of the Sun, which is 230’ tall and a little creepy.

I have to take at least one selfie.

First thing we saw were signs for the “Cosmos Festa” so we followed those signs only to find that we’re a few weeks too late.

My sister wanted me to take a picture in one of the whoozits seats.

I didn’t take many more pictures of the park, but it’s pretty enough. Good if you want to get away from the busy city, but nothing special. Here’s one of the monorail we took to get there, and of the biggest Ferris Wheel in Japan that we rode.

I think it’s 123m tall and attached to a shopping mall/sports complex.

Here’s another view of the expo park. The green area to the left of the Tower of the Sun is the part we mostly explored. Behind and to the right of the tower is a museum and open spaces and right to the right is a kid’s play area. No sports allowed and it has an entry fee.

The floor of the gondolas are clear, but they cover most of it with a rug. There’s a hole in the rug where you can look down.

We just went to a random restaurant in a random mall on the way back to Umeda for lunch. It was pretty good.

After that we headed back, and in the evening we visited my cousin. She had a bunch of books that I have to take home to my mother.

And that was the day.

Japan 2017 Day 5

Another semi-fitful night of sleep, but that’s my fault for drinking a bit last night. I wish I could remember all the weird dreams I had but mostly I just didn’t sleep enough. Not many pictures today, too, because my sister and I just wandered around Umeda doing some shopping and they really frown upon taking pictures in the stores. But food pictures I have.
We started out with breakfast at a little coffee shop very near the hotel, but underneath the train tracks. Pronto can get pretty loud at times because of the trains, but it’s cheap and the coffee isn’t terrible.

My sister and I were both tired from the day before and lack of sleep, so we wandered a bit before heading to Starbucks for more caffeine and to wait for the stores to open around 10:30AM. Then we shopped at Loft Department Store. Or she did as I didn’t buy anything. Then it was off to wander around Umeda.
Next stop was massages (reflexology?) at Queensway. You don’t take off your clothes and, in fact, they put a blanket on top of my clothes to massage through. I passed out several times during the 30 minute massage. I don’t remember what all we did before we got to lunch at a bakery we’ve been to before, foodscape! It’s not a long walk from Umeda and it was a beautiful day.

We went back to Umeda afterwards, visiting Uniqlo and Tokyu Hands as well as getting train tickets for the rest of the trip. The guy at the ticket counter was humorless and didn’t seem to like us much, but whatever. He got us our tickets.
After that we went to Yodobashi Camera, and then back to the hotel.
After that it was mostly just dinner and Uniqlo, where I actually bought some stuff that I thought I’d leave until we got to Tokyo, but the sale was this weekend for some of the things. But don’t let me skip over dinner. Five years ago I went to a tonkatsu restaurant that I thought was better than the rest of the good tonkatsu restaurants I’ve been to and I wasn’t disappointed. I forgot to get the name of the restaurant again, but it’s in the basement of the Umeda Arts Theatre and I hope to be going again!

Japan 2017 Day 4

Well, I sure didn’t sleep well last night. It must be travel jitters or something. I had all sorts of weird dreams and I swear there was some reason I was supposed to sync up two of my programs or something. Yeesh. Well, I still got up at the same time and went to Hoshino Coffee again. I think the strong coffee is too strong sometimes! Maybe I’m just a wimp.

After saying goodbye to the big celebrity at the hotel, it was time to pack everything into one bag since I mailed most of the gifts that were filling up my suitcase. If I buy any more crap I’ll have to go back to using a suitcase and a duffel bag, but right now I don’t even have my suitcase expanded.

It was mostly an uneventful trip to Osaka. I fell asleep soon after leaving Tokyo and didn’t wake up until the little old lady next to me starting going around trying to take pictures of Mt Fuji. That’s always hard on a train that’s going 300 km/h (186 mph). Something is always getting in the way.

Before leaving Tokyo Station I bought lunch, an ekiben. I had to brave the crowds in the store and reject a bunch of different options, mostly sliced beef, before I found one that seemed more traditional.

And it was!

I made it to my hotel to ditch my bags (check-in wasn’t for another couple of hours) and it was raining! That didn’t last long, but it was colder and windier than I expected. I wandered all over Osaka Station looking for a map of the craft beer shops which I never did find but with time to kill I stood in a line to watch a VR presentation of Panasonic’s home goods. Not that great for the 25 minute wait in the cold but I did get a free mini-tape measure that looks like a microwave.

