Japan Trip Report Part Two

Oct 23rd, 2004, 06:05 AM
  #1  
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Japan Trip Report Part Two

Here is the second part of thr previous post-

Day 3
Ate Breakfast at an American style restaurant ?Jonathans?, even though the Japanese have a little strange take on American/western food ? the people of this country will try to put fish in ANYTHING!!?? This restaurant was our fist experience with the Japanese Doorbell that alerts your server that you are ready to order, we sat there for 15 minutes wondering if there server didn?t like us until we figured out that you have to press the little button. Quite amusing.
We then headed to Ueno station to activate our Rail pass, after that we walked around the Shopping Streets just south of Ueno station. My wife bought a bag.
Then we walked though all the temples and shrines in Ueno Park as well as the very cool lake there. This is an awesome park ? I wish we would have spent a little more time here ? you could walk the little pathways for hours.
After the park we went to Akiharbara were I marveled at the huge electronic stores, I was surprised to find that you really can get a good deal on some of the cameras and equipment even though the dollar is weak now. I bought a 512mb Compact flash card for about 60 bucks which is pretty cheap, the prices in the stores vary greatly I noticed.
Had lunch a sandwich shop in Akiharbara station.
Then took Yamanote line to Shibuya where we saw the famous Hikuru dog and the busiest intersection in the world.This is hilarious, an army of people line up all sides before the light changes and people cross from all directions, really quite a spectacle. This is a very cool area; lots of cool little streets to wander and interesting stores, my wife did some Shopping at dept stores and boutiques

After heading to back to the hotel and getting cleaned up
We headed to Shinjuku at night, looking for a Shabu Shabu restaurant listed in our lonely planet guide ? that we never found. Instead we ended up on the third floor restaurant having a tempura feast. They did not have an English menu; we just ordered the set meals. Very good ? but a lot more money than we had expected to pay. I did not like all of the side dishes.

After eating we wandered the blazing neon streets of Shinjuku. The Japanese LOVE Lights and noise every thing talks and beeps (usually in a very repetitive fashion). The Karaoke buildings are very funny, tall and narrow with windows so you can see the salary men make asses out of themselves. We wandered into the red light district. Lots of gentlemen clubs and hostess bars but here in Shinjuku they don?t bother you when you walk by (not like Roppongi!). Some of the signs are quite entertaining.


Day 4
Originally we going to head to Hakone this day, but since it were very cloudy we headed out to Kamakura instead,
After navigating the Trains we arrived and headed out to the main temple (Hachimangu)
Walked around the grounds of the temple. Very nice temple with lots of school kids visiting,
We then took a bus to Big Green Buddha, which was very cool ? you can even go inside it.
After the Buddha we went to Hase Kannon Temple, which is a temple built into the hillsides. I liked this temple the most in Kamakura. There is a little cave that you can crawl though and see stone carvings in the walls. Also the main temple is quite high up the hill so the views are quite good.
Afterwards we headed Back to Tokyo
We took the Yamanote to Harjuku and walked the little shopping street where all the teenagers and college kids hang out. Lots of school kids,lots of interesting haircuts. then headed to Aoyrama, this is probably my favorite area of Tokyo very easy to just walk around the little streets, lots of nice town houses and boutiques. We ate at a little shabu shabu sukiyaki place ? I have never had this before and both my wife and I liked it very much. I am surprised that I don?t see this kind of place in the states ? I think it would do well here.

Later that night we went to Roppongi hills ? this place is quite amazing. Very beautiful architecture, we paid the 1500 yen to go the to top of the Mori Tower. The observatory is quite impressive ? some places had 30ft walls for glass. Tokyo is amazing at night. Even though the buildings are not at tall as NY or Chicago the vastness of the city is amazing. As well as the neon lights. We had a drink up here and enjoyed the view. That night Nissan was having some kind of promotion event for some new car (how the heck do you get a car up the 52nd floor) so there was a lot people walking around.

