Japan 2013 Part 1

Came back from Japan last week Tuesday around 2pm, after my flight leaving Tokyo was delayed for about 1 and a half hours. We had already all boarded the plane and were waiting for the plane to start taxiing and all before the announcement about a refuelling problem came over the PA system and apologised for the short delay. Exhausted and glad that I had the entire row to myself, I went to sleep.  When I woke up about an hour later I discovered that our plane still had not budged one bit! Seemed a strange end to a trip that had been marked by extremely efficient transport.

Fri - 5th July 2013 - Singapore to Tokyo
Joaquin picked me up from Haneda airport around 11pm when my flight came in, which was nice :) We took the JR line train all the way to Kanda station, then got lost for a bit before figuring out the way to the hotel. We had originally wanted to take a taxi, but the taxi drivers didn't seem to understand the address/us, so we ended up walking about 20 minutes+ all the way to the hotel through the business district, sticky and uncomfortable from the heat of the night.

Next to the hotel, Hotel Horidome Villa (which I can't possibly recommend more!), was a nice Family Mart. There I bought some odd aglio olio pasta to eat because I was incredibly hungry, and some other light snacks. I admit to being thrilled by the selection they had in the shop, and had great trouble deciding what to get. By the time I had showered, eaten and unpacked, it was already about 1:30am in the morning, and I was exhausted. Went to sleep late that night.

Sat - 6th July 2013 - Tokyo
Woke up around 11am because we were exhausted from yesterday. We groggily showered and headed out of the room, and grabbed a bite at one of those cheap vending-machine-rice-don places nearby before hopping on the subway and heading to Shibuya. One of the things I really wanted to look for when we got there was the statue of Hachiko, and I wanted to take a photo next to it. However Hachiko was surrounded by bored looking Japanese waiting for their friends, and I felt awkward. Ended up taking a picture of Joaquin next to it instead.

Based on the recommendations of the Shibuya tourist guide we picked up, we headed for Tokyu Hands department store, which is MY MOST FAVOURITE DEPARTMENT STORE ON EARTH (that place used to be taken by El Corte Ingles). It's filled with an assortment of things like bicycles, backpacks, cute stationary and a lovely rooftop cafe. We spent quite some time there, much to Joaquin's chagrin, and I bought random stuff like a stretchy banana for my brother and llama stickers. When we finally ventured out of the store we were hit by a wave of incredible heat (a theme that repeated every few hours, every day for out entire trip) and we walked about, people watching, before going into a Uniqlo. Joaquin bought clothes and I bought a hat for 990 yen.

After that we got lost looking for Bic Camera (which we thought was Big Camera), which was frustrating cause we were both getting tired and overheated - and ended up resting in a Mcdonald's. Then we walked towards Harajuku and Omotesando, and looked for food. We ended up in some odd basement place that sold udon, which was good, and then we walked about for a little bit more before taking the train back to Suitengumae and our hotel. We were both exhausted and tired, and ended up watching My Neighbour Totoro before going to bed. The heat was crazy punishing!

Sun - 7th July 2013 - Tokyo
We woke up around 10am this time, still fairly tired, and headed for the Edo-Tokyo Museum over at Ryogoku. Before that, I think we ate some cheap chirashi-don somewhere near the subway station. It was a nice museum, which explained the history of Tokyo and had all these sort of nice life-sized models of old houses. There were interactive exhibits too, for you to pick up and pose with, like night soil buckets and penny farthings. Leaving the museum, we hopped onto the JR line and went to Akihabara (which Mona, Joaquin's friend, called 'creepy town' to my amusement).

The place was swarming with guys, and most of the single females there seemed to be working and were dressed up in silly cosplay-like outfits, all melting as they stood at the pavement to attract business.  We entered some shops and random, and found stuff like anime crackers and figurines, cosplaying stuff. My favourite shop was this one shop filled with gashapon machines, stacked up on top of one another. The creepiest stuff like of naked little girls was on the top, but the bottom machines had stuff like cat magnets and rambo figurines, for about 200 yen each. I think the porny ones were 400 yen++. I felt happy being there 'cause it really reminded me of being a child HAHA, and ended up spending about 1000 yen on random things.

After that, we headed to Ueno station to meet Mona. It was raining, so we ended up hiding in the station for a bit before heading to a Panda Cafe in Ueno Park itself to wait out the rain. Upon leaving we came across another gashapon machine and I got a cute red panda handphone thingy upon my second try! The first was a normal panda which we gave to Mona. Then we walked around the park before heading to the Ameyoko side to walk about. Dinner was at a smoky izakaya, and after that we went to sing karaoke for an hour. I chose Ray Charles' Hit the Road Jack and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody to sing, haha. Then, we said goodbye to Mona and went back to the hotel.

