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17 September 2015 @ 06:26 am
Japan, oh man!  
What is this nonsense!? Wasn't I just writing in this thing? Oh right, yes, I was. HAHAHA.

Welcome to the Father-Daughter Japan Trip 2015! We're three days in (four, if you account for time-travel) and it's been a parade of delicious food and shenanigans so far. Let me catch you up!


We left Vancouver at around 1:40pm – or actually, more like 2:30 because of some sort of mechanical issue. We were flying Air Canada, on a brand new plane, and it was a pretty impressive set up! We had plenty of room in our seats, a brand new in-flight entertainment system, and they actually fed us more than we needed.

Our neighbour (who was technically booked to sit between us, but I traded with her) was a young (late-teens) lady moving to Japan for a working holiday. She was pretty cool, and enthusiastic, and really obviously had never been on a plane before (or at least recently) because she was in shock that there was entertainment to choose from.

Dad and I kept ourselves busy with said entertainment. I watched Spy, Inside Out (for a third time, YES), three episodes of Modern Family, Four episodes of Jane the Virgin, Pitch Perfect 2, and an episode of Blackish. Dad watched a few movies – and played a bunch of games. They had games like trivia, solitaire, and even a game of pool that I swear I played back when AddictingGames.com was a thing. There were even language-learning games, although those were pretty garbage, disappointingly.

I spent a lot of time practicing my Hiragana and Katakana too, so I could read through a few signs over here. Which seems to actually have worked – I can read things fairly easily now!

They fed dad a couple of “vegetarian asian meals”, as per his request. I neglected to ask how they were. I'll ask now. “Unremarkable”, he says. Didn't make much of an impression. My first meal was pretty delicious – it was a beef rice bowl. The second one was chicken karaage on rice which was gross. More like squishy batter on rice. In retrospect I should have gone with the beef stroganoff – but I had dreams the karaage might be good!

Then we landed – a full day and two hours later. So, I'm gonna count that as


I briefly sat down to hook up to Wi-fi immediately after we got off the plane (Fatherly unit made a trip to the bathroom in the meantime) and a toddler – just under 3 years old, by my guess – walked up to me and stared at me.

I said “Hello!” cheerfully.

At which point he raised his arm and smacked my phone out of my hand and onto the floor.

I shouted “Hey!” startling many nearby people, and then the kid was rushed away by his parents. I think I looked too amused for them to feel the need to apologize – although now that I think of it they may not have seen what happened.

We walked out into the airport after a quick trip through customs, and our first goal was: find some way to connect to the outside world. We had been reading up on SIM cards and pocket Wi-Fi, and they both seemed complicated to get, but on the surface, a pocket Wi-Fi device SEEMED to be the most useful. However... it also turned out to be way too damn expensive! Especially considering how easy it is to load my Nexus with a new SIM. So now I'm hooked up to the web all the time! Huzzah, the future~

So that took about an hour and a half (there was an involved set-up system to go through) and then we had to pick up our JR Passes. These are passes that will get us EVERYWHERE for these next two weeks. They give us free transit on any JR trains (with rare exceptions) – which has even given us transit around Tokyo. They're super convenient!

So we pick up our passes, get a reservation on the Narita Express, and take off for Shinjuku Station.

One thing Japanese trains have over UK trains: their seats rotate! While they were getting the train ready, we saw them spin them all around to face the way the train was heading. As somebody with motion sickness: THANK YOU. THANK YOU THANK YOU.

So we ride on the train about an hour and 15 minutes, get into Shinjuku Station, get off the train, go to head out of the station to our hotel...

I walked through the gate ahead of dad. Then I noticed he wasn't following, turned around, and saw him with a horrified expression on his face.


This is what happens when you're jet-lagged (and not an obsessive freak about double-checking you have all your stuff exactly where it's supposed to be like I am) – you lose a vital travel document at the first possible opportunity.

So – oh boy, our exhausted selves were not up for this – but we headed for the station office. There we met an older man who got flustered at all of our English-speaking, and his junior, who came out and repeated everything the older man said, as if that made it clearer.

They told us the train would arrive at its terminus station (Omiya) at 8:50, so we had to wait there for news, and if they found it, we would have to go to Omiya – about 45 minutes away.

Long story short – they found it, we went all the way to Omiya, found an even sketchier station office that we needed to cross through a gate and knock on the door to find out anybody even existed inside. And he gave us the pass! And his office was closing in 10 minutes, so thank goodness.

Then it was all the way back to Shinjuku, and about 11 o'clock we finally got into our hotel – which is so nice! They upgraded our room for us so it's really spacious. It has a japanese style bathroom. The toilet is separate from the bath, which itself is split into the showering section & bathing section. If you don't know how it works, you're supposed to shower separately and then get into the bath solely for the purposes of relaxing. It's pretty nice to laze around in there! ...Actually I might do that tonight before bed.

But, with our adventures done – after checking in with everyone at home, who was just waking up – we crawled into bed and fell fast asleep.

