Monday, December 14, 2015

heads up

i'm not going to be posting on this blog site anymore. i've moved all the previous posts and will continue to update on my main blog (which is a culmination of all my smaller blogs - this one (japan-related stuff), my hong kong travel blog, my twilight-interest blog, and my personal stupid rambling - all in one place). 

if you are interested in my japan trip pictures and other thoughts related to my obsession with japan, the people, culture, language, history, etc., please bookmark/follow

arigatou, ne~

Sunday, April 19, 2015


so~ i've been back home for 4 days now. two of them, i completely slept through. literally. the day we got home, i was asleep for over 24 hours. the next day, hubby and i went up to orillia to casino rama because he had won free tickets to see wanda sykes. i really like her but i wasn't pleased to be travelling again so soon. it was worth it though.
then i needed to finish recuperation. i think i'm good now. i can walk. that's a good sign. (i seriously think i did some permanent damage to my feet and ankles.)
i want to start on updating the blog. i knew it was unrealistic to say i'd keep up with it while on the trip. i just didn't want to say so because saying so makes it inevitable. there was still a teeny tiny chance. but we spent the entire day every day running around and only had a few hours each night at the hotel. hubby needed the computer first to just edit and upload his pictures. (check them out on facebook, if we're friends ~ you can see them in my albums too.) by the time i got my turn, there was just not enough time to even narrow down my choices, let alone edit them and write anything about the day. i did get the first 4 days up though. that's better than last time and hong kong!
even without blogging, i still only got about 3-4 hours of sleep a night. i was up really early every day. the latest i slept in was 8 o'clock, i think, and that was only one time. 
but~ now that i'm home and have all the time in the world, i can't start quite yet. i have an etsy order i have to complete and ship out in the next two days. when that is out of the way, i will get to work. i don't want to forget the little details like i did last time. 
one of my favourite sakura pictures from my favourite area in kyoto

Thursday, April 16, 2015

day 6: yokohama

today, we left tokyo and headed south to yokohama to visit chinatown - the largest chinatown in asia - and the shin-yokohama raumen museum.

the courtyard on our floor of our hotel

we are both soooo tired -
not the best way to be just starting the day

parade of suits

everywhere you look are business men in black suits

NOT the right track...

i had preplanned all of our out-to-tokyo train trips. we had to go first to tokyo station. that part was easy enough. my plan had said track 7 was where to catch one headed to yokohama. it wasn't the same time as my plan though. (i think we had just missed it - i woke up later than i had planned but took less than getting there than i thought.) it didn't LOOK like the right train. (*note: i learned later how to figure out which train is coming on a multi-train track - as in the sign in the picture above.) i popped my head into the train that was there and just asked no one in particular, "yokohama?" several people answered me 'no' (or gestured X with their arms). what happened next illustrates how wonderful travelling in another country can be - especially when that country is japan...
a lady on the platform behind me, in pretty good english, told us we needed to be on the next track over. (we were currently on 7/8 and needed to be on 9/10.) after thanking her profusely, we headed back down the stairs to get to the right area - but for SOME reason i'm unclear on now, we thought we should get this new information confirmed by someone who actually worked there. we went into the JR office and asked the man working there how to get to yokohama. he however did not speak english very well and confused me further. i switched to my pygmy-japanese and asked "nan sei? kyu-sei?" (which platform? number nine?). i realized afterwards that he said "juu-sei, kyu-sei" meaning ten or nine, but i thought, in my frazzled mental state that he said 19. oddly enough, the singage back outside the office stated that track 19 was a shinkansen to yokohama... i was SO confused and flustered that i almost started crying. but we just made the decision to stick with what the helpful lady has said IN ENGLISH and hope for the best. we got on the next train that arrived on that platform and crossed our fingers. turned out, we just should have done that from the beginning. but it made for a rough start to the morning.

seifuku - high school uniforms -
are a complex and fascinating thing in japan.
each school has their own and neighbourhood people
can identify students and base reputations of the
school on the behaviour of students out in the community.

