Sake to me Baby – Japan Day Six

Today we said goodbye to Tokyo and flew to Osaka. We are so excited to be going to Osaka! It’s just so much more laid back and the food is just phenomenal.

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We were going to be leaving from Haneda airport rather than Narita. It’s the first time either of us has used Haneda and it was so smooth!! Normally when we leave from Narita there’s huge lines and throngs of people. Very long wait times. Today it just couldn’t have been easier!

We were waiting at the gate and the staff were about to announce that they were going to start boarding. They made the announcement noise then all bowed in unison before saying that boarding was about to commence. Then before they called for boarding, they all bowed in unison again. I’ve never seen anything like it!

I have to say I like this bowing thing. I think it shows respect and makes people feel good. I love that part of their culture. They look genuine when they’re doing it too. At least, that’s been my experience.

IMG_0717Because it was a full plane and hubby and I fly standby, we weren’t able to sit together.
I didn’t mind so much because it was only going to be for an hour and truly, I was looking forward to having that time to myself. He was going to be sitting directly behind me.
I turned to see how he was going and saw he was sat between two Japanese girls so he was pretty happy himself!

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I have never liked landings and take offs though and hubby was worried I’d be scared so as the plane was taking off, I feel something on my arm and realise he’d reached through the seats to reassure me.

How cute is that!!

Lucky for him, he scored a few points.

We landed at Osaka International Airport and NOT Kansai International where we’ve normally landed. This airport was pretty impressive as well!! Although, I felt it looked a bit dated. It looked like we were walking into a plush hotel of the seventies. I loved it! And it was a nice easy breezy experience to get out of there and onto the monorail that was going to take us to our station.


The monorail was good. Maybe a little pricey but you have no choice if you want to catch a train to Osaka central

We had time to kill so we rented some lockers at Umeda station and went to find somewhere to have lunch.

The place we found did not have an English menu but we’re experienced Japan travellers now so figured, how wrong could it go?


The pic on the left is one of the menus we were given. I pointed to the second one when they came to get our order, even though I didn’t know exactly what that was. Our server was trying to tell me something about that selection that involved a six and a zero. She didn’t speak English. Did she mean it would take 60 minutes to make? Or not available until 6pm? In the end I chose from another menu. I didn’t take a picture of that one but you can see how much food we got!! And all of this food cost us about 1720 yen which is currently about $23 AUD

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Yes it’s a ton of food!! We hadn’t eaten anything so we were starving.
This is the after shot…

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We did well!! I liked most of what I ate. The eggy thing with the brown and white sauce on it was sort of nice but had some strange tastes in it here and there and I really really hate those sauces. If I’d known that’s what I’d ordered I would have said no sauce.
The noodles were great! and so was the miso soup and rice.

IMG_0732They had some salt and condiments on the table, including this mayonnaise type thing. I’m pretty sure this should have been in the fridge right? I don’t understand why they don’t seem to think refrigeration is important here.

We had an hour or so, so we walked around the Hankyu and Daimaru department stores. Went into the Hep5 building. So looking forward to looking around properly. Honestly we were too tired and just looking forward to getting to our room.


We got into our air bnb room and this apartment is AMAZING!!! OMG! Probably the best air bnb apartment we’ve had. It’s spacious, it’s NEW and it’s in a great location near Dotonbori. I’m so excited to be here!!!

13rr22Hubby, being of the male variety, quickly claimed the remote even though everything here is in Japanese, and before too long, accidentally muted the television.
He didn’t know what button he pressed though so was not able to unmute it. We then spent the next hour and a bit trying to figure out how to unmute this thing. We looked online, we tried to look at the manual but to no avail. In the end we had to leave it or we wouldn’t have gone out tonight.

We’re a short walk from our favourite area in Japan and it was such a nice feeling to be back there again.
Dotonbori. There were so many tourists around!! So many people walking around in awe of what they were seeing. Shops, food, attractions and beautiful views. The canals are so pretty at night. I took a few pics along the way.


We stopped in at Daiso on the way back to our apartment because it was there. I think hubby is starting to love this store too although he would never admit it.

IMG_0752We wanted a few things for our apartment. The line to check out was so long! I was looking at the items in the shelves as the line slowly moved and picked up a few more things. I noticed they also sell wine here! I know they sell it in the supermarkets and convenience stores here but didn’t expect to find it in Daiso as well.

