Japan · 6 Days · 19 Moments · November 2018

26 November 2018

We are on the flight back to San Francisco. So far we’ve had a little bit of turbulence, but not too bad. I decided to order differently this time and instead of getting the set menu, I ordered a la crate. My first course was some Japanese yakitori and my second course I had some JAL beef katsu curry. They were both very good.Mitchell gave me a hard time because his meal ended up actually tasting really awesome. He had the western meal along with the caviar to start, the Wagyu Beef with potatoes and some crazy dessert. It was all very fantastic, including the surprising beef, which was cooked perfectly and even better than the one we tried at that bruno mars place in Tokyo. They also have Hibiki 17 whiskey and I’ve had some very nice sake to drink as well. I am going to try as much as possible to stay awake so that I can start acclimating to the new time better.
We are at Haneda International waiting to board our flight to San Fran. From there we’ll take a different plane back to Dallas. Our flight is at 7:45, so we’ll have to leave the lounge in a few minutes so we can board. The airport has quickly become my favorite airport. The art is wonderful, so is the decor, traditional and modern concurrently. The little shops and stores are amazing. I bought a few more things because I couldn’t help it! The lounge is legit: i.e., INADA massage chairs Which is great because my left leg is flaring up with the sciatic pain and my hamstring is tight. The food choices were also stellar: hot udon, beer robot, pork bun, pork dumpling, and some other stuff I didn’t try. It’s Monday night but we’ll be arriving Monday afternoon. It’s a little weird. I’m thankful that I will miss the stupid board meeting at work! I’m also thankful that we’ll be picking up the doggies the same night we land so that I can snuggle them properly. I miss them very much.
Last day in Tokyo. We had a leisurely day. Actually, having a late flight out of Tokyo is probably the best thing we could have done. Ideally we would have been able to do something a bit more cultural or touristy, but it’s Monday so lots of places were closed. I took some photos of the hotel lobby. We decided to go get a fluffy pancake in Harajuku. Yesterday we saw a place called Flippers had a long line but then we were taken aback about it having kind of bad reviews online. We decided to try a different place and then go to Afuri again to eat the tsukemen before heading off to the airport. On the way to the new place we found that Flippers was open and it had no wait. We stopped in. The strawberry pancake was absolutely mind blowingly amazing. I’m so glad we stopped in. But I still wanted something more traditional so we ended up going back to that other place after the tsukemen. The second place was also very good but a little more eggy in taste.

25 November 2018

We came across this bar a bit serendipitously. It was a holiday weekend AND Sunday so there were not too many places open. We really wanted to go to Bar Ben Fiddich, but they are closed on Sunday. We got there right at 3 p.m., because that’s when the google said it would be open. However, when we got there, there was a lady at the foot of the stairs, directing people and she told us that they wouldn’t be open for another two hours. We went back on that Main Street in Harajuku and got souvenirs at the Oriental Bazaar to kill time, but when we got back to the bar we discovered they were actually open that entire time. We had limited time to drink cocktails because we had to get back to the hotel for our Kaiseki dinner. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise because we liked the bar so much, if we’d had more time there we probably would have gotten destroyed. The bar had a cool vibe, and it wasn’t very packed. We took advantage of the 30% off for HH. Also of note, crazy amazing TOTO toilet.

24 November 2018

On the way back from Kyoto we bought this wine at the station. It was pretty good! So good, in fact, that we got another half bottle on the train. We were so tired from all the walking, we ended up falling asleep after a while. My legs are beat! I did get a window seat which was exciting, until I realized how early it gets dark and I wasn’t able to see much out of the window. But the train is fast and quiet, and it was great. The train station in Kyoto was so massive it could hardly pass for a train station. On the second floor there was a “mister donut” and I decided to get some donuts before our journey back. Mitchell said that I might like them so much I would think they’re better than Shipley’s. Well, they were pretty awesome, but NOT as awesome as Shipley’s. The strawberry donut tasted like Pocky. The “anal bead” one was very good too :)
I’m on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. I didn’t get much of a chance to sit and update my journal yesterday so I’ll take this chance to catch up a bit. The train ride from Tokyo takes about two hours. Mitchell is a much better photographer than me so I told him we should share our photos on iCloud so I can put them in our book. We woke up at 3 a.m. to get to the train station on time. We didn’t realize that the subway stations don’t open that early so we ended up taking a cab to the main Tokyo station to be safe. The driver was nice. Mitchell used google translate to communicate with him, but even then I’m amazed at how many people know at least a few basic English words to help communicate with us tourist noobs. I keep trying to catch a good video of what’s going on outside of this train but every time I get my phone ready we enter a tunnel.

