Archive for May, 2009

Bullet Blog : Japan Recap 2

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Sunday, 3 May

- We take a late morning then drive back to last night’s restaurant to retrieve Anna’s lost earring. Shame, for we felt obliged to order more cappuccino. This time took my banana-caramel divinity hot, so I could get a drawing in the foam. Enter Bunny Face. It is almost too cute to drink. I do it anyway. I also cave and order a cup of the tapioca, which ends up being more coconut milk than tapioca. The tapioca are less… funny than what Jell-O brand makes, and the sweet red bean paste at the bottom of the cup is a bonus.

- Later we drive to Kurigoma-Kogen to try and get tickets for T–. Doesn’t work out, since the return tickets are all bought out.

- We go to Ishinogawa to the San Juan Bautista boat museum. The ship itself was somewhat interesting – too bad it wasn’t older looking. The moving mannequins in the exhibit area were @!*&%^+ CREEPY.

- Fried octopus snacks for “lunch”. Mustered up some courage to use my Japanese, asked the man selling the snacks “Oishii desu ka?” (Do they taste good?), to which he replied “Oishii desu!” (They’re tasty!), but it came out sounding more like “Ummm, DUH. Damn Yank.”

- I feed yet another beverage machine my small change to get an aluminium bottle of Coca-cola. Let me repeat that, aluminium bottle.

- After the boat museum we drive around somewhat aimlessly for a while. We wind up at a “mall”, where I buy a 4 GB photo card. About time.

- We hit up a more “everything” type of store, where Anna’s parents hook her up with some pans and I drop around $40 on chopsticks and all things related thereto. I am euphoric. I buy some collapsible, reusable chopsticks in a carrying case. I will eat my sushi and save a tree. The chopsticks are incredibly girly. Japan does something funny to my brain.

- We eat dinner at an Italian restaurant at the mall. My spaghetti has jalapeno peppers in it. I take note of this and will apply it later in life.

- I’m barely able to sit through dinner because I can’t stop thinking about this white dress with flowers on it that I saw in a shop window. Heck YEAH I bought it! Repeat, this country does something funny to my brain. I also find something adorable for my goddaughter.

- Our last (thank God) stop is an accessories store, where Anna consults with a random Japanese high school boy about sunglasses styles and I buy several pairs of strange tights/nylons and footie nylons for ballet flats.

Monday, 4 May

- We have a delicious omelette breakfast without most of the ingredients that had been planned to be included.

- After breakfast we drive up to Hiraizumi. We do not see any hiragana burning in the hillsides, but do see lovely ponds, shrines and temples.

- Later we have an ice cream break. I buy ice cream that is grey. I am told it is made from black sesame seeds. It looks like ash but tastes like wonder. Before we’re able to finish our ice cream we are recruited to stand as four white people among a group of 20 or more Japanese men holding up a travelling shrine. We become the coolest thing the entire immediate area has ever seen; Japanese people run to take pictures of us with their cameras, phones, whatever. There will probably be a youtube.com video of us later. While at Hiraizumi we walk over 5 km.

- We drive to Genbikei Gorge, which is very pretty. We also stand in line for 1.5 hours for “flying dango”. Flying dango are rice balls covered in sweet sauce and shuttled down a rope and pulley system in a basket from a restaurant across the gorge. We once again become the main attraction as our basket comes back to us with a Japanese and American flag stuck in the weave. We get a complementary box of dango with a note attached: “Welcome! This present for you! Enjoy!”

- We eat the dango, drink our tea, then go visit the chef across the gorge. He invites us up to his “base”, where he treats us to instant coffee and Japanese chocolates. We take pictures of ourselves shuttling the basket back and forth, pictures with the chef, pictures with each other. It’s all very random, but not something everyone will do on a trip to Japan.

- After the dango we hit up a glass park and I see many pretty things I don’t trust myself to purchase and transport back to Latvia. Or the States. Or to Anna’s car.

- We meet up with Anna’s friends for dinner at the “most expensive sushi restaurant” in Maiya. Most expensive means eating 10 plates of amazing sushi (large pieces), all-you-can-drink tea, and not even hitting the $15/person mark. Anna and I challenge her father to a duel and lose by a plate each. Losing has never tasted so good, though we are close to bursting.

- After dinner we go to the arcade and watch others play games. I basically don’t trust myself to move.

- Because duty calls, we drive over to the Minnesota Café, a coffee shop started by a couple from Minnesota and later bought by a local Japanese man. The espresso is decent and I enjoy my photo op. by the Minnesota sign. Turns out all I have to do to go home is fly to Asia.

Bullet Blog: Japan Recap Days 1, 2 & 3

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Latvia to Japan: En Route

- Riga to Amsterdam: for once I slept for almost the entire flight. It doesn’t matter that it was only a bit over two hours long; for me this is a huge accomplishment.

- Amsterdam: at least I know that I’m in the right part of the airport. All I have to do is follow the mobs of Asian travellers.

- Got a bit screwed-over for seats on the Amsterdam-Narita flight, but at least I’m not the poor sucker who has to sit by the window. At least the Japanese businessman next to me speaks English.

- The sucker next to the window gets to move up to wherever his people are sitting. Now I am the sucker in the middle seat with a LOT of leg room J

- I have never in my life seen so many dissatisfied looking Asians.

- I kind of wish I had had the time to stop and get some corporate coffee beverage while in the Schiphol airport, but due to the monstrous expanse that IS the Schiphol airport, I had barely enough time to get to my gate as it was.

- The in-flight magazine has a great article with some excellent photography of the Dutch Wadden Islands. I now want to make this my next vacation destination.

- Half of the flight attendants are Japanese. Around what I believe is 04.00, one of them walks the aisles asking if people would like ice cream or Japanese noodles. For a moment I think this is the call for breakfast. It is not.

- While waiting in line for the airplane bathroom I wonder why, if this is a non-smoking flight, is there an ashtray built into the outer surface of the bathroom door.

 

Friday, 1 May

- Fly in to Narita. No problems buying the train ticket to Tokyo once I found an ATM. The trip to Tokyo went without a hitch.

- Bought a thing of maki rolls and a bottle of iced tea for under ¥600. I am excited – so excited, in fact, that I completely forget about the maki until the next morning. Train ride from Tokyo to Sendai was also fine. No luck up to now with using the phones to try and get a hold of Anna or her parents, but at least I keep getting all of my change back.

- Man next to me on the train from Tokyo to Sendai eventually moves to a different row. Is the smell of rancid airplane really THAT bad?!?

- Anna’s mom finds me in the Sendai station right after I learn from the Information Centre how to correctly dial a phone number in-country.

- The train ride to Ishinomaki (?) is spent catching up a bit with Anna’s parents. Anna meets us at the train station to pick us up and drive back to Maiya.

- Driving takes place on the funny side of the road. Anna is very adept at not killing us.

- Once at Anna’s flat in Maiya, I finally get to shower. This is the highlight of my day.

- We eat dinner at Marumatsu with some of Anna’s fellow ALT people. This turns into one of what will probably be many sushi-comas to come.

 

Saturday, 2 May

- We have a late morning and I remember about my maki rolls. Repeat coma. The rolls are stuffed with egg, crab, cucumber, eel, tuna and some kind of mystery fish. I barely make it through three of the 6 rolls before feeling like this is much too much food. Note: the rolls are a little smaller in diameter than my palm.

- Later we drive up the coast to see rock formations in R–, K– and Oya K–.

- We walk and walk and walk and walk. I am thoroughly enjoying myself! Anna and I stand around a bit in the Pacific Ocean, do a bit of catching up. While driving we see a large Hello Kitty statue. Anna says we’ll stop by it on the drive back down – I’m happy we don’t.

- We eat dinner at a café-restaurant called Aiyama, which is slightly hidden-away, but very popular with locals. The restaurant has a western feel to it interior wise and the food is inspired by Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Everything is really good. Dessert for me consists of two banana-caramel cappuccinos. I’m told the tapioca is delicious, but because it’s tapioca, I hold off. Purchased a CD from a local artist playing music that is supposedly typical of the area.

- Before heading back to Anna’s flat we stop at Loc City, which is a mall and has a huge Wal-Mart or Target-like store. I am giddy at the prospect of walking up and down aisles of… of anything, really. I stock up on a few necessities, including Japanese chocolate, which I feel obliged to test out before I commit to bringing some back for people.

- The drive back to Anna’s is spent talking, listening to a mix of The Current Song of the Day selections and singing along to them, all with the Touchberry family.

Japanness!

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Konichiwa!

Today marks my first morning in Japan! Anna and I spent some time talking last night before we fell asleep, most of it revolving around freaking out about how cool and weird it was to be in the same place again, talking about random things, instead of trying to catch each other on Skype. Yesterday was mostly transportation and involuntary naps on trains, with the night ending with a sushi and udon noodle coma and Baskin Robbins ice cream. Today we’re probably going to drive to the eastern coast, maybe do some sight seeing. Don’t hold your breath for updates every day, but I’ll keep a bullet-point list of stuff that happens and post when I can, or when I get back!

Happy May, everyone!