Posts Tagged ‘sake’

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

Working Days in Tokyo: Rush Hour and Afterwards

November 15, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

The past two days have been great. I’ve just come from dinner of dumplings, radish salad, and sake.

wp_20161115_21_25_41_proYesterday I had the first experience with the metro at rush hour. It’s certainly crowded. At the entrance to some stations, the current of people is so strong it’s hard to get through. While the metro systems are pretty straightforward, addresses in Tokyo are not. Building addresses aren’t by number on street name, they are by section of block, which is not intuitive at all.

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There are many buildings in each block… I’m not sure how it works yet. Most of the streets don’t even have names. I was late for meetings yesterday and today because of this issue. For both instances I had to call the offices and someone came downstairs and found me. Fortunately, everyone understands the issue.

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After the meeting yesterday I had a lunch of eggs benedict at a fancy hotel, because that’s what I was craving. It’s survey, so I’m especially in tune to my own needs and cravings, and am in a pretty good position to satisfy most of them (the food ones, at least). I spoke to my sister during this lunch and she asked if Tokyo felt polluted. I said no (the city is very clean), but after thinking about it, I think there is notable air pollution. My eyes have been stinging. After lunch I priced the department stores in Ginza, the fancy shopping district.

 

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Everything is expensive in Tokyo except for panty hose. Really great quality panty hose from fantastic brands and tights are 1/3 of the Boston prices here. Even less, maybe. My excitement only partially translated to the employees at Mitsukoshi who helped me figure out the right size. I tested them out today and will head back to stock up before leaving the city.

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After the department stores I went on a search for Tempura. It was certainly a day of decadent foods. I found a corner bar and sat outside, drank sake, transcribed prices, and enjoyed the tempura. It started raining during the dinner, and the server/chef of the restaurant gave me an umbrella even though I told him he wouldn’t get it back. It was raining hard so I was thankful! Wow! After dinner I had a hair washing and drying appointment. They had warmed chairs. Mmm.

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Today I worked, ate chicken katsu for lunch, and then went to the Muji store :). Then I went back to the hotel and did some hand washing of my clothes. Then walked around the neighborhood of my hotel to find some dinner. I chose a place because of the atmosphere. Turns out it was a dumplings and chicken wings specialty bar so I’d eat dumplings. Yes, they were outstanding. I ordered the ones they recommend with three garlic icons on the menu and ate them with homemade spicy sauce mixed with soy sauce, as you do. There were some businessmen there getting so drunk! I didn’t get drunk, my plan for tomorrow is to wake up early and visit Tsukiji fish market for a sushi breakfast, then it will be a long day of work.

Hope you are well!

Love, Annie