Posts Tagged ‘Om Nom Nom’

We woke up early in Beppu and started to get ready to make our way back to Tokyo. We were both not looking forward to the trip, having to wade through the chaos that is Tokyo station. We make our way to the dining hall of the New Matsumi Hotel (where we are staying) to eat breakfast that was included with our stay. Due to sleeping in the day before, we missed breakfast our first morning in Beppu but we made sure not to miss out again.

.. and we are glad that we didn’t, as this is what we were served.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

After an amazing and exquisite breakfast, we grab our bags and take a cab to Beppu Station. Though the hotel was within a pretty decent walking distance from the train station, the handle of one of our suitcases finally bit the dust. We temporarily fixed it with some duct tape but didn’t want to test its limit before we made it to the Tokyo train station.

We reserved our tickets back to Tokyo the day before, as we didn’t want another incident like our trip to Hiroshima. The trip itself was about 5.5 hours with 2 transfers from Kokura Station and Shin-Osaka Station. We hop on the first train and we are on our way.

The last half of the trip was a bit uncomfortable, as we were upgraded to first class seats to Kokura and Shin-Osaka but we made it to Tokyo unscathed and somewhat rested. After wading through the crowds, we make it to the Ueno train platform to head to our hotel. It was approximately 19:15h and the train was packed! I didn’t remember the trains being this busy when we first landed in Japan, and worried that we wouldn’t be able to get on the train with our luggage. We cram our way on the train and we are off to Ueno. Reading the information that is updated on the train, it turns out that a handful of train lines were shut down due to the typhoon and flooding (watching the news that night, people were stranded over 8 hours at some of the train stations). We seriously dodged a bullet with our arrival to Tokyo.

After we arrive at the Touganeya Hotel, we quickly drop off our things and head back to the sushi place Jason first took me to our first night in Japan. Due to the weather, I was developing a headache and didn’t eat much at dinner. Afterwards, we head to a British Pub for a drink and for some fish and chips. If you told me a year ago that I would be eating bite sized fish and chips with chopstick in a Japanese British Pub I would have told you to fuck off, but it was done. Once that surreal moment passed, we went back to the Pachinko Hall to attempt another round and then wandered back to our hotel to go to bed.

We wake up the next day and catch the train to Tokyo Disneyland. We purchase the “2-Day Passport” so we are able to go to Disney Sea the following day. Upon our arrival, we discover that is the 30th Anniversary of Tokyo Disney and noticed that the park has been decorated for Halloween.

The first time I went to a Disney park was in 1990; I was 6 years old and my family decided that we were going to pack ourselves in a 1988 Ford Taurus and drive to California. Though my memory of the trip is hazy (my mom informed us that we protested going to Knott’s Berry Farm because we thought it was a literal berry farm) but it’s a vacation that I feel quite a bit of nostalgia for. In 2009, my boyfriend at the time and I went to Disneyworld to celebrate his 26th birthday and our “6 year anniversary”. To be quite honest, I had just as much fun at Disney as a 25-year-old woman and I did as a 6-year-old child.

… and I had just as much fun this time around, too.

Yup... I'm just a child stuck in an adult's body

Yup… I’m just a child stuck in an adult’s body

It was quite amazing to see how Japanese people love Disney. And I mean, they LOVE Disney. Everyone in the park was decked out in Disney hoodies, t-shirts, silly hats, (like the one I’m wearing in the photo above), mouse ears, and walked out of the park with bags upon bags of souvenirs.

Since Jason and I “don’t do rides” (him due to extreme motion sickness, and me due to a traumatizing experience on Space Mountain at the age of 6 [and on the Tower of Terror at the age of 25]), we mostly walked around the park and stuck to rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” (which was absolutely amazing!). What I found very interesting was that the “Haunted Mansion” in Tokyo Disneyland is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” themed, which is different than Disneyland and Disneyworld in the States.

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

We leave Tokyo Disneyland right before it starts to shut down, and head straight to our hotel to go to bed so we can wake up early the next day for Tokyo DisneySea.