we had to transfer at yokohama station to ishikawacho. that wasn't too troublesome. but once we got there, we learned another lesson (or at least had another one reinforced). DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAIN PLATFORM UNTIL YOU LOCATE THE CORRECT EXIT. we just got off the train and went down the nearest set of stairs. things are a little different there than they are here in toronto. here, we have only 2 lines and stations are teeny tiny in comparison. if you just get off the subway and walk upstairs, if you want to exit the station from a certain door, you just walk through the station to that door. in japan, stations are HUGE. and there doesn't seem to be the option to walk through to another exit. we only saw the one way out at the bottom of the stairs so we went that way. once outside, i had NO clue where we were. since we weren't in tokyo anymore, i didn't think the stations would be massive as they are there. i was so wrong.
also, since were weren't in tokyo anymore, the preloaded maps on hubby's phone were useless to us. we hadn't loaded yokohama when we had wifi and the gps doesn't seem to be working without it. 
apparently, we exited out into the motomachi shopping area and had to walk even more (ouch!) and hope for the best. i was pissed because i had a whole route planned out to see the 10 gates of chinatown in the most efficient manner. oh well.
motomachi is sort of a cool looking area. hubby said it reminded him of old montreal. everything was still closed though. 

hubby had to check out what the pharmacy looked like
river under the highway
the first gate we encountered - suzakumon - the south gate

infomation for tourists... who read japanese

from the other side -
showing where we had just come from

i also learned my camera doesn't
do well with backlighting

i'm always fascinated looking down alleys

entrance to ma zhu miao (masobyo) temple

i totally got "chinatowned" here. (hubby's expression - meaning talked into buying something you don't want with a long-winded spiel.) we walked in, all touristy, taking pictures and stuff and approached the temple itself. there was a lady up there who i guess wanted to show us around and explain the significance of things and how to make a prayer. at first she asked (in japanese) if hubby spoke japanese. they obviously go to him first since he COULD possibly be japanese (but is second-generation chinese-canadian - as in doesn't speak chinese really either). i answered her in japanese that he doesn't understand anything in japanese at all (zenzen wakarimasen). i'm always reluctant to speak any japanese to anyone because a.) i REALLY suck at it, and b.) i don't want to mislead them into thinking i can carry on a conversation. i mentioned this to my friend yesterday and she said "but they are so appreciative when you even try" so i thought i'd chance it. and exactly what i was worried about happened. she started prattling away in japanese. i told her (after she asked) that i could only speak a little bit, but i am not sure if she realized exactly how little i could understand. she tried so hard though to say things in english as much as she could. i felt kind of dumb throughout the entire exchange but i appreciated her effort. i understood maybe about 20% of what she told me, but she was sweet anyway. so, i paid my 100 yen, made a prayer, and listened to the explanation of the statues (one for students who want to do well in their studies and the other for pregnant ladies for safe and healthy carrying and baby, from what i caught). regardless, it's a beautiful temple. 

the detail is captivating

up the street from the temple, is the china museum - daisekai. it opens at 10 (it was about 9:30 when we got there) but the gift shop on the first floor was open. it was just a bunch of panda trinkets and regular souvenir stuff. nothing great. we planned to come back later on once we had all our pictures of all the gates, but ended up skipping it. directly across from it is another gate. everything is very busy and overwhelming so it's easy to miss the gates, but i had mapped them all out and knew exactly where the were.

one of the 'inner' chinatown gates - chikyuumon -
there are two of these ones at opposite ends of the street

pair of gold fudogs outside daisekai

there was a fortune in his mouth

"why are you making me do this?"

misplaced - that is where my fingers are inside the gloves

love the sign stating this is a "photo spot"

upper floors not open yet


this is what china is famous for? just pandas?
and back off, ladies. he's all mine.

gate with daisekai in the background

another alley

paintings all over the side of a building

painting of the monkey king - sun wukong.
i have a mild obsession with him.
i may even get a tattoo of it someday.

funny shirt in a window

i was so pissed when we got to the third gate and it was covered up for construction. as it happened, 4 of the 10 were. boooooooo. 

