Japan Day 61: Toyama to Osaka

We didn’t leave Toyama until the afternoon because some more family friends were arriving mid-morning to say hello. We had a nice lunch and my sister and I left Toyama for Osaka at 2:17pm which put us at our hotel around 5:45pm. We had to take a Shinkansen two whole stops (20 whole minutes) and an express train to get to Osaka.

Once we got checked in we didn’t want to brave the crowds to look for dinner so we went across the street to Shake Shack. I didn’t get my usual burger but had a chicken burger and a banana-something milkshake. Both good, but not as good as the burger.


And that’s about it for today.

Japan Day 60: Toyama

We were in Toyama to visit family friends but my sister got a travel migraine as she does from time to time so we didn’t do all that much today. On her insistence, we ditched her and went to the Rakyokan onsen in the hills of Toyama. Also had tenzaru for lunch.

She was feeling better in the late afternoon so we did go see the new addition to the Favoré shopping mall near our friend’s house. Much bigger Uniqlo and Muji there now.

Had a nice dinner with the friends.

Japan Day 59: Toyama

My sister was arriving in Tokyo Narita airport and I told her I’d just meet her there because it was easier that way. I started out the day killing a lot of time in the hotel because why not? Then I went to Tully’s not because I didn’t want to see crabby, but because Hoshino Coffee has a limited menu and I didn’t feel like another pancake. Maybe I should’ve gone because the coffee at Tully’s isn’t that great.

After that I took the bus to Narita. The bus takes a couple of hours, but I was still early. I wandered around a bit and decided to get lunch. I know I’m not leaving Japan (the traditional time I eat at Fujiya) but I figured as long as I’m here…

After that I found an executive lounge I could get into and used their intarwebs. I watched some Netflix and also downloaded Xcode (all eight gigs of it). My sister was through customs before it finished.

I met her at the airport post office and then we got on the Keisei train for Ueno. We still had a couple of hours to kill when we got there and we had some not-very-good Thai food. Then it was off to Toyama!

Japan Day 58: Tokyo

Man, Tokyo is way too crowded for me. When I thought it was as crowded as it was going to get, I had to ride a train where we stuffed ourselves into the car. After watching three trains go by, you get to the front of the line and you push yourself in. It’s a mess.

But back to Hoshino coffee and the crabby girl.

I didn’t know what I was going to do today so I ran some errands first. I had to figure out how to get to Toyama tomorrow and that takes some sort of train or bus from Narita airport into town, and then (hopefully) a Shinkansen to Toyama. A third of the trains were ruined in the flood of Typhoon Hagbis, and it’s all a mess. I couldn’t get a seat on the train I wanted to and the next train only had a few seats in the Green car (the expensive seats).

Then I had to run an errand for my sister to make sure her manicure appointment was correct and it was good that she sent me because it was NOT. I couldn’t get ahold of her when I was in the salon because she was answering some goddamn telemarketer on the phone. It all got sorted out and the woman at the salon was much nicer than a lot of the other people I met today in Tokyo.

Right around the corner from the salon is a Starbucks, and right next to the Starbucks was a sign that said “Swan Lake”. That’s a craft beer from Niigata that I was going to go visit but I really didn’t feel like the long bus ride out to the brewery.

See what you get when you eat at a Japanese taproom?

That beer made me a little sleepy so I took a nap.

I was wandering around and remembered my next door neighbor is always talking about the main Aikido dojo in Shinjuku. I went and got him another t-shirt that he’ll never fit into. Well, at least this one is a Japanese XL instead of an L.

I am still obsessed with all the bicycling Uber Eats drivers.

And I met my old co-worker, Suzuki-san, for dinner. We had steak again and I really need to plan my weight-loss diet soon.

Japan Day 57: Tokyo

I started out the day with a return to Hoshino coffee and the crabby girl was there. At least she was wearing a mask so I couldn’t see her crabby face.

I went to the Miraikan today, The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. It was the worst science museum I’ve ever been to. Lots of loosey goosey “change the way people think” crap. The Asimo was a good example. I finally had the chance to see the walking robot from Honda, and it came running out of the closet. But then it just walked around slowly waving its arms and talking a lot of nonsense. It kicked a soccer ball and moved sideways but mostly it was five to ten minutes of blah blah blah.

Another example is waiting in line to get into a pod. There were five pods each showing a different movie about iPS. I say movie but it might as well have been a Powerpoint presentation because it was just POV comic slides of a very weak story. Ten wasted minutes. Then you went back to see the actual “science-y stuff” and it was pretty watered down.

