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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vay Cay to Jay Jay – Part Eight

Another beautiful day in Japan today! I love that we’re experiencing gorgeous warm weather. I think I might have to move here during the Winter months in Adelaide!

One thing I don’t understand is how the majority of people seem to be slim when their food is so processed and fried. The supermarkets are full of ready to go meals. Most of them are fried.
There are so many places that sell those delicious looking pastries and cakes and they all seem to be so highly processed!
You won’t easily find diet soda’s here and in fact there aren’t many “soft” drinks around. Actually it’s not really that hard to find it, especially as the West continues to have an influence, but it’s not as common as you’d find back home.

IMG_3817Hubby and I are almost out of ideas for what we want to do.
This morning we decided to walk to Ueno, have another look around and then maybe, eventually, make our way on foot to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building.

We stopped for a coffee at Starbucks. See that pic on the right? That was in their cake display. Alongside the delicious looking cakes they had a meat pie!!

We sat there enjoying the scenery in Euno park. It was very relaxing!

 

Next stop was Harajuko. I seem to get these places mixed up. I just didn’t remember going to these shops before!
Hubby says it must be wonderful being me, it’s like I’m experiencing it all for the first time every time I go there…
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We walked down Takeshita Street again and this time I noticed the huge Candy Canes!

Can you see it on the left?

It doesn’t look as big in her hands as it did when a four year old was holding one.

There was a huge line to get these as well!

We’ve been noticing a few places here that do Kebabs. I can’t imagine that they would be like “our” kebabs but today curiosity got the better of us and we had to get some.

 

One Beef and one Chicken.
They actually tasted not bad!

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I don’t know if you can notice the meat as it’s cooking.

Chicken on the left and beef on the right.

This guy was quite busy too!!

And alongside him was a place that was selling fries…

Moving right along…
After walking past the high end stores of Harajuku again, we decided to walk to Shinjuku.
I have to confess, I really love saying it. Shinjuku. There’s just something about that name!

IMG_3825We walked past the Meiji shrine and were amazed at how close it was to the station. Last year when we’d come here we’d gone via another station and walked a few kilometres to get to it.
The more you walk, the more you realise that so many stations are so close to each other that you probably don’t have to take the train as often as you think.

I found the display of the old wine and sake barrels very interesting.
Hopefully you can read the information in the pics below.

 


I just LOVE the Metropolitan Government Building.
Firstly, because it’s free to go up it!!

 

There’s great views of Tokyo from there and on a good day, you can even see Mt Fuji.
Today was not one of those days but we did see Fuji last time we were here.

 

Secondly, I like coming here because there’s a couple of gift shops and a restaurant.
Yes, the gift shops are slightly over priced but there’s not many people around and while hubby goes to have a coffee in the restaurant, I can take my time and really look at everything they have for sale.

I came away with a few goodies that are now tucked safely in my suitcase!

 


Another thing we love about Shinjuku is Brooklyn Parlor!!
We stumbled across this place last time by accident and this time, sought it out.

There’s just such a great atmosphere here!!! Hubby and I were definitely the oldest ones in there though.
We had a couple of drinks and shared some fries while giving our feet a bit of a rest.

As we made our way back I couldn’t help but wonder what side of the road we’re actually supposed to walk on. They drive on the left so you’d figure when walking on paths you should keep left. This is especially true as you share the path with so many bikes!!! Yet people don’t tend to keep left. I don’t think they stick to any side actually!

At the train station they have signs keeping you to keep left or right. Sometimes it’s left, sometimes it’s right.
When riding escalators, everyone keeps to the left… or right… (I love how they do that!!!) Leaving the other side free for people that want to race on by.

I was too late to take pics of our dinner but dumplings and rice made another appearance (not surprising)
I do like the food here but I’m not one who says I LOVE the food. I kind of miss having different vegetables and fruit. While you can have those things here, a lot of them tend to be very expensive and I don’t see them as a common thing being offered in restaurants.
I could be wrong, just what I’ve noticed in the short time we’ve been here.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Tokyo… I’m not sure what that day has in store yet!! Time to plan.

