Tuesday, December 23, 2014

japan part 2

fun fact: you know how Japan has those crazy high tech looking toilets? you've seen them. they've got every button you could imagine you'd need for a toilet including seat warmers, bidets and self cleaning spray. but what you didn't know is that when you approach the toilet it senses your presence and either makes the sound of running water or actually starts running water. i couldn't figure out what this was about so i asked one of our tour guides. it turns out that the Japanese are such discreet and polite people that they don't want other people (or even yourself) hearing the sound of your liquid expulsion. i guess i can get behind that.

fun fact #2: you almost never see japanese people eating and walking...like ever! they give lots of respect and regard to their food as well as the person making the food. if you're walking while eating it's viewed as a disrespect. so whether you're eating street food or sitting down to eat, you're supposed to eat it right there or take it to go to eat at home but never rush the process. also, it's rare that you find a garbage can around public areas so you take your food trash and hand it right back to the vendor. 

on that unrelated note, here are some pics from the second part of my trip to Japan! 

we went to Harajuku in search of girls dressed up in crazy wigs and excessive tutus with stickers and cotton candy colors on every inch of their outfits but to no avail. maybe we went at the wrong time (saturday around noon). this was a little disappointing but we knew we were in the right area because we found some ridiculous stuff. like this cozy polar bear warmer. o

this was outside of the Robot Restaurant in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. the only way to describe this show is ludicrous! over the course of 90 minutes there wasn't a dull moment. constant robot fighting, dancing, lasers, sparkles, singing, and so on made it impossible to look away for a split second in fear of missing out on something more ridiculous. just take a look at the pictures and imagine what more it could be. pictures can only tell so much.

the lounge before heading into the actual show space. it's like Las Vegas casino rooms on crack.

robot with wings playing the guitar was also joined by robotty/angely women playing the violin and piano.

the structures are literally two inches away from your table and sometimes they'd come up above my head. their team was really great at utilizing nearly every inch of space. their mechanics were on point!

she was dancing in our faces to the sounds of Lady Gaga's Poker Face. 

not a unicorn, but a sparkling shimmery stallion will do any day.

robot fight!

notice the chain they placed up right in our faces

of course the show wouldn't be complete without a panda.

nor a dragon

the friendliest looking robot

tiny asian women dancing on top of an enormous caucasian woman? sure thing.....

i don't know what you'd call these but they were cool. like single wheeled robot vehicles.

after robot wars we had dinner at Jean George Tokyo! it just opened in March of this year but Jean George is an acclaimed 3 Michelin star chef. we went with their winter menu including blue fin tuna noodles and these dishes to follow. i was really excited about this meal and it lived up to what i thought a dinner from a Jean George restaurant might be like. i've never fine dined with chopsticks!

cauliflower with seared scallops and caper raisin emulsion

foie gras brulee with toasted brioche and toasted mission fig

suckling pig confit, silky rutabaga and bacon marmalade 

warm chocolate cake with caramel ice cream

one of four cool statues in our hotel bridging old and new art

the best hotel room we had on the trip! Intercontinental Osaka. it's right near the major train station and is at the heart of all of all of the awesome food options Osaka has to offer as well as lots of shopping. this room was beautiful and had a great view. 

kushikatsu, or deep fried meat and vegetables on a stick. we walked past a space where you could see the bottom halves of people standing around and hear a playful loudness like a you might at a bar. we peeked in to find a kushikatsu spot but were unsure about how to approach. someone in there was nice enough to bring us in and upon discovering we spoke english yelled "American style!!!" to the whole restaurant. we were brought the menu you see on the left to choose our sticks but soon realized that people were reaching in to community boxes of sticks as they saw enticing sticks placed into them. we then followed suit and just grabbed at whatever we felt looked good. you take the sticks and dip into the community dipping box just once for sanitary reasons. at the end they take your sticks and count how many of what kind you've eaten and charge you. that's that.

view from our hotel in Osaka

the Dotonburi Canal. it's surrounding areas Umeda and Namba are big tourist shopping areas. perpendicular to this canal is the Shinsaibashi Suji which is a long strip (about 600meters) of covered shopping. 