I can’t remember what other nonsense I got myself into. I do remember fighting with the WiFi on my laptop before giving up and borrowing a network cable from the front desk and searching for a place to eat. I ended up going to Molto! on the 31st floor of one of the Hankyu buildings. They wouldn’t seat me at the window, but all I had to do is look over my shoulder to see the view. I was there for the beer and for some dinner anyway.

I ordered something that I thought would be a beef pot pie but it was beef in pastry dough!

And I was going to follow up with a salad, but I ended up with the smoked plate, where everything must’ve been flash smoked because it tasted smoky but the fish was very moist and almost like sushi.

It wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it might be, but it was still ¥6200 or so (~$54).
I was walking home and I knew there was another Molto!, a standing bar, on the way and they had beer from some of the Japanese brewers I met. Even one from Tsutsui-san who I just visited. So I headed in for a quick drink (hah). The other Molto! made me fill out a form to become a “member” and that meant I got a free snack!

That beer looks like a pint, but it was only a glass, so I felt bad about only having one. That lead to a couple more small glasses (from brewers I know!) and that lead to me talking to the paralegal who was standing next to me, and that lead to her taking me to another bar, and that lead to me getting back to the hotel just before my sister at around 11PM instead of 7:30PM if I had avoided the second Molto! altogether. In case you’re wondering, I left the poor woman to her own devices after the second bar and she was pretty tipsy.
And there’s my Osaka adventure so far.

Japan 2017 Day 3

It was another beautiful day in Tokyo and I figured I’d just wander around a bit and make sure I visited the geek Mecca of Akihabara. I went for the electronics, not for the anime stuff and the maid cafés, even if you don’t believe me.

I started out the day at Hoshino Coffee again. They have a good breakfast set menu, and the coffee is quite good and strong, just the way I like it. None of this hipster “bright” coffee nonsense. I ordered the omelette set, which arrived with a huge (for Japan) omelette!

As soon as I took a bite I realized why, it was all airy and fluffy!

I didn’t want to go straight to Akihabara because nothing seems to open before about 10AM here. I noticed that the Ginza Apple store hours said 8AM, so I thought I’d pass by and see what the new iPhone X looked like first. Not a great idea.

I used Google maps to estimate the line was about 400m long (four football fields). Every time I thought I found the end of the line I realized it was just the standard Japanese trick of breaking up the line so people weren’t blocking driveways or streets. There were a LOT of people in line. Later in the day I just walked up to one at Bic Camera, I think, and played with one for a minute.

I decided just to take a long walk to Akihabara, about 40 minutes away, and that wasn’t the best idea either. I’ve walked through a lot of neighborhoods in Tokyo and this was the blandest walk I’ve ever taken. Here’s a shot from a good part closer to Ginza.

After Tokyo Station (which turned out to be much larger underground than I remember)

it was just a wasteland of gigantic construction projects or bleak buildings. I didn’t take any pictures of that. At some point I just popped out into Akihabara. I wandered around a bit and found the old parts stores that had tubes and ancient chips that are still in business and spent way too much money on a Nixie tube display kit.

Then I spent a couple of hours trying to find a store that I used as a landmark, only to realize that the reason I used the store as a landmark was really to find the store where I bought the Nixie tube kit. I sheepishly headed to Mos Burger for a late lunch.

I wondered what to do next, and I finally decided to do the easy thing: visit a shrine. And I was near Kanda Myoujin. I even took the stairs that almost did my mom in on her last trip to Japan.

It was busy! I had to line up to do the usual shrine thing, and saw traditional musicians, shichi-go-san kids, and even a wedding!

Musicians over towards the middle right of the picture.
The musicians walking up the red carpet, followed by the wedding party I didn’t take a picture of.

I even had a soft ice cream cone.

After that I headed towards a train station, which happened to be near Kanda’s row of music stores, so I did stop in to a violin shop and peek in the windows to see all the pretty guitars and brass instruments for sale. Funny, I don’t remember seeing any woodwinds or percussion instruments, but I’m sure I’m just forgetting them.

The only other thing of note was going to dinner. I thought I’d try somewhere different and ended up on the Odakyu dining floor at the same restaurant I’ve been to several times before. There was a line of Japanese people and you know how we Asians like to line up. I was afraid to try the places that only had lines of Chinese tourists or, even worse, no line at all.