DisneySea opened in 2001 and (as you can guess) has a overall nautical theme for the entire park. They have areas that re-create Venice, Portofino, and the American Northeastern Seaboard from the early 20th century. This park was made more for adults and has some of the more “mature” rides, such as Indiana Jones and the Tower of Terror.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex's name.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex’s name.

Even though we didn’t ride many of the attractions at DisneySea, we still had fun and made a day of it.

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly at Triton's Kingdom (it's not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

Being silly at Triton’s Kingdom (it’s not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

DisneySea ended up closing about 4 hours earlier than usual and they gave us an option to return to Disneyland for an extra 2000 yen per person, but after all the walking around we did that day and the day before we just wanted to go back to our hotel and NOT do any more walking.

On our way back to the hotel, we were trying to figure out our dinner plans and decided that we would go for sukiyaki. After a bit of research, I found a sukiyaki place in the district we were staying at. We hop on the train and make our way over to Imahan in Ueno.

We get to the restaurant and immediately realize that we are extremely underdressed for the place. The prices on the website were a bit pricey but we didn’t really think anything of as we knew they were serving some quality Wagyu beef. I don’t think the staff knew what to do with us either; Jason dressed in shorts, an athletic shirt, wearing crocs and a baseball cap while I was dressed in Under Armour t-shirt and yoga-style pants, a hoodie, sneakers with my hair a mess and my nail polish half chipped off my nails.

Though we looked like a train wreck compared to the rest of the patrons, they didn’t seat is where we weren’t visible to the rest of the public (which we joked that they might do) and the service they provided us wasn’t hindered at all.

We ordered the “OGI Sukiyaki Set”, which was a 5-course sukiyaki meal and we upgraded to the “top quality beef”. Dinner was well over $120 per person but after planning to splurge over $300 per person at Sukiyabashi Jiro (which is a 3-michelin star sushi restaurant) but not being able to secure a reservation prior to us arriving to Japan (they book a month in advance and reservations were booked for the entire month of October on September 2nd), we decided we could spoil ourselves with some sukiyaki.

… worth… every… penny.

After an extraordinary dinner, we hop on the train and head back to our hotel to sleep.

Today was a very uneventful day. After about 12 hours of sleep, we slowly get ready for the day and then realize that we had no set plans. We talked about going to see the Buddha at Kamakura, or going to the Ueno Zoo but after all the walking that we’ve done over the last 2 days.. no, lemme take that back… after all the walking we’ve done this entire trip, we took the train to Shinjuku to eat lunch and did some window shopping til dinner time.

One crazy spectacle was the craft store in Shinjuku; a friend of mine from work asked me if I could bring her back a specific craft tool from Japan. I couldn’t find any stores that may have carried in the other cities we visited, so I looked on Google and found a couple places in Shinjuku. Once we found an arts and crafts store that carried this tool, we started looking.

… I have never seen so many people in an arts and crafts store in my life. Even Jason was pretty amazed to see the volume of people and the size of the store.

We couldn’t find this tool for the life of us. We searched, asked some guy working at the store (but he had no idea what we were talking about) and looked some more. After about 40 minutes we were about to give up when we finally found another employee to help us. Once Jason shows her the translation in Japanese and a photo, she walks us 2 feet from where we were standing and pointed it out.

I don’t know if we were pissed that after walking around the store 5 times we missed it or if we were relieved that the search was finally over, but I’ve never been so happy to leave an arts and craft store before.

We hop on the train back to Ueno, hit up a yakiniku place for dinner and then head back to the hotel. Jason is now sleeping after watching “Monty Python and the Meaning of Life” and here I am writing this blog and looking up random things on the internet.

Things I Have Learned During My Trip Thus Far
1. Japanese bakeries are going to be the death of me.

2. I really love Disney. Hell, I think everyone who grew up with Disney loves Disney.

3. I wondered while buying items in Tokyo Disneyland if I was buying them because it’s a “collector’s item”, or that was my excuse for being a big kid buying shit that I have outgrown years ago?

4. I don’t like Tokyo as much as I liked Osaka. Maybe it’s because Tokyo is so big but Osaka seems like a city that I would go back to over Tokyo.