At least they had some space stuff and a picture of my classmate Bobby Satcher.

I was near the giant Gundam and so I finally went to go see it. It was pretty impressive. I guess I really wasn’t expecting anything after that museum so the Gundam was especially cool.

I ate lunch at the food court. It was food court food.

I got back to Shinjuku and decided to get some cake or something. The places I went to were either full or out of cake. I finally went back to Hoshino Coffee and stood in line. Then I waited 20 minutes for a Mont Blanc soufflé which was actual quite tasty. My order was taken by the crab, of course.

And I just kind of hung around until dinnertime. I went to the Tokyo Katsukura (I went to the Osaka one last week) and the prices are much higher. But they told me the rest of the chain uses mostly Canadian pork and the Tokyo branch only uses Japanese pork. It’s really quite good and I got more pork than I should’ve (200g).

After that I went and bought some more underwear at Muji (trying to avoid doing laundry as much)  but we’ll see.

Japan Day 56: Tokyo

It was a rainy day and I used most of the day to rest. I had some errands to run but first, Hoshino Coffee. The server was the crabbiest person I’ve met in Japan and she seemed to dislike foreigners. She needs a new job because most of the people in there were foreigners.

I sent off a Suica card to a friend’s daughter who is coming to Tokyo. I spent ¥1000 on the card, ¥1800 on protective shields so it couldn’t be read while in transit, and ¥2000 on express postage. Hahaha. Well, I’m just hoping it makes her life easier when she gets here. I also mailed off my application to get the certificate that says I went to the four corners of Japan.

After all that it was noon! I went to Odakyu for lunch and while the fish wasn’t as fresh as yesterday, it was plenty fresh and tasty as well.

After that it was nap time, and Netflix time, until I went to the Watering Hole for dinner.

I had several more and forgot to take a picture of my burger because, well I had several more. I met a guy from Montana who worked for Alaska Airlines and got here for cheap, a guy from San Francisco who comes quite often, and a guy from Iowa who married a woman from China and is going to live there for a year. Always a good time there.

Oh, and I went to Muji right before they closed to buy some pajamas since I think the sale was until today. I still have to try them on to see if they fit.

Japan Day 55: Cape Nosappu

I made it to the “easternmost point” of Japan! Had to get up at 5am to make it to the airport early and ran into some snags. I guess you need to sign up for bus tickets early because when I got there at 6, all the buses (every 10 minutes) were full for another hour! So I took the train, which was another mess. They better get this sorted out before the Olympics.

JAL was another mess. I didn’t have any direct confirmation from the airline because I bought my ticket through a third-party. ANA just had me stick my passport in the machine and I was expecting something similar. JAL needs either a QR code or a JAL-branded card. Yeesh. Took them a while but they looked me up and got me on my way. Good thing I left early.

I knew it would be a bit of a drive, but I couldn’t figure out the navigation system or the Bluetooth connection on the way out. Much colder up north but a nice clear day and a lot of roads that looked like this. More than three hours of this.

But I made it!

I guess this is the real easternmost point. The other picture is of the monument that says it’s the easternmost point.

And a picture from above. Several of those building appear to be museums talking about how they want their islands back from the Russians, and I didn’t understand why until I got up into the tower. There’s a speck in the middle left that’s a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat and a speck in the middle right that’s Signaly rock which is Russian territory. With the naked eye it looks like it’s less than a mile away. You can see large islands farther out that are also Russian territory.

It’s pretty, and kind of remote.

Lots of memorials and I’m not sure what they’re all for, besides wanting the islands back.

There’s a viewing tower where you can get a better view of the islands, and where I took the aerial photos from.

This one is from the easternmost point.

I went to the ramen restaurant and asked what they recommended and it was the 2-color donburi. Fresh salmon roe and fresh crab!

After that I finally figured out the Bluetooth and the hidden button to get the map to take another destination. Not really hidden, but Toyota’s UIs are awful. The GPS told me it would take five hours to get back to the airport and I followed the speed limit like all the rest of the people did (i.e. passing cars doing the speed limit).

I got back to Kushiro with plenty of time to spare but it was dark at 5pm and I was told to watch out for deer. I just went into town to find a restroom (thank goodness for convenience stores) and they told me which road to take. I found a gas station about a mile from a Mister Donut so I got gas and ate dinner where I knew I could. Clams at a Mister Donut seemed iffy, but I feel fine.