Mon - 8th July 2013 - Tokyo to Takayama
We checked out and got to Tokyo Station around 9am to get our JR Passes arranged, and have breakfast at Mcdonald's before boarding the shinkansen to Nagoya. On the train, I fell dead asleep and luckily woke up about 20 minutes before the train was due to stop at Nagoya. I managed to get a sandwich at the station before we boarded the next Hida train to Takayama. The Hida train had these large nice glass windows you could look out of as the train wound its way through the valleys of the Japanese alps, and the other tourists in the train kept taking photos.

We arrived at Takayama station around 2:10pm and went to look for a place to grab a bite for Joaquin. We found a nice cafe and I sneakily ate my sandwich there, while he enjoyed a sandwich and a coffee. We went back to the station after that and called the minshuku we were supposed to stay at - Iwatakan - and they told us to take a cab there. We arrived at the minshuku to find it completely empty of guests except for us, and rested a while before decided to venture out. Again it was meltingly hot, and we had great trouble looking for a place to even buy a bottle of water. Takayama was a small town, in the middle of off-peak season. Somewhere along the line Joaquin walked into some blinds which had a pole of wood hidden inside, and started to feel dizzy as a result. We ended up resting by the riverside for a bit before walking back.

That night we had dinner in the minshuku. It was huge, and exquisite. After dinner we went to enjoy the hot springs in the minshuku itself, and ate some of the squished plums that I had bought earlier.

Tues - 9th July 2013 - Takayama
We were woken up dreadfully early in the morning by the landlady for breakfast, which again was huge and great. Then we went up to sleep again HAHA. We finally left around 10am with bicycles, and cycled over to the main station to catch a bus to Hida Folk Village. On our way there, we stopped by a morning market and I had an ice cream and Joaquin a coffee. I also bought some small knickknacks, like a green sarubobo doll magnet.

When we arrived at Hida Folk Village, the place was pretty empty. The first section had children's toys like traditional water shooters made out of bamboo and stilts, while the rest were old traditional houses of all types that had been moved for various reasons. There we saw all types of gassho-zukris. I don't even remember how many houses we saw... must've been something like 15! The small rest house with the vending machines was great there too, and I accidentally bought an iced cocoa instead of iced milk tea for 120 yen, and it was damned the tastiest thing I ever had. While waiting for the bus back, we were so hungry that we went to the gift shop to eat stale free samples.

After getting back to the main town area, we immediately went to look for lunch and settled at some beef place near the main bridge across the river. I remember being ravenously hungry, and it being about 2pm. When we finished, we cycled about the old town area to look at the old Edo-style houses, like the Kusakabe House. Then we doubled back to one of my favourite museums ever, the Showa Museum which featured all sorts of random items from the 1950s and 1960s. Although it was stifling inside the museum, we spent a good 45 minutes at least in that tiny place exploring all the rooms like a hairdresser's, camera shop and even a classroom. LOVED the place.

We headed over to sannomachi after that, and parked our bikes and walked around. When we had walked through all the lanes of sannomachi, we cycled about a bit more before sitting by the riverside. I read a bit of The Tiger's Wife while Joaquin napped, as we waited for dinner time to come. Finally when the sun started to set around 6:30pm, we went to cycle about and look for food, and found a nice place. I had a pork shabu shabu for about 1400 yen, which I remember being absolutely delicious :) then we cycled back and headed to the nearby Lawsons first, before being stunned by the sheer amount of caucasian tourists there. They were all clutching fruit to their breasts. I remember wondering where the hell they had gotten the fruit from.

Sure enough when we got back to the minshuku we were greeted by an army of indoor slippers taken out at the foyer. We were no longer alone in the minshuku. From the bits of information we overheard, the large group had come from a tour. They were pleasant and non-rowdy. About half the group was middle aged, and the rest in their twenties as far as I could tell. Still it was hard not to feel a bit grudging towards them, considering that we had the run of the place the day before. I remember reading more at night, before going to sleep.


I actually went to work today, to clear some stacks that had been weighing on my mind and conscience. I was pretty damn grumpy, especially in the beginning, especially since the kopitiam uncles gave me Teh instead of Teh Ping ): At about 2:30pm, I met up with Tiff for a break since she was giving tuition downstairs and we had the tea time set thing in Bakerzin. Like tai tais, but without actually having the free time or the money. Then I headed back to work till about 5:15pm, when my parents came to give me a lift home. I am still unshowered, having spent the last 1 and half hours writing this. Still, it's nice because it allows me to relive a very, very nice holiday :)


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