5. It still amazes me the sheer level of love for Disney that Japanese people have.

Next Blog Post: Last day in Tokyo and Japan

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This entire time, I thought that we would be staying in Hiroshima and making trips out to Miyajima but I found out on our way that it is actually the other way around. After the 2 nights we spent in Miyajima, I’m glad that we did.

We wake up and I’m already dreading the day; we are packing up our stuff and dragging it through the train stations to make our way to Hiroshima. I think Jason was also dreading it too, as I was able to twist his rubber arm for us to take a cab from our hotel to the Shin-Osaka Station. Though the price difference was about 2000 yen, I would have paid almost anything to not have to drag our luggage to Shinsaibashi, wade through the crowds to catch the subway to Shin-Osaka, and then continue to drag our luggage around until we reached our gate.

We failed to pre-book our tickets the day earlier but found that we didn’t have problems when making our trips out to Kyoto, Himeji and Kobe (we were even upgraded to first class for a couple of those trips) so we didn’t think that booking tickets in advance was really too necessary.

… we were sadly mistaken.

We get to the ticket counter for the Shinkansen to find out that all the tickets for reserved seating to Hiroshima are sold out for the next train (and for a couple trains afterwards). He tells us that we can just go to the non-reserved seat car on the next train, or we could book reserved seats on the next available train which was in 4 hours. We didn’t want to wait the 4 hours with all of our stuff and we wanted to spend that time in Miyajima so we opted for the non-reserved seat car. I was disappointed once again that we didn’t receive a train ticket for this trip but happy that we didn’t have to wait the 4 hours for the next train. Things were looking good…

… until we got to the platform.

Usually, we start lining up within 20 minutes of the train arriving so we can have first pick of luggage space (and to ensure that we have luggage space). When we arrived to the platform, there was already huge lines for all the cars that had non-reserved seating. We find a spot in what we thought was the shortest line and start plotting; the plan was for Jason to go on the car first, blocks the line to put our bags away while I circle around him and try to find us a seat as quickly as possible.

…. apparently, we were not the only ones who thought of this plan.

Jason was able to find space in our car to store our luggage while I frantically tried to find us a seat. I forgot that there are 2 entrances to a car, and the seats filled up quite quickly. I was able to secure seats for us and we were on our way. We were absolutely amazed to see how many people were in the train car; when we ride in reserved seating the car is never full but in non-reserved we had people sitting on other people, and standing in the aisle with little room to move around.

After an extremely stressful boarding, we kick back until we arrive to Hiroshima Station. We take a quick jaunt down the street and catch the train to the ferry station to make our way to Miyajima.

Itsukushima is an island located northwest of Hiroshima Bay, and is known as Miyajima. The island used to be the town of Miyajima until it was merged with Hatsukaichi in 2005.

I assume that these deer are like the Japanese version of "Lady and the Tramp" but instead of eating spaghetti, they wanted a rickshaw ride.

I assume that these deer are like the Japanese version of “Lady and the Tramp” but instead of eating spaghetti, they wanted a rickshaw ride.

The ferry ride is about 5 minutes and when we get off the ferry, we are greeted by deers just wandering the grounds in Miyajima. After a stressful morning, we drag our luggage through Miyajima enjoying the sight of the Otori Gate and head over to our hotel.

Jason booked us 2 nights at Mizuha-so, which is a ryokan (for your reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryokan_(Japanese_inn). There is no bed and we slept on futon mats on the floor. Breakfast and dinner are both served at the Mizuha-so. Though there was no public bath per sae, there was a single and shared bathing room for the guests.

After we drop off our luggage, we start to wander around Miyajima and eating street food from the multiple food vendors. We walk around the Otori Gate and enter the Itsukushima Shrine and head back to the hotel for dinner.

Otori Gate

Otori Gate

View of the Hirabutai

View of the Hirabutai

View of the Otori Gate from Honden (Main Sanctuary of Itsukushima Shrine)

View of the Otori Gate from Honden (Main Sanctuary of Itsukushima Shrine)

Dinner was absolutely amazing. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but what we ended up getting was an 8 course meal which included a taster of plum wine. We order a bottle of sake and I order plum wine on the rocks and we both enjoy our dinner while being a little tipsy. We head back to our room and go to bed, as the relaxing part of our vacation has begun.

