Category Archives: Japan

Japan 2024: Day 8

Well, it looks like I forgot to take many pictures today. Again. I guess I’m not to be trusted.

Kevin went to aikido practice again so it was a late start to the day. Instead of another trip to Tully’s, we went to Hoshino Coffee. The bigger breakfasts they had for the weekend appear to be available during the week now. I had two fluffy pancakes (not jiggly though) with sausages, an egg, a salad, and a miniscule portion of yogurt. Oh, and of course very good coffee.

 

PRETEND THERE’S A PICTURE HERE OF MY BREAKFAST

 

Kevin was going to spend some father/daughter time with Zoe so Bill and I went off to Ueno to see part of the park and the Tokyo National Museum. Of course, we had to visit the statue of Saigo Takamori.

We saw pottery from the hundreds, coins from the hundreds, and a bunch of swords and armor from the 1300’s. After that we went to Ameyoko to get some street food. I would recommend avoiding it. They said the rice bowl would take a while and it took a half hour of me just sitting on a rickety stool waiting for it. The karaage tasted like low-quality frozen chicken nuggets. At least the fried oysters were good and the yakitori was ok.

The sushi bowl wasn’t bad but after waiting so long I just ate it before I remembered to take a picture.

That was about it until dinner. We went to Tonchinkan which was tiny, crowded, busy, cheap, and pretty good. There’s really no comparison to Katsukura, but that’s also about 3x the price. We even had to make our selection before they’d seat us.

That’s about it for today. Oh, I did buy a ridiculous Godzilla tissue paper holder that probably won’t take US-sized tissue paper, but come on, I had to get this.

Japan 2024: Day 7

Unfortunately our sushi dinner last night didn’t agree with one of the group and Bill was having troubles from 2am-4am. It was also Kevin’s big day to have pictures taken with the Doshu at the Aikido Hombudojo (basically, the big cheese). I suggested we take it easy and head out of central Tokyo to the Tonogayato Teien in Kokubunji. It’s a beautiful little garden I’ve been to before and only cost ¥140 to enter. Bill wanted to see a bamboo grove as well, and this garden has one.

At times there were only four of us in the park but for a lot of it we were the only ones there. It was a welcome change from being in Tokyo. For lunch we just went into a soba store on the street and while it wasn’t the best soba I’ve had (I’m spoiled by a restaurant I went to in rural Okayama last year) it was very tasty.

On the way back we went to Nakano Broadway where Kevin actually bought some figurines. They’re for gifts, but I would’ve never thought he would buy something like that.

We got back to the hotel and rested. Bill and I went to Don Quijote to buy candy and the one in Shinjuku was packed with tourists and were out of most of the Kit Kats. I knew there was one on the other side of the hotel in Okubo so we tried that one. It was nearly empty of people (comparatively) and of course everything was fully stocked.

Kevin was meeting a business associate for dinner and we were to head for Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) which is more coarsely called Shomben Yokocho (Piss Alley). I’ve had enough of crowds and I no longer drink because it bothers my stomach so I didn’t go with them. I decided to walk across Shinjuku to see the Projection on the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. I had to ask someone where to go because I am bad at researching this sort of thing but I made it! Tokyo is supposed to be a place no one talks to you but I’m a chatty idiot so I talked to a German, Italian kids, and three little old ladies from Tokyo. The show at 7pm lasted about 15 minutes and the show at 7:30pm lasted about 10 minutes.

I was finally hungry on the way back, and I had decided to go to Royal Host. It’s more Japanese western food and I don’t think I’ve been to a Royal Host in 35 years! (No, I did not go to the Sizzler, and it’s closed all of 2024 through the spring of 2025).

I got the “set” which included unlimited drinks (I had two) and a salad,

French Onion soup,

And a “cosmopolitan” doria which had shrimp and chestnuts.

I also had the strawberry matcha parfait for dessert.

And that’s about it for today!

Japan 2024: Day 6

It’s odd how I can sleep but not feel rested. I guess I’m woken up by all the noise here. Last night it sounded like there was a big fire and I heard ambulances every couple of hours.

We went to a Tully’s for breakfast and had to walk for a bit to find one open at 7am. On the way back I discovered another mystery, if this is the #2 Ass building, where’s the #1 Ass building?

