Sunday, December 21, 2014

japan part 1

i just spent two awesome solid weeks in japan with Ted and his family and it was aaahhhhmazing!!!!! like aaaaaaahhhhhhhh-maaaaaaayyyyyy-zinnnnnnggg!! our purpose for heading that way was to attend Ted's cousin's wedding but we were met with so much more. Ted's uncle was insanely generous with the whole family and planned out a majority of our trip including hotel stays, transportation from city to city, activities, tours, lunch and dinner reservations, and on and on and on. i wish that i could be as generous, detailed and thoughtful a person as he is but that kind of care only comes inherently in certain people. i could never have planned nor asked for a better trip. here it is the first half of the trip in an outline of pictures. there are a lot, so i hope you're comfy in your seat.

Hong Kong airport on a verrrrry long nine hour layover. good thing they've got tons of food options and this place is huge, providing me with lots of stuff to look at and room to exercise my 14.5 hour immobile legs from the flight out of SFO. 

the japanese are so thoughtful about everything! the fogged bathroom mirror still allows for vanity with an unfoggable spot!

this wedding was undeniably the fanciest, most well orchestrated wedding i've ever attended. it was timely, formal, extravagant and left nothing more that could be done. the church had an organ player and full choir who sang beautifully. the families were formally introduced after the nuptials. there was a guess-the-color-of-the-dress game. generous gift bags for each guest. a seven course meal involving lobster thermidor and filet mignon with foie gras. a piano player and opera singer. three outfit changes. hello kitty. tearjerking thank yous to parents (which i can only deduce because i saw literal tears, not because i could understand a word of what they said as it was all in japanese). and lots of love.

father and the bride


the wedding was pretty westernized with some flickers of japanese culture sprinkled in.

some women wore kimonos. this was adorable!

my handsome

Ted's family, including our gracious hosts for the trip.

outfit #2

outfit #3. i couldn't understand a lick of what they were saying but i think the teddy bears represented each child that they were giving away. they had their birth dates, weight, height, name, etc. embroidered into the paws. what a cuuuuuuute idea!

hello kitty! i would expect no less from a wedding in japan. 

before going to japan someone told me that there is an immense amount of pressure to succeed in japan, so the people dedicate their all into their jobs. this means long hours and loads of stress. in order for them to counteract all of that, after work they drink a much so that they fall asleep all over the place in their business suits. aaaaaand then i witnessed this in real life. also, people in japan do. not. steal! this, for the most part is an actual fact! amazing, right? in that bag he had things like his wallet and cell phone and they were safe!

"in japan, peace sign!"--some guy who spoke very little english told me this while taking our picture on another occasion atop a roof somewhere in Fukuoka. when the japanese themselves tell you, you then follow suit. 

we had THE most filling, most awesome lunch in Oita. these were the highlights.
fugu aka blowfish aka puffer fish is known to be poisonous if not properly cleaned. in Oita they've got Tiger blowfish which is supposedly the most delicious version. the liver is known to be the most poisonous part and serving it is illegal in japan though in Oita there are many places that serve the liver (as seen above). the fish is verrrrry expensive and during our amazing lunch it was served to us as sashimi with the liver, deep fried, stewed, and a broth made from the bones provided as the base for a porridge....and that was only half the meal.

individual servings of sashimi!

Wagyu beef! legit!

el fin! 

next, we were off to a city called Beppu, known for their hot springs. we stayed at the Suginoi Hotel which had an amazing room with our own long hall entry way. the hotel itself has tanayu, which are open air baths (hot springs) with an amazing view of the city. there is a large section for clothing on, both men and women but there are also separate mens and womens sections which are strictly nude. i stuck with the non-nude side because...gross otherwise.
view from our room!

baths behind us

love the comfy hang out outfits but not loving the spock socks.

just being dorks. again, when in japan, peace sign!

the next day we took a tour of Sea Hell, which brought us to different sites showcasing the heat coming from below the ground and inside earth. this also included a crocodile breeding center, lots of steam and zero relief from the stench of sulfur.
red pool


blue pool

boiling eggs in the hot hot water

part of a shinto shrine purification ritual. shintoism, practiced by most of japan is a religion based on praise or spirituality of nature.

heat making gloopy bubbles in clay.

people warming up their footers in small hot spring pools. for the record, i did NOT join in this as my disgust of feet would not allow for such sharing of filth.

lunch! individual cute little boxes full of veggies, meats and chawanmushi, heated underneath. deeeeelicious!