The next day we wake up and eat a fantastic breakfast at Mizuha-so. From there, we take the ferry and train back to Hiroshima to visit the A-Bomb Dome and exhibits.

After several name changes, the A-Bomb Dome was last known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It was designed by Jan Letzel who was a Czech architect and construction was completed in 1915. At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima. In 1966 it was decided that they would preserve the ruins and renamed it the A-Bomb Dome.

After seeing the A-Bomb Dome, you can’t even fathom the level of devastation that they must have endured when the bomb dropped down. It was a very depressing yet humbling experience seeing the dome intact but not restored since that day. Though feeling very sad, I was doing quite well until we reached the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students.

"During WWII, more than three million students over twelve years of age were mobilized for labor services throughout the country. As a result, more than 10,000 students were killed, including some 6,000 killed by the atomic bomb. They gave up their youth and studies for the nation. This tower was erected by concerned families and friends to console the souls of these victims who sacrificed themselves for their homeland, and who would have had a promising future had there been no war. This ferro-concrete tower is twelve meters high and gradually widens as it rises. The exterior surface of the five tiers are finished with Arita-yaki ceramic tiles. The sculpture depicts the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves perched around the tower. On the centre pole are lights offered to God in memory of the lives that were extinguished" -- description of the monument

“During WWII, more than three million students over twelve years of age were mobilized for labor services throughout the country. As a result, more than 10,000 students were killed, including some 6,000 killed by the atomic bomb. They gave up their youth and studies for the nation. This tower was erected by concerned families and friends to console the souls of these victims who sacrificed themselves for their homeland, and who would have had a promising future had there been no war. This ferro-concrete tower is twelve meters high and gradually widens as it rises. The exterior surface of the five tiers are finished with Arita-yaki ceramic tiles. The sculpture depicts the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves perched around the tower. On the centre pole are lights offered to God in memory of the lives that were extinguished” — description of the monument

… I started crying here.

After seeing a couple more monuments (and choking back tears) we head to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The admission fee is a extremely modest 50 yen (less than a dollar Canadian) and to tour around the facility was about 2 hours. You start the first half with a history lesson of what happened during the build up of WWII in Japan, and information regarding the Manhattan Project and how they picked their targets for the atomic bomb. The second half is of artifacts from the rubble and remains, with some history of the people who perished from the bomb. The saddest artifact was the remains of a tricycle that belonged to a 3-year-old child; the excerpt written about it made me almost lose my composure (and I’m actually tearing up thinking back to it). My heart was very heavy from this experience.

Tricycle from the Peace Memorial Museum

Tricycle from the Peace Memorial Museum

"I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears" -- Yoshito Matsushige

“I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears” — Yoshito Matsushige

We leave the museum and continue walking around the Peace Park, looking at more monuments and all the paper cranes. The paper cranes initially started by a 12-year-old girl named Sadako Sasaki. She was a victim of the A-Bomb and ended up developing cancer. In hopes of finding a cure, she started to fold 1000 paper cranes but met her demise prior to completion. People all over the world now fold 1000 paper cranes and donate them to the HIroshima Peace Park, where they are displayed.

Each row contains 100 paper cranes.

Each row contains 100 paper cranes.

Hiroshima is very passionate about getting rid of nuclear weapons and have written over 600 letters in protest of nuclear testing and development to various countries.

This place will definitely humble you. People have made jokes on how “Hiroshima is the bomb”, or think that the Japanese “got what they deserved for WWII”, but I can guarantee that you will quickly change your tune within the first 10 minutes of being at the A-Dome/Peace Park/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. No one ever deserves to suffer that fate.

After a very depressing afternoon, we walk around Hiroshima and go to eat lunch. I now think that I’m an emotional eater, as we gorged on a variety of food and I felt not unhappy after we ate. Jason introduced me to horse meat during lunch. I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite thing to eat, but wouldn’t necessarily oppose eating it again either. We ate, felt better, and head back on the train to catch the ferry to Miyajima.