the east gate - chouyoumon

not impressed

sega game arcade - china-fied

koban - chinatown version

merry christmas?

that's an impressive sanpuru display

roasted chestnuts is a chinatown treat -
i wasn't interested but he did try to sell us

(i'm not getting chinatowned twice in one day...)

he seems thrilled about the sesame ball i bought for him
(i don't know what they are called in japanese - goma something -
but they are ti doi in cantonese and hubby's favourite thing at dim sum)

another gate - one of the ichibadoorimon
(there are 2 of these ones too,
running perpendicular to the other 2-fers)

crappy camera -
this WOULD have been a good shot

yokohama chinatown is interesting, but a bit of a letdown if you're expecting an 'authentic' chinatown experience. i have been to a few chinatowns (toronto, san francisco, etc. - and hong kong really is just like one giant chinatown), but this doesn't really seem like one to me. it seems like a china-themed japanese town. one thing about all the chinatowns i've been to is that they are full of chinese people. passing people on the street and listening to them speak, everyone who actually worked here was japanese and the only chinese people we encountered were tourists. 

i saw a youtube video that had these dumplings in it
 - they are filled with soup

gate # 5 - the second ichibadoorimon

more chestnuts

fun with statues

gazebo = old people hangout

back-tracked to the second gate again from the other side

'sup dawg?

fu-dogs are another one of those little things i love
(this time an example of a chinese thing, not japanese,
even though they are seen a lot in japan too)
- probably stemming from this book i had as a kid

preschool in the background -
this is where i would like to work if i were to ever move to japan
(well, not here, specifically, but a japanese preschool)

entrance to kwan tai (kanteibyo) temple
(we learned our lesson from the first temple 

and just took pictures from a safe distance)

the roof is kind of amazing

pandas, pandas everywhere
(although pandas are my favourite animal and i love them, 
i find it almost offensive that this is what the 
foreign view of china has been reduced to. 
there are SO many other fantastic elements to highlight.)
ANOTHER gate under construction - second of the chikyuumon

ma cooking school  :)

still not impressed

and another one under construction - yokohama chinatown, you suck!
and i was sad because this is one of my favourite ones -
the west gate, empeimon 

- it's very pretty, but you'll just have to take my word for it

i had a feeling this was the end of the blossoms -
they are mostly on the ground now

a jamacian store? i've never felt closer to china...

and across the street from that was a hawaiian store

part of the fun of researching a trip is using google maps -
there are quite a few locations in chinatown that feature
the insides as well and because of that, 

i know what the interior of this restaurant looks like

probably the most famous of the chinatown gates - zenrinmon
stores and restaurants were now open
and things were getting busy

it's hard to get a shot without people in it -
at least their selfie session was cute

china square - a mall thing we did not go into because
we were annoyed and just wanted to finish and get out

cut or uncut?: dyeing your dog's fur

EVERYWHERE you look, they sell nikuman in chinatown,
so i had to try it out

and i got a bikkle!

it's... not awful

watch out, kids!

the north gate - genbumon
one of my favourites. i'm glad this one wasn't covered up.

once we had hit all the gates (within actual chinatown), and i had food in my belly (i also bought 2 cha siu bao or bbq pork buns at a bakery), we left and headed back for the station. we were both ready to move on. i'm not sure if i will ever go back to yokohama again. and right now, i'm okay with that.

seiyoumon (or nishibimon) -
the last gate, outside the ishikawacho station
(where we were supposed to exit this morning)
 - this one technically isn't IN chinatown

my feelings on yokohama chinatown, summed up

but at least we did it!
the 10 gates of chinatown

randoseru - backpacks for elementary school kids -
these things are like $350 each and usually bought for
a child by their grandparents when they start school

i decided to stick to exactly what was in my plans to get us to the ramen museum. it was a few hours earlier but i had learned from our morning debacle and made sure we took the right train. (this was a multi-train track too.) luckily, the trains are colour-coded so it's easy to tell when one you need to take. we took the keihin-tohoku line rapid train to higashi-kanagawa and transferred to the yokohama line train to shin-yokohama.