After RH wondered Roppongi a little while ? again hassled by these (north African?) freaks ? this time there were more of them sometimes as many as 4 standing outside a bar. I literally had to push some of them away from us. Where do they come from, how do they get visas to stay in Japan? Every person I have met in Japan had been extremely nice and polite except for these people. I would not stay (or probably even visit) Roppongi again because of these guys. They scare my Wife and really annoy me ? and the funny thing is I am a drinker (although I don?t go to strip bars) and I figured Roppongi would have lots of cool bars.They seemed to be centered around Roppongi crossing(and only at night) ? in the rest of Roppongi I did not notice them

Oh well ? we did not let a few jerks spoil our visit to Japan. Overall Tokyo was a fantastic experience the People here are great ? so polite it is almost unreal. This may be one of the worlds biggest cites, but it amazes me how clean it is and how friendly the people are.

Day 5
Today we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto; it was a gorgeous day so we go to watch Mt. Fuji Fly past us.
Cabbed to our hotel (Kyoto Karsuma Hotel) and Checked in. This hotel was not nearly as nice as Our place in Roppongi, but it was Cheaper and well located.
After settling in we went to Nijo Castle. The castle itself is only a one-story building but the murals and tatami rooms are well taken care of and beautiful. The castle has quite a few rooms to explore as well, while walking along the squeaky corridors. The halls were supposedly squeaking on purpose to alert the Lords people presence. The gardens outside the castle are beautiful ? and they are very serious about taking care of them.
After going back to the hotel and getting cleaned up we walked over to the shopping district went to go have dinner at a place called Genko Sushi our guide book (frommers) gave us a location and name but failed to mention that the place did not have the name in English anywhere outside so we had to go back to hotel to get the book and figure out how o get there.
The restaurant seemed to be the Japanese equivalent of TGI Fridays ? probably a chain, but the food was good and you could choose a wide variety of sushi, and other types of food. One of the things we had which was very good but unusual was hash brown like patty stuffed with ground beef.
After dinner we went down the narrow little ?Pontocho? great little (very very narrow) street with lots of cool little restaurants and bars on, we even saw a Maiko girl come out of one of the little buildings and disappear down a alley. Kyoto was now starting to feel different than modern Japan.
dgruzew is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2004, 06:39 AM
  #2  
emd
 
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Another excellent installment. I am hanging on every word. I am sorry you missed Hakone, but at least you got to see Fuji out the Shinkansen window. And I am glad you posted on Kamakura, as we will be staying in Yokohama while visiting Tokyo for 6 days, so Kamakura is a very short trip for us, like 20 min. away, and we intend to go there one morning or afternoon. Thanks for the tip on the Hase Kannon Temple. Thanks for the tip on Harjuku also, as my son is 14 and would enjoy the youth in the area- I didn't know about that area. And Aoyrama also. And the Tower.
I haven't done much research on food yet. Had no idea bout the buzzer thing. What is shabu shabu?
I am printing out your reports and adding some of the info to my potential itinerary outline, which is getting longer now.
Come on Kyoto.
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 07:49 AM
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there are shabu-shabu and sukiyaki restos here in the us (specifically new york). we go to one quite a bit and we love the food so much!
obenr is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2004, 07:54 AM
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Shabu Shabu (or sukiyaki) is a sort fondue style food. You cook meats,seafood,vegtables and mushrooms in a big pot full of diffenent kinds of oil at you table - really very fun. Japan is full of these types of resturants

The doorbell buzzer is really funny - we really thought the server was ignoring us untill we hit the doorbell and he flying over. Lots of resturants have this in japan,especially the more casual ones.
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 01:22 PM
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emd- At 14, your son would love Harajuku, especially on the weekends. therea are lots of kids with costumes and boom boxes dancing in groups at the park and very hip shops to wander across the street.