We have another relaxing night in Miyajima and the Mizuha-so served us yet another 8-course dinner, this time complemented with plum brandy. After dinner, we went back to our room to relax and prepare for our trip the following day.

Things I Have Learned in Japan Thus Far
1. Always.. always…. ALWAYS pre-book your tickets on the Shinkansen if you have luggage and never… ever… EVER go to the non-reserved car.

2. Convenience store fried chicken is fucking delicious. Jason and I saw an episode of (what I think was) No Reservations, and Anthony Bourdain was interviewing one of the top chefs in Japan. During his interview, the chef admitted that he always eats food from convenience stores because they are great. Thinking about the quality of food that we get at our local 7-Eleven, I was quite skeptical. One of the nurses I work with recommended that I have to try the fried chicken at Lawsons (which is a Japanese convenience store). Jason and I finally stumble upon one and give in to the fried chicken.

… seriously the best fried chicken that I’ve ever had.

3. People here are very serious about recycling; again, you will find a million recycling bins before you find a garbage can but when people are throwing out a bag of garbage they’ve collected while riding the train, they will stand in front of the recycle/garbage can and take the time to separate everything.

4. They serve alcohol from vending machines and you can drink anywhere in public. What I find very interesting is that they have vending machines for cigarettes but you need to have an RFID identification card to scan on the machine if you’re buying smokes (and it won’t let you buy unless you scan). However, the same is not for alcohol; you literally put in money, make your selection and that’s it.

5. I’m not a huge fan of wine or brandy, but man… that plum wine tasted like candy and the plum brandy was unreal!

Next Blog Post: Beppu

Jason and I have been waking up pretty early on our trip to Japan thus far; we were up again at 06:30h and got ready for our day trip to Kyoto.

When we were about to leave the hotel, it was pouring rain. I suggested that we should wait 30-60 minutes to see if the rain stops but Jason was quite insistent that we just hail a cab to the Shinsaibashi train station. I pop into the convenient store next door to our hotel and buy 2 umbrellas at 500 yen a piece. Jason was able to hail us a cab and we were on our way to Shinsaibashi station.

… but of course after we get into the cab, literally 30 seconds later it stops raining.

From Shinsaibashi station, we hop onto the train and head towards the Shin-Osaka station to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto. We booked our tickets on the Tokaido line for the next available train to Kyoto and we are on our way. The trip itself was pretty quick, as it only took us maybe 20 minutes to get from Shin-Osaka station to the Kyoto station. From there we start walking to our destination: Kiyomizu-dera.

Looking back at this now, it was a very poor idea. The walk itself is about 45 minutes from Kyoto station, and the weather was atrocious (and by atrocious, I mean sunny with a temperature of 30 degrees and insane humidity). We stop by a couple stores and Jason found a place where they make chef knives from Japanese steel. We make a mental note of it and continue on our way. By the time we reach the Kyoto National Museum (about 25 minutes away walking from Kyoto station), I start to develop starting stages of sun stroke and become very irritable. We hail a cab to take us the rest of the way.

Traffic was terrible but our cab driver dropped us off as close as she could without racking up our fare for the cab. We thanked her profusely for her consideration. We take a small break in Chawan-zaka (shopping area) so I can grab a drink of water and sit in the shade for a bit, and then we start walking over to Kiyomizu-dera.

Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Chawan-zaka (Teapot Lane), Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple that contains a variety of shrines, and is considered to be one of Japan’s National Treasures.  It was founded in 778 and was built without using a single nail. Though many people may not have heard of it, I’m sure people have seen pictures of the Main Hall and Deva Gate.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall that I’ve seen.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Kiyomizu-dera is quite impressive. There is the Tainai-meguri; I’ve never heard of it before that day and even looking for information about it, there doesn’t appear to be much. When you arrive, you are asked to take off your shoes and provide a donation of 100 yen. From there, they lead you to a dark staircase and tell you to follow the wooden handrail throughout the course of your visit. It made me somewhat uneasy, as it was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything in front or behind you. What this is supposed to symbolize is blindly entering the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu (mother of Buddha). You eventually get to an area where there is a thick round stone the size of a pizza pan with “womb” written in Sanskrit under a small light. They say that Daizuigui Bosatsu could grant wishes, so you are to turn the stone and make a wish. The experience was somewhat frightening (just because you’re literally walking around in pitch black, grasping at this handrail to lead you to your destination) but it was also quite humbling. If you’re not afraid of the dark or claustrophobic, I would recommend checking it out.