It’s been a long day and I’m so looking forward to getting out and about tomorrow.
By the way, we are learning so much Japanese!

Oyasuminasai

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Sake to me Baby – Japan Day Five

IMG_0667Today is our last full day in Tokyo and it was a glorious day so we were looking forward to doing some walking. I love walking in foreign countries because you see so much more than if you’re always in a train or car.
You get a better feel of the place you’re in.

Hubby wanted to go to the Honda Welcome Plaza and Google Maps showed it was about 7.5kms away so we set off.

I had planned out the walking route and knew to look out for a “Curves” because we were going to be turning right straight after that.  I told hubby to look out for curves as we were turning right at the next intersection after that.
Tell me that’s not clear.
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We were walking and walking and I started to get confused as I thought we should have passed it by now. I even said from time to time “Still haven’t seen that Curves sign”

It just goes to show that hubby doesn’t listen to me when I talk because after about the third time I’d said that I still hadn’t seen a Curves sign, he says “oh, we passed that ages ago.”
What the heck!!!
I said “why didn’t you tell me!! I told you we were turning after Curves!”

1f644He said that he thought I meant we were turning after curves in the road.
I’m sorry to tell you dear readers, this is indeed a true story.

It’s all fine, fine… We made a new route that took us eventually by the water and we love to walk anyway so what was an extra three of four kilometres?


Finally we saw the Honda building in sight! It sort of takes you breath away as you walk in. Its a big place, not a huge display but what’s there is interesting to look at.


I even got to get on a motor bike! Who said riding was hard!

After that, we were looking for a train station to take us to the next stop when we passed a McLaren dealership. This was a much smaller place but definitely more breathtaking than the Honda place!


Very nice!! And as we left we wondered if they would have let us sat inside. I wish we’d done that now.

We passed a park that looked interesting so went inside for a little bit. I told hubby we could do with a bit more serenity in our lives. It was really pretty but within a few minutes I was ready to see something else. We both don’t know how to sit and be peaceful.


Oh and look at this sign that was at the start of the park. I’m assuming it’s a list of things not to do at the park. What’s the first one? No sleeping in the park?

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We got off at Tokyo Station. That place is CRAZY! And walked to the Imperial Palace. Last time we were here there weren’t many other tourists around, today there seemed to be heaps. There were tons of buses parked in the car park too. I’m not sure what they’re all going to see because it’s not like you can look inside. We all just walked up to the bridge, took some pics, then walked back. Lovely grounds around there too and I love the view of Tokyo from here. This is more of a business district so doesn’t have the craziness of some of the other places we’ve been to.


Everything is cute in Japan. Look at the roadworks barriers.

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We really wanted to see a themed cafe and still haven’t done that with all the times we’ve been here. That’s mainly because they haven’t been open at the times we’ve gone there.

Today we wanted to see Alice in an Old Castle (Alice in Wonderland theme) at Ikebukuro.

It took a little bit to find but unfortunately, it was not open until 5pm.

The same thing happened to us last time we were in Tokyo.
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So instead we wandered around Ikebukuro.

This place is special to us as it’s the first place we saw in Tokyo. The very first time we came, we stayed at a hotel in Ikebukuro.

Before we knew it we were in front of Shakey’s pizza.
I’ve mentioned this in a past entry but this has meaning for hubby as he and his family owned a few Shakey’s Pizza Restaurants in the past.
The Shakey’s here in Japan is not exactly as he knew it but we couldn’t help but go in- even though we knew we would be regretting it as we walked out because would surely eat too much and that’s exactly what happened.

We were hot from walking and hungry and I’m sure the staff are still talking about the crazy Westerners who couldn’t stop eating and drinking.

We even ate dessert pizzas!!!
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We realised we were less than two kilometres from our apartment so we walked back and I had to take a picture of the roses that are growing along the tramline tracks.
How pretty are they!
Much nicer in real life.

 

My photo does not do them justice.

We spent a bit of time researching things to do in Osaka this evening. It kind of already feels like we’ve left Tokyo and we’re a bit sad that this part of our vacation is quickly coming to a close but are really excited for the next bit!

