Ok, now I am really behind... I still haven't finished telling you about our trip to Guilin and Yangshuo, and now I have to tell you all about our trip to JAPAN!!!!!
I think what I will do instead of finishing about our Christmas trip, as it is sooooooooooooooo late, I will just upload pictures and explain what they are about.
So, here we are in Tokyo, Japan, a dream finally come true. Kurin and I are both in shock still that we are here. Both of us are so happy that we really do not want to go back tomorrow. Argh. We would stay if we could, but we can't so we will be happy that we had the chance to come and experience Japan and life here.
We arrived on the night of the 16th... as the plane was landing, Kurin and I were both nearly in tears, as we could not believe we were in Japan!!!! Our friend Etsuki met us at the airport, and we were so excited to see him. We took out 80.000 yen (THAT"S A LOT!!!) and took a bus from the airport to Asakusa, where our hostel, Tokyo Ninja was. We checked in, and then went for noodles at a little vending machine udon noodle shop. These little shops are everywhere. They have machines with the meals on them, and you choose what you want, put the money in and it gives you change and a ticket for your meal. You give the ticket to the person at the counter, and they make your food. The first night, we had Tendon... Udon noodle soup with vegetable and shrimp tempura on top. It was delicious! I bugged Etsuki to have it almost everyday for the rest of my trip. Although we probably actually only ate it 4 more times. ;)
The one thing I noticed, becuase by this time it was almost 1 in the morning, we that the little shops were very busy, and full of business men in suits and briefcases, many of whom were falling asleep against the wall or on the bench waiting for their food. Apparently this is very common, and during the next 12 days of our trip we saw this every day.
Our hostel was ok. Not really what we have become use to in regards to hostels in China. ONe thing I can say for China, is that their hostels are pretty fantastic. This hostel was pretty bare minimum. Etsuki slept in a capsule. COOL! I will show you a photo.
The first day (Wednesday) we left the hostel, and went to the next hostel (long story) dropped off our stuff and went to meet Yuka and Miho at Asakusa. It was so great to see them! They were my students at VIU when I was teaching there. We had such a great day. We went to a shrine called Kaminarimon, which means THunder Gate. There are four statues at the shrine. On the front side of the gate, the Shinto Gods Fujin and Raijin. On the back, the Buddhist God Tenryū and the Goddess Kinryū. I find it interesting how Shinto and Buddhism are blended in Japan, even given the fact that the blending of them was outlawed during the Meji Restoration Period when Japan was made a Shinto Nationalist State. Anyways, the shrine is awesome, (see photos) and we met this lovely elderly woman named Sachie, and she was our guide for the rest of the day. She was so tiny, you must see it to believe it in the pictures. Anyway, she took us around and explained all the shrines and statues to us, through Etsuki, Yuka, and Miho of course, and we all had a fantastic day. We ended the day with Sachie in a photo booth called a purikura. These things are everywhere. They are machines where a bunch of poeple can jump into and for 400 yen have a bunch of photos done. Then you can write on them and add stamps etc.. before you print them off. So much fun.
On Thursday, we went to Akihabara. I will let Kurin explain this, as it was pretty much over my head. I just tagged along for the ride. :) Here is Kurin....
RAWR heed my words mortals!
Akihabbara was great! a gamers paradise (if you spoke japanese it was better) and a manga, techies paradise (again if you read japanese it was better).
Super potato was like the museum of games, and featured games as old as the first zelda for a suprisingly cheap amount of money.
The manga and anime stores were on every corner, but they were littered with the japanese equivilent to porn (but cartoons) called hentai and so you had to advert your eyes if you were easily offended like my mom for instance (ME... offended? come now, it takes more than naked women to offend me!). It was strange how normal it felt for them to have it too.. like kids manga right beside this stuff (very odd indeed!)
Overall as awesome as it was, I would have liked to have been able to speak japanese and read it, as it would have been a lot more exciting.
The other wierd thing was that every 10 meters you encountered a young girl dressed like a maid or the like, offering flyers for an apparently common "maid cafe" where creepy old men can go and get served food (and god knows what else) by young girls dressed like the street ones. Oh! the strange things people will do (cough*men*cough) to satasfy creepy temptations.
Anyways going to akihabbara made me decide I wanted a new DS, so thats why later I got the (japanese exclusive (for now)) DSi LL which is basically a DS with a screen twice the size. Paired with my R4 Ds card, all the illegal chinese DS games wil be mine WAHAHAHA! Not that I promote the use of such "software", but its china and well.... everyones a pirate "ARRR MATY!"
anyways, it was a great trip overall, and I can now be the envy of all my manga/anime/game loving friends (even you brett, deny it or not, I can feel the jealousy enveloping you and your A+ report cards XD WAHAHAHAHA)
back to you wendi, with the latest in weather and sports!...