Our big morning outing was to see the Samurai Ninja museum, which was kind of cool with swords and armor and also very good descriptions of Japanese history. Unfortunately, that was just the samurai part and the ninja part was a bit cheesy. There was a 13YO boy in the group and it was perfect for him. The last part of the tour was throwing these rubber stars at some styrofoam boards.

But the museum did place us near Kappabashi and I was able to buy a knife for my sister.

Kevin had to leave to see his daughter so Bill and I were left on our own.

Kappabashi is also near Sensoji Temple and it was very crowded but not as bad as I expected for a nice Sunday.

OK, this bit was really crowded

It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Sensoji without some street food like these cheese and meat balls.

Also the freshly baked melon pan with the green tea soft ice cream.

And I thought there was a store with pork katsu sandos but I was wrong. We ended up just grabbing a chicken katsu sando at 7Eleven.

And finally, a view of the golden poop. Some poor artist worked hard on this but everyone just calls it the golden poop.

I think that’s it for the pictures. Kevin isn’t the electronics geek Bill and I are so we went to Akihabara to see what’s left of the electronics shops of DenDen Town.

After that we all met up to try to look for some sushi. The first try at Takashimaya was a 2 hour wait so we went back to the touristy one on the first floor of the hotel. It wasn’t that bad but it was crowded and you have to have the Line app to order with a QR code.

And that’s it for today.

Japan 2024: Day 5

I have some pictures from yesterday that Kevin sent me.

Outside of Sumiyoshi Taisha.

Here’s what we were doing on the ledge of Abeno Harukas.

And while I took a picture of my omukatsu, Kevin took this picture.

Disclaimer: we’re on vacation, plus the drinking age in Japan is 20.

Kevin got up early and went to Aikido practice again. I got up early in case he needed something but he made it there and back with no issues. We went to a flea market at the Oi Horse racing track and it was kind of fun. But the sun was blazing down and it was in the mid -70s which can be HOT for Japan. It’s especially hot for a Portlander who hasn’t acclimated to good weather yet. There was lots of junk that looked just like stuff I had that is going into the garbage soon. I figure I’m improving the rarity of the products by making them rarer. The only things I wanted were old railway signs and while everything was pretty cheap, the railway signs were more around $100US.

After that we went to Sengakuji Temple, where the graves of Daimyo Asano Naganori and the 47 Ronin are buried. Last time I went I waltzed in and our without much fanfare, but now there’s an entrance fee of ¥300 which pays for 50+ sticks of incense that are placed at the graves of the Lord and the ronin. It was hot, and the smell of incense is pretty powerful.

We were a bit tired from the heat but we went to Noa, an izakaya in Ginza for lunch around 2pm. It’s run by the parents of Taiki, the guy who runs Tokyo Sando. I’ve been there before and the food is excellent. Kevin & Bill had two giant beers and we also ate potato salad, potato wedges, karaage, tebasaki, curry korokke, and dashimaki. The picture is after we’d already eaten most of it.

(There’s a Coke there because I had two Cokes instead of two beers.) We went back to the hotel and I think Kevin and Bill passed out. I was busy watching YouTube videos, eating a snack.

They didn’t want to get dinner at first so I went on my own to Acacia, a youshoku restaurant (Japanese western food). They’re famous for their cabbage rolls. I’m more used to cabbage rolls in soup but they had it in a lightly seasoned cream sauce which I found to be a bit bland. Not awful, just kinda Tokyo-like. Probably better for me with the lower sodium.

I think the best part was the music. They were playing Aretha Franklin!

Japan 2024: Day 4

First a picture from yesterday. Kevin’s kid said it was OK to post her picture in front of the only cherry blossoms we saw in Kyoto at Kiyomizudera.

We stayed at the edge of Dotombori last night at an APA Hotel and everyone agreed with me that it was tiny but clean and efficient. Everything you really needed in a room and it was only $84 per night. Somehow we all thought we got breakfast in Tokyo but no breakfast in Osaka but the opposite was true. I’m not sure what’s wrong with booking.com.

I forgot to mention just how happy I was to be back in Osaka. I’m not sure why because it was just as crowded and dirtier, but I used to live there and I just like it.

We had breakfast at the hotel and of course I forgot to take a picture until after I’d eaten a bunch of it. I had scrambled egg rolls, sausage, yakisoba, fish, and a croissant as well as salad but all you can see is miso soup, natto on rice, and my coffee.

Then I decided to take them back through Dotombori, which was empty at 8am. This bridge is packed with people later in the day with lots of people getting pictures with the Glico man in the background.