Vay Cay to Jay Jay – Part Six

Although I believe I have had input in planning how our days are going to be spent, hubby emphatically said he wasn’t going to put any ideas forth today and it was all up to me what we did. “Plan our day” he commanded.

So, I gleefully rubbed my hands together and said “I have the perfect day planned!”

I love the busy hubs like Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya but I’ve seen them now and wanted some tranquility and peace. IMG_3673
Today, we were going to climb Mt Takao!

I had looked at a couple of sites and this is a direct quote from one of them.

Alight at Takaosanguchi Station (not Takao Station, which is the stop before) and you’ll be facing the front of the mountain. Don’t be tempted by the cable car or chair lifts at the foot of the mountain – taking either of these will cut short your walk and it’s really not a difficult climb.

Did you get  that? Apparently, this is not a difficult climb.

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First things first, get on the right train.

We got into a “women only” train carriage by accident but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the other passengers….

True to the website’s word, when we got off the train, we were right at the start of the walk.
I had had to talk hubby into this walk and I sold it by saying it was going to be a gentle walk up. Nothing like Mt Lofty! I said that because I knew that’s what he was thinking.

With pursed lips he followed me up and it got pretty steep right away.

 

 

“It must be just like this at the start” I said trying to calm him, “It’s going to taper off soon I’m sure. Look, it’s getting flatter over there isn’t it?”

But no, it wasn’t.

Up and up we went. These Japanese are a strong bunch though. I saw people of all ages, and from all walks of life doing this walk.

At one point I saw a young mum trying to push a stroller up there. Her husband gently pushed her back every now and again to help.
I said to hubby “Why wouldn’t he just take the stroller?” and hubby said through gritted teeth, “I don’t know, maybe it was her effing idea to come up here”  I feel like there was a covert message for me there but I left it…

 

 

And look what else we saw!!! Dog shoes! This dog also had a cap on.
Safety first.

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After a good hard slog and after constantly telling hubby “I’m sure we’re almost at the flat bit” we were at the point where the Cable Cars get to.

He stared longingly at it but it didn’t really make a difference because as it turned out we had done the hard bit.

We stopped so hubby could catch his breath and regain some humanity and got some refreshments. I just loved these little honey/sesame stick things!

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I found an information centre and the lady told me it was only a gentle slope up now to the peak and Visitor Centre. I told her to hold it right there and brought hubby over and asked her to repeat what she’d just said as I was sure he wouldn’t have believed me.

I also asked her about the way down. She said it was a bit gravelly but Elementary School kids do it all the time so it was fine.

With that information in hand we set off for the peak.

 

 

We reached the top!!

 

 


I can’t quite read the expression on hubby’s face…

Now I don’t know what these Japanese people are made of but that “bit gravelly” description was NOT what I would have called it.
In fact I’m sure this trail would NOT have even been allowed in Australia!!!

Here are a few pics I took when it was safe enough to get my camera out.

 

 


Those last two pics show what it was like for the majority of the walk down.

Hubby turned out to be quite the hero. We were walking behind a group of elderly people when a woman slipped and went down a steep embankment. It was quite terrifying!
Everyone screamed.
Two men in front of us tried to help and they quickly went down too.
Hubby got down to help and was holding on to a thin trunk of tree. He slipped but was holding on so was able to pull himself up, then grabbed the ones who’d fallen.

Once up, it was like nothing happened.
Must be a cultural thing. Barely a thank you and off on our way we went.

So there you go, because I forced him up the hill, he saved a woman. You’re welcome.

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We were hungry by the time we got back to the station but decided to wait until we were back in Shinjuku before eating.

Is this enticing anyone? It wasn’t for me.

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Back in Shinjuku and what should we find but Shakeys!!!

Hubby and his family have a history with Shakey’s having once owned several in Canada.

We’ve now been in three different Shakey’s in Japan (not just this trip)

It might not be local food but it was comforting so we went for it.

