RELATED BLOG ENTRIES: JAPAN 2007

 

TOKYO
Nov 25 - Seeing Dr. Fuji

My trip around Asia seems to be filled with trips to the doctor's office. Tokyo wasn't an exception. I got into Tokyo on Tuesday night and I was coughing up a lung. I literally couldn't stop coughing for a couple of hours. Since this was following on the heels of my fever last week, I had to cancel my first training session here because I was afraid that I had something bad.

I went to see Dr. Fuji. Love the name! He was an old grizzled doctor. He had the whitest hair I have ever seen in my life. But he spoke perfect English without any accent. He did the doctor stuff and told me he thought I just had a cold. What a relief! He called later after reviewing my blood test and said it looked like it is probably a virus and if it didn't go away in a few days to come in for a chest xray.

But it was nice to stay in my hotel room for a day. I'm staying at a great hotel that sits in the middle of a beautiful garden. And I came at a perfect time when all the trees are changing colours. There's an amazing temple behind my hotel that is buried in a garden of greens, reds, and yellows. The Tokyo Tower is also closeby and its orange girders looks pretty cool at night.

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NUMBERS 09.11.25 TOKYO
ATM rate: C$1 to 80Yen(¥)
Dr Fuji, consultation fee: 9000¥
- blood test: 12000¥
Prince Park Tower, 1 night: C$207

REVIEW: PRINCE PARK TOWER TOKYO
This hotel has a great lobby. Looking up the centre courtyard is like looking into a spaceship dock. It's goes all the way up the tower. The rooms were normal rooms, nothing special. But the room I got had an amazing view of the Zozoji Temple and gardens. The gym is pretty decked out. But no wifi in the rooms. I got a 50% deal on Expedia, so it's hard to believe that these rooms are normally over $400 a night. They're not THAT nice!

TOKYO
Nov 26 - Loving Civilization

I must admit that when I arrived in Japan I was hit with a sense of relief. I mean China is a fun place to visit when you're not under the weather. But with this knee thing and my lingering cold, I felt a bit of that "just get me out of here" feeling.

Tokyo is so different from China. It is the most polite country in the world--Period! I thought Canadians were polite, but Japanese are the sure winner. I figured that out when I was in an elevator frantically pushing the close button while the Japanese girl on the other panel calmly held the open button as we waited what seemed like hours for the elevator to fill up with dawdlers.

And everyone bows. To me, a bow seems like an act of submission. We don't bow much to anyone in Canada. It would be like saying you're not equal to the other person. But here in Japan, it's natural. I bow to all my clients, the staff at the hotel...I've even started to find myself bowing to anyone who looks at me for longer than a second. I almost feel uncomfortable if I don't bow! And they return the bow like a quick hello.

And the warmers on the toilet seats!! Wow, I'm in heaven! It's just nice to be in this ultra-civilized country while I'm recovering.

Of course, Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world (a whopping 50% more expensive than New York in 2009!) so that would explain why it is so comfortable here. They also use way too many disposable chopsticks--I have been making good use out of my personal chopsticks.

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NUMBERS 09.11.26 TOKYO
Movie, Wald Theatre, 2012: 1800¥

 

TOKYO
Nov 27 - Exploring Ni-chome

Our tour of the gay Nichoome area was pretty fun. We had a few drinks at Advocates--it was pretty chilly outside and there wasn't much talent on the street, so we picked a random bar and went inside. Well my friends went inside, and I stayed outside for an extra second complaining: "You want me to go into this dive bar?!?". Well we had a few more drinks here and started singing karaoke. Warren is quite the songbird.

When we got the bill, it came out to about C$150 for about maybe 8 drinks, mostly beer. So somehow they got us there. I'm thinking it was a bit like one of those infamous "hostess bars" where the hostesses charge extra to be nice to you. Cause the bartenders were a bit flirty.

Then after we went to Arty Farty for about an hour of dancing. Fun fun! We left at about 3:00am. I felt a bit stranded because the taxis are super-expensive in Tokyo so if you leave after the subway closes, you're SOL. I sucked it up and paid C$35 to get from Shinjuku to Roppongi.

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NUMBERS 09.11.27 TOKYO
Advocates, vodka / red bull: 800¥
Arty Fartys, Heineken: 700¥
Random bar, local beer: 1600¥!?

 

TOKYO
Dec 3 - The Noodle! Philosophy

I remember way back in business school we watched the Fish! video about the workers at Pike Place in Seattle. The video is about a philosophy of cultivating morale at your company by keeping it fun and having a culture that promotes creativity. I've been to Pike Place myself just to see the fish fly and it is definitely fun to watch!

So today I stepped off the rainy streets in Shinjuku into a small restaurant filled with bar stool seating. And I felt like I stepped into the Japanese counterpart of the Pike Place fishmongers. They just kept chanting the entire time. Every time someone walked in, they would shout in chorus. Every time someone paid for their meal, the would shout in chorus. They even shouted in chorus when nothing was happening. I could hardly keep myself from laughing, it was just so strange.

Now if they could only figure out a way to toss the noodles around the room, they would give the Pike Place guys a run for their money!

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NUMBERS 09.12.03 TOKYO
Bowl of noodles: 380¥
- shrimp tempura: 140¥
Yakiniku Kei, bulgogi lunch set: 800¥
McDonalds, breakfast: 460¥
Subway, 12" chicken sub: 810¥
Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, 1 nght: C$124
Friendly Bus to Narita: 3000¥

REVIEW: SUNROUTE SHINJUKU
I got one of the typical small Japan hotel rooms, but it was a nice room. There wasn't really room to put any clothes or luggage. So that got a bit frustrating after a week. And there isn't a gym, so I couldn't do my knee rehab exercises. The hotel is very convenient being right beside the mind-bogglingly gigantic Shinjuku Station. So much is happening around here! I had a really early flight at 9:00am--the Friendly Airport bus is a great option that leaves from the west side of Shinjuku station. It has a 5:45 bus that arrives around 7:00am.

TOKYO
Dec 4 - Hakone Day Trip

I decided to do a day trip to Hakone today. The plan was to go to one of the onsens there and just relax. An onsen is a hot spring that is fed by the waters that bubble up around volcanic Japan. They seem to be mostly outside so it seems like a great way to spend a day relaxing--just soaking outside.

So I bought a day trip pass from Odakyu--they have the trip planned to the tee. They give a suggested trip itinerary that has you transported around the area on trains, gondolas, buses, cable cars, and boats. In concept it looked pretty cool. In reality, it wasn't that great.

The trip to the lake, Lake Ashi at Motohakone, was fun. And the lake was very picturesque, especially with Mt Fuji's snow-capped peak in the distance. But the route back from the lake was uninteresting--it just feels like you're pointlessly going from one vehicle to another with nothing to see in between. If I was to do this trip again, I would just go to the lake, spend the day there, chill, and then backtrack back to the train station. I even skipped the onsen because I wasted so much time just transferring from vehicle to vehicle.

I also ate a black egg that seems to be something special to try in the area. I'm not sure why it was black. Or what difference it made. It tasted like a regular soft-boiled egg. It was kinda cool that it was black though--maybe it came from black chickens!

After the long day traveling, I met up with Warren and Noriko, and their new addition, Justin. Justin is very cute brown bundle, just two months old. He was sleeping the whole time I saw him. Warren even let me hold him, but only if I was sitting on the couch--so he wouldn't fall very far if I dropped him. But it was fun putting my finger in his hand. I love it when babies grab your finger--it's so cute.

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NUMBERS 09.12.04 TOKYO
Odakyu Hakone Freepass: 5000¥
- upgrade "Romance Car" express: 870¥
black egg with noodles: 850¥

TOKYO
Aug 20, 2010- Back in Tokyo

A stifling heat sits on Tokyo. It's 34 degrees and feels like 41. I'm melting.

But I'm looking forward to a week of smorking!!

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NUMBERS 10.08.26 TOKYO
ATM rate: C$1 to 74Yen(¥)

TOKYO
Aug 24 - Strange and Cool

Tokyo is such a city of strangeness and cool fads.

Brad and Steven joined me for the week. Yesterday, we all went with Warren to a theme restaurant called the Lock Up. It's a crazy place where you get led to your table in handcuffs--I think that's the first time I've worn handcuffs in my life...yes, I'm boring. We got led to our table which was inside a jail cell. Nice. The drinks were all served from beakers and test tubes, some smoking, some crackling and popping. One dish we had was a plate of octopus balls with one of them randomly spiked with super hot sauce. So it was russian roulette to see who would be the unlucky one. Brad won the contest, and quickly spit it out after a split second in his mouth. Those Japanese love their random surprises.

Then we went to the arcade. We saw professional claw players winning bags of stuff--I tried my clawing techniques and made off with a little action hero figurine. And we saw a new game where the idea is to just get super pissed off--you bang a table a bunch of times and then flip it at the very end in a fit of rage. Steven played it as the jilted new bride and was able to flip the table and the wedding cake all the way across the reception room and smashing out the door revealing the shocked husband sneaking a moment with his mistress. Friggin hilarious!

 

 

 

 

 

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TOKYO
Aug 26 - The Taste of Smoke

Brad and Steven called me from Toronto last week and told me that they scored us 3 of the limited 8 seats at Tapas in the fancy Mandarin Oriental hotel. It's a prix fixe menu of 18 tapa-style dishes sitting at a "molecular bar". The concept of the molecular bar revolves around using fantastical ways to cook food--like liquid nitrogen and centrifuges. I've only seen this on the Iron Chef but have never had the opportunity to taste it myself.

All I can say is that it was an awesome experience. After every mouthful, I let out a quiet sigh and contemplated the wonderful world we live in.....really I did.

tapas molecular bar ratatouille Ratatouille: The chef dripped syringes of liquified vegetables into a container of calcium chloride which created small translucent pearls. It was pretty cool--this is the sort of thing I imagined with a molecular meal. Why don't all vegetables come like this?

Scallops Jim Lambie: Named after the Scottish artist Jim Lambie who inspired the zen gardening of the black sauce. At first I mistook the design as part of the plate. The scallops were delicious--my mouth is watering just looking at the picture! tapas molecular bar scallops jim lambie

tapas molecular bar smoke Smoke: So this is how smoke would look like if it was a meal. A waft of grey fragrant smoke lazily wafted out when I lifted the cup. The morsels of chicken underneath had slightly crispy skins and were heavenly.

tapas molecular bar watermelon piñata Watermelon Piñata: It came out as a dark green ball. After a few taps with my spoon, it broke open to reveal the bright pink centre. All of it was made with ice or something like ice...I have no clue what it was really, but it tasted just like a cold refreshing watermelon.

Wagyu Beef: My first time trying Wagyu (Kobe) beef. It was super tender, almost melting in my mouth. Definitely not what I'm used to in Canada and during my stint in Argentina. But it was delicious, and I even liked the flash-frozen sponges of buttery foie gras on the side. tapas molecular bar wagyu beef

Xiaolong Bao: This was my favourite tapa, a lamb chop. Not just because it tasted amazing, but also because of the concept. It's the chef's take on the xiaolong bao, a soup-filled bun from Shanghai. In fact, this lamb chop had soup inside. I will never eat a regular xiaolong bao again! tapas molecular bar xiaolong bao

tapas molecular bar miso soup Miso Soup: Such a pretty tapa. I think part of this molecular cooking is tasting something that you're not expecting. I thought this would taste like an egg or maybe sweet, but eating everything on the spoon at once was a burst of miso soup flavour. A truly Japanese dish!

Puff: This had to be the coolest thing we ate. It looked like a small meringue. Before we ate it, the chef dipped it repeatedly in a smoking bowl of...smoke? And as we bit into the meringue, huge billows of smoke came out of our mouths and nostrils. Like a dragon!! tapas molecular bar puff

tapas molecular bar fruits Fruits: The red thing was dubbed "the miracle berry". We had a sour lemon and lime first. Then washed away the taste with some water. Then chewed on the seed for 1 minute. Then we had another lemon and lime, the berry was supposed to turn the taste to sweetness. I don't think mine worked though. Molecular fail.


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NUMBERS 10.08.26 TOKYO
Tapas Molecular Bar:
- mandarin sunset cocktail: 2500¥
- 18 course prix fixe: 14000¥
- 3 glasses champagne: 6800¥

TOKYO
Aug 29 - Land of the Rising Sun

It's 5:45am and I'm on a bus bound for the airport. I'm not sure why they nicknamed Japan the "Land of the Rising Sun", but leaving the hotel at 5:15 sure enough, the sun had already risen. On the street are mostly clubkids or businessmen who had too much fun last night stumbling to catch the first train home.

Over the weekend, I spent some quality tourist time with my friends after ignoring them all week because of work. On Friday night we went to Gonpachi, a restaurant that can be seen in the Crazy 88 fight scene in Kill Bill. Just imagine Lucy Liu stepping out of those sliding Japanese doors in her white kimono and jet black hair. Go Lucy!

Afterwards we swung over to the karaoke bar and belted out a few tunes. Maybe I'll put up a video of me singing in Japanese once I get Brad to edit out the really bad singing, and maybe he can autotune it too...

Yesterday we hit Kappabashi where they sell restaurant supplies--including the fantastic Kitchen World where we saw the utensils we ate with at the Mandarin. They also have stores that sell the miniature food sets that are displayed in front of restaurants. They are godsends to hungry foreigners who don't do Japanese. The models are pretty pricey--it must take a good grand to set up one of those food display windows.

Then last night we did a quick tour of Ni-choome. It's really busy on Saturday nights...not so much on Friday. Got home around 1 which gave me a good 4 hours of sleep.

Ok, I just arrived at the airport. I'm a bit groggy and it's going to be a long travel day until I get to Hong Kong tonight. But I'm excited to get back to Hong Kong because I can finally do proper laundry! Oh and eat won ton noodles.

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NUMBERS 10.08.29 TOKYO
3-bed room, Shinjuku Prince: $170/night
- internet: 550Y / 24hrs
1.5 hrs of karaoke + 2 drinks: 3300¥ pp
Kappabashi miniature food:
- life sized sushi: 600 - 1000¥
- bowl of ramen: 5000¥
- full sized crab: 40000¥
bowl of flavoured shaved ice: 400¥
Friendly Bus to Narita: 3000¥

REVIEW: PRINCE SHINJUKU HOTEL
Since my friends were joining me in Tokyo, we searched out a hotel that offered room for 3. The Prince Shinjuku was a perfect option--it's at the north side of the ginormous Shinjuku station. There's also a subway stop Shinjuku-Nichisomething right beside the hotel. The room was quite big considering we were in Japan, and the room wasn't super expensive. It was clean and had a good bathroom. The one complaint is the internet is awful--it's surprisingly cheap, but maybe that's because they know it continuously drops the signal. I don't think there's a gym in the hotel either. I should start going to the gym again...

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