Japan!

September 25th, 2008

Our trip to Japan was the most awesome trip yet! It was so much fun, we ate lots of delicious food, and saw some pretty cool stuff. The temperature there was pretty hot. Actually only in the mid to upper 80’s, but add the humidity and it’s soooo much hotter. But we were told by a friend that lives in Japan that the weather got cooler when we got there, so we got lucky. Lucky or we just brought a little bit of our Seattle weather with us. I guess I’ll just post our itinerary…basically every little thing we did there. Have fun!

Our first day we just had dinner at some tempura place across the street from our hotel in Tokyo (Shinagawa to be exact). We stayed in the Toyoko Inn which was right above the subway station, which was extremely convenient after those long days. The second we got off the train, we just went upstairs. The room was very quite so it was pretty much perfect. As expected the rooms are extremely small from what we’re used to. It’s not something that bothers me much, so I was fine with it.

The second day we went to Asakusa to see the Sensoji Temple. As you’re walking up to the actual temple you go through this street of souvenir and treat shops. We ate lunch at some random noodle shop. Jeh and I can’t read Japanese so we were having problems trying to figure out what’s what. We accidentally ordered some HUGE noodle dish with a big bowl of dipping sauce. It was yummy, but not a favorite. We spent the rest of the day shopping in Shinjuku, then met up with Jeh’s cousin who’s lives there as a student to eat at a place called Issa. Pretty good food and drinks.

Our third day we went back to Shinjuku to shop some more. We ate at the mall there and I had my first omuraisu in Japan. It wasn’t the normal ketchup omuraisu. It had a beef gravy on top of it. It was actually very delicious. Something I would definitely eat again. Later we met up with Jeh’s cousin and her friend and went to Tokyo Midtown and saw a freakin’ expensive mall. All the shops were extremely expensive, but it was pretty cool in there – very fancy. We had dinner at some place that specialized in Okinawa food. It was only ok, not something I’d eat again. The service was horrible. Even though basically all restaurants have that service button to call the waiter, it was the worst service experience we had in Japan. They took FOREVER to bring the food out to us, then the second we finished our last dish they told us we had to leave because there is a 1.5 hour time limit there….uh yea…we get rushed because they took FOREVER to bring us our food. Whatever, we were glad to leave. After dinner we went to Roppongi Hills (in Tokyo) which is like the nicest part of Tokyo. We went to the SkyAquariumII there and it’s definitely one of my top two favorite places I went to in Japan. It’s so amazing in there. It’s in a skyscraper and the fish tanks are like art. There was this one part where it looked like a regular paper folding screen, but it was really fish tanks with fish swimming around in there. Totally cool experience.

Fourth day we shopped at a mall in Kawasaki all day, basically. Had Tempera Udon for lunch and curry for dinner and both were delish. The fifth day we headed to Kyoto. Our hotel was VERY fancy (The Hotel Monterey Kyoto) and they spoke pretty good English there. The rooms were small but much bigger than the Kyoto place. The bathroom was actually pretty big. VERY modern and the lobby was basically all black marble. The second we stepped out of our hotel that day, some random older lady stopped and asked us in English if we needed help. It was very sweet of her. We heard from other experiences that people are super nice in Kyoto. That’s not to say that people are mean in Tokyo, but that’s just from other people’s experience. Anyway, she led us to this really good, small restaurant. I had tonkatsu and Jeh had this marinated beef dish. His was FANTASTIC. I crave it to this day. Mine was definitely delish, but I assume most tonkastu dishes in Japan would taste that good. We headed to the Kinkakuji Temple (The Golden Pavilion). Really cool temple that I would highly recommend to anyone going to Kyoto. You can’t enter the actual golden temple, but even just the view from outside was really cool. At night we walked around downtown Kyoto and had dinner around there. We ate okonomiyaki (the Japanese pancake) and it was interesting. Not my favorite dish, but everyone else seemed to love it.