Be warned, it gets very crowded on the side streets and it is easy to get separated. Find a big, weird sign on a building and set it as your meeting place. We had walkie talkies and it was still hard to find each other!
lcuy is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2004, 11:35 PM
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Shabu-Shabu AND Sukiyaki.

As dgruzew described, they are both fondue like.

Generally/traditionally speaking,
Sukiyaki : you cook thinly sliced beef with lots of vegetables in soy sauce based bouillon. Meat and vegetables are left in the pot to cook.

Shabu-shabu : mostly only thinly sliced beef. You put it in boiling water (no bouillon) using your chop sticks - keep the meat hanging on your chop sticks - for only a few seconds. Then eat it with different sauces (soy-lime based, sesame sauce, etc) on your table.
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Oct 24th, 2004, 06:04 AM
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emd
 
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Icuy- very good tip on getting separated, I appreciate it. I didn't think of taking our walkie talkies (will US band walkie talkies work there? I suppose so) but I like that idea as in Kyoto if he wants to go into a shop and I want to go down the street to another one, we could be in touch. Did your walkie talkies work ok for things like that? And I also like the idea of using the big sign meeting place in the real crowded areas. Luckily my son is 6 ft tall (no kidding, and he's only 14) so maybe he will tower some over others!
kappa and dgruzew: YUM. This sounds like our kind of food, and it sounds fun. We often get Pho vietnamese tai soup and we always take out the meet w/our chopsticks and dip it in the plum or hot sauces, then eat the rest. Is shabu shabu and sukiyaki an affordable way to eat dinner, not cheap but not enough to break the bank?
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Oct 24th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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my family loved japan so much that my parents decided to buy an apartment in yokohama over 15 years ago. i grew up eating this kind of food and the sauce and the quality of the ingredients (meat/seafood) in sukiyaki or shabu-shabu is the one that really makes the difference. i have eaten at tons of these restaurants and have seen the major difference. but now, everytime i visit home, i don't have to since my mother makes an amazing broth for sukiyaki (the best i have ever had!) and a very good shabu-shabu sauce which i ask her to bottle so i can bring back with me everytime i visit! japan is really has the best food - too bad it's just so far from new york!!!
obenr is offline  
Oct 24th, 2004, 09:50 AM
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emd
 
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obner: My son and I are staying in Yokohama for 6 days. Any shabu shabu or sukiyaki or other places you can recommend there?? I'm really listening!
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Oct 24th, 2004, 09:51 AM
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emd
 
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oops, I meant obenr. I type too fast, but I need to try to get the names correct at least. sorry.
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Oct 24th, 2004, 08:22 PM
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emd, there's a place that we love (though pricy but what is not pricy in Japan if you want choice products!) in Ginza called OKAHAN and also there's a chain of cheaper but very good meat as well at IMAHAN (they have many locations). Unfortunately, since I don't speak and read Japanese, I would only know the names as we always go with Japanese friends. also, lately, we have been lucky enough to have this food at home so no need to eat out. also, i will recommend you o try yakiniku or grilled meat (usually beef, pork, chicken and vegetables). very good! it's actually my favorite!!! there's many restaurants that specialize in this kind of food.
obenr is offline  
Oct 24th, 2004, 08:38 PM
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Emd- We use the standard Motorola "Talk Abouts". Never heard anyone else on the frequency in Japan (and never got arrested :-J ) they were really a travelling lifesaver for us with 2 kids!

One tip...get ones that take AA or AAA batteries, rather than only rechargers. You can always buy more batteries, no matter where you are.

A 6 foot kid should be easier to find! Although there sure are a lot of tall Japanese kids these days. must be all the junk food.... >
lcuy is offline  
Oct 25th, 2004, 05:42 AM
  #13  
emd
 
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You guys are great. Just so you know, my son and I put these suggestions on our trip outline, along w/the names of the people on here who recommend them to us. That way we can thank you when we get back and think of you while we are there. These recommendations are so much better than a guide book for us (although we have those too).
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