All posts by Hisashi T Fujinaka

Japan 2022 Day 16

I got up this morning and I knew it was a nap day. I was dragging all morning. My sister just wanted to go shopping in the area so we planned a low-key day.

First, the morning set. We went to Chococro and had a quick bite.

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And it was off to buy train tickets for the rest of the trip. We had a rest back at the hotel and then started shopping. I was taking it easy and at 11:12am I got a message from my 2nd level manager asking to have a phone call on Tuesday (my Wednesday) two days from now. Getting a text message from work while on vacation isn’t a usual thing and getting one from your manager’s manager is more than ominous. Just like most companies, the place I work has announced layoffs and I figured I’m on the chopping block. I won’t know for two days. Thanks a lot for ruining a couple days of my vacation, even if it isn’t bad news. Even worse, it took me a bit to get ahold of any co-workers and no one knows anything. Of course that’s when I found out that it’s Sunday night there.

OK, so that snapped me out of feeling poorly, but I wasn’t that hungry. We went to Nana’s Tea (I think) and had a light lunch.

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We’ve been there before and it’s quite tasty. A little more shopping and I made it back to the hotel for a nap at 2pm. My sister went shopping for a bit and then hit the laundromat, something we have to do a couple times on our trips because we don’t travel with huge suitcases.

I still wasn’t feeling great after the nap, so it was just combini snacks for dinner again.

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And that’s about it. On Wednesday I find out if I’m unemployed, I guess.

Japan 2022 Day 15

One of the biggest disappointments was finding out our regular Pronto was closed. It’s right next to the hotel and we’d see this one guy eat there every morning. There’s nothing to special about Pronto. It’s a coffee chain and they have a morning set. We had to find our way to another coffee shop that my sister found online. She didn’t read the reviews closely enough, though and the shop turned out to be super-smoky. Tokyo seems to have cut way back on the indoor smoking but there are still spots in Osaka that allow it. Especially morning coffee shops. We had to go to plan B, and we just ran into another Pronto. Cheese toast and salad plus coffee for ¥470.

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Then we hung out at the hotel because my sister wanted to go to a book release event for a knitting book she wanted. It was POURING out. Fortunately we found the shop and my sister bought a book and a sweater kit. She didn’t want to get the book signed, but I insisted that she try. They were happy to sign the book and rather than just sign it, they doodled in it for her. It was pretty nice.

I wasn’t feeling 100% (I think my blood pressure meds are making me dizzy the last few days) so we went to a coffee shop for some sandwiches for lunch. It was quite good, but it didn’t beat the sandwiches that the little old lady made at the retro cafe near Inuyamayuen station.

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My sister has this clothing store she likes to go to that’s a little hard to get to and it was still pouring down rain, but we went (why not?) Totally hipster, but there’s some nice stuff there. Not for me, I’m a slob, but there’s some stuff she likes to buy. And they have had purple-label North Face goods there (Japan-only).

On the way back we stopped at Toki again for our favorite matcha treats, matcha shiratama with cold matcha tea. Yes we were just there yesterday but we did not have our favorite.

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Then it was back to the hotel for a bit before we were supposed to do some more shopping. I tried my best not to pass out at 4pm and my sister said we should go get massages. Instead of our planned evening (we had several tasks we were planning to carry out) we went to Raffine where they beat the hell out of me and gently massaged my sister. I was starving before the massage but only hungry afterwards.

We decided to get some dinner at a pasta place and I forgot to take any pictures. I had an excellent Bolognese and my sister had carbonara. We also had spectacular garlic toast. You can imagine what it looked like.

And now it’s already almost 10pm, my usual bedtime here, so that’s it for the day. I guess we did more than I thought. Oh, and my travel umbrella gave up the ghost. Parts were bent and when I bent them back straight it quit staying open. I hope I don’t break too much more on this trip.

Japan 2022 Day 14

We had to leave our nice hotel today and travel on to Osaka. For some reason I was way more tired that I should’ve been. In fact, I felt kind of bad a lot of the day. I checked my camera and I had three almost identical pictures of breakfast and one of dinner and that was it.