Sixth day we went to the Nijo Castle which was near our hotel. Part of the movie The Last Samurai was filmed in Nijo Castle. When I saw the movie again I was able to recognize the rooms they used from the painted doors. It’s pretty cool there. You’ll get a workout from walking around there. Although I think it was harder on us because of the heat. After that, we headed to Kiyomizu temple (The Pure Water Temple). We basically started at the bottom of the hill where the bus dropped us off, then we had to walk up a VERY STEEP hill to get there. Thankfully as you get closer to the temple the street becomes full of souvenir shops. So we got a lot of our souvenir shopping done there and gave us nice rests in air conditioning. We’re sooo thankful that basically every store/building has air conditioning. After seeing the temple, we went to this place near the souvenir street that was famous for their soft serve ice cream. Their green tea ice cream was delish! Jeh had heard about Ponto-cho alley, which is known for geisha’s to be walking around there. Very cool to walk around there at night, unfortunately it was much too hot for geisha’s to be out and about so we didn’t get to see any there. For dinner we finally found a ramen place. It was quite tasty, I must say. Much different/better than Samurai Noodle in Seattle.

The seventh day we had to leave Kyoto and head to Hakone. But we finally got to try a bento box from the train station, which we heard they were pretty good. I have to agree, they were. Hakone is more like the country side and you’re surrounded by trees. The hotel we stayed was a very traditional Japanese Inn and was a Hot Spring based hotel (and smelled very old…yuk). They provided you with Yukata’s (traditional Japanese robes you’re supposed to wear around the hotel and as a pajamas). We had a traditional mixed with western style room. We had two twin beds and a large sitting room on tatami mats that Jeh’s brother had to sleep on. They had the traditional set dinner time. You have to be there on time, and all the small dishes of food are already spread out for you waiting. Jeh, his brother, and cousin, all went to the hot springs a few times. I didn’t have the balls to go. Interesting experience. Although Hakone was probably my least favorite place, I can’t say it was a waste because it was definitely a good experience.

The eighth day we had breakfast downstairs of the hotel. A lot of fish was provided by the hotel for meals, I must say. We were all fished out! We started our long journey to circle Hakone – a popular tourist attraction. We stopped at the Hakone Open-Air Museum, which was pretty cool…and big. We had lunch there at the museum at one of their food restaurants. The buffet was actually pretty good. Then got back on the suspended Ropeway cars to finish the trip. We saw sulfur mines and stopped there to see the famous Kurotamago eggs (eggs boiled in sulfur hot springs that turn the eggs black). You can’t cook them yourselves, but you can watch them cook it and you can buy it to eat it…ew. They say that eating it will give you 7 years longevity. Yea…there’s no way I’d ingest sulfur cooked eggs. They say you can eat up to 2, but eating 3 is not a good idea. I wonder why that is… Anyway, to end the trip we took a little cruise on a black pirate ship, then bussed back to our hotel. An interesting experience, but not something I’d recommend to anyone, really.

Ninth day we left Hakone and headed to Nagoya to meet up with a friend who lives there. We checked out the mall Oasis 21…kinda lame, but the cool part is the roof. They have a big UFO-looking roof filled with water and is supposed to absorb the heat. Not sure it really worked all that well. Then we shopped at a bookstore (Maruzen). A pretty cool bookstore and had the book I was looking for. We met up with the friend and had dinner around there. We heard Nagoya was famous for their fried chicken wings. So he took us to a local place that specialized in it. It was DELICIOUS!!! They also had these chicken wings filled with gyoza filling. YUM! Then we headed back to Tokyo after dinner.

Tenth day was our final full day in Japan. We met up with some family that came to Japan with us and we headed to Akihabara (known for it’s electronics, anime, and otaku stuff). We walked around there all day but never made it into a maid cafe…I’m curious what it’s like. I think it’s kinda creepy and dirty, but I suppose it’s just like a Hooters – just throw in french maid fantasies in there and you got yourself a maid cafe. For dinner we had Shabu Shabu, which was pretty good. I still have to say Sukiyaki is my fave, but we didn’t have the chance to try it out. That’s the only thing that I feel like I really missed out on in Japan. Oh well, everything else was an awesome experience.

Our last day we went straight to the airport and spend most of the day there waiting for our flight. The Narita airport sure is big and has lots of stores and food there to keep you busy! Well that’s our entire trip right there. I highly recommend Japan to anyone! I hope we get to go back again sometime!

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