After seeing a variety of shrines and the “Love Stone”, I start to feel lightheaded again so we stop for lunch. Again, we eat cold soba. Why? Because we can and it’s fucking delicious!

DSC_0244

Beside the restaurant that we stopped at was the Otowa-no-taki; it’s a waterfall of “sacred water” that has 3 channels of water leading to it. They say that those who drink from the waterfall are blessed with longevity, health and success.

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

We walk around for another hour and leave to buy Jason’s chef’s knife. When we initially planned our trip to Japan, we talked about buying a new knife for our kitchen that was handcrafted, and made from Japanese steel. We head back to the knife shop where Jason peruses the knives (while I suffer from full on symptoms of sun stroke). The woman who owned the shop was very friendly and ensured that we were taken care of (not only did she help Jason out, but she provided me a chair to sit on while he was shopping and 2 origami cranes because I looked just terrible). Jason purchases a knife and a wet stone, and asks if he was able to get a picture of her for our trip. She bashfully agrees, fixes her hair and poses in a photo with Jason.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

She looked at me concerned before we left the store, and Jason tells her that I’m ill due to too much sun. She looks at me thoughtfully for a second and then provides me with another gift; a handmade fan to help me with the heat.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

We take refuge at a McDonald’s so I can have some fluids and get out of the evil sunlight, and we start ranting about how delicious soba is. One thing leads to another and the moment that I felt well enough to meander in Kyoto, we hail a cab and head towards Shijo Street, where Jason knows of a good soba house.

Well, we couldn’t find it but we ended up eating delicious katsu. Realizing we are well beyond walking distance from the Kyoto train station, we hail yet another cab and make our way back to Osaka from the train station.

I think we both had way too much sun that day, because we were both in bed and passed out before 8:00pm Osaka time.

Things I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The JR Rail Pass is a definite must for Japan. We purchased a 14 day pass for about $450 CAD each before we left (you have to purchase it before your trip and have it mailed to you, as it’s only available to foreigners), and I first initially thought that we wouldn’t really get our money’s worth from it.

… oh how wrong I was.

Considering all the day trips that we’ve been taking, and that we are going from Tokyo -> Osaka -> Hiroshima -> Beppu -> Tokyo, it was well worth it. The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka alone is over $150 CAD. We are still paying for local transit (aka train rides in the city where the JR Lines don’t go) but $2.50 CAD to take a transit in Osaka is nothing. Also, always book the Shinkansen over the JR lines; it might say “JR SuperExpress” but it will take longer to get to your destination over the Shinkansen lines (didn’t learn this by doing, look at the timetables and you’ll see the difference).

2. I have eaten cold soba more than I would like to admit on this trip.

3. I really really REALLY hate the heat and humidity on this trip. Every day I’m caked in sweat and my clothes feel heavier than they should be. I have never experienced “swass” before but I’m telling you, it has been quite the swassy trip. If I end up losing any weight, it’s not because I’ve been eating healthy and Japan bans GMO’s; it’s because I sweated away all my pounds.

4. Favorite drink is currently either the Cafe Latte by Boss or UCC, or the Royal Milk Tea. Every time I see a vending machine, I’m eyeing that bitch like a meth addict looking for their next fix.

5. Sun stroke is not a fun time in Japan; was hoping to hit up a couple more sites in Kyoto but we both thought it was for the best if we just took it very easy.

… thanks, sun stroke. You jerk.

Next blog post: Day trip to Himeji Castle.

Jason and I wake up at around 06:30h (Japan time) and we get ready to start our day. We head to the 4th floor to eat breakfast, but realize when we arrive that we have to buy breakfast tickets at the main lobby, rather than paying for the meal at the restaurant itself. Once we pay our 500 yen per person, we go into the restaurant to get our breakfast.