Well, here’s one of breakfast.

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It as nice, and the view was great, but it wasn’t anything as s special as I would expect from a fancy hotel.

The hotel is attached to the train station so it didn’t take us long to get to the Shinkansen. It was less than an hour to Osaka, and we just took the subway to get us slightly closer to the hotel. We dropped off our bags at the hotel and I think they dinged the corner of my laptop. Oh well.

I still wasn’t feeling well and I guess that’s why I never did get a picture of lunch. We got taco rice at Wired Cafe. I seem to get it almost every trip. y sister sent me her picture of it.

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Then we went shopping for a bit before checking into the hotel at 3pm. We didn’t leave until looking for dinner. I wanted something light, so we ended up at a shop we go to every trip for matcha treats and had yuba rice. I had the set with dessert and noodles. It was very good. The yuba rice was also very hot because it was 75 degrees today and Japan seems to think it’s wintertime. Everyone is wearing heavy coats.

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In any case, I’m feeling a bit better now but the room is HOT and tiny. They decided to add a queen sized bed to a Japanese hotel room and that means I keep bumping my knee into things. We’re at a hotel we go to every year and I think we’re going to rethink that in the future. Especially if the yen stays weak.

Anyway, I think my sister and I are kind of satisfied with just being here. The fact that we couldn’t come was the biggest hurdle and now that we’re here our usual rush to buy things and do all the things is no longer a worry. We just want to see friends and wander around.

I think I’m just tired from rushing around for a week and Tokyo isn’t exactly a relaxing place to be. It’s too bad that I don’t feel like buying everything when the yen is so weak.

Japan 2022 Day 13

I’m rather tired, and for that I blame my sister. Stayed out way too late. We’re in a very nice hotel and I wasn’t even able to take advantage of the giant tub! Check out the view!

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It’s a nice brand-new room and even has a Nespresso machine in it. Too fancy for the likes of me, but with the exchange rate it’s only $130/night.

Anyway, this was the day we made it to Nagoya and it was my turn to feel meh in the morning. I’m feeling better now. We just got up and made our way to the Shinkansen, where I was able to nap. Here’s the obligatory picture of Mt Fuji.

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No snow! Nov 11, 2022 was another beautiful day and it was 70°F outside in Nagoya!

We stopped here, a place everyone swears is boring as hell, because I’ve seen 4 of the 5 Japanese castles that are deemed to be National Treasures and the fifth was Inuyama Castle about 30 minutes north. Traveling to the Castle reminded me why Nagoya looks boring. While it’s a huge manufacturing center, it looks boring. Its located on the flat Nobi plain with very few large buildings. The castle, however, is near the mountains. and was worth seeing.

We got to the closest train station about 1PM and it looked deserted. We found a tiny retro coffee shop run by an older lady and ordered almost the only things on the menu. Ham & vegetable sandwiches. She split the orders onto two plates for us. It as actually quite tasty and just right.

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Then it was off by a very pretty river to the castle.

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I was warned it was a small castle, but it was traditional and wood. Usually original construction means there are incredibly steep stairs leading to the top and I wasn’t disappointed. We were behind
some older British tourists and one did not make it all the way up. They were more afraid of coming down than going up.

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The view from the top was pretty spectacular. There weren’t too many displays on the way up, but there were some of traditional Japanese armor.

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The oddest thing is that there’s a huge IHG hotel next to the castle. My guess is that it’s there for big weddings.

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Anyway, I think we were led astray by the guy at the Tourist Information desk. If we would’ve gotten off at the earlier station, we could’ve seen the touristy shopping street on the way to the castle. Actually, it worked out for the best. Nice picturesque walk to the castle and snacking on the way out. I had some Hida beef sushi.

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My sister had a warabi-mochi matcha drink, which was like boba but way better. I had to get one as well.

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On the way back to the station I saw several shrines with very tall side-buildings. I’m guessing they house the giant portable mikoshi shrines used during festivals.

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For dinner my sister and I met one of her online buddies and we went out for Nagoya chicken wings. Just flavored with salt and lots of pepper. (We’ve already started in on the salad at this point.) Lots of interesting stories.