For now, Oyasuminasai

 

 

 

 

Sake to me Baby – Japan Day Four

I’ve just realised that before today, we’d spend two and a half days in Japan and were yet to use chopsticks!! Shame on us. And that’s not that when given a choice, we chose a fork, it’s that we haven’t really eaten any Japanese food. That changed today.

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Today we went on a tour to Mt Fuji!! I was so excited as for all the times we’ve been to Japan, we still hadn’t gone there.

We were up early to make sure we made the departure time which was going to be from a hotel in Shinjuku.

We spied the Metropolitan Government building close by and made a plan to go there later, after we got back from the tour.

We got to talking to a few people that were going on tour with us. It’s nice talking to people from around the world and hearing about their experiences in Japan.

Our tour guide, Taka, was just so cute! I could have listened to her talking all day although it did take a bit of concentrating as her accent was strong at times but she was so lovely.

I took a few pics from the bus. We drove past some gorgeous towns along the way. So green and lush and picturesque along the water. Unfortunately the highway mostly had a barrier up so I wasn’t always able to take pictures when I wanted to.


And then sooner than I expected, we saw Mt Fuji in the distance!!!
It was soon covered over with cloud again though so I was worried about what we were going to see when we got to the fifth station.

I didn’t realise how high we had driven until I started to see we were above the clouds! How did that happen!! And how gorgeous are the clouds. I felt like we were in a plane and flying instead of driving.


There were loads of people up the top!! So many tour buses!! AND, more importantly, Mt Fuji was visible. I have to admit though, I found the other side, with all the clouds, much more interesting to look at.

 


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Our guide Taka told us a story of a guy who kept climbing up Mt Fuji right up until his death at 105 years of age.
He was Masashi Toyoda, from Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.

There’s a statue of him inside one of the stores at the Fifth Station and we posed in front of it because, well, that’s just what you do!

For lunch we were taken to a restaurant where a buffet style meal was prepared for us. There was a great array of food. Some of it Japanese and some was a little more Western but it was all really really tasty AND I got to use chop sticks for the first time on this trip! Took me thirty seconds or so to get used to it again. I just don’t understand why people persist with chopsticks when we have INVENTED AN EASIER WAY. I mean when we discover something that works better, we usually adopt it! But whatever. It’s fun to eat with chopsticks and it definitely helps the waist line because for me, it takes longer and I can’t pick up every single last morsel.


The grounds/gardens outside the restaurant were really pretty too. We had that view from our table.

After lunch we were back on the bus and our guide Taka taught us how to make an Origami Japanese warrior hat.
She was like a parent not wanting to disappoint a child who clearly is not doing well with me. She said I almost had it right then fixed it up expertly.

Our next stop was Lake Ashi where we were going to take a cruise. We had about thirty minutes in the store there before the cruise and I found a couple of interesting items.

What you see below, is a vending machine that sells HOT food!! Like chips/fries and burgers. Can you believe that!! Only in Japan I say!

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Of course, if you don’t want your fries hot, you can also buy them like this.
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Would you be game enough to drink anyone of these drinks?


No wasabi and no sweat for me thank you very much.

The views out of the lake were so breathtakingly beautiful. My photos do not do it justice at all!

And a couple more photos from the catamaran as well.


We were dropped at Hakkone and took the ropeway up to the top.
Now this seemed like a good idea when I was booking this tour. I didn’t realise how high it was going to go!!
First, a few pictures.


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And then we were in the clouds and I was freaking out a bit!!!

I definitely made a mental note to NOT sit at the front on the way back down.

 
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Our tour was just about over.

All that was left was to take the bullet train back to Tokyo.

Even though hubby and I have been here many times, we were yet to ride the bullet train so were really looking forward to it!

Turns out, it’s just a train that goes pretty fast. When you’re sitting in it though, it’s quiet so you don’t really notice how fast you’re going. I’m sure if you were standing outside and it whizzed past you, it would knock you around a bit and be impressive but apart from reaching our destination a little quicker, I’m not sure that I’d use it again.

Once we were back at Tokyo, we went back to the Metropolitan Governement building. We really wanted to see the view from the observatory and seeing as it was getting darker, thought it would be nice to see it at night.
When we got there, there was a line that went out through the door AND it was closing within thirty minutes so we missed out again.
There’s always tomorrow.

Instead we walked around Shinjuku


We even went to the “you must see this” Robot Cafe!