We walked to Hozenji where the Mizukakefudou is. Still all covered in moss.

Then we got a cab to Tsutenkaku (no picture, I forgot) which wasn’t quite open and after that we went to Sumiyoshi Taisha where the only picture I have is of the turtle pond and the arched bridge. It’s the oldest shrine in Japan and gets visits from sumo and the emperor so it’s a big deal. Very peaceful and I bought an amulet to avoid calamity and an amulet to deal gracefully with calamity. I know how the Fujinaka luck is.

After that they wanted to go up Tsutenkaku, but I said we should go up Abeno Harukas instead. I asked the taxi driver if it was full and crowded like Tokyo’s Shibuya Scramble Square, but he said, “It costs ¥3000. Osaka people aren’t going up there.” Hahaha.

I wish I had a picture of the Tsutenkaku from up here but I forgot to take a picture in that direction. At 103m, it looks tiny from Abeno Harukas which is 300m tall.

We didn’t have a chance to go to Shitennoji (see the pagoda in the middle?)

or Osaka Castle (the tiny white thing next to the two black buildings a little left and above center) but we did see them from here.

Kevin and his kid were getting a caricature drawn so Bill and I decided to walk to the edge of the top of the building. They’re very safety conscious and make you empty out your pockets and give you a strap for your glasses. After they run a metal detector over you, you put on coveralls and a harness.

We even leaned over the edge with some extra restraints, but it wasn’t very scary. Not like climbing radio towers.

We were going to Kuromon market or another shopping street for lunch, but we decided just to head to Shin-Osaka station so we wouldn’t miss ANOTHER shinkansen. Here’s my omurice/curry/katsu.

The trip back was mostly uneventful. I slept from Kyoto to Nagoya, as I do, and tried to take pictures of Mt. Fuji. It was too cloudy on the way to Kyoto. It’s not that easy taking pictures from a train going 300kph.

But enough pictures and you can get at least one.

We were pretty tired and were planning on eating combini food, but I convinced everyone to try Mos burger and luckily they liked it.

Back at the hotel I got all of my sister’s packages (and my repaired jeans) and it looked huge.

But it’s just Amazon packaging. No problem at all.

 

 

 

Japan 2024: Day 3

It’s a day of lists.

We’re in Tokyo to:

  1. Visit my next door neighbor’s kid, who has an internship this term in Tokyo.
  2. Allow my neighbor to train at the main Aikido dojo as he’s a second or third degree black belt and that was on his bucket list.

I tried to tell them that visiting Kyoto was bad, but they insisted so we took a day trip with an overnight in Osaka. I am not a fan of Kyoto and I have a bunch of reasons.

  1. It’s always crowded and full of Europeans. I have enough on my hands being racist about other Asians and I don’t want to have to hate a bunch of Europeans too.
  2. My dislike of Kyoto may be passed down from my father because he was married to a woman from Kyoto for two whole weeks. I guess she kicked him out and he had to pay a lot to get an international divorce.

Turns out many of my fears were for nothing – it’s an odd dead period between sakura season and Golden week and one taxi driver said there’s 10% of the crowds that are usually here. My cousin said, “There’s so many foreigners here,” which is true but it really seems that way because all of the in-country tourists are staying home before the big vacation week (Golden week). The roads were oddly clear and even though my traveling companions were saying it’s crowded, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I remember. At least the hotel prices are back to normal. I heard during sakura season they raised the prices to 6x the normal rate.

The day started off swimmingly. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep (jet lag still) and we made it to the shinkansen station early and my buddy’s kid said she was going to miss the train. Her subway would put her in the station at 8:15, our shinkansen left at 8:18, and she missed two trains because they were overfull. We would probably have to change the tickets so we waited for her downstairs from the actual tracks. Somehow she ran by us without our noticing and got on the correct train without telling us she was even on the way. So we had to make a mad scramble for a later train, find the train conductor, and hope we could get seats. After all that we were only about 10 minutes late to Kyoto. On the train they just scribbled new seat numbers on our tickets.

Not many pictures from me because, well, it’s Kyoto and plenty of people have pictures of Kyoto. We went to Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizu Temple, and Nishiki market and then took the train to Osaka and stayed near Dotombori. We went to dinner at Kura Sushi which was the WORST sushi I’ve had in a long time. Absolute trash. Absolutely avoid.