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Nagoya’s TV tower.

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We met in the nightlife district. Nagoya had the lowest mask compliance of anywhere I’ve been in Japan and the nightlife district was kind of shady. Of course, that’s what I think of Nagoya in general but I’d never been to the nightlife district before and just stuck to boring parts. Every street corner had people just standing around. We didn’t make it back to our rooms until 11PM.

Oh, and did I mention the Christmas decorations go up early here?

Lots of people just standing around the tree at 11PM. It was Friday night after all.

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Japan 2022 Day 12

It’s our last day in Tokyo and did we see Shibuya? No. Did I make my usual pilgrimage to Akihabara? No. (Though I did drive through in a taxi.) And I don’t really care. I’ve been to both so many times and I did a lot of the things I wanted to. The worst part is that I’m a little disappointed in the food quality in Tokyo. Well, Tokyo’s disappointed me before so I guess there’s no reason why it should disappoint me again.

We started the day off slowly because my sister wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t care if we couldn’t do much. I’m on VACATION. We went back to Hoshino Coffee and I had the cheese toast morning set. Remember how I said the food was disappointing? Well this actually tasted good but it WASN’T ON TOAST. It was on bread and was floppy and hard to eat. And we didn’t get silverware.

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After breakfast we laid low until we left to meet my sister’s friend at Nezu Station. I thought it would be fun to cut through Tokyo University.

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I should’ve remembered that not all universities are like the ones in the states. THERE WAS A WALL AROUND THE UNIVERSITY and it was hard to just cut through. We finally made it out and then the neighborhoods up here weren’t on a grid and we had to make our way around to get to Nezu Station.

We met my sister’s friend and we all had tenzaru. There was quite a line when we arrived and it took us a bit to get in.

The tempura was amazing. The soba, well, I was expecting the soba to be the star of the lunch but the tempura was the best part.

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The tempura was aesthetically very nice. Beans were in nice bunches and cut, and there was even a tempura grape!

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Afterwards we all went to see Yanaka Ginza and my sister’s friend knew of some interesting shops on the side streets.

We were quite full but there was no line at a famous kakigori (shaved ice) shop. I guess usually there’s a long line to get in.

The kakigori was huge! But shaved ice is very airy and I ate the whole thing. That’s whipped cream on top and strawberry jam on the sides.

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It was all hand-shaved and I snuck a picture of the ice shaver.

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After that we parted ways and my sister and I went back to our hotel. We weren’t that hungry and just bought some snacks at the combini.

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And then, since I’m an old man, I just called it a night.

Oh, here’s an extra picture of a butcher shop in a vending machine!

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Japan 2022 Day 11

OK, I’m clearly not that awake because I was just trying to figure out if it was really day 11. It was. This is the next morning because I was out having dinner with my friend Suzuki-san. We went back and forth about the venue but more on that at the end.

We had to go across Tokyo this morning because my sister got us tickets for TeamLab Planets. We saw the old big venue and this is a smaller one which is about to end its run as well. I’d try to make it if you can. BE FOREWARNED: you will be wading in almost knee-high water. They will loan you shorts but you’re barefoot through most of the displays.

Anyway, we headed out especially early to get breakfast and we usually avoid the morning rush hour. Not so lucky today. However, I think a lot of people are telecommuting because nothing is as crowded as it used to be.

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We went to a musubi place that my sister knew and here’s the breakfast set. No coffee! It was good but nothing special.

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Then it was off to Shin-Toyosu station. Two subway trains and one monorail ride later, we were at the venue which mostly just looks like a warehouse from the outside.

The first thing you do after you make it in is take off your shoes and socks and roll up your pants. Then it’s up a sloped hallway where water is cascading down!

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Then it’s into a room with strings of lights & mirrors. This is similar to something we saw in the other TeamLabs Planets. You can download an app and control the effects.

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Then it’s a hallway and room of knee-deep water. The room has a projected light show onto the water’s surface.

