Posts Tagged ‘Awesome’

Arima Onsen and Mata Ne, Japan

November 22, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s been an excellent two weeks and I fly home tomorrow. The flights start in the afternoon so I’ll have time for a leisurely breakfast and not much else. I get back to Boston at 5:00pm. Flying back in time, It will be quite a long day. I’m so excited to see the people I love and practice yoga again, but I’m also a little sad about leaving Japan. I’m just starting to “get it” and be comfortable here. Also, I really like Japanese culture.

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Yesterday was a great day. I had a meeting in the morning that was so fun and successful. I met with two men from a real estate management company. The meeting lasted an hour and a half. We discussed the US election for a while, then the expatriate real estate market, then we talked about differences between culture in the US and Japan and talked a lot about toilets. The men were shocked we don’t have “shower toilets” in the United States. After that I visited two Sake breweries near the meeting and had lunch at one of them. I got some Sake to share on Thanksgiving, and then worked in the Sannomiya area. Dinner was linguini with shrimps and olive oil at the hotel, and a cocktail of plum wine and ginger ale.

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This morning I finished work and had a lunch meeting. Then I took to the bus to Arima, outside the main city closer to the Rokko Mountains, to visit an onsen. An onsen is a Japanese public bath. Like shower toilets, plums, bowing, taking off shoes, and formal exchange of business cards, public baths are also a big deal in Japan. I’m so glad I went.

This is what happens in the public bath (for women) — take off your shoes, drop off your clothes, take a shower at one of the stations, clean off your station (and little chair), put up your hair so it doesn’t get in the bath, then go soak. This one in Arima is special because there’s a hot spring bath. They had a regular bath, a “white ion” bath with extra oxygen bubbles, a hot spring bath that was golden (brown), an open air area which is great because the hot water feels extra nice against the cold air, cold showers, and a sauna. There are no bathing suits allowed, everyone is naked but they separate the baths for men and women!

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I stayed there a long time, relaxing, skinny dipping in the hot spring. It wasn’t crowded, just a few people. They have a changing area and very high tech massage chairs that squeeze your legs for after you get dressed. Reading about Onsen before the trip, someone wrote that it’s nice to take off what separates us (the clothing) and focus on what makes us the same. After the bath I felt very renewed. Soft from all the sauna and hot springs, and very happy about being a human and a woman! I think public baths are very good for community building. If you go to Japan I’d highly recommend this experience.

Hope you are well!

Love, Annie

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Tokyo-Yokohama-Kyoto!

November 18, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s been a nice three days since the last blog. Wednesday I woke up early in Tokyo and visited the Tsukiji Wholesale fish market (where they have the famous 4am tuna auctions).

wp_20161116_08_23_40_pro-1It was just two stops away from my hotel. I’ve come to love the Tokyo metro system. Of course the market was closed that day (they have one “set holiday” per month and this was it) but the restaurants in the outer market were still open. I tried steamed oyster with ponzu sauce, grilled crab in its shell with miso paste, and then went to a sushi counter for some pieces, and finished off the meal with a mochi with a strawberry in it.

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Then I had a meeting and worked the rest of the day. There were some stores I visited in Shibuya, which has a famous crowded crosswalk.

For dinner I visited the neighborhood of my hotel again, near Hamamasutcho and Daimon stations. I’ve decided that’s my favorite neighborhood now. It’s really low key, quiet, and the little restaurants are filled in the evenings with businessmen getting totally hammered!

wp_20161116_20_15_02_proI walked around to find a good atmosphere intending to eat whatever was good. I decided on a restaurant that, when I walked in, the manager beamed! So welcoming. It was small, just 8-10 seats or so. He was super animated, fun, and very slightly heavier than average and didn’t speak English. I asked for no smoking? he said “yes smoking!” but I still ate there because it seemed like this guy would take care of me. I let him know that i’d eat whatever he thought was good. There were all sorts of dishes including some potato salad with something on it, I had to ask. Kind of looked like a sausage. It was “fish eggs” but honestly it was like a whole womb. I ate it all because that’s what’s respectful. And I like salty foods, and enjoy trying to figure out why people like to eat certain things if at first I think they are disgusting. At that dinner I got to eat all sorts of “presents” like edamame and extra special sake.

wp_20161117_14_42_45_proThursday morning I woke up and had a meeting, the first one I was able to find on my own 🙂 and then took the train to Yokohama, which took only about 45 minutes. Yokohama is its own city but very close to Tokyo. Some people live in Tokyo and commute to Yokohama. Some people live in Yokohama and commute to Tokyo, but really only if they want their kids to go to the international school in Yokohama.

wp_20161118_10_34_57_proI had another meeting in the afternoon there, worked, walked around the main shopping street, ate dinner, not much else. This morning I finished work and took the Shinkansen, the bullet train, to Kyoto where I’ll be for the weekend. The bullet train is very cool, and obviously very fast. I’m staying in guest house here in Kyoto. It was a little difficult to find it, and “check in” but that was because I was a early for the reservation but the issues turned around quickly.

wp_20161118_16_14_54_proI went to Fushimi Inari shrine and had a “road soda” of Kyoto beer on the walk there:) and then stayed wandering around the shrine until dark. It’s on a mountain, which you can climb up and the entire way is covered with gates. At the bottom it was so busy, but at the top it was very peaceful. There must be at least 100,000 of the gates, so cool! On my way down I stopped for a matcha latte and then visited Gion area. There are a ton of shops and restaurants. It was a little busy for my taste at that point but I took a deep breath and appreciated it.

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I walked around for a while visited a “leek-themed” restaurant and sat at the counter and got more “presents.” The chef let me taste things when I looked curious. I’m always curious and tried things that were only on the Japanese version of the menu, not for English speakers.

Now I’m exhausted and excited to sleep on the Tatami mat.

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Hope you are well and have a great weekend!

Love, Annie

First Full Day in Freetown!

August 24, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are having a nice weekend! Today was a productive and interesting day in Freetown. 20130824_110354Even though it was Saturday, I woke up early for a breakfast meeting. Breakfast is pretty good at the hotel. I had an omelet and toast and fruit. I’m impressed. After the meeting, I called Abdul and we set out for a full day of work. I was very productive today. We went out for lunch at a beachside restaurant that everyone (all types of people. I’m told black people, white people, and Lebanese people) frequents. 20130824_131437I told him all about my job (showed him why I was running in and out of all sorts of stores) and we had a relaxing and fun lunch. That’s Abdul in the picture, we are going to an auto body shop. I couldn’t help but think that a car would have to go to an auto body shop after driving up that road! I had a Savanna Dry cider during lunch. Those are so delicious. I discovered them in South Africa. 20130824_143540This lunch was the most fun out of all the lunches I’ve had with drivers this survey, probably because Abdul and I are around the same age so it was more like friends. I liked that it wasn’t awkward. I had dinner with the same person from breakfast, an extension of our meeting. It was a great evening. 20130824_143608We both had Savanna Dry Ciders and I heard all about his family and how he has lived as an expat in many different countries. He has four sons, and age-wise I am right in the middle of the sons. I can’t believe he and his wife are choosing to move here! Pretty bad ass. You can’t move here with children because there are no schools. Tomorrow I’m going to do some work. There’s a small chance I might be able to head home a few days early so I’m trying to get it all done.

Love, Annie