DAY 3.

Predictably, the Fatherly Unit woke up nice and early, and went on a mission to collect a light breakfast of yogurt and juice and coffee for us. As it turns out, Japanese coffee is MEGA BITTER and I am not having it. Milk tea and lemon tea FTW.

I rolled out of bed and got ready kind of slowly – the cure to jet lag is to go to bed at a reasonable hour and spend the first night sleeping as long as you feel the need to, I find. So we didn't get out the door until around 11:30.

First order of business: find a place for lunch, because breakfast was small, and also like 2 hours ago. I asked the people at the front desk for recommendations, but they just looked confused and smiled apologetically. I guess restaurant recommendations are not a thing here. I wonder if restaurants in Vancouver are any good at providing suggestions. I could write a guide by now. Ahaha.

What the front desk DID do for us, helpfully, is give us a map that showed where the local restaurant district is. We wandered that way and were pretty quickly spoiled for choice. We settled on a seafood place specializing in sushi, but Dad had been hunting for a seafood soup, so he got a fish soup and some squid dumplings. I had a Chirashi don, and the seafood was SOOOOO FRESH. Like, we wandered into some random place and got the best sushi I've had in my life. Oh God. I'm going to be ruined for Japanese food when I'm back.

From there, we were just spending the day wandering, so I led us to Harajuku – where we wandered through the busy streets, saw a ton of places selling crepes, and some cool fashion houses. Tons of restaurants too! You're never far from good food here.

From there, we walked all the way to Shibuya (a bit over 20 minutes) to see the scramble crossing that you see in all the movies. I didn't realize that that intersection is where Hachiko (a statue of a famous loyal dog – look it up!) sits, and when I saw where the statue was I got super excited and ran over to take pictures. There was a big set-up around Hachiko, though, because some company was filming a tourist video. It was in Japanese and English, and starred a Japanese woman and an American (maybe Canadian) guy. I felt bad for the Canadian (or American) guy because he was so, so much less attractive than the woman they paired him with. I mean, he's not even that bad looking, but she was SO CUTE. Geez.

Then we wandered around Shibuya, down back alleys, past pachinko parlours, even past a pet store that exclusively sold puppies. They were SO TINY AND SO CUTE I COULDN'T HANDLE IT. Also they cost like – 2 grand or more. Yipes. Expensive to have pets in this town! If you even have the space for them.

Then we walked up to Yoyogi Park, where we stopped for some drinks and shaved ice (basically a snow cone) and watched some guys try to practice breakdancing between a pair of skip ropes. I was going to grab a picture of them as we left, but they stopped just then. So they'll just have to live on in my memory!

We wandered the park, then, which was really pretty and filled with couples having picnics. We noticed that the crows here are both way bigger than the ones at home and way more skittish. Why are they so much more afraid when they look like they could murder us way more easily? Your guess is as good as mine.

I spent the time wandering in the park trying to find our way up to the Shrine, which on our map looked like it was in the same place. But it wasn't! There was a partition in the park and we had to leave and then come back on the other side to get to the Shrine. I had honestly chosen to go there on a whim and was SHOCKED when I saw how impressive it was. It's called the Meiji shrine, and your first indication that you've found the right place is a 10-foot high Shinto gate made of solid wood. So...

Yeah, that's intimidating.

Then you walk along a beautiful forest path, clearly meant for far more people to travel it than there was that day, and eventually you make it up to the Shrine. There are shrine maidens out at the front selling good-luck charms and votive tablets for you to write a prayer on and put up near a sacred tree. I bought a couple of charms and gave an offering, so hopefully I've got some good luck coming to me!

As beautiful as it was, there wasn't actually much to see at the shrine, so there's not much else for me to say. But it was pretty incredible to see it all the same.

We walked from the shrine back to our hotel in Shinjuku and crashed in the room to give our legs a rest before we went out for dinner. We watched some TV and were both confused and intrigued by it. There's some sort of political boondoggle going on over here between pro-militarization and anti-militarization groups because Japan's bringing in some new legislation to boost the military, or something. It seems like it's a huge issue, and we've even seen some protestors supporting the legislation while we were here. Going to be interesting to watch that develop.

Then we headed out into the night and wandered for a while. Dad's trying not to eat meat out here, which is... difficult. Seafood's available, but lots of things involve some sort of beef or pork stock at the very least, so you have to pick and choose where you eat. After a lot of wandering we settled on a place that seemed pretty promising.

Only problem – which we discovered after settling in – was that people were totally allowed to smoke in the place. It bothered fatherly unit more than me. To be honest, I was impressed at how good the ventilation was. Unless a person was literally directly next to us smoking, it was only a vague smell hanging in the air. Which is good, because it's hard to taste your food when all you can smell is smoke!