Now the hotel advertises that it’s a restaurant but it reminds me more of the eating/common area of a hostel than a restaurant; buffet style breakfast, everything is pretty much self serving, but the breakfast that they offer is pretty delicious. They have scrambled/fried eggs, breakfast sausage, breakfast sandwiches, toast and croissants for more of the American style breakfast. They also offer rice balls, dried seaweed (nori), kimchi, pickles, japanese style waffles, and 2 soups (miso and just a plain broth) for the Asian style breakfast. After breakfast, we head over to Shinsaibashi station to make our way to Osaka Aquarium.

Outside of Osaka Aquarium

Outside of Osaka Aquarium

We arrive and notice that there are a barrage of school kids making their way to the aquarium; I don’t know if EVERY school in Osaka decided “hey, let’s send our students to the aquarium today” but there were hundreds upon hundreds of kids there. Our visit to the aquarium was still very enjoyable, just kind of loud 😛

This little guy kept photo bombing us when Jason was taking a picture of the penguins (after 4 attempts, Jason just gave up and showed the kid the photos he so desperately wanted to be a part of).

This little guy kept photo bombing us when Jason was taking a picture of the penguins (after 4 attempts, Jason just gave up and showed the kid the photos he so desperately wanted to be a part of).

I have been to quite a few aquariums over the last 2 years but this by far is my favorite. The first exhibit you see is the Aqua Gate, which is 11 metres in length and holds 140 tons of water.The most impressive, however, is the Pacific Ocean exhibit. The tank is 9 metres deep and holds over 5400 tons of water. The main attraction to this particular exhibit is the 2 whale sharks. You can find more information about the facility and their exhibits here: http://www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng/index.htm

Aqua Gate. Water volume: 140 tons, Water temperature: 21 degrees C, Tunnel length: 11 meters , Area: 63 square meters

Aqua Gate. Water volume: 140 tons, Water temperature: 21 degrees C, Tunnel length: 11 meters , Area: 63 square meters

After spending almost 3 hours at the Osaka Aquarium, we head over to the Tempozan Market Place and ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel at the mouth of Osaka Bay. I am absolutely petrified of heights and wasn’t doing too well for the first half of the ride, but the views you see are breathtaking! I highly recommend going on the ferris wheel if you want to see a great view of the city.

Realizing we ate over 5 hours prior, we are on a new mission: find delicious and ever so yummy food. We stumble upon a restaurant that serves cold soba noodles and head in for lunch. The one thing that I really enjoy about Japan is that they have pictures or models of all their food, so even if there is a language barrier you can still know what you’re getting and order it easily. Jason shows our server in the display what we wanted to order (though we realized soon afterwards that if we just said “soba”, he would have understood) and within a couple minutes lunch was served.

Cold soba noodles in Osaka

Cold soba noodles in Osaka

Once we were completely satisfied with our soba, we hop on the train and make our way to Universal Studios.

Universal Studios in Japan was… a very odd experience. Imagine just the “cuteness” of Japanese culture meets Universal Studios. It’s hard to explain but the attractions were hilarious, probably because of their gestures and the way they said things (also probably because we couldn’t understand a damn thing they were saying). Though it was an interesting experience (to say the least) if I ever come back to Osaka, this is probably a place I won’t be returning to. If I could actually understand Japanese then maybe but it just wasn’t the same not knowing what they were saying.

Universal Studios, Osaka

Universal Studios, Osaka

We killed a couple hours at Universal Studios and then decided it was time to head back to Shinsaibashi and eat dinner. Due to Jason’s constant complaining about yakiniku, I found a place not too far from our hotel and we decided to head there. You can read a review that I wrote here: http://wp.me/p3jWPD-29 

Cooking a piece of Waygu beef at Yakiniku Rokko

Cooking a piece of Waygu beef at Yakiniku Rokko

2 meat platters and about 3-4 drinks later we begin to feel full, a little tipsy and extremely exhausted from our day. We walk back to our hotel, hit up the public bath and call it a night after loosely planning a day trip to Kyoto for the following day.

