Posts Tagged ‘Ramen’

It’s our last full day in Tokyo and in Japan as a whole. Jason and I woke up a bit late and started our day a bit later than I anticipated. Though at the time it felt very much worth it, we really couldn’t afford to waste any time…

… today was our shopping day.

We could have bought stuff while we were in the other cities we visited, but we didn’t want to cart a bunch of stuff with us all over Japan in our already oversized and heavy luggage. We did, however, bring a third piece of luggage to Japan that we purposely brought with us for our shopping trip (though during our travels we just shoved my suitcase in it so we would only drag around 2 pieces).

After we shower and get dressed, we walk over to the Ueno train station and hop on the train to Akihabara.

Akihabara is a district in the Chiyoda ward in Tokyo. Known as Electric Town, this district has a variety of businesses ranging from electronics, anime and manga stores, to sex shops and cosplay/maid cafes.

The first thing we do is go to a Sega Arcade and walk around to play some games. The arcade is on 6 different floor with a variety of games and a smoking area. Now, this might not seem too interesting but there is a huge difference between the arcades in North American vs the arcades that are in Japan. Here’s a trailer for a documentary about the Japanese arcade experience:

After we spend about $15 and walk around the building, we leave to find some sex shops. One of the main reasons was due to this text message I received from a friend of mine before we left Edmonton.

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he's listed as "Switchblade Mike" in my contacts (it's a very long story).

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he’s listed as “Switchblade Mike” in my contacts (it’s a very long story).

I’ve been told that you haven’t seen a messed up sex shop until you go to Japan, and some of them are frightening and disgusting. Before we left for Japan, Jason tells me about this porn we should get Mike to regret his request (I will save the details of what this porn is, as it is literally terrifying) and I’m horrified but onboard. We were not entirely sure it would be legal to bring back (and it’s pretty obscure so we couldn’t find much information about it on the internet [well Jason couldn’t, I was too scared to look it up due to what it was]) but we decided to chance it and buy it for him anyway.

The first store that we hit up is called M’s, which call themselves a Pop Life Department store. It has 7 different floors and sells anything from blowup dolls, cosplay costumes, to a variety of sex toys.

We go to all 7 floors, but I noticed that there wasn’t really much there that was different than the sex stores back home (except for the blowup dolls that were kinda creepy, and a lot of Lolicon items). Jason tells me there is a particular store we need to go to in order to find Mike’s gift so we keep on shopping in Akihabara.

Noticing the time, we decided to stop for lunch. After walking around trying to decide on what we should eat, we decided to stop at McDonalds so I could try this.

"Ebi Filet-O" -- shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish

“Ebi Filet-O” — shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish that we have in North America.

It was… interesting, to say the least. Though I probably wouldn’t seek out eating another one in my lifetime, but if it was offered to me I necessarily wouldn’t deny it.

We started hitting up department stores to do our shopping. What I found kinda interesting (and somewhat annoying) is that a lot of the department stores broke everything down by brand; you go to this floor to buy Nike, this floor to buy Coach, that floor to buy Burberry. Though it was kinda nice, it was super annoying when you are just looking for a particular item by any company.

After going to a discount store to buy alcohol, beverages and snacks that we wanted to bring back to Edmonton, we return to our hotel to drop off the goods (4 bottles of sake, some plum wine, shochu, chu-hi, Royal Milk Tea, etc), quickly pick up some items in an Ueno department store, and take the train back to Akihabara to continue our shopping.

For the amount of time that we spent shopping, we sure didn’t buy too much. Shopping in Akihabara is a spectacle in itself and you can’t help to just window shop due to all the cool/cute/weird things you can find.

The last store that we go to is another sex shop. Jason tells me that this is the place we are buying Mike’s gift. Entering the store, it didn’t look any different than the other sex shops we went to. As you continue to go up the floors, the contents get more weird and disturbing.

There are 2 floors for DVDs; the first floor we were on was nothing out of the ordinary, so we walk up to the next floor to take a look around.

Contents on the second DVD floor were highly distressing for those who are faint of heart. I walked through the hardcore S&M section (hardcore to the sense it looked like it could have been associated to snuff), scat section, golden shower section, beastiality section and this DVD is nowhere to be found. Walking through another section, I look up and there it was…

… I immediately call Jason over to tell him that I found it while I’m walking out of the aisle, literally gagging ever so slightly in my mouth. I couldn’t handle looking at the DVD cover.

Jason asked if I still wanted to get it for Mike, but all I could think about is how I don’t want to be anywhere near that DVD and that I wanted to leave the store immediately. Yes, I realize that I knew what we were looking for before I found it, but there is a huge difference between knowing and being grossed out vs seeing it and being absolutely mortified. I tell Jason that I need to leave the store, and I wait outside while he buys Mike a gift that wasn’t the DVD.

The worst part of this shopping trip is that Jason tells me what I saw was the “tip of the iceberg” and that there were even more disturbing contents in that store that we purposely bypassed.

Thanks Akihabara porn shop, for ruining the very last of my innocence.

In complete shock, I silently ride the train back to Ueno with Jason so we can drop off our things at the hotel before we go out for dinner. We didn’t realize how late it was (~22:00h) so most of the restaurants were closing. We did find a place open til 03:00h that served ramen and gyozas. After eating a couple giant plates of $2 gyozas and eating a large bowl of ramen, we walk back to the hotel so we can rearrange our luggage and get ready for our trip back to Canada the next day.

Thing I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The sex stores here are weird and horrifying. If you remove my experience walking through that extreme fetish DVD section, it was actually kinda interesting to see the type of items that they sell and the cost difference (so much cheaper in Japan).

2. If they are selling gyoza for $2 and they are delicious, don’t second guess getting another plate; just get it, eat it, and get yet another plate. Repeat until absolutely full. It’s worth it.

3. Due to that mentality with food, I have gained weight traveling in Japan. Initially lost 5lbs in Osaka but somehow gained that back with an additional 5lbs in Tokyo. I blame the crazy awesome Japanese bakeries, the surprisingly good fried chicken at convenience stores, and just the overall awesome food in Japan.

4. I do really prefer Osaka to Tokyo. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time wandering Tokyo to fall in love with the place, but I feel there are way too many people there for my liking. That, and if I decide “Hey, I want Kobe Beef in Kobe”, it’s less than 30 minutes via Shinkansen from Osaka and about 3 hours via Shinkansen from Tokyo.

5. You don’t see any drunk Japanese business men, or homeless people until after 21:00h.

6. The homeless people here are very interesting; they don’t beg for food or money, and if they want to steal a cigarette butt from an ashtray they wait until there is no one smoking in the designated smoking area. They will also stop looting the ashtray when someone gets to the designated smoking area and wait until they leave to proceed.

7. Pick and choose what you are going to shop for in Japan. Most designer and named brand items are more expensive in Japan (re: clothing, accessories); however, we were able to pick up a camera tripod and new lens for our DSLR at a lesser rate.

8. I’m too fat to buy clothes in Japan; which is okay by me because I think anyone who’s not from Japan is too fat to buy clothes in Japan.

Next Blog Post: Coming Home


It’s our last full day in Osaka. After having various adventures in Osaka, Himeji, and Kyoto, we decided to have a bit of a lazy day.

…. we still woke up insanely early, though.

We take our time getting ready for the day and decide that we are going to see Osaka Castle. The guide books for Japan say that it’s not as magnificent as Himeji (some say that it’s not necessarily worth the trip) but we figured to check it out anyway.

We hop on the subway and make our way over. It was a terribly hot and humid day, so we tried to walk in the shade as much as possible. We get to the grounds at bask in the beauty that is Osaka Castle.

Osaka Castle before you cross the moat

Osaka Castle before you cross the moat

They started construction on Osaka Castle back in 1583 and was completed in 1597 with multiple restorations over the years. Osaka Castle is a very famous castle in Japan, as it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century.

Up close and personal at Osaka Castle

Up close and personal at Osaka Castle

Admission to Osaka Castle was 600 yen per person; which is higher than the admission to Himeji Castle. With admission still being fairly reasonable we enter the facility. They direct you to the 8th floor of the castle and ask you to start there and make your way down.

Personally, I was not a big fan of Osaka Castle and even Jason stated his disappointment. It was created more as a museum, and the interior was completely redone and did not portray any original parts of the castle. There was, however, a lot of information regarding the history of the emperors and various clans during the era when Osaka Castle was occupied.

If you plan on doing both Himeji and Osaka Castle, go to Osaka Castle first. After spending time in Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle seemed to lack lustre and wonder in comparison. If you’re a huge history buff, it is still very worthwhile to check out. My honest opinion is just to save your time and money and to check out something else instead.

Once we were done at Osaka Castle, we have a quick little snack in the park and decide to “get lost” in Osaka. We hop on the Osaka Loop subway, and decide that we were going to ride the entire loop to see the city. After a bit of chatting on the train, we talk about how close Kobe is and decide that today is the day we eat Kobe Beef. We hop off at Shin-Osaka train station to reserve our seats to take the Shinkansen to Kobe. The guy at the ticket booth said that since it’s such a short trip that we didn’t have to book tickets and just to hop on. I was slightly disappointed, as I’ve been collecting our train tickets from all of our trips. We grab a quick late lunch at a ramen place in the train station, and then we were on our way.

Miso ramen at the Shin-Osaka train station.

Miso ramen at the Shin-Osaka train station.

Selfie of me being excited for Kobe Beef on the Kobe Local Subway line.

