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.

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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!!

Turning Japanese – Part Five

I’m much more relaxed now in this wonderfully different country.
I knew exactly what to expect from our complimentary breakfast at Denny’s… and look at that meal. So Western, so good.
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You may think it’s a bit strange to have a salad at breakfast but actually I enjoyed it. You may also think it strange to have Lounge music playing while you’re eating your eggs on toast in Denny’s but that  somehow works too.
The only thing that I’m not too happy about is that the coffee they give you is an espresso size. It’s teeny tiny and I just need more coffee!! But that’s ok. I can get over it!

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Fully satisfied we headed to Shinjuku once again. Last time we were there it was evening and we were dazzled by the lights. This time it was late morning and it was still an impressive place!
We went to the Observation Deck in the Government Building then walked around being awed by sights, sounds and smells.

After a couple of hours walking thirst overtook us and hubby found a cute little place called “Brooklyn Parlour”. Once again, totally deceptive from the street. All we could see was a stairwell leading down to something. What was it going to be? No idea! It’s always an adventure.
So we went down there and were surprised by the size of the restaurant. It was large, it was loud, it was happening and it had fantastic mood lighting. The walls were lined with bookshelves creating a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone is just sooo polite and accomodating.
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We ordered a wine and cider. My wine was delicious and long overdue!!! I could have sat there sipping that for another hour or two…

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However we headed on back to our hotel – snuck in a couple of sweet treats, and rested up before heading out for our last dinner in Tokyo.

So this evening we stopped in front of a place that said it had authentic Japanese food. Not really sure what that meant, we went in.
Our waiter had limited English but we’re really happy to have anyone that can half understand us. He brought us our drinks, a hot towel and a bowl of something..
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Hubby was a bit frightened to try it but he did, and he didn’t die so i thought I’d try some. It was only afterwards that I thought… I hope we were meant to eat that? Maybe it’s for something else??
It had the consistancy of jelly. Tasted a bit like chicken broth and chicken fat. I’m not really sure but I ate it with chop sticks. I know… I’m a pro now!

We also ordered dumplings, noodles (traditional Japanese style apparantly) and skewers of meat.
When converted to Aussie dollars, it was all quite expensive and not very filling however it was very tasty and I guess it’s not their fault that the conversion rate for our dollar is not the best at the moment.

As usual the staff were bending over backwards to make sure we had the best time.
There were a line of tables around the kitchen which was in the centre of the restaurant and at one point hubby told one of the chef’s directly that he’d like a bowl of rice, and they just did it! If we weren’t being charged, it would have felt like we were dining at a friends place.

Tomorrow  we’ll be heading off to Osaka for the next leg of this adventure!

Turning Japanese – Part Three

Today on the Dining Diaries we move from Narita to Tokyo…

This morning I was a bit – I really don’t know how to describe it – I was conscious I was not in a familiar place and while I do like it here, I’m just out of place. I don’t know what to eat, I don’t know how to get to where I want easily, and it’s just throwing me off.

However hubby and I went to Tokyo and found it very diferent to Narita.
I guess it’s to be expected, Tokyo being as large as it is.
As we walked around, we noticed  many more Western sounding restaurants. We didn’t actually go into any yet so I can’t tell you if they are, but they look like they are.

And that’s not to say that we came all this way to eat Western food, but it does bring a certain sense of comfort to know it’s there.

This morning we went in search for coffee in Tokyo.
We stopped outside one place called Gorilla Coffee and were having a bit of a giggle at the sign outside.

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I mean don’t they know that name calling is just not nice?

Anyhow, while we were standing there in front of this sign, a polite server came out from the cafe and showed us a full menu. He had limited English but how could we say no?

So we went in and ordered the egg and bacon dish and you know what, it was really quite good!!

The egg was soooo fluffy and creamy and look at the size of those pepper corns!! Hubby loved that. I could have left it but I just loved that this was a simple common dish that was presented and tasted in such a different way.

This evening hubby and I went to the Shinjuku district and were amazed at the lights, the people and restaurants and shops!!
Blinding lights, masses of people and shops with things I’m sure we needed. I’m sure we did!

The restaurants are floor upon floor… going up to 10 or more levels. The tricky thing about that is you don’t know what the restaurant looks like before going there. We’d been walking for some time when some guy in an alley convinced us to go up to his restaurant. If we hadn’t been so weary from walking and not being able to make a choice, we might have said “no, not tonight”
And not that it was a bad choice, but it wasn’t special.
We were brought up to the eighth floor. We were given the choice of a normal table and chairs or traditional Japanese seating. We chose the table and chairs.

We ended up ordering dumplings again as we liked the ones we had yesterday. They were nice! And then some Japanese steak (pictured below) and some fried noodles. It was all quite tasty but there seemed to be something missing.
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It did say “Japanese Steak” on the menu but as you can see, there’s very little steak. That was not really surprising as I’ve heard it’s very expensive here.

For those interested, here is a snapshot of other items that were on tonights menu.
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I chose a wine I wasn’t familiar with and that wasn’t quite what I was expecting either.
Again, everyone is SO polite and bend over backwards to try to help you even if they don’t speak the language. You have to really admire these people!

Once back at our hotel hubby and I snuck into the convenience store and bought a selection of sweet cakes to take back into our room.
Although we’re still a little unsure we are really enjoying our time here.
My guess is there’ll be more noodles and dumplings tomorrow!!