i matched up the last stop listed to the "bound for ~" on the train


getting out of the station to the right exit and on the move towards the ramen museum was really easy. within the station, things were well-labelled and once we got outside, i knew where i was going from my 'wandering around' on google maps street view. 

there are a different line up of konbini in this visit from last. am/pm seems to be completely gone. the main players are 7-11, family mart, and lawson. daily yamazaki is rare and new days is not as popular as the big ones but most popular in train stations.

starbucks is a nice place to stop and rest your feet.
i am REALLY going to miss matcha lattes.

shin-yokohama raumen museum

you may notice ramen is 'spelled wrong'... in japanese, it's written RA~ ME N. part of the phonetic lengthening of vowels sometimes adds a U, but usually only after O (and E is lengthened with I). it's not pronounced like 'au' in english, but just held longer.

the "museum" is very cool. the ground floor has a few exhibit-y type things but it's more a just a gift shop (which carries completely non-ramen-related things) with a few displays. it's the two basement floors that are of interest. the lowest level (B2) is staged like an outdoor area of the 1950's and has 5 ramen restaurants there and a performance area where shows are put on daily. today, there was a guy spinning light-up stuff, like yo-yos or something. idk. i wasn't really paying attention. B1 has 3 more restaurants, i think, and the hallway running around the back (including one of the restaurants) is supercool, like a winding tokyo backstreet at night. hubby managed 2 bowls while we were there. i had one and a dessert. the first place we went to was in B2 in the lefthand corner at the back (pictured below). hubby had tonkotsu and i had chashumen. it didn't taste bad but freaked me out because it had a film on it as it cooled. 

the place we ate at is in the bottom right corner of this picture

the performance area and more seating for eating

because of the stupid set-up of my blog, you'll have to
click on these panoramas to see the detail - sorry

signage of the first ramen spot we visited

view inside - we ate in the "patio" area and
didn't actually go inside. it was pretty busy.

view behind me, looking back at the stairs

the 50's street atmosphere vibe is really cool

hubby's tonkotsu and my chashumen

the filmy skum on the top was strange -
i've never seen that on ramen before

even the ticket vending machines are made to look old -
i'm not sure if they actually existed back then though

our orders were right next to each other
- and i could actually read most of it

server cleaning up our food after we left

security guards are always so serious

guy doing a light-up stuff performance
 - spinning and juggling something

is the basement sacred?
idk - but people do take ramen very seriously

crappy blurry picture of the second spot we ate at (B1)

only a few people in this one - it was much bigger though

one bowl was enough for me, so i got almond jelly -
on top is a piece of pickled plum

order ticket that comes out of the machine

hubby got shoyu (soy sauce) ramen this time

from where we ate, to the right starts a
snaking alley around the back of the museum

the detail they put into it is incredible

dagashiya were an integral part of neighbourhoods back then

it really is like stepping into the past
- i suppose it's pretty nostalgic for the older generation

there is one more restaurant back here too

always always waiting

tiny shrine on the ground

old fashioned koban!

even the stairway was treated in 1950's
fashion to look like a train station

another view of B2 before we went back upstairs
- B1 runs along the back of those upper facades

entrance to the gift shop and display area (ground floor)

weird and creepy

you can buy prepackaged ramen ingredients
separately and create your own flavours

i'm sure it was all very interesting
but it was all in japanese and i couldn't read anything

the "gifts" actually had nothing at all to do with ramen

this was the only section that had ramen-related things to buy

and... a race track -
cause, it has nothing to do with ramen, but why not?

and anime figures, of course
- hubby actually bought one

display about ramen around the world

this drawing is of a lady who is on tv a lot -
 no idea who she is or what her name is or
what she does, but i keep seeing her everywhere

captain jack was hanging out outside of
restaurant on the way back to the station

his expression - like, did i say you could have some of my drink?
lol. i'm a dork...

shin-yokohama JR station -
it's quite big inside. there is a bic camera and a uniqlo and other stores.
hubby did some shopping while i rested my feet.