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That is, we went outside it. The inside will need to be explored another day.
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Finally, I found my wine bar again. I had first seen this place a few trips to Japan ago.

This is the wine bar that is dedicated to all Margot’s around the world but especially me because I say so.

It had just been such a long day and our time here is not over so we can always go back.

I feel like we saw a lot of things we have wanted to see in Japan today and we met some really nice people and made some nice memories. Thanks Japan!

Just to finish up, I’ll leave you with this signboard that we saw in a cafe. I just love Japanese English!

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Sake to me Baby – Japan Day Three

I want to let everyone know that I’m “sumimasen-ing” all over the place!!!  It was my phrase of the day! I’m saying it without thinking twice about it now.

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Speaking of thinking about it twice, hubby used to confuse arigato and konichiwa and now, I find that I’m confusing it also which is probably karma as I paid him out badly for it. He’d walk past someone on the street and say “arigato” then keep walking. I’d love to know what they were thinking.

This morning hasn’t started off great in that it’s been raining all night. It’s not cold. It’s pretty muggy, but the rain means we can’t go walking. The pics above were taken from our balcony. I was up early again and now can’t do anything. That’s a bit depressing.

Seeing as we were up so early, we had a second breakfast. This time courtesy of the Family Mart that’s thirty metres away (dangerous) and look at what I scored for not much more than 500 yen.

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Ahhh, you wonderful treats that delight my taste buds. I miss you already.

Tomorrow we’re going on a tour (won’t spoil it by saying where yet!) and the tour was booked online. Because I want to make sure everything  is correct and that we have the right meeting spot, hubby and I went to Shinjuku. The only info I had was that the pick up is from Keio Plaza Hotel but I wasn’t given the time. Inconvenient.

So we braved the weather. When we got to Shinjuku it was still raining.


IMG_0502We found the hotel the tour is leaving from and confirmed the departure time. All good.

Seeing as we were so close to the Tokyo Government Building and it was still mostly an undercover walk to get there, we decided to go on and see that.

Only to be met by the sign on the right.

No!!! They’re not allowed to be closed on a rainy day when there’s nothing much else to do!!!

We we went back to the station and walked around the shops. Looked at the food. Got hungry, got a little bored. Walked around in circles.
They’ve got one of those food areas where you can buy all kinds of food. Sadly, not many were offering samples. I would have loved to have tried some of the foods I saw. I didn’t even know what half of it was! So many people. And the food is packaged and packaged and packaged. Layer after layer of wrapping and packaging.


I’ve seen the restaurant “La Pausa” about the place here and was craving some kind of pasta. I would have had ramen but every place we went to had a line up and we didn’t want to wait. So, we went to La Pausa which is an Italian restaurant.
I took a pic of their lunch menu.
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IMG_0511They didn’t have an English menu so we had to try to decipher ourselves.

Because I wanted to try something different. I had the one on the bottom right.

And that pic to the left is what I was given. Look ok doesn’t it? I mean, it’s not Italian and the egg on top was cold which was a bit weird but it tasted pretty good. There was some sort of cheesy sauce on the bottom too.

There are so many Italian restaurants here!! But they’re all like this. It’s “Italian” but with a Japanese spin.

As it was still pouring with rain we decided to take an afternoon break – it’s supposed to clear up later today.
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I’m not sure if we are still a bit jet lagged (you can use that excuse for just about anything when travelling) but we lay down and when we stirred again it was 9pm. Changing time zones and 4am wake ups will do that to you!

We had a few museums and other indoor activities planned but that went out the window!

We went for a bit of a late night walk but there are no photos to prove it so did it really happen??

I’m so excited about tomorrow I’m barely going to be able to sleep!!!

Oyasuminasai

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sake to me Baby – Japan Day Two

We are still adjusting to the different time zone so were up at 4am this morning. Felt a lot better about the world once we’d had a good night’s sleep!

Not wanting to waste a moment, we decided to go for a decent walk and set our sights on Ueno Park. Last time we were here, we stayed within a few kilometres of the park.


Passed lots of bikes parked along the way.
As we were walking, we saw an interesting building in the distance and hubby said “That’s Tokyo Dome!”
Now I don’t know anything about Tokyo Dome but it did look like an interesting building so we took a couple of pics. It was still only 7am at this stage so we figured we’d have a better look once it was actually open. Have a look at that roller coaster though! OMG!