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If the projected koi get near you, they split into the leaves. After that it was the vertigo room. It was a dome with a mirrored floor with flowers projected onto the ceiling. It looked best if you lay down on the floor. Walking through it, though, made me a little dizzy.

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After that, there were two gardens. One was orchids suspended from the ceiling that would move up and down over a mirrored floor.

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The second was mirrored sculptures.IMG 6342

They lend you slippers. Somehow my sister picked big ones and I picked little ones and we had to swap.

It was a nice day so my sister and I walked along the seashore to Lalaport.

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I always thought Lalaport was a little trashy but that’s because I ate in the food court and not in the “other building”. We went to a Hawaiian restaurant that Shinichi from the TabiEats YouTube channel likes. We both had the weekly special, a chicken katsu in demiglace sauce.

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I figured it would be more fun to take the monorail back. Of course I got us off a station early, as always, and we walked to Ginza where we stopped at TokyoSando’s parents’ restaurant to say hello. Then we went to Harbs for some cake!

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It’s hard to show the scale, but that’s a large fork next to my cake. It’s a large piece even by US standards, but very fluffy and not dense.

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Then it was back to the subway to head back to the hotel. Check out this weird underpass. There’s a lot going on underground in Japan and I guess this is as large as they could make it. The right-hand side has stairs going down to a dip to avoid the dip in the ceiling.

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My sister stayed in and I went to Kichijoji to meet my old co-worker. They start the Xmas decorations right after Halloween here.

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We went back and forth about where to eat. We usually go to a steak restaurant but the place is tiny and Suzuki-san wasn’t sure about the ventilation. But they have a huge hood to get rid of the grill smoke so it’s probably fine. The place only seats six at the counter, and there’s three tables, two 4-tops and one 2-top. Tiny Japanese tables. It didn’t seem all that crowded and after a five-minute wait we were able to sit at a 4-top.

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As always, the steak was excellent.

And that’s about it for the day. I think I only hit 15,000 steps today, unlike the 30,000 yesterday.

Japan 2022 Day 10

Ha. Well I forgot to post yesterday. There was a bit going on in the evening.

Not many pictures today. We were meeting my sister’s friend Jen for lunch and I got us a bit lost. I knew where we were going but let me describe it further.

I’ve been getting up later and later, thought that just means I’m getting up at 6am now. Since I’m not traveling every day, I don’t need to get up at 5am every morning. I got up fuzzy this morning after waking up several times in the middle of the night. Our first stop, though was my favorite spot for morning set, Hoshino Coffee. And they have the Eggslut back! My guess is that they made a deal with the real Eggslut store because its only served at breakfast and the Eggslut store isn’t open that early.

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Soon after it was off to see Kagurazaka before heading to Tokyo Station to meet my sister’s friend. However, being an idiot, I got us off at Ichigaya station (one early) and we decided to walk to Kagurazaka. Of course that was just the start of my mistakes.

We had time so I decided we should walk all the way to Tokyo station. I don’t have any pictures because I thought we could see a couple of things on the way and I found NONE of them. It was quite a walk. Google shows it as a 2.5mi walk and I didn’t take the best route. I was mostly lost. We were meeting at Tokyo Station, so we did walk by the Imperial Palace.

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Another quick snapshot of Tokyo Station.

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We had lunch at the KITTE building.

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And coffee at a very fancy Starbucks.

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Well, we sat in the park outside. Even saw a huge motorcade of some dignitary going to the Imperial Palace. We all had the same thought: I wonder what it’s like to be a Japanese Royal? There are never any non-staged photos. What if they want to go to the combini? I’m guessing they can’t; a servant would have to go. But would a Japanese Royal know about combinis enough to even want to go?

I made my poor sister walk another 30 minutes to my favorite shrine in Tokyo.

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It’s pretty nice and there’s usually a horse there for some reason. This time it was a sad looking miniature horse.

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We got back to the hotel and as soon as I sat down I almost fell asleep. We decided to keep it simple and go to Shake Shack for dinner. Holy hell it was expensive. $30USD for the two of us. My sushi in a fairly fancy restaurant was less. Looking out the window I realized we could see the lunar eclipse and some googling told me we could see the total eclipse. Here it happened around 8PM. We stood around outside while we waited for totality.