Things I Have Learned Thus Far on My Trip
1. The heat and humidity is unbearable. I’m currently suffering in 30 degree weather with an insane amount of humidity. When we first arrived to the Dormy Inn, we couldn’t read the remote that controlled the air conditioning. We had to send a photo of the remote to his ex so she could translate and hopefully help us (this was after going to the front desk asking for help).

Seriously, how were we supposed to work this thing?!?

Seriously, how were we supposed to work this thing?!?

2. I fucking love cold soba.

3. People do not give a fuck about how you dress. I have seen people dressed as cats, dressed as punks, lolita/schoolgirl, hipsters, business people and they seriously do not bat an eye at the way that someone looks. I kinda wish we had this non-judgemental mentality in North America (though I will admit that I am severely guilty of judging people).

4. Japanese school children are absolutely adorable. A lot of kids would say hi to Jason and try to strike a conversation with him in English because he’s a white guy.

5. Monkeys scare the shit out of me.

Okay, so there are 2 (unedited) blog pots for your reading pleasure. My apologies, yet again, for my poorly written posts. It’s time for sleep, as we are leaving Osaka tonight to head to Hiroshima for 2 nights.

Next blog post: Kyoto (and maybe Himeji and Kobe).

I am honestly exhausted from my day but I am staying up to give a huge shout out to Yakiniku Rokko in the Shinsaibashi District of Osaka.

Yakiniku Rokko in Shinsaibashi

Yakiniku Rokko in Shinsaibashi

Yakiniku: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakiniku

Before leaving for our trip and during our trip, Jason has been talking about his craving for yakiniku non-stop. After searching for a yakiniku place our first night in Osaka, we were unable to find one in the area of Shinsaibashi that we walked around. That night while I was updating my blog, I quickly did a search for yakiniku restaurants in our area. Google directed me to a website called “Japanese Restaurant Search” (http://www.jnto.go.jp) where I was able to find a restaurant called Yakiniku Rokko.

There were a couple reasons why I was interested in trying this place..

a) They advertised that they have English speaking staff and an English menu.
b) All you can eat yakiniku.
c) The prices were within our budget ($20-$30 per person, depending on which meal plan you selected) but most importantly..
d) For an extra $12, it’s all you can drink for 2 hours during your meal.

http://www.yakiniku-rokko.jp/

Jason and I wake up around 06:30h and spend the day going around Osaka (details will be posted in a later blog post). Prior to our adventure in Osaka, I mention to him that I found a yakiniku place. Jason checks out the website and agrees to go, but is not completely sold on the place.

Exhausted and starving from our day, we show up around 19:00h and are greeted with a warm and friendly welcome. They asked if we wanted English menus and provided us service speaking fairly decent English throughout the night. We ordered “Plan C” but opted out on the all-you-can-drink (but still ordered a couple lemon Chu-Hi’s). Knowing that we were from Canada, she asked if we wanted to include the organs in our meat selection, and stated that if there was something we wanted more or less of to let them know and they would serve us a la carte.

The spread of food at Yakiniku Rokko. Please ignore Jason's faux pas of sticking his chopsticks in his rice.

The spread of food at Yakiniku Rokko. Please ignore Jason’s faux pas of sticking his chopsticks in his rice.

Service was quick, and the spread of food that we received was amazing. Our hostess took the time to explain all the pieces of our dish when it was served, and checked up on us regularly to ensure that we were satisfied with our selection. Noticing that we were taking a few pictures of our meal, she asked if we wanted to have our picture taken.

What impressed us the most is that they did not sacrifice the quality of the food served. We’ve noticed that at most all-you-can-eat establishments (worldwide) that they cut costs by providing average/less than average quality food. The Waygu beef was absolutely phenomenal, and they didn’t have any restrictions on how much you could order.

We order 2 platters of meat and then some, and we finished the night absolutely full and satisfied with our meal and the service that we received.

We have another couple nights left in Osaka before we head over to Hiroshima, but we plan to come back again on Thursday (and to indulge in the all-you-can-drink option).

If you ever find yourself in Osaka, head over to the Shinsaibashi district and make sure you check out Yakiniku Rokko. You will be glad that you did.