Thanks Kurin for that... colourful commentary. sigh.
We ate Soba, and Etsuki took us to a Tamuyaki (Octopus gooey balls with Mayonaise) stand. Said we HAD to eat it becuase it is very popular food. Not bad, but not my favourite food in Japan. ;) Sorry Etsuki. lol
Friday, We went to meet Risa, Ayako, and Kotomi, but Mamiho, much to our dissapointment was not able to come. We went looking for the tomb of Hokusai. In case you dont know, Hokusai is one of my favourite painters, and painted such great works as the Great Wave off Kanagawa which was one of the "Thirty six views of Fujiyama" series he did. Sadly we didnt find his tomb... but we did find out that they are planning an art walk museum for next year. :( I guess we will have to go back! :)
So then we went by the famous place that the Sumos live, and saw a lot of Sumos coming and going. That was cool. Got a photo with one. They are really big. I mean REALLY big. For lunch we went to have Chanko, which is a traditional meal for Sumo. It is called Sumo Wrestler's stew. It was awesome! We had two huge pots, (very similar to Chinese hot pot) on cookers, and bowls of fresh veggies, herbs, greens, and then fish balls and chicken balls. (not "balls" for those of you who are giggling). It was delicious. Great way to socialise and enjoy a lovely meal of soup and rice... it was just great. We then went to the Edo Tokyo Museum. I really enjoyed this. Kurin and the girls were a little bored I think, but Etsuki and I found this really interesting man who apparently had some ancestoral connections to a high ranking family from the Edo period, and he basically took us around, and was our guide, explaining everything to us. The girls thought he was funny. Etsuki and I thought he was pretty engaging. I think the most interesting thing I learned was about the fire fighters during the Edo period. They were many different groups of fighters, from different companies I guess... Anyway, they were all covered from head to toe in tatoos, mainly because they believed they would protect them but also so that if they ever died in a fire the bodies would be easily indentified by its company tatoo.
After the museum we went walking in Shibuya... one of the most famous shopping and eating districts in Tokyo. Went to another purikura (photo booth) and then we were surprised by Mamiho! She took a break from Cram school (Juku: one of the ways they torture young students in Japan) lol kidding. BUt really, cram school is school after school for Japanese students wanting to cram for tests. It is a reality for many Japanese youth, that they pretty much go to school from early in the morning till late at night. Anyway, Mamiho was studying for university entrance exams, and was going to cram school every day from 12-9. We were so happy she could make it and we had a lovely visit and had more photos done in another purikura. :)
Saturday, Kurin and I went to stay at Etsuki's family for a few days. When we arrived they were so welcoming and kind. Kurin and I instantly felt at home. Etsuki's family include his Mother Junkosan, his father Koichi san, and his brother Ryu san. Also, Etuski's grandmother lives with them, but she has her own suite downstairs, and was often doing her own thing or sleeping early. She was very sweet too!
They took us for dinner that nigth to a very traditional Japanese restaurant called a Kayasaki Yuri (i think). Outside of the restaurant were three wooden boards hanging from hooks. According to Koichi san, the boards have family names written on them for reservations. (see photos) Very cool. Food was very excellent and delicious. We had sushi, sushimi, miso soup, and many other delacacies. I took photos, so take a look. ;)
Sunday, we took it easy, and then took a bike ride to Kogane Park. There was a festival and an outdoor market selling Japanese pottery and stuff and lots of food. It was great. Didnt buy anything, but wanted to. We then went to the outdoor Edo Tokyo Architecture Museum. I loved this. THey had buildings from the 1950s all the way back to Edo period. Very cool!!! I didnt have a camera unfortunately. Kurin and I both forgot to charge our batteries. Yeah... great planning I know. We got a few photos though.
That night, Etsuki's family prepared a traditional Sukiyaki dinner for us and Ryu's girlfriend Chisko came for dinner. She was so sweet. She makes these amazing miniture art works.... smaller than a loonie. (big canadian coin) :) If I get a photo, I will upload it.
Sukiyaki is not like what most people think in Canada. It is similar to Chanko, "It consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef), or a vegetarian version made only with firm tofu, slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Before being eaten, the ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs.- Wikipedia"
Yes, dipped in raw egg. I know many of you are cringing, but it really was fantastic. We also ate annato, and rakyo, and were officially named "Japanese" by Etsuki's family, because we ate it, and loved it! :)
Ok... that is enough for now... I will try to write more this week.
I still have seven more days to tell you about. lol
Love to everyone.
Wendi and Kurin