Japan 2017 Day 2

Fortunately, I felt much better today. It was also a beautiful day with 0% chance of rain according to the liars at weather.com (it rained in the evening) so I decided it was time to visit Shonan Brewing. The head brewer, Tsutsui-san, has visited Portland a couple of times and last month he came to do a collaboration with Culmination Brewing. We’ve been out drinking several times and he took a couple of hours out of his schedule to show me around.

But I started the day out at Hoshino Coffee again, this time getting the Egg Slut. I had it a couple of times last year and it’s tasty.

It takes about an hour and a half on several trains to make it to Kagawa Station in Chigasaki where Shonan Beer is located. I couldn’t find Shonan Brewing on Google maps because it’s really a part of Kumazawa Brewing, a sake maker who has a beer sideline. Lots of craft beer in Japan is made by traditional sake brewers who are branching out. Kagawa station is in the middle of nowhere and the first thing I noticed is all of the old ladies descending upon a restaurant that serves Italian food.

I heard the restaurant was recently on NHK-TV, adding to the popularity. The owner of the brewery has an art shop and three restaurants on the property and I heard he also has plans to add an onsen and a ryokan.

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures of the brewery, but I did see some tanks from Canby and Portland Kettle Works.

Tsutsui-san even showed me where they store some of the sake for aging, which is a WWII-era underground bunker.

I also had a burger at the less crowded restaurant. Being a Portlander, I had coffee and beer.

I was planning on taking a different route back, through Chigasaki, but JR was having issues all day and I had to take Odakyu both out and back. While it made the ride a little repetitive, it was the cheapest alternative on Google maps and only cost ~¥800 each way

Later I went out to dinner with my old co-worker Suzuki-san and that just meant more beer.

We called it a night early because I’m still a bit jet-lagged and Suzuki-san has a weird schedule and hasn’t worked since he was laid off several years ago. Currently he goes to bed at 3PM and gets up around 10PM. We were both up “late”.

And now I’ve been fighting with putting up this post (and the slowness of uploading pictures) and it’s later than I thought. Time to really call it a night!

Japan 2017 Day 1

I’m getting a really slow start this year. I guess the difference is that most years I’m traveling the first couple of days and so I don’t do anything but sit on a train. This year I’m staying in Tokyo for a while and that’s throwing me off.

I woke up after a poor night’s sleep (jet lag) with a huge headache. My sister says it was due to the beer and that might be true. I started out dehydrated because of the hot yoga I do, and the airplane didn’t do me any favors. I only had two beers (the second looking like it was less than a pint) and the Tokyo air probably didn’t help much either.

So I started out the day looking for something I could keep down because the headache was also making me feel a little nauseated. I went to Hoshino Coffee where they still had Egg Slut on the morning menu but had ham and cheese toast and nice strong coffee.

Then I decided to go to the Seiko repair center to see if they could do maintenance on my Grand Seiko. They told me it would take about a month (they take it completely apart and polish it) and I found a web site that put the cost around $1000! I guess the polishing takes some skill and they can’t do it in the US, so it’s quicker to get it serviced back home. But he suggested I hold off until I could stay in Japan for a month if I ever had that option.

I was wandering around wondering what to do next and I decided to go see “Art Treasures of the Imperial Court” that my mom told me about. Turns out it’s all art commissioned by the Imperial Court made by the Tokyo Fine Arts University, and it was held at the Tokyo Fine Arts University Museum, near Ueno Park. This gave me a chance to wander around the park for a while.

As I wandered through the park, I somehow clicked on food suggestions in Google Maps and that took me to lunch. Mixed fried seafood, and it’s also oyster season. It was quite good.

At that point it was only 1PM or so and I decided to head back to the hotel for a nap. I never did take a nap, but I spent most of the afternoon sitting around and updating my computer and iPhone to the latest release. I did make it out to dinner. Facebook had some suggestions but I used yelp and went to a Nepalese restaurant. It took me through the heart of the red-light district (though that’s really tame in Tokyo).

It was definitely not quiet like Indian food, and obviously I didn’t like it since I left so much of it. Two curries, — one with edamame & potato and the other with chicken & potato — soup, chutney, and dessert. It wasn’t too spicy, but it made me sweat like I was in the hot yoga room. After wandering around a short bit more, I made it back to my hotel room.