Selfie of me being excited for Kobe Beef on the Kobe Local Subway line.

From Shin-Osaka Station, the trip to Kobe was a bit less than half an hour. Once we arrived we realized it was way too early for us to eat (considering we just ate ramen about 40 minutes prior), so we hop on the Kobe Subway and start wandering. We get off at the station that was fairly close to the restaurant that we wanted to stop at, and start walking. Jason wasn’t feeling to well, so we took it pretty easy walking around and contemplated whether we should head back to Osaka or stick it out in Kobe. The trip itself was short and it wouldn’t have been a loss cost wise seeing that the trip was already included in the cost of our JR Rail Pass, but Jason said that he probably would regret not taking the opportunity to eat Kobe Beef and stuck it out.

Now, you might be thinking “But you can eat Kobe Beef in Edmonton”. Yes.. you can eat “Kobe” sliders and “Kobe” beef in Edmonton, but it’s not real Kobe Beef. Only within the last year has North America started importing beef from Japan (due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease). With that being said, with approximately 3000 cattle of what is considered to be Kobe beef I doubt that so many restaurants would have so much of it readily available (and for as cheap as they are selling these entrees for).

“Canada – The Great Kobe Beef Myth”:
“The Great Kobe Beef Lie”:

… one of the many reasons why Jason stuck it out.

We wander Kobe for a bit and find ourselves at the Port of Kobe. The view from the port was very calming, and we sat at the end of the dock just watching the waves crash on the rocks. We both agreed that this was a great way to spend our last lazy day. The tide started to get higher and after being spritzed enough times in the face with fresh salt water, we decide to walk around and started to make our way to the restaurant.

Selfie of Jason and I at the Port of Kobe

Selfie of Jason and I at the Port of Kobe

One of the many views at the Port of Kobe

One of the many views at the Port of Kobe

After much wandering around, we finally find Steakland. It was setup in a teppanyaki style restaurant.

Steakland in Kobe

Steakland in Kobe

Our waitress takes our drink order and helps us with the menu (though she looked like the most unhappy person ever. I have never seen an unhappy person in Japan yet until her). When inquiring, she told us that there are only 2 items on the menu that are real Kobe beef, and the rest is just regular Waygu beef (also from Kobe). Jason ordered 200g of Kobe Beef while I ordered 200g of the Special Kobe Beef. Our chef comes out and displays the raw Kobe beef and asks how we would like them cooked. And then, he’s off to work.

Cooking Kobe Beef

Cooking Kobe Beef

The one thing that I did appreciate about this place is that the chefs weren’t doing anything fancy behind the grill like they do at Japanese Village. They were literally just there to cook and even explained part of the cooking process. Less cheesiness = win.

We are served both steaks at medium-rare. After our first bite, you could definitely tell the quality difference in the type of beef that was being served. Even the comparison between Jason’s Kobe Beef to my Special Kobe Beef was night and day. We slowly ate our dinner, savouring every bite. The entire time we were eating dinner, I thought to myself “If my dinner tastes this good, I wonder how good the super high quality Kobe Beef is?”.

Even though the restaurant did not provide the best quality of service due to our extremely miserable waitress who probably just wanted to throw herself in front of a moving train, the food definitely made up for her lack of customer service.

Though Jason toughed it out at dinner, he was still feeling quite sick so we hail a cab to the train station and then catch the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Station. Once we arrive to Shin-Osaka, we discover that the subway we need to take is not in service (or we assume it’s not as they wouldn’t let anyone on) so we hail a cab to head back to our hotel.

Once we arrived to our hotel, we hit up the public bath, do some pre-packing for our departure the next day to Hiroshima and Miyajima, and call it a night.

Things I Have Learned in Japan Thus Far
1. An interesting discovery (for me, anyway) is realizing how far away the Shin-Osaka Train Station was from our hotel. We usually pay about 230-270 yen each for the trips from Shinsaibashi Station to Shin-Osaka Station and takes about 10 minutes tops to get there. When we took the cab, it probably took us close to half an our with the cab fare totalling around 2500 yen (over $25).

2. Under Armour clothing is very much worth its money; wore Under Armour pants and shirt during our outing and I wasn’t ready to kill someone from being too hot and sweaty. Don’t get me wrong, I was still hot and sweaty but Under Armour clothing made it a LOT more bearable.

3. Kobe Beef is absolutely amazing. I’ve always had a lot of pride in our Alberta Beef but man… this may have ruined steak for me. The last time Jason and I had beef remotely this good was when we ate Beef Wellington at Gordon Ramsay’s Steak in Las Vegas earlier this year, and I was raving about that for months!

4. I have been loving the Shishedo products. Contemplating bringing some home depending on the price point.

Next Blog Post: Hiroshima and Miyajima.