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Yeah, I was one of those idiots taking pictures of the eclipse with his iPhone. I watched a livestream of the event and it looked kind of like that the whole time.

Anyway, after that I took a bath and then watched one YouTube video of a guy on a motorcycle channel making fun of foldable e-bikes. After that, I realized it was time for bed!

 

Japan 2022 Day 9

I think this is the first day that I’m not stuffing myself silly at breakfast. My sister picked a spot that was really good but had smaller breakfast sets. The store was also quite tiny and we shoehorned ourselves in. The cup of coffee was the tiniest I’ve had on this trip.

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We went to the post office to mail some gifts and rather than the two-and-a-half hour ordeal I had, they just took the packages with the addresses written in English and sent us on our way. I guess they must get a lot more foreigners in this post office.

We went to Sugamo Jizo-dori, which is also known as Harajuku for grannies. It was pretty fun. Most of the clothes were for someone a bit older than us (and we’re not young) but it was fun to see all the shops that kind of reminded us of how the area around our grandma’s town used to be.

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There are also two big temples here, one with a giant Jizo statue.

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And the other with a healing goddess of mercy statue where you rub a tissue on the part of the body you want healed.

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It’s also chrysanthemum season, so there were award-winning flower displays a the temples.

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After that we went back to Shinjuku to a manjyu/dango shop where we had lunch. It was all fairly sweet and was like having dessert for lunch.

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We just wandered around Shinjuku because it was my sister’s first day here. All shopping though I’m not sure we bought anything and I even saw a Rolls Royce parked at Isetan Department Store (which does tend to be a bit fancy).

For dinner we went to a tonkatsu chain restaurant but within the chain this is the only one that serves Yamagata pork. I guess all the rest use Australian pork. Oh boy that was good. We also noticed that the miso soup was exceptionally good and found out they use high-grade miso from Kyoto.

Anyway, that’s about it for today. Time to watch some more Spy x Family on Netflix.

Japan 2022 Day 8

Today is the last day of my Tohoku speed run. After this I meet up with my sister and we have four days in Tokyo and four days in Osaka before we go off to visit a cousin in the sticks and her friend in Okayama. I guess there’s a night in Nagoya too so I can go see the last castle on the original five that I haven’t seen: Inuyama Castle. I guess it’s the only one that’s still standing in its original form and also one of the smallest.

I got up early, as I do, and had to walk several blocks to get breakfast. I guess the restaurant in the hotel has limited seating and since I checked in so late I couldn’t eat early enough to make my train. The option was to send me off to a local restaurant. They warned me it would be busy because there was an outdoor market going on. Sure enough, they were setting up when I arrived.

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The restaurant seems to be in a trailer. A lot of the buildings in the tsunami zone are prefabricated, probably because of the small population and the lack of funding.

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There were several other buildings also in the area.

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I arrived before opening and there were already people waiting.

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Luckily the family of three and I had breakfast ticket so we didn’t have to buy tickets from the machine. We were the first to be served. I think when I counted there were fourteen people inside of the trailer. 

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The trailer was pretty packed for good reason, the food was great. The breakfast was huge. The chunks of simmered fish cheeks in the top-middle bowl were quite large and tasted like pork. Absolutely delicious.

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I decided to get a cab back to the train station for a couple of reasons. Speed and also I wanted to see the town from a car that wasn’t just going town the BRT route. The driver also told me about some parts of the town. It’s very remote in Kesennuma and for some reason I’ve found several people from Portland who have made their way down there. In fact, one person told me to try an izakaya that I never made it to. I’m really glad I went.

It was back onto the train from Kesennuma to Ichinoseki, then a Shinkansen that stopped at every station to Sendai, then an express Shinkansen to Oyama, and then the Shin-Kiba rapid train to Shinjuku. All of the trains were rather crowded, especially the last leg that was SRO.

I dropped off my bags and then took the airport bus to meet my sister. I got there early so I could explore it a bit. Haneda is much closer to town than Narita, but it’s also much less interesting. Also, a few of the shops are still closed. I don’t think the airports realize how many tourists are coming but then again the bazillions of Chinese tourists aren’t allowed to travel yet.