The Kushiro airport isn’t that tiny and had several restaurants. I wish I would’ve looked beforehand. I had a long wait for my plane, which was late, and got on the first bus. The speed limit was 60 and the bus was doing 90, so I didn’t feel so bad about my driving in Hokkaido. I got back about 11pm. A long day, just so I could get to the easternmost point. Maybe I need better hobbies.

Japan Day 54: Tokyo

I just watched the rugby semifinal with South Africa winning a close game over Wales. And now I have to go to bed early or at least get up early for my trip to Hokkaido tomorrow! I got an early start, which was a mistake. No salaryman parade on Sunday, but Hoshino Coffee doesn’t open until 9am now! I should’ve checked yesterday. I ended up at the Excelsior Cafe, which wasn’t bad except for the Aussie on his cell phone.

I decided to head to Akihabara today for my yearly pilgrimage to what’s left of the old Denden town. On the way I remembered I still had to buy a Suica card for my sister’s friend’s daughter who is meeting us on this trip later. I had to go to Tokyo Station only because I’d already left Shinjuku station. Man Tokyo Station is confusing now. Stood in line with a Kiwi who’s lived in Hong Kong for the past seven years and a very hungover old Englishman or something, who was pretty right-wing about everything and was kind of being a bummer. It was still better than being at work.

When I got through the line I got the Suica card and also remembered I was going to take the Yamagata Shinkansen for the shortest trip I could so I could say I was on it. The seven minutes from Tokyo to Ueno is only ¥1140. And they let me keep the ticket.

It’s a “mini-Shinkansen” and is paired with another Shinkansen until it splits off onto the Yamagata route.

Then I walked to Akihabara. It’s not really that far and at one point I found they’d converted the space underneath the JR tracks into a bunch of art boutiques. And I finally went into the grocery store-looking “Cha Bara” (it has a lot of food-related stores inside) and ate at the Nagasaki Toruko Rice Cafe. It was a lot of very tasty food. Their frying game is on point.

We were joined by a mushroom mascot character as well.

I was going to check out the musical instrument stores (and not buy anything) and go to Kanda Shrine on the way back, but at some point I really had to use the bathroom. I ended up in a cramped little public restroom in a park that was also surprisingly clean. No soap though, so I headed back to the hotel room early. I watched some Netflix, got some dinner at Mos Burger (I wasn’t very hungry after that giant lunch), and came back and watched the rugby game. Pretty good for a do-nothing day.

Japan Day 53: Tokyo

Another nice day in Tokyo. At least it started out that way. The hotel continues to impress. There’s two washer/dryer sets here but one of the washers is dead so I asked them where the nearest coin laundry was. I had to convince them I wanted to wash my clothes. It took them over ten minutes to find out what the google app on my phone took five seconds to find out.

Well, anyway, off to Hoshino Coffee. They didn’t have any Egg Slut any more probably because there’s a real Eggslut presence from L.A. They still have their fluffy pancakes and I got the weekend breakfast special.

After that it was off to the sad little coin laundry where I spent the rest of the morning. My clothes probably aren’t that clean, but they’re cleaner than when I started.

I didn’t have that much planned other than going to the new Eggslut here in Shinjuku Southern Terrace. Then I remembered the brewer I met in Kagoshima said he’s be here at Odakyu. So I went down and got three of the four beers they had on tap today. At least it was already noon. First the London Ale.

Then the hazy he let me sample from the zwickel.

And finally the brut IPA he had me sample as well.

Then I went wandering off to find Eggslut. There was a line so I asked some guys with Ireland rugby shirts if it was worth it and they said yes. Then I talked to a woman outside who said she was from L.A. and this line was much shorter than back home so I got in line. It was great! Not cheap, though. I got a sandwich and a Slut. The Eggslut at Hoshino was better, I think, because there was brown sauce in it.

Oh, heh, this is a picture mostly for my sister. I think this used to be a Krispy Kreme.

And that was most of my day, really. I did some shopping at Montbell and the skies started looking a bit angry so I went to look for cellphone cases and headed back to my hotel. I passed out for a bit before the quarterfinal rugby match between NZ and England.

Well, my stomach was feeling a bit off (probably won’t be right until I get home, I bet) and so I went to get some udon at a weird place by the hotel I used to stay at every year, the Nishishinjuku Hotel. It’s very near the Ibis I’m staying at. I think my mom and my sister went there before, but I hadn’t been. It was pretty tasty.

And that’s it for today. Don’t expect anything exciting tomorrow, either, because I have to get up early on Monday and go to Hokkaido!