23 November 2018

We were super happy we were able to enjoy the Teppanyaki dinner at the Ritz like last year. We had the 5 course tasting menu for 15000 Yen. We both agreed when it was all said and done that if we ever are blessed enough to return, that we will focus on the steak and the crab, some fried rice and call it a day. Our Teppan Chef was very sweet. A younger guy, he told us he spent a year in Canada about a year ago learning how to speak English so that he could communicate with the English speaking customers. He told us that part of the reason why Japan is so clean, in his opinion, is that from a very young age people are taught to be clean. The kids have to clean the classroom daily. He also admitted Japanese culture is very shy, but that overall he loves it here and wanted to come back after living in Canada. The star of the show was def the Kobe beef. That filet was so tender you could cut it with a fork. Overall the first two courses were a bit lackluster but the rest made up for it.
After the Mori museum we walked over to the nearby Hirokicho park. I love trees and want to become better at capturing them on photographs. I am in love with the trees here. They appear respectful, like the rest of Japan. I told Mitchell “Even the dogs here are better!” We see a lot of very well groomed little dogs. Mostly Maltese, miniature schnauzer, mini poodles, etc. But what they all have in common is that they’re super chill, well behaved, and really well groomed. My legs were getting tired on account of being out of shape and all, so we went back to the hotel bar. The scene was sophisticated, elegant, surreal. I felt like I was in a movie. We sat at the bar taking in the views, the live piano music playing Chopin, and drinking fancy cocktails like a couple of aristocrats, until a French couple donning Versace, YSL, LV, and diamonds the size of my eyeball reminded me we’re not quite there yet (hah!)
I really wanted to do something cultural, so we went over to the Mori art museum which is almost right next to our hotel. The exhibit was called “Catastrophe and the Power of Art.” I really enjoyed this exhibition. Of main focus was the catastrophe resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, which caused a tsunami and subsequently one of the worst nuclear disasters in the world: The Fukushima nuclear meltdown. On other scales, it also discussed personal tragedies, as depicted in one of the photographic works here with people disclosing through signs what they’re really feeling or going through internally, despite their outward appearance, as well as the 9/11 attacks, and the global financial crisis of 2008 due to the Lehman Brothers. I normally don’t appreciate contemporary or abstract art much, but this exhibit was different. It did a really good job of exploring how art is not only able to capture the destruction and despair in a tragedy, but also an ability to heal.
Part of the adventure in Tokyo is trying to get drinks out of these ubiquitous vending machines and seeing if any of them taste good. It’s a bit of a gamble, and very exciting! The coke and coffee combo drink was a trip. I’m pretty sure that we each got about ten cavities with a couple of sips of it. #2 on the list was what I called “the brown drink”. It had the little seal of a skinny person on the front, so I figured it was healthy. That one ended up tasting like unsweetened black tea. Not bad. The Pepsi drink was just meh. We are coke people. But my favorite is the “relax” jasmine tea drink. I wish we had those back home.

22 November 2018

We came here tonight at some recommendation. It was just okay. Way too hot in there. My cocktails tasted good but Mitchell’s didn’t. They were playing jazz and bossa-nova versions of contemporary songs that I don’’t like. Overall, 6/10, would not come back. We realized last year we had such a far better experience at Bar Benfiddich and I think we will go back there before we leave
We were too hungry to wait for dinner so we ended up at this place we walked by. Supposedly Bruno Mars ate here! Well, truth be told we were a bit underwhelmed. But what was cool was that the service was nice and we also got to grill our own food in a tiny grill by the bar. The guy who was cutting the meat had a name badge tagged as “beef boy”. There is a “beef boss” but he wasn’t there this evening.
we walked a lot today! Part of our walk involved ending up at this place very Amsterdam-esque with a canal and side streets with cool shops and places to eat. We were on the hunt for a bathroom but we ended up at a public park to pee because the Starbucks Reserve was closed for renovations/construction.
Mitchell’s favorite: Snoopy Town! This place is nuts with snoopy stuff. Last year I wanted a stuffed snoopy dressed like Santa but they didn’t have any. They had one this year! We spent a bit of time here because there is so much to see. They literally even have snoopy shaped Nori to eat your rice with. That is a bit too hardcore, but I did buy a bento mold so I can make some rice in the shape of Snoopy.
Also sighted: this big giant monstrous black bird. The photo does not do it justice. It was like a grackle from back home, but if you gave it a steady diet of steroids. This thing was massive. I also spotted a Mexican restaurant (say, what?). We dont have room in our bellies for mediocre Mexican food, but I sure am curious. Maybe next time :)
We started our day today by buying tickets for the bullet train to Kyoto for Saturday. The original plan was to go tomorrow, but they were already sold out. We were pretty hungry so we made our way to the Harajuku area where we ate at a ramen place called Afuri. It was our first time trying Tsukemen, dipping noodles. They were very tasty. First we had to figure out how to use the vending machine to order our food because everything was in Japanese. We ended up waiting for someone else to order so we could copy what they were doing. The regular ramen noodles were not that great though. We will try again ;)

21 November 2018

We had sushi today at the hotel. We learned a lot from our sushi chef! Including that fresh wasabi tastes best when grated, but then cannot be exposed to the air too long or it loses its flavor. He also told us small fish has to be eaten right away as sushi, but large fish like tuna and yellowtail have to be frozen a few days. Also tried a new sushi made out of a vegetable that looks like a giant pear. Mitchell had to order the spicy tuna roll, but it’s safe to say that it was not like what we are used to eating back home. We also tried some type of mushroom that Chef told us the name of it comes from the Japanese word which means to dance, because you dance for joy when you find it. There was a nice Russian couple sitting next to us, and on the other side of us another couple from the U.S., but the lady was Filipino. Overall great start to our trip :) I hope the jet lag isn’t going to be too terrible. I’m about to drink some tea and go to sleep. Mitchell is already snoring
We just checked into the hotel a little while ago. We are now at the hotel bar having a couple of cocktails before our sushi dinner. We are also trying to figure out what to do tomorrow and plan out the rest of our week. I took a big nap on the plane, but I can never get any good rest on the plane because of the turbulence. My stomach is just now starting to get settled again. It gets dark here early so that is messing with me too. I’m very sleepy! We are going to try to power through the jet lag and see how it goes!
We are off on a new adventure! Mitchell is drinking champagne in first class and we just got to pick our food for the flight. I’m testing out this new journaling app so I can better look back on all our activities. I have a terrible memory and these moments don’t happen often enough, so it’s important to document. We are departing from LAX this morning. We spent the night last night at Jerry’s, and that was really nice, but we stayed up chatting and catching up until 4 a.m. (6 a.m. our time). I am running on two hours of sleep. I feel okay so far but I have a feeling soon this mimosa I just drank is going to put me in furby mode. We are still waiting fo depart now. I’m going to pick what movies to watch now and pee before takeoff :)