Then it was a taxi ride back to the hotel, and off to find some dinner. We went to a curry restaurant and I forgot how mid the food in Tokyo can be. It’s pretty good but compared to other parts of Japan it’s really kind of meh. Who am I kidding? I’d eat it any day but compared to the fish I just had in Kesennuma it was nothing.

We went to a curry restaurant because my sister didn’t want fried food after her long flight. She had vegetable curry and I had a kind of expensive meal of several courses starting with a small seafood salad.

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Then a small bread bowl of cream stew. The bread was stale, but tasted great. I think there was about a tablespoon of stew in the bread bowl.

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And then the beef curry omelette. Basically a beef curry with egg in it for some reason.

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And then disappointing panna cotta. The chocolate syrup tasted cheap and the gelato had ice crystals in it.

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See what a great food photographer I am? I was already eating dessert before I remembered to take a picture. Oh well, it’s not like I’m any sort of influencer. I’m putting pictures on my own blog which means I’m paying to have no one see these posts. Like self-publishing a bad book. Maybe that should be my next venture.

 

 

 

 

 

Japan 2022 Day 7

Well today (yesterday actually, I got sleepy and went to bed early) was the earliest and weirdest day planned on the trip. I promised James at Black Tide Brewing that I’d come see him and I did. It’s a weird little trip off to a very rural coastal town in Japan that was hit by the tsunami. It’s also where Watanabe Ken has a coffee shop, but I never made it there. I was also told (as is everyone who comes here, I think, that I “just” missed him.)

Anyway, the day started off with a breakfast buffet and it was pretty good.

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This is my view at breakfast, by the way.

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I forgot to take a picture from my room, but it’s basically this picture but seven floors higher. It was a great view of the river.

I took a Shinkansen to Ichinoseki (where I’d been before because that’s where Sekinoichi brewing is) and then it was off on a tiny 2-car diesel train for the coast.

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Kesennuma itself is much larger than I expected. They have a bus/train hybrid called the BRT. I wonder if it used to be a train. In any case, there is a long one-lane road, fenced off from regular traffic, that the bus runs down. I took the bus to the stop by the hotel and, oddly enough, I was in an industrial area. I think this is the lower area of town that was wiped out by the tsunami.

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The hotel is the big building towards the right. The entrance is slightly below ground level and I thought that was odd. A later taxi driver told me that it was because of all the dirt that was brought in by the tsunami.

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I dropped off my bags and walked the 15 minutes to black tie brewing, which is a stand in the marketplace. Behind the stand is their brewery which is a production brewing facility.

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A picture from inside the market.

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And inside.

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I think James was glad to have someone to talk English to for a while and we talked for 3 ½ or 4 hours. I didn’t get to see much more of Kessennuma, but that was OK. I was mostly there because I said I’d come see him. The beers were well made and as I expected he said he has to make them palatable to the Japanese taste and they were a little on the sweet side with very little bitterness. That just made them taste like hazies to me. I was happy to find they had a taster tray! Maybe the Japanese breweries have figured out that people like taster trays or maybe it’s just James.

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I let him get on with his day after monopolizing so much of his time. It was time to find dinner and James suggested the seafood store across the way. I had a glass of local sake which was very good, and they dropped off the “starter” that also just adds a seat charge to the meal. The octopus was incredibly fresh.

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Don’t ask me what I had. I just pretty much asked what they suggested.

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Katsuo since it’s katsuo season. I don’t know how to describe fish that tastes like it was caught that day. It’s wonderful.

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And I guess I didn’t order that many dishes but this sushi was so spectacular that I got it twice.

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I think the one on the right is blowfish? It’s a little crunchy and looks seared. The other two just melted in my mouth.

After that I went to the 7Eleven for some snacks and back to the brewery buy a can of beer. I asked them to call me a cab because I did not dress for the northern temperatures. It’s 38°F this morning! Tomorrow it’s off to Tokyo to meet up with my sister, another big travel day.