Japan Day 52: Tokyo

It was raining in Osaka and weather.com warned me I’d get to Tokyo when it was pouring. But I started the day according to plan, packing up and then going downstairs to the coffee shop to get breakfast instead of going out to Chayamachi. You can’t tell from this but the bacon is hiding two sausage links. It was more expensive, but it was also quite good. First real napkin I’ve had in a while and free refills on the coffee.

I checked out with no difficulty and went on my merry way to the Shinkansen station. Of course I left myself plenty of time and that was a little too much time because my train wasn’t even on the board when I got there. I had to stand outside the gate for almost half-an-hour before I knew which platform to go to. Then I still had another half-an-hour or so to sit around on the platform.

I may have miscalculated and I only had a Calpis Water and some Shoyu flavored Chipstar for lunch. Even Mt Fuji hid from me.

I got to Tokyo and it was pouring. I had to transfer to the Yamanote line (which I think is the one where they have the pushers to shove people onto the train during rush hour) and made it to my hotel. The desk staff didn’t seem very aware but they did let me check in quite early. I got to my room and the first thing it told me to do was to download the app and I tried to register so I could pay online. After fighting with the app and the wifi I went downstairs and they told me they were going to charge me with the card that was on file. And it took two people to tell me that and these two also seemed unaware. OK, let me be honest, they kind of sucked at being front desk people. I think it’s a French hotel, so I’m not expecting a whole lot. But at this point I’m pretty hangry. I decided to let it go and asked for an umbrella. They’re out of umbrellas. I’m not impressed.

My first errand was the same errand I had when I first got to Japan. I had to go to the Seiko Watch repair. It took a while but I figured out how to get from the subway station to the Seiko Watch repair shop two stations away without leaving the underground. I had to backtrack several times but I made it without going out into the rain. Then I looked for a coffee shop for a coffee and some sweets because it’s too late for lunch. This took some backtracking as well but I finally found one in the basement.

The cheesecake and my watch are making me quite happy. (The ice cream, which I was not expecting, had ice crystals in it.)

So I thought I’d just do what I did before and have dinner at the Rise and Win taproom. They don’t open until 6pm so I had some time to kill. The first thing I did was go back underground and walk most of the way to the Apple Store. I don’t need anything there, but I just like going. I also remembered there was the big Muji in Ginza, so that’s my next stop.

So I went to the “World’s Biggest Muji” in Sakai-city earlier in the week and now I’m at the “World’s Biggest Muji” and their flagship store. How can this also be the world’s biggest? Well the other one is the biggest store and this one also has the world’s first Muji restaurant in the basement and the world’s first Muji hotel. Yeah, Muji is a little full of themselves and every Muji I’ve been to had a restaurant.

They had a display of fifty chairs on the sixth floor and I only got to see ? of it because it wraps around into the restaurant/café (yeah, another one) and they closed off the café to prepare for a concert or some such nonsense. It was two hours away but I couldn’t get in for five minutes to look at some goddamn chairs that the bastards put on goddamn display. I’m having such shitty luck with museums and displays.

Anyway, I didn’t end up buying anything and I headed off for the Rise and Win taproom.

This made me feel much better.

I also spent a bunch of money on food that’s pretty darn good. This is a piccata of red snapper. The IPA has pine essence in it. I also had some smoked salmon and stale corn nuts and headed back to the hotel.

It took some network wrestling to get my laptop to connect but the network seems much better than the nonsense at the Granvia. The best part of this hotel is it’s right across the street from my favorite breakfast coffee shop, Hoshino Coffee. The worst part is that Hoshino coffee is on a loud busy street. I’m hoping I can sleep OK tonight.

Japan Day 51: Osaka

Ah, another day. Some of it good, some of it bad. Right now I’m wondering why the internet in this hotel is so bad.

But I started the day at Pronto. The weather was iffy and there were fewer people out on the street, but more people in Pronto, including the dude.

Yesterday I left the hotel with my jacket thinking it would be cold and I had to go back and put it back in my room. Today I left the hotel WITHOUT my jacket thinking it would be about the same and I had to go get it because it was cold. That’s the way it is, right?

And I finally made it to the Glico factory and they let me in the gate.

The museum is a whole second story of a building but they’re doing construction around it so you have to walk around the factory to get to it. That’s why you have to make a reservation to get in. It’s a nice mix of history of Glico, History of the founder, and commercials. They told me I only had an hour and I was there for the whole time I was allotted. A lot of it was watching old commercials because they were interesting. Here’s the history of Pocky. 

A diorama of the old Glico displays in Dotonbori.