Ueno park was beautiful and peaceful so early in the morning. There were a few people around but not the multitudes that we’re used to.

Hubby spied the Starbucks (he said he’d plugged it into his internal google maps) and we went over there. There was a yellow chain across the entrance but hubby was sure they were open so he went in only to be told they don’t open until 8am.
It sounds so simple when I write it but when there’s a language barrier, and you’re with someone who thinks you should already be open, it’s an awkward and comical situation.

So we walked around some while we counted down the seconds until 8am. Most stores don’t open until 10am.

That sign on the bottom left says not to smoke while walking. What was funny was seconds before I took this photo, a man had walked over it while smoking.
And look at that murder of crows bottom right!! They’re everywhere here. Not threatening but geez they make an awful sound.


IMG_0431So far I haven’t gone inside a Lawson’s or Family Mart (I know, I can’t believe it either) I’m addicted to the bakery goods in these stores.

When we’ve been here before, I’ll go out early and get some goodies to eat for breakfast before hubby wakes up. He both loves and hates it.
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I love seeing the things they have advertised in English here.

I always wonder why they don’t get an English speaking person to double check before they make a sign.

This one isn’t bad but it’s still funny to see fries referred to as long potato.

Long potato. I guess that means just one?

IMG_0432I also giggle every time I see Calpis Soda. I mean come one. It sounds like you’re saying “Cow Piss” doesn’t it??
It tastes good by the way!! I haven’t had it yet this time but if I’m remembering correctly, it tastes like lemonade.

Diet drinks are very difficult to find here. Zero Coke is probably the most common but after that, you’re pretty much out of luck.

After our Starbucks we made our way back to Tokyo Dome City. Aside from baseball, the arena also hosts concerts etc. There’s lots of shopping, restaurants and amusements there! I wish the big rollercoaster had been going while we were there.


Oh and I’m loving seeing the “food art”. Want to order from a restaurant? Well if you don’t know what you want, the food art will tell you exactly what your order will look like!
Spaghetti pizza anyone?

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We stopped and got some goodies for an early lunch. I had to take pics. I just love this junk!! Love it! It’s not even a guilty pleasure. I’m not ashamed, I am in love with this food!! Gimme, gimme!


We stopped to get a few more things from the supermarket and I happened to notice a spaghetti cake. Now, I don’t know if that was real spaghetti on the cake but it sure did look like it!!!

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And another supermarket item. You can get these potatoes and, hot dogs bits(?),  for about $2.30 Australian.

I don’t know what they taste like (and no, they weren’t refrigerated, they were just sitting on the supermarket shelf) and I probably never will.

The bathrooms at Tokyo Dome City had make up stations in them. I thought that was pretty interesting too!

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This evening we went to Harajuku and visited the famous Takeshita Street.

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People must mull over the pronunciation of it all the time. It’s pronounced like “tah-kesh-tuh” and has nothing to do with bodily functions.

This street is just amazing!! So many unique food, clothing and people. I didn’t take a lot of  pictures as we’ve been here many times already but I did take a few.

We got a couple of those things in the bottom pics. They were nice but not anything I thought would be amazing enough to go back for.

Take a look at these handbags and purses!! OMG how great are they!! I didn’t dare look at the price.  The shoes are pretty interesting too and I was going to say “but who would wear them?” but I’m in Japan and you can find someone to wear just about anything.


We read a bit about the Monster Cafe that’s here. I’d read that it was kind of like Alice in Wonderland meets Wonka on Acid and that description is probably pretty accurate!

It took us a little while to find it.  Up the escalators we went and joined the other fifty or so people that were waiting to get in. Ok, maybe there was significantly less than fifty but it did feel like it was going to be a huge wait when we got there!

After that we walked around Harajuku a little more and started to feel peckish so, being creatures of habit, we went and got a kebab (yeah I know not Japanese) from a place we’d been to last year. It was pretty tasty too!! Not as good as The Cheeky Greek at Henley Beach but they set the bar pretty high.

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And to show hubby that I can put up pictures that he approves of even though I don’t, I’m sharing one last one of us on the escalators.

It’s been a long full day and I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!

For now, Oyasuminasai (oh look, a new Japanese word learnt!)