Ted's aunt said this beef was "famous" but i didn't get clarification on what type exactly this was. it was probably theeeeee greatest beef i'd ever put into my mouth at this point in my life.

the Umitamago Aquarium in Beppu was amazing! not only did they have a lot of the cool fish you typically see in aquariums but they also had seals, walrus', dolphins, etc. 
at a dolphin show trying not to get completely wet when splashed.

only in japan would you find a sloth wearing a santa the aquarium. doesn't make sense, riiiight?


Ted's aunt asked if i wanted to dress in a kimono and have pictures taken. how can you turn that down? well, you don't! having wanted to do this in our plans but not knowing whether it was an easy task to fulfill, i wasn't sure that i was going to be able to do this. aaaaaand then i did! the process of being dressed in a kimono was intense! it took two women, three robes, lots of padding, many layers, shallow breaths, straightening an always slouched back, spock socks, pigeoned toes, odd-chin-down-positioning, and a handbag i would never use to get into a kimono and take some professional pictures. it was an awesome experience and i should be receiving one of the prints on canvas and one as a portrait in the mail sometime. cool, yeah?

almost all of the hotels gave us matching pjs to wear. this pair was particularly 70's. 

the next day we went to an African Safari in Beppu where we rode around in a bus and were able to feed the animals! it started snowing which made me feel bad for the animals because frozen sprinkles of water is the complete opposite of the blazing below-the-equator sun of their natural habitats. but hey, we were there are feeding enormous animals is fun.

our ridiculous bus/van 

huge metal tongs to feed the animals with. pellets for the hoofed animals, sweet potato for the elephants, oranges for the giraffes, meat for the lions and little biscuit/cookie things for the bears (which i did not understand. as we all learned from Winnie the Pooh, i'm sure they would appreciate some honey instead).

we fed them through opened plastic doors at different heights

the thing isssss....these animals are so used to being fed that they've become quite tame. the lions REFUSED to stand on their hind legs to get the meat i held in higher windows. lazy sons of bitches! because of this, vultures came in and swooped the meat right out of my tongs! assholes! this reinforces my hatred of birds.

monkeys are too close to being humans

monkey lurve. 
hangin with some kangas

slobbered on by some kangas

later that day we went to a cool street in Yufuin city, lined with little souvenir and food shops as well as lots of food to eat! 
this was SO good! cookie crisp with a red bean center. the cookie portion had a slight burn or charred flavor that was a pleasant surprise.

they called this cheese cake but it was like a verrrrry light and fluffy, whipped, hot, creamy cheese cake-esque thing. i could eat this and the cookie thing endlessly.

Mt. Yufu from the street

matcha mochi. i've never had mochi so soft and light!

two guys pulled us around town by rickshaw. needless to say our guy had massive hamstrings.

next, we were off to Tokyo!!!!

we stayed at the Tokyo Station Hotel, located on top of the Tokyo Station which is a central station for public transportation including different railways, JR (japan rail) and Shikansen (bullet train). on ground level and underground in most major stations are LOTS of shops, department stores and food options. and when i say lots, i mean an overwhelming number. like, you truly get lost in where you are and where you've been. it's pretty amazing and can fill hours of your day.

Tokyo Station at night

the next day we went on a tour around Tokyo
1. Tokyo Tower 2. tea ceremony 3. lunch 4. Imperial Palace 5. river cruise 6. Asakusa

Tokyo Tower, which is a tv tower, currently inactive and used only as a tourist location

150 meters up

looking down at cars n' such.

oh that view!

tea ceremony!

i was the "guest of honor" but only because i happened to choose some seat predesignated. we were taught how to properly turn your bowl twice so that the picture on the bowl faces out when sipping as well as how to cup your bowl.