Japan 2020 Day 6

I am going to try to make this quick (ha) but I had a day today. Probably the worst day of my trip. Mostly my own fault, I know.

At least I slept well. I was sleepy most of the day. Probably from the change in weather. Here’s the view from my room. It was darker than this in real life.

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The hotel I stayed in was the first issue. It was designed by some hipster asshat. The room looked big because they shrunk down the bathroom. The toilet was set at a diagonal and I don’t think a tall person could sit on the toilet. The bathtub was an odd shape and only 14 ½ inches wide at one end. That was the end you had to stand in to take a shower. Oh and the temperature regulation of the water was awful. It went from scalding to cool over and over so it took me twice as long since I was always fiddling with the knobs. It had a hot knob and a cold knob and the cold knob turned the opposite direction of the hot knob.

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There were wooden knobs on the wall for the clothes hangers and they were placed at different levels and some were bigger around than others. The round table was next to an uncomfortable built-in bench and I hit the hanging lamp with my head every time I got up.

Breakfast was another buffet and I was cranky enough without any coffee. I bought what I thought were drip coffee packs but I just bought a big bag of ground coffee. I was thinking people were going the wrong way and I think they were. I got miso soup and the bowl they had out was cracked. I wondered how I spilled soup all over my hand. The rice was lukewarm. Well I felt better after a couple of cups of coffee. So much coffee (not).

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It didn’t help that it was raining.

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This was the day of my trip to Morioka. It went OK and I fell asleep for the first part. The rain stopped as soon as we got out of town and it was sunny most of the way. Morioka is quite far north and it’s going to be 34°F tonight. Anyway, I got there around 1PM and I had some Jyajya men. It was bland and, well, probably an acquired taste. This is what it looks like after you mix it all up. It’s incredibly bland.

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When you’re close to finishing you can crack an egg into the bowl and ask for some broth to be added to make soup.

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The soup wasn’t really any less bland.

Then it was time to explore the town. They suggested I take the bus to the bus terminal and walk to the shrine and then walk back towards the castle ruins. I could walk back after that.

Anyway, I got off the bus and then hit some sidewalk construction where I completely ate shit and hit my knee on the ground. I continued limping to the shrine, which wasn’t bad as far as shrines go.

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I limped back towards the castle ground and found a TOTEM POLE! And I could tell this was the real thing. Morioka’s sister city is Victoria, B.C.

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And the fall colors were very nice at the castle grounds, even though I had to limp quite a ways uphill to see them.

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I didn’t take any pictures of the foundations or walls because, well, they looked like any other foundations or walls of Japanese castles. I walked back through town and it looked like a nice place to live. I know a couple of YouTubers used to live here including Sharla (Sharla in Japan -> Sharmeleon). I made it back, got my train tickets for the next couple of days, and got my hotel room.

Then it was time for dinner. I guess the famous dish in Morioka is reimen (cold ramen) and I really didn’t want that. But after walking around for a good half-hour trying to decide what to eat I picked a store, and the store really only had reimen. It was actually pretty good. They gave me some kimchi to put in it so it ended up looking like a red mess. But it tasted good unlike lunch.

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I also had that local Baeren beer. I was wary because I’ve never heard of it so I figured it might not be too good. It was not. Too sweet for me.

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Oh and I wasn’t full so I got a tiny skewer of Yonezawa beef. It was the same price as everything else, but it was tasty.

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On my way home I thought I was buying some drip coffee using the picture my sister sent me but I screwed up and looked at the picture I sent my sister after I screwed up and bought THE EXACT SAME bag of ground coffee. I threw it directly into the trash. I hope the hotels don’t talk to each other because leaving bags of unused coffee grounds in the trash does not look good.

I’ve been in three Daiwa Roynet hotels and each one is nicer than the last. This one has a huge bathroom (thank goodness) with a separate glassed in area for the shower and bath. I’m going to take a bath to try to keep my knee from locking up.