And that’s the day. Oh, I did get a partial picture of our snacks at Nishiki market:

Japan 2024: Day 2

And yet another day of eating too much. I didn’t have any lunch but I’m still feeling like a pig.
Didn’t sleep all that well last night because that’s just what happens with jet lag. I tried to stay up until at least 9pm but I was lapsing in and out of sleep starting at 8pm. I finally took some melatonin at 9pm and really went to bed. The first time I woke up I saw flashing lights around my curtain and I peeked outside to see trains running. I wondered what time it was and it was only 11:30pm. I kept waking up and going to the bathroom and finally set the alarm for about 5am so I could walk over to the aikido dojo with Kevin and Bill. Well, they left early, so I just walked over by myself.


Aikido practice looked like a bit of a mess. There were around 100 people on the mat! There was a small wood-floored area where we could watch and we had to stay seated. Unfortunately the hard wood floors made it hard to sit for the whole hour. Kevin, who was the only one actually participating in the practice, was getting his ass handed to him as we expected. Bill and I had to leave early because the wood floor was taking its toll on us. My leg started cramping and that was it for me.
Kevin looked quite sweaty and had to rest at the hotel for a bit before breakfast. We ate at the buffet on the first floor which was a bit expensive at ¥2500, but it wasn’t bad. Probably the one and only time we’re going to eat down there.

Then it was off to walk around a bit. We bought Shinkansen tickets for our trip to Kyoto/Osaka and I suggested we go to Shibuya to see the famous crossing that I hate so much. I’m not sure why a crosswalk is so famous but I’m kind of annoyed at all of the foreigners who have to video their walk across the intersection. It’s busy enough without all the people staring at their phone and people stopping to take a picture. It’s a goddamn crosswalk. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


We went to Hanazono Shrine, which is nice and kind of standard shrine in Shinjuku. To get there we walked through Golden Gai, which was very quiet in the morning. I may have the order wrong, but Kevin said he wanted to sit down and have a beer and that was our lunch. I stuck with a ginger ale and a Coke, but Kevin and Bill had beers.


Then it was off to Sekaido stationery store in Shinjuku which I found to be a bit underwhelming. After that we got on the subway to see Takeshita Street in Harajuku which was oddly less crowded than I expected. We walked down to see the Shibuya Scramble which was further than I remembered and it was, as I said, still just a crosswalk. We tried to see the view from Shibuya Scramble Square but the tickets were sold out for the day. We did go up to the 14th floor where we couldn’t get a seat at any restaurants with a window view, but there was an NHK exhibit and they were trying to get people to enter and told us one of the windows in the exhibit had a view. So here’s Shibuya Scramble in all its glory (but it’s still just a crosswalk).


I think at some point Bill and I went shopping and I asked Kevin if he wanted me to buy him a tarantula to eat, but he probably would’ve thrown it out.

By that time it was almost dinnertime but we went back to the hotel for a bit. I told them about the steak house I liked and I kind of hoped it would be full because I still wasn’t that hungry but we made it into Satou Kichijoji Steak House for dinner. It was great, they had Matsuzaka beef that they only get in a couple of times a year (my favorite), and one of the regulars even gave us some fried garlic rice as a gift.

And that’s about it for the day. We went to the only two fancy restaurants I know of and we’ve been here two days! Now what?

Japan 2024: Day 1

Not a complete day but pretty close since we got into Tokyo around 1:45pm. But I think I’ve been up for most of 24 hours so my brain isn’t functioning that well. Got up at 4am for a 7:30am flight to Seattle, and then flew from Seattle to Haneda Airport in Tokyo. We wandered around a bit and had dinner at my favorite tonkatsu place in Shinjuku, Katsukura.

I can’t even remember all the movies I watched on the flight from SeaTac to Haneda. I remember Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse but there must’ve been one other movie I watched. Oh yeah, Mortal Engines. Kind of a weird but interesting movie. Not great but entertaining.Anyway, my brain is pretty shot so that’s about it for today. We wandered around Shinjuku for a bit but towards the end we were all sleepwalking through the stores. Honestly, it’s probably more than I usually do on my first day in Japan!

Japan 2023: Day 22

This is mostly a travel day, going home!  I had this grand plan to start out early, get a morning set, pack, do some last-minute shopping for my sister, and then check out. It all worked out but the plan failed. Turns out it’s Labor and Thanksgiving day and a lot of the coffee houses are opening later. I ended up at Starbucks because they’re always open early and actually it wasn’t that bad.

