Posts Tagged ‘Shinkansen’

Shin-Sunday and Kobe

November 20, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

I have been thinking, maybe the emphasis on super toilets with bidets everywhere is connected to the quantity of plums Japanese people consume. Hm.

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Today I woke up early, left the little guest house with the tatami mats, and took the Shinkansen to Kobe. “Shin” is in front of the name for the bullet train stations “Shin-Yokohama” “Shin-Kobe.” But you don’t have to put two in!*

The train was crowded but very easy, only 45 or so minutes ride with one stop in Osaka. I got a very involved bento box (sour plums included) at station to eat on the train for breakfast. It was satisfying but only okay tasting.

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I left my luggage at the hotel and went to work. It’s sunday but I worked because I’d like to do some touristy things here like go to the onsen in the mountain hot springs and some sake breweries (there are many right in Kobe), but not on a weekend when it would be too crowded.

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Work took me to Rokko Island, which had one of the weirdest vibes of a place I’ve ever visited. It was eerie, pretty open spaces yet deserted with dated architecture and of course supermarkets with imported food. The malls were only half full of stores. Apparently expatriates live here; I’ll find out more tomorrow.

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I had a throbbing headache all day today and felt especially lonely on the train, but now I feel all better. I didn’t sleep well on the tatami mats and am pretty happy to be in a nice hotel for the last three days of the trip. Also I have an awesome view. I didn’t try Kobe beef yet but maybe for lunch tomorrow. Have a great Sunday!

Love, Annie

*It’s a dreidel joke.

 

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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