So that’s it. i’m hoping this is my worst day and they get better. Wish me luck

Japan 2020 Day 5

Right now it’s not too late and there’s a fireworks show going on. The first one in Niigata in three years. This is at the same time that there are still a lot of ‘rona cases and, really, I don’t know where to go that wouldn’t be crowded so I’m avoiding it. I’m so boring. To be honest, I’m even more lazy than I am boring.

I had all these crazy travel plans and it turns out that it’s a lot easier to get places if you don’t use JR all the time. Having Niigata not be on the Tohoku pass actually sped things up. Aizu-Wakamatsu to Niigata was less than 2 hours and ¥2100 ($14.16US today). The bus driver was super nice and now I see why there are only two buses per day right now. I got my ticket for tomorrow’s trip to Morioka (which is really far away, actually) and rather than taking a direct trip up the coast to Akita to take the Akita Shinkansen, I’m basically going almost back to Tokyo (Omiya Station) and then going back up to Morioka and that saves me almost 2 hours at a cost of ¥5480 ($36.93US today). Tell me when you can buy 2 hours back for $37.

Anyway, I slept pretty well last night. I’m not sure what everyone else did in their rooms but I spent a bunch of time playing on my computer. Breakfast was pretty good too.

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Then it was time to screw around on my computer even more. I decided to walk to the station. The bus station was across the parking lot. They were busy and the TVs were showing the news of the moment: North Korea decided to fire missiles over Japan to the Pacific Ocean. They even stopped some of the trains as a precaution. I heard they never made it that far and fell into the Sea of Japan.

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After standing around outside for a bit I found a seat at the “cafe”. The cheapest way to sit there was to buy a cup of coffee. To drink it in the cafe cost an extra ¥30 for a total of ¥290. It was worth it. There was an older gentleman at the table and he argued about the seat for 20 minutes before he finally bought a coffee.

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Yeah, that’s a tiny cup of coffee. When I finally decided to get back in line, I noticed there were 14 people in front of me! I was afraid that would be a bad thing but honestly most of the bus was empty. I think I fell asleep almost immediately.

I got to Niigata around noon and was met by two of the Kawasaki “kids” (we’re all around 60). The youngest Dr. Kawasaki got the ‘rona at work (he’s a pathologist) and missed the gathering. The eldest had her husband with her and we got some bakery goods and ate lunch on the banks of the river. It turned out to be a nice day with just a little rain around 5pm which let up before the fireworks in the evening (which I mentioned earlier). I might as well include this picture of Niigata.

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Here’s a picture of the Japanese garden a rich businessman made back 150-ish years ago. Everyone else was taking pictures of the garden from the house; I decided to be a contrarian and took the picture in the opposite direction.

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Mostly it was hanging out and catching up. I went to check into the hotel and it was crowded.

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I suppose it was a holiday.

I should mention that I got my train tickets at a renewed Niigata station. The station was looking a little rough when I was here three years ago and it’s still under construction right now. I was told all the street-level trains are now on elevated tracks.

We dropped off the elder Dr. Kawasaki (he’s the middle one and an ENT) and went out to dinner. Sho and her husband Atsushi live in rural Niigata so they don’t know where to eat. They called their daughter and we found the store she suggested, a salmon restaurant. Here’s a picture of me looking a little tired.

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It was actually not that expensive and very tasty. I think mine worked out to be about $13.50USD? I can’t even get a hamburger at a restaurant for that price any more.

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And then it was back to my hotel. There’s a big bath in the basement but like I said it seemed crowded and I’m going to stick to the oddly small shower in my room.

Honestly, the Global View in Niigata is new and fairly nice but what hipster asshat designed this place? The hooks for the hangers are knobs randomly placed up and down the wall. The seat in the room is an uncomfortable bench. The table is round (an odd shape choice) and while there is an Ethernet port it’s across the room from the table. The TV is one of the smaller LCDs I’ve seen. Oh, and the bathroom is cheap and tiny. The worst part is that it sounds like someone is playing basketball in the floor above me. Or maybe the whine coming out of the AC. I had to turn it off.

Anyway, that’s about it. I have a bunch of email I should probably read. It’s mostly ads, but that pretty much describes the postal mail I receive as well. I’ll do that right after I hit POST on this.