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Packing was easier than expected because things fit nicely into my sister’s REI duffel bag. Going to the store that opened at 10 and checking out by 11 seemed to be pushing it so I just did that in the opposite order. They’ll check your bags and return them on the day you check out so I did just that. Then it was a two hour wait for the taxi.

Oh, check out this long line for SOMETHING at the NEWoMan Food Hall.

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The taxi driver turned out to be a very chatty woman who moved to Japan from Shanghai 30 years ago. She was late because of traffic and I guess a lot of travelers get mad but I gave it some leeway and I was fine. She told me I should move to Japan and get a job in Tokyo as a translator. She was pretty funny and went on and on. Work until you’re 70 and THEN move to the countryside.

Anyway, went to the Delta Lounge and had a mini-bowl of ramen and some other snacky foods. I forgot to take a picture of the mini-ramen because I inhaled it.

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Then it was onto the plane where I watched Blade Runner: 2049, John Wick 4, Shazam Fury of the Gods, and since I didn’t have enough time for another full movie, the rest of Central Intelligence that I started on the way to Japan.

I had a 7 hour layover in Seattle but had it changed to a four hour layover. I guess there aren’t that many Delta flights from Seattle to Portland. Sat in the lounge for the most part. My stomach was feeling weird so I only had a couple of snacks and, of course, clam chowder.

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And that’s pretty much it. The flight from SEA to PDX was on a very small plane. I passed out immediately after sitting down and didn’t wake up until we got close ot Mt St Helens.

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My sister gave me a ride home. Didn’t have Thanksgiving turkey pot pie with her because my stomach was still feeling a bit iffy. It’s fine now but my dinner was a frozen burrito and some Japanese Pringles that they gave me in the lounge. It’s nice to be home.

Japan 2023: Day 21

My last full day in Japan. I thought I’d take it easy today because I really overdid it yesterday and my leg hurt more than usual this morning. But did I succeed? Of course not.

I had breakfast at Hoshino Coffee, my favorite. Unfortunately this year the close one doesn’t open until 9AM! And I also forgot one of the features of the store:

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Yeah, it’s in the basement. No elevator. But they did have Egg Slut back on the menu! Mashed potatoes and a brown sauce with a coddled egg on top. It’s so good. Unfortunately I think I could eat three of them without much trouble. But they’re so good. And they have these weird half-booths for single patrons. There’s a little sign that says something like, “Please only stay for two hours.” Coffee shops are a place to rest and hide. Luckily this one has good coffee and pretty good food.

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And then I limped my fat ass over to the tourist information bureau in the bus terminal and asked if he could recommend a train or a bus I could just ride on for a while. He had to think about it and kept telling me to ask someone else, but finally he said, “Did you think about the Toden tram?” That’s a small tram that I’ve been meaning to ride eventually. It’s the only one left of an extensive tram system that covered Tokyo and goes from Waseda in northern Shinjuku City to Minowabashi in Arakawa City in the middle of goddamn nowhere. Also it was a bus ride from Shinjuku Station to Waseda which not only took a while, it took me 45 minutes to get 50 feet because off all the construction in the old Odakyu department store.

I also found that there are a LOT of old people riding the tram and even though it hurt my leg, I had to give up my seat because the guilt of sitting while little old ladies were standing would’ve killed me. I saw a young woman just pretend to be asleep but I can’t do that.

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Once I got to Minowabashi, I felt like I was back in the middle of the countryside of Japan. There was nothing there. I decided to take a bus back because that sounded more interesting. What didn’t seem interesting was a 20 minute ride to the Akasaka area, so I took the bus the opposite direction on a nice 1 hr 46 minute ride to Nakano station with two transfers. Fortunately there were enough seats on the buses that I didn’t have to give up my seat, but lots of old people riding the bus in the middle of nowhere too. First bus took me from near Minowabashi to Oji station which was much more lively and even had a McDonalds. Then it was on a bus to Koenji but I transfered near Kita-Nogata station to a bus directly for Nakano.

I didn’t do all that much in Nakano (like go to Nakano Broadway) but I did see a Yakiimo festival going on!IMG 0412

Huge lines for some of the food but I got in a shortest one to get just plain yakiimo.

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But they said I could get french fried yakiimo and that was more like a snack.IMG 0413

It was honestly quite good but so starchy and sweet! I couldn’t finish all of it.