Dotonburi. an area with tons of shopping and food. a lot of the restaurants have a character representation which is structured above their storefront and protrudes out, just like that crab. i'd imagine at night it's really bright and bustling. one website called it "flamboyant."

a typical ramen ticketing machine. you put your money in like any other vending machine and choose your ramen and any additions then you take your tickets inside to place on your table. someone then brings your ramen to you. efficient, yeah?

when you're so close to Kobe, you must eat Kobe. i did some research and found Misono, a teppanyaki Kobe spot. 

you can order from pre-fixe menus but when you're spending a ton of money on that glorious, glorious beef, why would you dilute all of that fatty goodness with the likes of salad and lobster? just give me the meat and some garlic rice and i'm the happiest of campers. we ordered 200g of Kobe sirloin and 100g of Misono delux sirloin along with garlic rice which amounted to 33,000yen or about $275. worth it? you betcha!

our guy cooking up that beef rare, which in my opinion is the only way to eat beef with that ratio of meat to fat. i heard one lady ordering hers well done and i almost yelled "NO!!!" but restrained myself from doing so in fear that i'd accidentally spit out the luscious cut of meat i'd already placed in my mouth. needless to say, that woman should be eating at Outback.

hey, Beautiful! accompanied by some garlic cooked in that kobe fat. mMmm!!

garlic rice cooked with the rendered kobe fat. this could potentially be the best bowl of rice i've ever eaten in my life. best believe i was savoring every grain.

looking up under or in between the Umeda Sky Building. they were having a holiday market on the ground level hence the christmas tree. this building is pretty trippy looking from the side. we kept calling it the Transformer Building.

Floating Garden at the top of the Umeda Sky Building. 

view from the top

this was our view from the Hotel Granvia Kyoto, located in the Kyoto station. 

Kyoto Station. just like Tokyo Station, there is a ton of shopping and eating that happens below and above the station. this is the view of the inside of the station from the hotel we stayed at.

the Nishiki Market is a covered food market that spans about five or six blocks containing specialty shops and stores. here you'll find a shop specifically for tamago, or pickled vegetables, or fishcake, or matcha, etc. 

this stores focus was broth making. if you've ever tried to make saaaaay a ramen broth, you know there are a bunch of steps and ingredients. here, you'll find them all!

2nd to the top of my Must See list was the Fushimi Inari Shrine but more than the shrine itself, i wanted to see the thousands of gates leading up the mountain. what a sight! having gone on a drab, rainy day, we decided not to ascend the mountain to see the smaller temples. once you start walking through the lines of gates it all starts to sort of look the same so we only made it past the beginning portion of the 4km walk. 

this is me switching between taking pictures on my phone and my camera. actually, this was pretty much how i looked through the whole trip. 

heading up the sides of the gates are blank but coming back down there are characters on them

black cats are good luck in japan

some guy was selling these just outside of the temple area. yummm.

we found a restaurant named after me so we had to go. just kidding, i'm not that vain. because we can't read japanese, the pictures on the menu looked good. it was chinese, which makes me pose then question "how many other chinese Reginas are there?" and why would chinese people name their kid Regina when they aren't really the greatest at pronouncing the rrrrr sound in the first place? why not just name them Legina?

golden pagoda

this adorable little girl was outside of a temple taking pictures

a cool street  heading up to the Kiyomizu-dera temple full of litte shops. it's always bustling and sort of chaotic.

matcha cream puff! you wouldn't believe all of the matcha things you can get in japan. it was hard to narrow down what i actually wanted to eat or not. 

down a street headed for the Gion district

we had to have one meal of yakitori..luckily for us we found a popular spot on restaurant level of Kyoto station. i always forget how good grilled veggies and meat can be. so simple but so satisfying.

it was election time in Japan so there was a lot of propaganda. here and there we'd see people standing on top of vans making speeches. we happened to run into one particular politicians speech that caught the attention of a block full of listeners.

the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove was the #1 must see on my list for japan. it's serene and beautiful minus all of the other tourists. i made it a point to go first thing in the morning to beat the rush to try to snap some photos without twenty other people in the shot and for the most part it worked out.


just a few blocks from the bamboo groves is an entrance up the mountain to a monkey park. after paying a fee you climb the mountain up about 150 meters before you make it to the feeding grounds. typically on your small hike up you are supposed to see monkeys just hanging out in their natural habitat but because it was raining that day the monkeys were in hiding. we only really saw them up where you can feed them. this lazy guy was just hanging out with his arm positioned ready for food. 

for 100yen or less than $1, you can feed them a bag of apples or peanuts through a sort of fencing in the walls. they prefer you do this from behind the wall instead of outside for your own safety. they're wild and are pretty feisty with each other. some are greedy assholes that want to take food from everybody...even the little tikes. 

nap time huddle

matcha ice cream eclair-ish type thing!

these were our tickets for the Shinkasen bullet train back to Tokyo. you know that thing goes about 155 mph? super fast!  from Tokyo we took the Narita Express to the airport. 

till next time, Nippon!