They even had a much better display of the toys than the museum that was dedicated to the toys that I went to yesterday.

I’d say it was worth the trouble. It’s free, and they even give you a box of Glico caramels! I asked if there were a lot of kids and the guy escorting me out told me that it was mostly older guys my age and up. Ha. Lots of nostalgia.

My second stop was the waterworks museum because it’s open again and the last couple of times I went by it was closed. I got on a bus and a train and took the walk next to the highway in the wind and pouring rain. Guess what? IT’S CLOSED TODAY. Turns out it’s only really open on the weekends.

Well, crap. I decided to walk to Shin-Osaka, about 20 minutes away, and see if I could find the Glico store. The guy a the museum told me that’s about the only place you can buy swag. Turns out it’s just a three-foot-wide display of candy now and you can’t get anything but a Hello Kitty Glico pen.

Not much to eat either so I decided just to go back to Umeda. At this point I wanted something easy so I went to a place I’d been before, the Wired Cafe and got taco rice.

And after that my stomach started rumbling so I went back to the hotel and took a nap. My stomach isn’t in the best shape, but what do you expect with all the traveling and beer?

For dinner I was going to get okonomiyaki, but that sounded difficult (and hot) for some reason so I went to Baqet. OK food and all you can eat bread. The bread is only really good when it’s hot but they keep the oven busy and stuff comes out every 10-15 minutes. Here’s a croissant and the October specials, a tuna thing (at the top), a ghost and a mad chocolate roll.

I went for the salad and drink bar as well.

I thought I ordered the lasagna-style chicken but I got something else. It wasn’t bad so I just ate it.

After that I went back to the hotel and tried to pare down all the brochures that were in my suitcase. I cut them way back and I still have a ton of them. I used to bring them back to show my mom but now that she’s gone I’ll probably look at them once and toss them anyway. I’m not sure why I’m carrying them around. Oh well.

Japan Day 50: Osaka

I got up on time and went to breakfast early, and now I remember why I don’t go to breakfast early. I had to fight the upstream spawning salary-man parade to try to get to the area that has the coffee shops I usually frequent for morning sets. I think I also saw some vacant streets so the parade must be limited to certain transportation corridors.

After that I tortured the tourist information bureau again. I saw a small note about a museum dedicated to Miyamoto Junzo who designed the toys for Glico caramels. I went 40 minutes to the Miyamoto Junzo Toy Museum and it was OK.

The museum is on the third floor of an odd building with no clear directions on how to get to the third floor. The toys they had from Glico were in a couple of small display cases and they were as disappointing as they were when I got them as a kid. There were also his collection of toys from his travels and it wasn’t an awful museum. Just a little expensive at ¥500. I guess one of the proprietor’s fathers also designed the break-off box-cutter and they have a crafts area in another room.

They also suggested I go to the Glico Museum and The Institute of Amusement Industry Studies at the Osaka University of Commerce. They had all sorts of card games and games of chance as well as Japanese chess. Or so I gather because after I walking for forty minutes I a room that was being packed up. Turns out they’re moving the display onto the campus and it wasn’t open this week or next.

So now it’s about noon and I think it’s a couple of hours to the Glico Museum, so I pressed on. There’s a train, a walk, a bus, and another walk.

As I get closer, I see a big Glico sign.

As I get even closer I notice a lot of construction and confusing signs that tell me to go in two different directions.

I ended up asking at the guard gate and they sent me to a building where I was told you had to call a day in advance for the tour. By this time I was pretty hangry and unhappy with this and I didn’t actually tell the guy off but he didn’t seem to want to let me tour tomorrow. But I have an 11AM appointment to make the tour.

I went back to Umeda and went to get some green tea and I felt much better.

I figured this wasn’t my best day so I ‘d just go get another burger at Shake Shack. Not as good as the one before, but good enough.

On the way back I stopped for a beer and I actually got a window seat! I ordered three beers and the keg blew on one so they gave me what was left and I had to pick another beer.

I have a “Member’s Card” for this place and they changed it to a smartphone app instead of a physical card. So when I signed up in the app they gave me another free small beer. I was about to have one final beer, figuring six 240ml beers is about three pints, but they blew the keg on the one I was going to have. I figured this was a sign and went back to my room.

That’s about it for the day. I’m going to make another attempt to go to the Glico Museum, and an attempt to see the Waterworks Memorial Museum. Last time I tried to see the Waterworks Museum I got there and there was a big sign that said it was closed for the year. I’m not sure what that meant but it looks open now. We’ll see.

Some people don't believe my luck.

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