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And then it was back to Shinjuku for more frustration. I usually save my shopping until the end because I don’t want to carry a bunch more stuff around with me. I should’ve done more in Osaka. The Muji on the whole other side of the station has split off into two stores. One with stationery and home goods (where they had everything stuffed into one building before) and a new one with clothing. And the big signs are on the side where you can’t get in because it’s just a loading dock. They were out of the pajama color I wanted in my big fat guy size too. At least the guy at the Tax Free counter was funny. He had an accent but he kept using American idioms. Turns out he lived in Utah for ten years!

Then I went to Kinokuniya to buy some calendars. The one I wanted was the only one that sold out, of course. And then I found out that the store wasn’t even Kinokuniya. They’d given up selling calendars and left it, and the dry goods like pens, to someone else. I should’ve done this shopping in Osaka as well. Then it was across the street to the Bic Camera/Uniqlo complex which WAS NO LONGER A UNIQLO. The Uniqlo used to be huge, too. So I resigned myself to trying the one in Takashimaya later in the day.

I went for dinner at Katsukura on the upper restaurant floor of Takashimaya and the line was huge. But it started moving quite quickly. Turns out I mis-ordered and the fancy pork is from Yamagata and the stuff I got was from Chiba. I wondered why it wasn’t as good as last year (not that it was bad). They were out of the Yamagata pork filet anyway. The whole thing was confusing but it’s definitely worth eating there.

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Uniqlo was a couple of floors down and not that large, but they had what I wanted. They were quite nice as well.

And then I got the bright idea to buy another power bank because my iPhone 15 Pro tends to eat battery. I spent about an hour and a half looking for Daisos that weren’t where google said they were and finally gave up and bought one at Bic Camera.

And that’s about it for the day. I didn’t end up packing because I was busy being an idiot and I might’ve walked even more than I did yesterday. Double idiot. We’ll see how that affects my plane ride home and my short SEVEN HOUR layover in Seattle.

Japan 2023: Day 20

Oh boy, I think I overdid it today. I’m OK now though. Better take it in order.

Got up this morning and I got out of my room a little later than I wanted to. Too much cursing at my computer. But my sister and I had been discussing a cafe around the corner from the hotel and I decided to try it out. It turned out to be OK, but not nearly as good as other choices. I think Drip-X-Cafe in Osaka has been the best so far and Tully’s is still a strong standby. I usually just go to Hoshino Coffee when I’m in Shinjuku and I might try that tomorrow. But today was Cafe de Crie.

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The ham and egg sandwich was kind of stale-ish. The toast wasn’t quite crisp. The salad had a dab of mayo and that was the only dressing. And the coffee, while strong, started to taste sour as it cooled. Anyway, I’m being picky. It was fine.

I didn’t know what to do in Tokyo, and I kind of decided today was the day to go to the “east” side. My sister had suggested I get a decent kitchen knife and I’ve been looking. I saw one in Umeda, but I didn’t buy one there. So today I went to Kappabashi, the kitchen supply area. The trip there was a bit of a mess for me. Lots of stairs without escalators or elevators. When I got there I was OK, and by the end of the time my leg had loosened up a little. Anyway, I went to one store with a lot of stock and they wanted to sell me a stainless knife. They said the stainless knives were just as good nowadays.

Then I went to a store that has been around for generations and it was full of foreigners buying knives. According to them the best knives were carbon steel and require a lot of maintenance. Wash them right after use, dry them, and coat them in a layer of oil. No cutting frozen things or bones (I told the guy I had Henkel knives for that and he laughed). I ended up buying a knife for ¥59,800! It was actually less because they gave me a form to get the 10% consumption tax refunded and while I went 4 or 5 blocks away to get that done, they engraved my name into the blade. I’m excited to cut up some onions. That’s all I ever seem to do.

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The Kappabashi kitchen good area is near Asakusa and the Sky Tree.

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As I headed back towards the station (and towards Asakusa) I decided I wanted to try the melon pan (melon-shaped bread). I’ve heard rumors that it was first made in the area, and I’m a big fan of melon pan, so off I went. Google maps told me the second store of Akasaka Kagetsudou was close by, but when I got there I found an empty lot. The woman at the funky clothing store next door told me to try the main store, all the way through the crowds. So off I went.

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So many people.

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When I got there I got in line. I figured if there was a line it was the right place.