I’m meeting my friend Suzuki-san for dinner tomorrow and I’m going to call it an early night again and maybe take a trip to a brewery beforehand. I’ll see how I’m feeling tomorrow morning.

Japan 2017 Day 0

What a long day! It started about 4:45AM when the power went out. Lots of beeping and I set an alarm on my phone just in case. Fortunately, the power came back on at 8:30, before I had to leave for the airport, and all my computers seemed to power on OK. Very few problems at the Portland Airport (besides watching a woman completely losing her shit – I wonder if she overslept because of the power outage?)

That’s not a flattering picture.

Got on the plane and watched my usual series of bad movies: Baywatch, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, CHiPs, and The Fate of the Furious. Tried to watch The House with Will Farrell and Amy Poehler, but it was too awful.

Got into Tokyo from Narita without too much trouble, but as soon as I got to my room at the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, I just wanted to call it a night.

Checking in on Halloween meant I got some presents!

But it was only about 6PM, so I had to rally. Packages of presents (half my luggage) to send out to my relatives, and dinnertime. Did anyone think I was going to skip going to the Watering Hole?

The burger was good, on the small side, but when they said large fries they meant large fries!

And that’s day zero for me!

Back to semi-normalcy.

Everything’s back to normalish in my life. For example, I was supposed to go out to lunch with some co-workers on one particular Thursday, and they texted me from the restaurant telling me they forgot me. It was OK, because  I was supposed to go out to dinner. But that got canceled to. But that also meant that I got to use a coupon for a free Jumbo Jack and when I finally got home my smoke alarm started chirping! While I was still awake! That’s about as lucky as I can get, so I put that day in the “win” column.

The f*cking birds are going in the f*cking chimney again, which means about three thousand people are across the street from my house every evening. It’s a bit stressful, especially if you need to drive in or out of the neighborhood at that time. Instead of worrying about traffic and parking on a daily basis, I’ve been walking down to do yoga instead of going to Crossfit. Last time I went to Crossfit, I hurt my back helping someone put her weights away. No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose.

Three gym memberships, and I’m down to just going to one. Funny thing is, I’m going to the cheapest of the three.

Still doesn’t matter.

Huh. I still don’t feel better all the time. Figures. Took a while to dig this hole and it’ll take a while to crawl back out. Weight loss is still a positive.

Yesterday going to the gym helped a lot. My neighbor was telling me he never experienced runner’s high and that’s too bad. Sometimes it happens at Crossfit too, but today I found that sometimes it doesn’t. One of my fellow gym-goers did tell me something that I didn’t fully realize. I told her I couldn’t keep the unhelpful thoughts out of my head and described why, and she said it’s because if we weren’t competitive we wouldn’t be at Crossfit. Even me, the guy who takes the longest to do the workout. DFL, once again, in the gym and probably at life.

It doesn’t work out for me.

Well, I knew the way to stop feeling so stupid about having a crush on someone was to actually ask, politely, if the feeling was even close to being mutual. And the answer of course was no. But I understand this process and while I’ll feel like someone punched me in the guts for a couple of days, I’ll also have several benefits. One is I’m sure this will all go away quicker. Second is, I have little interest in food and I’m losing some weight even more than just by working out.

I’m getting too old for Crossfit. I know there are superb physical specimens even older than I that successfully participating but for me it’s just a way to get hurt more often. I’ve known I should try yoga instead but it’s taken five or more years to finally try it. There’s a Core Power in my neighborhood and I finally am doing the “free week”. I’ve discussed this at length with my neighbor and I’m probably not getting the whole spiritual benefit, but I’m doing it for the exercise. My guess is that some combination of Crossfit and yoga might actually be what I need to do and that expensive gym membership to the Multnomah Athletic Club is going to just be one of the multiple gym memberships I’m going to have.

What do I care? What am I going to spend my money on? I just confirmed my philosophy on dating: It doesn’t work out for Todd. (Or Hisashi, same thing.) I was discussing this with my neighbor. As I was growing up I found very few women who wanted to go out with Asian men. I know it’s changing, but just for younger guys. And when I went to Japan, I found out that Japanese women wanted to go out with Japanese men (not Japanese-American men) or really foreign men (not Japanese-American men). There could be someone out there for me, but so far I’ve found very little to prove me wrong. So gym membership, gym membership, THREE gym memberships.

And, unfortunately, I am feeling better so I’m afraid my appetite is going to come back.

Some people don't believe my luck.

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