 

 

They give you  all you can eat for ninety minutes. I estimate hubby and I ate enough for lunch and dinner combined in about twenty.

After that we strolled the streets of Shinjuku with about eight or nine million other people for a while before returning to our apartment.

I don’t think I’ll be planning any more itineraries this holiday….

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Vay Cay to Jay Jay – Part Four

Here we are waking up to another beautiful day in the ever mysterious Japan.

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Sake  – Not the actual kind I bought though.

I forgot to mention in my last entry that hubby and I bought some Sake yesterday. I have no idea what kind it was. In fact, we weren’t entirely sure that we were in the Sake section but a nice young lady helped us out.

I just chose a small bottle and later on we tried some. Hubby screwed up his nose immediately. I thought there was a nice, even sweet aroma from it but it’s not a drink for me. Give me a nice Cab Sav from the Coonawarra region any day.
I’m glad I’ve finally tried some though as I’ve always wondered what it tasted like.

We were a little sore after a full day of walking yesterday so went into a chemist to try to find something nurofen like. We had an interesting conversation with the pharmacist and thanks to google translate, finally left the chemist with a drug with ibuprofen in it and NOT an ointment for itchy skin…

DSC_0660.JPGFirst stop today was Harejuku. The only thing I knew about Harejuku was that Gwen Stefani had a song called “Harejuku Girls”

What I found was an amazing array of high end shops!  Not that I went into any of them, but it was just shop after shop of designer stores.

We saw a couple of Japanese men who were parting after having a conversation.
One bowed, then the other bowed, then the first bowed again and on it went!
When was it going to end I wondered!! It was like two teenage lovers saying “You hang up”, ” No you hang up”, “No you hang up”
Very funny.

Hubby was a little miffed that he wasn’t the only non Asian. In fact there were plenty of tourists around!! I could have been walking around Sydney CBD for all I knew.

It suddenly poured with a pelting rain so hubby and I snuck into a coffee shop for a snack and hot drink.
Just look at what they were serving!

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They were sweet hot dog style buns with a variety of fillings (as seen above) from noodles and eggs and tuna, to jam and chocolate and god knows what else!

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We settled for the egg and it was really pretty delicious!

I was surprised at how sweet the bun was though.

One thing that continues to surprise me here is that you can’t smoke on the streets.

They have designated “smoking areas” where you can smoke outside however you can still smoke in a lot of restaurants, albeit in the “smoking” section.


I just loved Takeshita Street!!! The pronunciation is probably not how you’ve just said it in your head!
I bought so many little things here and could easily have bought lots more.

Hubby and I decided to get a little something sweet that kind of looked like a Churro when we first saw it.

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The outside was crunchy and the inside was what they called a custard. It was really very light and the whole thing was pretty delicious!

We walked from Harejuku to Shibuya and then back to Harejuku… I think… After a while it all seemed to blend into one for me.

Hubby asked if I wanted to walk to Shinjuku and maybe get some dinner there. At first I was a little confused as I thought we had already been there but no, this was a new destination for today…
So we walked to Shinjuku and again were overcome by the throngs of people, the lights, the noise, the activity, the smell of food!!! Everything is just overwhelming!!

We found a little place and ate like locals tonight. The waitress had to come and help us order because even though we were now familiar with the ordering system, the menu wasn’t in English so we didn’t know what buttons to press…

Hubby had some Pork Ramen
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He’d been searching for it all day!

I had my heart set on a beef bowl but the waitress said they only did pork. No chicken, no beef.
So I opted for rice and we got some gyoza to share too.


It was all pretty delicious and I’m glad we opted for this and didn’t wuss out and get Western type food.
I’m actually amazed at the amount of Italian places that are here. So many restaurants do pasta and pizza! It’s so tempting to go Western style because at least you have an idea of what you might be getting…

We finally got back to our room after walking for almost twelve hours straight.. and yes, we did make a sneaky stop into the grocery store on the way home for a few Japanese goodies…

Looking forward to doing some more sight seeing and Japanese dining tomorrow but first, where’s that ibuprofen!!