peking opera monkey king mask i had bought in chinatown
- i seriously want to incorporate this into a tattoo design

our first ride on the shinkansen so far on this trip -
tickets can be expensive but are covered with our JR passes

MUCH better travelling on these instead of the regular trains

shinkansen selfie

i think the lady behind us can see us being stupid

this doesn't seem safe -
2 kids standing up on the seats while the train was moving

views from the train

since it was still early in the day, we wanted to cross another thing off our list. nakano broadway was actually on our "plan b" list of things to do. since we aren't going to the ghibli museum anymore :( we were planning to go to nakano on wednesday, but we had extra time (due to the disappointment of chinatown). 
to get there, we went back to tokyo station (on the shinkansen from shin-yokohama - a much easier experience from the morning. the guy in the JR office spoke english and gave us reserved seating tickets when we showed him our passes.) where we transferred to the chuo line (i believe that is the MOST ridden line in tokyo...). nakano is on the chuo line. i had researched how to get to broadway from the station, so it was easy. 
nakano broadway is sort of like a mall - not the super huge shopping centres we have now, but the old style ones (ie. small and dingy and usually a straight line with a few floors). for the past several years, it has been a destination for otaku (anime and manga geeks) aside from akihabara. the 2nd and 3rd floors are mostly all stores dealing in geek stuff (figures, comics, dvds, collectibles, etc.). mandarake is a chain that is well-known for this stuff. there are several locations (including shibuya, which we had been to on saturday, and akihabara, which we will go to tomorrow) and nakano broadway is one of them. i could give you more info about the mall, but... you can google it. (or just click on the links i provided already.) i was in too much pain to follow hubby around as he shopped so i just parked it in a hallway and waited for him. i got a lot of strange looks for sitting on the floor, but i was beyond caring. 

kinokuniya - a supermarket chain - is another name i
recognized from my japanese on the go audio tape
(mentioned a million times already).
i saw a satellite bakery store in nakano station
and had to go in and buy something. 

i bought a baumkuchen cake and a mint green tea

baumkuchen is another "thing" in japan - i had been
hoping to come across one of those shops where you
can see them making it, but no such luck yet

right outside nakano station is the entrance to sun plaza -
a covered shopping arcade leading up to nakano broadway

love that sign

ramen place we passed on the way -
a possibility for dinner after shopping

a side street off the main covered area

i really want a tanuki statue!
they are pretty expensive though and might
get broken in my suitcase on the way home

the entrance to the shopping centre is at the very end of the stretch

just inside the door and to the right was a large
display case filled with studio ghibli stuff
- i love that mononoke mask

the coolest things were these scupltures of the dvd art
 - crazy expensive though

the first floor shows off the "former" purpose of nakano broadway
 - a shopping place for old people ;P

peko-chan statue standing outside a fujiya shop
 - dressed for easter? i'm not sure

outside of the main mandarake store (3F)
- there are a lot of little shops throughout the
2F and 3F that are part of the chain as well

what i do while i'm the one waiting - organize!

a must-have souvenir to bring back from
your trip to tokyo - tokyo banana
(we bought this package of 8 at tokyo station while we were transferring)

instead of having more ramen, we just opted for mcdonald's for dinner, back out in the sun plaza. there was another gaijin in line and i was jealous that she spoke japanese. she ordered for the people she was with after they discussed their options in english (making it clear they were a party of tourists). 

after taking the train back from nakano, to shinjuku, to tamachi, i COULD NOT take another step so hubby sprang for a cab from tamachi station back to our hotel. it was so close that the meter didn't even go up, but worth it. 
i may have mentioned how much i love japanese taxis already ~ but i'll say it again. i love japanese taxis. they are NOTHING like the cabs we are used to in canada, or america, or anywhere else i've seen. it feels much more like hiring a private driver than anything else. they are professional and clean. and the entire inside is covered in... lace doilies? lol. just the fact that the doors open and close automatically is a win in my point of view. 
(p.s. those cards i made with our hotel info on them came in handy.)