This place was pretty traditional izakaya style. We shared pretty much everything. We had a seafood salad, tempura, and half a grilled mackerel. I also had a few yakitori skewers, which were DELICIOUS – although eating just a skewer of chicken skin feels like cheating. ...delicious, delicious cheating.

Dad ordered some sake and it came in a little wooden box, which confused the hell out of him. He couldn't figure out how to drink it without spilling. I have just Googled all about them, they're called masu, and apparently they're to add fragrance and flavour, but they're pretty perplexing to drink out of, apparently.

We escaped the smoky den only to meet up with a light rain outside. Dad wanted to pick up some sake, so I googled the nearest liquor store and we set out for it. I wandered around trying to read the labels on things while dad picked out his sake. I was moderately successful. I wish I had found some umeshu (plum wine) but I couldn't identify any. If we go back I'll just ask where it is.

Then it was back to the hotel, and dad enjoyed some of his sake while we got settled in – and then it was time for bed. At like- 9:30. Gosh. What am I turning into.

DAY 4.

The original plan for today was to go to the Tsukiji fish market, but we hadn't set things up clearly enough, so that's now a tomorrow plan. Today, we did what I wanted! We went to Akihabara.

For those of you not aware, Akihabara is the geek central of Tokyo. It's where you go to find anime and manga and games and all merchandise related to them. It's not the friendliest place for Fatherly Units like mine, but he indulged me.

When we got to Akihabara the first place we stopped was actually for lunch. We went to one of the places with a vending machine outside that you input your order into, put the money in, get a ticket, and then go inside and hand that to the chef to get your food. I had a pork cutlet donburi. Dad had a hot tempura soba soup bowl. I honestly expected the food to be kind of mediocre, but yet again it was SUPER delicious. God damn it, Japan. You just want to ruin me for all food forever?

Then we headed for Mandarake, which is an 8-storey high building full of NOTHING BUT NERDY THINGS. Floor 1 is antique toys, Floor 2 is dolls, Floor 3 is manga, Floor 4 appeared to be “adult” manga, Floor 5 is Manga for women, from the looks of it, because only women were in there and all the BL manga was too. Floor 6 was CDs DVDs and Games, and Floor 7 and 8 were all toys and figurines and collectables. Given the joys that are region-locking, only floor 7 and 8 were really tempting, and despite being tempted by a figurine of Isabelle from Animal Crossing and Madoka from Madoka Magica, I ended up buying a figurine of Sawako from Kimi Ni Todoke because that is my favourite manga OF ALL TIME.

If only they had Phoenix Wright merch!

We were about done in Akihabara after that, at least after I bought a capsule toy starring everybody's favourite shirtless boys from Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, so the next stop was Ikebukuro, because I wanted to visit the Pokemon Center.

Turns out the Pokemon Center is in a MASSIVE building – 58 storeys high at least – and it took some wandering though the mall at the base of it to find the thing, but wow. There is merchandise for Pokemon I haven't even heard of. They were doing a Halloween theme, so there was a bunch of Ghost Pokemon merchandise being featured, and lots of Pikachu dolls dressed up like the ghost Pokemon, too. It was pretty cute.

Only problem was there was an ad on a 30 second loop that was playing over and over and over again the whole time I was there. I would have lingered for way longer if it hadn't been grating on my nerves. As it is, I bought a figurine of Klefki (the most garbage Pokemon outside of Garbador which is literally a pile of garbage) and bailed.

We needed a break, so we had a seat inside an adorable cake shop, where we got iced tea and coffee and a couple of slices of cake. I had the super-stereotypical Japanese Strawberry Shortcake, where the shortcake is absolutely a spongecake and not shortcake, Japan, who do you think you're fooling? But also – it looks so adorable, with the one strawberry perfectly placed, and I have always wanted a slice. Yay!

From Ikebukuro we came back to our hotel, dropped off our stuff and took a brief laundry break (honestly to get rid of the garbage change in our pockets more than anything) before going out to dinner. During this laundry break, there was actually anime on the TV, although it was all kid's stuff, which was odd, given it was like 6pm. There was a tamagotchi show, some show about girls going to a school to learn to be pop idols using magical trading cards (that are totally sold by Bandai IRL... but not actually magic) and then Pokemon was on, which felt pretty appropriate. Ash sure has gotten a serious tan since he left home. Guess that makes sense! It's been years.

For dinner, we went just across the street and had udon soup. Mine had like- incredibly soft, flawless stewed pork in it, and was delicious. Dad thought his was good but not as impressive as the one that morning. More importantly, we had agedashi tofu and chicken karaage (well, I had the karaage) which were amaaaaaazing.

Then we went to the convenience store, I bought a milk tea that for no clear reason has Levi (last name redacted) from Attack on Titan's face on it, and we retired once again to our room.

Where we made plans to wake up bright and early to go to a fish market, so I guess I should go to bed! 7am wake up call!

It still feels surreal that I'm in Japan. It hasn't sunk in at all. I've wanted to come here since I was like 15, and now it's actually happening! Gosh.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed