Trip Report – May/June 2006


Japan and China
May 28, 2006 – June, 11 2006

Day One – Leave US for Japan
Day Two – Arrive in Narita, Fugu dinner
Day Three – Imperial Gardens, Asakusa
Day Four – Meiji, Ramen, Akihabara
Day Five – Metropolitan Building, Ikebukuro, Hakuhinkan
Day Six – Odaiba, Joypolis, Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Day Seven – Ghibli Museum, Yokohama
Day Eight -Shopping
Day Nine -Travel to Shanghai, Banquet Dinner
Day Ten – Shanghai
Day Eleven – Buddhist Temple
Day Twelve – Hang Zhou, West Lake
Day Thirteen – Hang Zhou
Day Fourteen – Su Zhou
Day Fifteen – Back to the US

  • Day 1 – Sunday, May 28 – Leave US for Japan

    Left US for Japan via ANA.
    The service on ANA was excellent and they even served Haagen-Dazs for dessert.All announcements are in English and Japanese.
    Highly recommended.
  • Day 2 – Monday, May 29 – Arrive in Narita, Fugu dinner
     
    Arrive in Narita airport in the afternoon and travel to Shinagawa Prince Hotel by limousine bus.
    The hotel had excellent service and the front staff all spoke perfect English but for the price paid – 12000 yen for a double, it was lacking some amenities.
    For example, there was no Internet access in the room and you had to either pay 500 yen for wireless in the Annex lobby or pay around 500 yen for a drink in order to use the public computers in the Yahoo! Cafe.
    There were no coin laundry on site and you also had to pay to use the swimming pool.
    It’s convenient though. Right across from Shinagawa station.
    There’s also a McDonald’s near there. They’re used to foreigners and I saw them flip over the menu to the English version when someone tried speaking English. =)
    I don’t like the Teriyaki burgers, the sauce it way too sweet. I’m also not found of Japanese mayonnaise.

    After dropping off luggage, headed over to Kabuki-cho for dinner.
    Passed a Mister Donut (or Misdo as Akko from Girlfriends calls it. ^__^ )


    Went to Torafugu-tei (とらふぐ亭), a fugu chain restaurant, and had a set meal for dinner.
    Kabuki-cho location
    For 5000 yen a person, you get fugu sashimi, fugu nabe, fried fugu, okayu, and a dessert.
    There are other set meals also and you can order a la carte too.
    The one thing that took a while to get used to was that the prices were all in kanji. So 1680 yen is writted as (一、六八0円)

    The servers there were very nice and helped us when they realized we were foreigners.
    For example, I didn’t realize that this cup was used for putting fish bones in, I thought it was for water, :p
    Highly recommended!

    Live Fugu:


    Store sign:


    Prices in kanji:


    View of the table:


    Fugu sashimi:


    Fugu nabe (hot pot). The meat was still quivering when it was brought to the table.


    Fried Fugu: Tastes like chicken


    After the nabe, the leftover soup was used to make okayu (rice porridge).


    View from the hotel at night:
  • Day 3 – Tuesday, May 30 – Imperial Gardens, Asakusa

    If you’re traveling from the US, you probably have jetlag the next day. :p
    I definitely got up early so I’d thought I’d pop by Tokyo Tower in the morning.
    The closest JR station is not Tokyo Station but Hamamatsucho.

    I think this is one of the first trains on the Yamanote line at around 5 in the morning.


    Zojoji Temple: A monk was walking by and gave a greeting.


    Jizo statues at Zojoji temple.



    After heading back to the hotel, it looks like a group of students are also staying there. Perhaps it’s a school trip?


    Here’s a funny sign on the subway. It says: “Be careful of the door”


    Decided to go to the Imperial Gardens in the morning.


    This reminds me of the clumps of grass so often found in the Legend of Zelda games. =)


    After the Imperial Gardens, hopped on the subway towards Asakusa, another popular tourist destination. It was crowded of course, but actually quite fun if you like touristy places.
    Otherwise avoid. There’s a lot of souvenirs and of course you can draw an omikuji at the end.
    Why did I end up with kyou ()(bad luck)???
    And the next person gets daikichi (大吉)(great luck)???




    After that headed to Ginza which is on the other end of the Asakusa-Ginza subway line.
    The stuff was too high priced for me, but the food centers in the basement were nice.

    Mitsukoshi Building:


    Headed to Nakano Broadway after that and munched on some takoyaki.
    One thing I’ve noticed is hard to find is trashcans on the street in Japan.
    But the streets in Tokyo are still surprisingly clean. No one really walks and eats there.
  • Day 4 – Wednesday, May 31 – Meiji, Ramen, Akihabara

    Today, decided to visit Odaiba, Harajuku, and Akihabara.

    Rainbow bridge from the Yurikamome in the morning. That’s where the epic battle between Subaru and Seishorou from X ended… >__<


    A place where you can pay to pet cats…
    I heard it’s quite sad but I didn’t go in.


    The well known Fuji TV building.
    I’d recommend not going on a weekend. Crowded!


    The famous Meiji Jingu. For some reason, I thought all torii were supposed to be red.
    My mistake. Meiji Jingu and Meiji Park are very calm so if you ever need to relax, you can sit on some of the benches nearby.


    A line of sake jugs?


    Harajuku Station:


    Went to a recommended ramen place for lunch.
    The restaurant is called Santouka (山頭火)
    Went for the shio ramen with an extra helping of meat on the side.
    It was way too much to finish.
    The owner was very nice since it was still early for lunch at around 11 and he noticed we didn’t know the proper protocol for eating at such a place.
    I think it was you first go in, order, get a little plaque for your order. Then, you sit down, place the plaque on the counter in front of you and then your bags on top where there’s a rack.

    The ramen was good though a bit oily for me. I normally prefer shouyu or miso ramen.
    They offer those too, but didn’t get a chance to try it.
    Recommended!



    Finished the day by going over to Akihabara.
    If you take the Denkigai exit, you’ll normally see maids passing out ads for their respective cafes.
    No one ever hands anything to me though. :p
    Akihabara also has arcades. Normally the first floor are UFO catchers and then different sorts of games on the upper floors, like fighting games, and card games like Mushi King.
    In truth, I was sort of creeped out. >__<
    I prefer Ikebukuro to Akihabara.



    Vending machine for fried foods. I was too scared to try.


    Maids passing out flyers. It’s a bit creepy seeing guys with SLRs taking pictures sometimes.
    Somoone told me it’s even worse if you’re going to an AKB48 concert or something like that.
  • Day 5 – Thursday, June 1 – Metropolitan Building, Ikebukuro, Hakuhinkan

    Today, went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Buildings in Shinjuku.
    To get to them, you can use the huge underground walkways.
    Fortunately, they have a escalator walkway that makes it much faster to get there.
    Even then, it takes like 10 minutes. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of what working in Nerv would be like. :p





    Here’s an example of Engrish.


    In Ikebukuro is the headquarters of Animate.
    The building has like 7 floors, but it’s very narrow!
    Stuff is a bit overpriced though it has the latest goods.
    For a bit older stuff, K-books across the street has much better deals.

    Passed by Toyota Amlux in Ikebukuro, a combo dealership and mini-museum for Toyota.
    I noticed all the women in these sorts of places are always wearing some sort of uniform like a flight attendant’s uniform.





    In the US, the Caldina is known as a Matrix.


    This car was around 100,000 USD! Though I have no idea why…


    Ah…I want a Supra! There’s a Genki logo on the back which is the company responsible for the Kaido Battle and Tokyo XTreme Racer series of games.

    Stopped by Hakuhinkan

    Went to Hakuhinkan’s flagship store in Shimbashi.
    It’s an awesome toy store with many floors of goodies.
    There’s one floor dedicated to stuffed animals which were all very cute.

    That Totoro is around 1000 USD!


    Some Mario goods.

  • Day 6 – Friday, June 2 – Odaiba, Joypolis, Oedo Onsen Monogatari

    Today was mostly spent in Odaiba.
    First off was Sega Joypolis, an arcade center.
    Going on a weekday, it was quite empty so we had the
    They had some indoor amusement rides though none were too exciting.
    The snowboarding ramp machine was a bit fun.
    The other indoor rides were really cold because they were faking wind.
    Some of the Japanese only attractions were confusing if you didn’t know what to do.
    Like we went on this Zathura simulation and like the movie, a card came out of the game which you had to read to understand what was going to happen, but we were having problems… :p



    The attendents were really nice.
    They moved the stuffed animals into an optimal position without even asking.
    And then clapped when we got the prize. =)


    There was also a Honey & Clover cafe nearby but I think it closed down.


    Lunch was yakiniku at a nearby place.


    They also had basashi (raw horse meat), but I didn’t have the courage to try it. >__<


    There’s also a lot of UFO catcher games, there.
    Some of them are really impossible to win I think.
    There’s one where you have to stick a rod (like a cue stick) vertically into a hole, but it has to be just right.
    And this one is where you shoot BBs at a little strip of paper until it breaks.
    However, the velocity is so small that they bounce right off! I think the holes in the paper were put there just as a sample to deceive people. >__<


    There’s also the Venus Fort shopping center.
    I’ve heard the Venetian in Vegas looks better though.


    Oedo Onsen Monogatari is an onsen theme park.
    Apparently they pump up the water from deep underground.
    They’ll give you a bracelet after you get in that you scan to pay for stuff so you can leave all your belongings in the locker. However, you can’t check how much you’ve already spent until you leave at the end…


    You can pick the design of the yukata you want to wear.


    The inside is like a matsuri with fake lanterns and stalls.


    One of the attendants poses for a picture.




    This time, it’s Tokyo Tower at night.
    You have to pay extra if you want to go up to the higher level.
    The line was pretty long for the 2nd level and I don’t think it was worth it. Once is ok I guess.
    Seems like a popular place for couples to gather.


    After a long day, it’s nice to relax with some Mos Burger!
    The ones with buns made out of rice are my favorite!

  • Day 7 – Saturday, June 4 – Ghibli Museum, Yokohama

    Off to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka today.
    You’re not allowed to take pictures inside though.
    The tickets are very unique, they contain film strips.
    I got one of Kiki. :)
    I’d recommend not going on a weekend though. It’s very crowded!
    Also, it’s a shame that only kids are allowed to play on the catbus. -__-




    Next is to the Ramen Museum in Yokohama.
    Underneath, there are ramen restaurants and it looks like an old Chinatown.
    I wasn’t that into it though since you had to pay just to go eat.




    I had the shoyu ramen with menma.


    Off to the Yokohama Chinatown!
    The passageways under Yokohama station were big!
    This Chinatown was really clean! Cleaner than the ones I’ve seen in the U.S.
    Though it seemed as if Chinese food was all about buns (nikuman) though.






    The panda bun was cute! So was the piggy!
  • Day 8 – Sunday, June 5 – Shopping

    Free day to do some shopping.
    Tokyu Hands is a great store to walk around.
    The main one is in Ikubukuro right near Sunshine City.
    They have those fake food pieces you see in restaurant displays though they cost more than the food itself. It was around 7000 yen for a fake beer with foam!


    Also went to B-Lily Rose which is a garcon cafe.
    This one was an all-girl cafe where they dressed up like waiters and maids.
    They also ones where it’s all guys as waiters.
    No pictures were allowed inside without paying for them though.
  • Day 9 – Monday, June 6 – Travel to Shanghai, Banquet Dinner

    Last day in Tokyo. Had to leave early to catch a flight to Shanghai.
    Ironically, we were staying in a place named Hong Kong Service Apartment.


    Had a huge feast at night. I was really stuffed!
    Interestingly, there wasn’t any rice at the meal.
    When asked why, it’s because the dishes were enough to keep you full and I’d have to agree!














    Shanghai at night. They had fireworks at the time.




  • Day 10 – Tuesday, June 6 – Shanghai

    Visited some places in Shanghai today.
    It’s interesting that the windows to the hotel can open.
    I suppose if one were not careful, you might fall down.


    I liked the rear-view mirrors on the buses. They look like antennae.


    The architecture in some places was still very traditional.


    Visited the Jade Buddha. Pictures weren’t allowed and you can’t even get close.
    You can however, pay someone to pour an offering to the Buddha for you.
    Also visited an old, traditional house.




    The business district is very modern.
    I didn’t see the no-pictures sign until I took one of the ceiling of one of the banks. :p


    I love all the fruit that you can’t get in the U.S.
    Dragonfruit is really good. My favorite is the wax apple (蓮霧).

  • Day 11 – Wednesday, June 7 – Buddhist Temple

    Went to a Buddhist temple for a ceremony today.
    Had another huge feast at night though not as elaborate as the first one.

  • Day 12 – Thursday, June 8 – Hang Zhou, West Lake

    Traveled to Hang Zhou to visit West Lake (西湖).
    There’s a famous saying:

    上有天堂,下有蘇杭

    “The sky has the heavens while the earth has Su Zhou and Hang Zhou.”
    In other words, those were the two most beautiful places in China.
    West Lake was picturesque though the place we went in Su Zhou was a bit rural.




    West Lake is known for a lotus, sweet soup. It was quite good.






    Had another feast at night.
    This is apparently a famous restaurant where foreign dignitaries like U.S. presidents even visited.




















    There was also a show at night.
  • Day 13 – Friday, June 9 – Hang Zhou

    Visited a Buddhist temple today.
    This one had various levels so you had to climb up stairs to reach each one.




    There’s a wall which supposedly brings luck when you touch up.
    So people try to jump and reach as high as they can.
    The lower words all had their gold rubbed off already.








    Went to see another traditional house.
    This one had a talking mynah bird which was awesome.
    It could say “ni hao”. =)







  • Day 14 – Saturday, June 10 – Su Zhou

    Traveled to Su Zhou today.
    Visited a traditional house first.


    Visited a pagoda next.
    It was pretty narrow to climb up to the top.


    There was a stand where the owner could make shapes with sugar.
    It was pretty awesome watching him create shapes in seconds.





  • Day 15 – Sunday, June 11

    Flew back to the U.S today.
    Had a layover in Narita Airport and bought a ton of omiyage.
    Some were great. Others, not so…
    Hanakamakura is very good.
    It’s a cookie that comes in sakura and green tea flavors.


    Tokyo Banana was ok. It was a cute banana shape.


    Shiroi Koibito from Hokkaido is one of my favorites.
    Comes in milk and white chocolate varieties.
    Yes, the company got in a scandal for using expired ingredients but hopefully they’ve reformed.
    You can visit the factory if you’re in Sapporo.


    The Hiyoko (little chicks) were cute, but not that yummy.
    For a good sable, I’d recommend Hato Sable from Kamakura which they are known for.

7 Responses to Trip Report – May/June 2006

  1. Kieli says:

    Holy cow, I never knew this existed as part of your official blog….all of this food! It reminds me of a certain someone……I’m jealous…I know I shouldn’t be. What part of Japan are you heading off to this time?

  2. shijima says:

    Hehe, nah, not everything was good.
    I’m going to visit some temples and castles this time in Western Japan.

  3. Ren says:

    I haven’t actually finished reading your travel report, maybe tonight after work, but damn! the food..and the places…man someday I will go to those places! But for now I just wanna let you know I really appreciate the hard work, I’m sure you’re relishing those moments again when typing it lol and it makes me able to live vicariously through you hehe…

  4. Hazuki says:

    Splendid!
    Your trip looked really wonderful.
    The scenery looks great, especially the night Shanghai view and the temple.
    Although I’ll skip most of the food ;p
    Btw, Mos Burger?!
    Is that a real fast food chain in Japan?
    I always thought it only existed in Akaiito world. ^^a

    Anyway, thanks for sharing the picture and memory.
    They really tempt me to go there. :p

  5. shijima says:

    @Ren
    Hehe, yah, it was nice to go through the pics and see what I did.
    Nah, you have to go see for yourself someday. =)

    @Hazuki
    Oh, hehe, sorry if I confused you. Mos Burger is real.
    The burger chain in Akaiito is Hakkin Burger.
    Yah, Shanghai at night is nice. =)

  6. Hazuki says:

    Oh, I see.
    It was my mistake then.
    When I read you write “The Wakasugi logo sort of looks like an upside-down Mos Burger logo.” in August, I thought the burger chain was called Mos Burger. ^^a

    By the way, by Western Japan are you going to visit Kyoto too?
    Or you mean the most western side of Japan?

  7. shijima says:

    Yah, I’m going to visit Kyoto also but I’ll try to avoid the weekend this time cause it’ll be crowded. :p

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