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What I got was a very fresh melon pan with matcha soft ice cream inside! Not only was it the best melon pan, it had green tea soft ice cream! It was much bigger than a regular melon pan too.

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I decided to get some of the croquettes I saw on the way and that meant going back through the same crowds to a side street.

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First I got a regular one, beef and potatoes. It was the best.

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I noticed people were all getting one of the options with cheese, so I asked what the most popular one was and got that. It was menchi (minced meat) and cheese. I think I liked the regular one better, but this was good as well.

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It was only about 1pm so I decided to keep going and went to Akihabara to check out the few electronics stores that are left. There were even fewer than last year, and the ones that were left seemed to have less stuff. And as long as I was here, I went to visit the Kanda Myojin shrine like I do every year (it’s also close to a train station that takes me back to the hotel). I suppose it’s a tradition.

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And finally it was back to the hotel.

When I got back to the room around 3pm I realized I had overdone it. When I sat down my leg started cramping up a bit and wouldn’t stop. The pain was pretty bad.I  took a short nap and lay around a while and it calmed down. I decided I’d better stay close by for dinner and just headed over to Shake Shack even though there’s one in my neighborhood in Portland now.

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All at the southern end of Shinjuku station.

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When I got back I picked up some packages that are going to be difficult to get home, but I guess we get them every year. The big box is rice crackers from Niigata, the smaller box is youkan from Toraya, and the bag is something my sister bought and needs me to bring back. The socks are FamiChiki socks that I bought for myself. Family Mart socks are generally pretty comfortable so I’m hoping the FamiChiki ones are as well.

That’s about it for today. Not sure what I’m doing tomorrow but I’m hoping it involves a lot more sitting and a lot less walking around.

 

 

Japan 2023: Day 19

OK sorry I’m late. I was off seeing my old co-worker Suzuki-san and when I got back I was kind of tired. I didn’t sleep well the previous night because of the overeating and my leg is hurting more. Fortunately, after breakfast I just got to sit on the Shinkansen for a few hours (on the Green car!) from Okayama to Tokyo.

Packing got much easier. I brought less clothing on this trip (as my mother always instructed me to do) and since it suddenly dropped in temperature I didn’t have to do laundry as often. Also, I packed all my weird Uniqlo Airism underpants that take up much less space than boxer shorts. And finally I dropped off my second pair of jeans for repair. They had a hole in the crotch so that definitely needed to be fixed before I wore them. I’m not some weird hipster and I’m too old for that kind of fashion. One thing I did pack was a second long-sleeved shirt (my usual Montbell shirt). Good thing too because I’ve been wearing three shirt layers every day since the temperature dropped.

Same Greenberry as the day before.

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And then it was off to the station. The Green car was fairly empty and I fell asleep around the Kyoto stop. But after Nagoya I was just watching the builidngs go by. When I reached Fujieda I was afraid I missed Mt Fuji! Fortunately, I hadn’t. It was a fairly clear view today.

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I got to Tokyo and I was in a bad mood. Wondered why I even bothered coming. But it didn’t take long to realize I was just hangry. I looked around for lunch and even went into the new Kabukicho tower.

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After wandering for an hour I decided to make my third trip to Mos Burger. It’s comfort food for me.

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Checked into the hotel and they were fairly insistent that I use the machine to check in. I think it was almost ten years ago when we found out that the “search by name” function wanted the EXACT spelling and the EXACT NAME ORDER or something and we wasted a bunch of time trying to check in with the machine. I’m not sure how booking.com gives them the details but it’s a bit odd. I just went to the desk.

I guess this is the one hotel that I didn’t pre-pay. I like pre-paying so I don’t have to think about how much I’m paying for the hotels. ¥70,643 for three nights! It’s $163 per night and since I never stay in hotels in the US that’s expensive to me! But they did put me on the top floor and here’s my view.

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Now I can hit the top button on the elevator and think, “peasants” on the way up. Really, the room seems smaller than I remember so it’s not a big deal. At least I slept fairly well.

Oh, and I did head out to meet my old co-worker Suzuki-san. We went to a fish restaurant and had sushi and tempura. He’s still doing his “not leaving the apartment” thing and said he hadn’t left for 21 days! He buys enough groceries for three weeks at a time. And that means when I see him, he ends up eating things that he’s not used to and gets a stomach ache. It happened again. But we did get to talk for quite some time before we called it quits and I didn’t get back to my room until after 9:30pm.

That’s about it for that day. Now to decide what to do today…