fall was in full swing in the beautiful garden

perty! so i was wondering why they put these straw wrappings around the trees and assumed that it was spiritual like preserving the soul of the tree or something but to my astonishment i was wrong! i mean they are all about nature and nurturing bonsai for centuries so i thought i was thinking in the right direction. nopes! they put these wrappings on in the winter because insects are attracted to them and hide in them through the cold. they stay there and sort of hibernate. right before winter ends, they take off the wrappings taking the sleeping insects with them so that they aren't too rampant in the spring. ga-rossss!


the indication of a shinto shrine is the red gate

selfie stick practice

it rains a lot in Tokyo so everywhere you go there are umbrella holders. this one is particularly long

Imperial Palace. on our tour we weren't able to enter the gates because they were having some festival inside which brings the masses. we would've been caught in a huge group of people so we only checked out the surroundings.

just a small portion of the line to get into the palace grounds

Asakusa! a long street of shopping which ends at a temple

le temple

choosing his fortune

tsukemen at the famous Rokurinsha, located on "Ramen Street" on the basement level of Tokyo Station. tsukemen is thick ramen noodles served cold with a seafood dipping sauce. 


at a temple, representative of children lost

another pretty garden. this is the biggest one in Tokyo.

tea service on tatami

Tsukiji Market
we were only able to go to the outer portion of the famous Tsukiji Market but making it into the inner market means waking up at 3am and lining up to get one of 120 tickets allotted per day. and if you do happen to make it in, the real fishermen and buyers haaaaate tourists. they are there for business and you are there to watch and get in the way. they are known to be very rude and have no caution when it comes to the safety of tourists while driving their forklifts. 


we sat at a table and ordered rather than pulling the sushi off plate by plate

sampling dried squid. mMmmm!!!

there are plenty of arcades and entertaining games scattered all over Tokyo. some are filled solely with different claw games or similar games where you knock the toy off of a small stand, hook, platform, etc. 

Akihabara, the electronics region, also known for being the area where teens hang, manga is read and maid cafes exist.

maid cafes are....RIDICULOUS! they are restaurants where the servers dress in cosplay like maids and act as servants. they treat the customer like they are their master and do "magic" before allowing the food to be eaten to ensure deliciousness. it. is. hysterical! they act really cute and do random things like put bunny ears and cat ears on the customers. if you pay for a "live show" they sing on a small stage to the energetic sounds of Jpop and dance erratically as the Japanese are known to do, while facing the "master" who paid for them. one guy actually gestured his arms as if he were physically demanding the woman to sing/dance for him, which was awesomely awkward. the whole experience was (in a Gwen Stefani voice) b.a.n.a.n.a.s.!!

before we ate they made our table use our hands to form hearts and yell "delicious, delicious!! ooooooooh cute!!" as the magic that makes our food taste great. 

adorable!! ketchup rice and an omelette as slumbering bears in a cat blanket. 

katsu polar bear!

Happy Birthday Regina Princess (haha!)
they were told my birthday was at the end of the month. the consequences of that were me being pulled on stage and having the whole restaurant sing HBD (just fyi, i am not a fan of being the center of attention like that. like, not. at. alllll...but i went with it because it was unavoidable). it also resulted in having to run around the stage during a couple of the performances. embarrassing? yes. fun? also yes. 

udon! choose your style (in soup, with light sauce, with dip, dry, etc) and choose from different types of tempura'd things. 

this starbucks is supposed to have the best view of the Shibuya crossing. this is an intersection with five points where all vehicle traffic is stopped and people can cross in any direction (called scramble crossing). it's supposed to be chaotic and a cool sight to see. that chick in the window was in a great spot to take a picture.....and i was about to become her!

this is taken from the spot that girl was in. unfortunately at the time that i was there the sun was shining directly in my direction making it excruciatingly painfully hot and causing all sorts of glare and reflection in the window i was shooting through. also, it was fairly early on a saturday morning so the crossing wasn't as crowded as it is at night. 

well that's part 1, people. if you aren't yet bored and can stand loads more pictures, stay tuned for part 2. it involves a really crazy robot show, fine dining at Jean George Tokyo, bamboo forest, monkeys and the Fushimi Inari Shrine. fun stuff, i tell ya!!

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