Sunday, December 18, 2005

Japan: Hiroshima 20 - Things I do not understand

I'd like to dedicate this posting of Things I Don't Understand to my Dry Cleaner: J-Cleaning (aka Jackass).

1. Why does "Jackass" come to our house to deliver and pick up our drycleaning at all hours of the night? He has come by 10:30pm before and never shows on the day he says he will. He also just lost our biggest orders of 12 shirts and has given us other people's clothes. Why?

2. Why do they only issue one type of uniform to Japanese schoolgirls? I see these poor girls in short skirts freezing outside, while it is snowing.

3. Why are there so many coins in Japan? 100 Yen and 500 Yen come in the form of a coin. That is equivalent to a $1 and $5. You can only imagine how quickly you'll spend money here.

4. Why is Japanese so hard to learn? For every phrase there is way to say it casually, casual politely, politely, more politely and formally politely. Men and women also have different ways to speak.

5. Why are there point cards for every store? I've been here 3 weeks and already have membership and point cards to 10 different stores. I'm sure I'll be collecting more soon.

6. Why is there smoke in No Smoking sections?

7. Why do they keep playing the same Japanese commercials over and over and over and over....during every commercial break?

8. Why are so many girls pigeon-toed?

9. Why are there noodles in everything we eat? Lance thinks it's a conspiracy, he claims they hide them. Even in foods that don't look like there are noodles involved, just lift it and there are noodles underneath.

10. Why did I buy these gross chicken things tonight? I wondered why this pack of chicken pieces were so cheap. After I cooked them and took a bite, turns out they were chicken fat.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Japan: Hiroshima 19 - Ordering Pizza

Finally I have recovered from the flu and sore throat to catch up on my blog.

Tonight Lance has dared me to order pizza. We receive many mouth-watering brochures for food delivery on a daily basis in the mail. Hiroshima residents LOVE Italian food. There are many many pizzerias and Italian restaurants.

The idea of ordering seems quite simple at first. I try to web-order for easier communication. WRONG. Try ordering on this site:
I got so far as the 2nd webpage.

I call in and upon listening to a 5 minute soliloquy of what I can assume are daily specials, I had to ask 5 times if I reached "Chicago-Pizza." Thankfully it's the right number and though I spell my name 4 times, she writes it down as E-I-I-M. I order a large crispy crust pizza called the Mama Mia for $33.00. It is divided into 4 quarters and has different toppings on each. Pizzas here like to put lines of mayonnaise and things like shrimp and asparagus on it, among the the common toppings we like in the US.

A delivery guy shows up what seemed like only 5 minutes and the pizza is delicious. I do discover one of the toppings is anchovy with pepperoni and onions. But the other toppings include chicken terikyaki and broccoli, another is sausage, corn, asparagus and lines of mayonnaise. Oishii desu!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Japan: Hiroshima 18 - First visit to the Doctor

All day I have been craving a burrito.

I've been sick for the past week. Probably something I contracted in Tokyo. Most likely a foreign flu strain, with a touch of a sore throat from hell. It puts me in a really good mood. I know what you're thinking, yes I did wonder if it was SARS but decided against it because I have been in misery too long.

My Japanese teacher took me to a doctor this past Tuesday. I completely lost my voice that morning. Interesting experience. There are no such things as appointments here (similar to other Asian countries). It's first come, first serve and if you're smart, you'll show up when they open. I wonder if camping is allowed....

The clinic lobby was filled with old Japanese men. I fell asleep while everyone watched a morning show on TV - like a Japanese verion of Regis and Kelly on speed. When it was my turn, I was led to the patient room. Unlike US doctors who make patients wait forever in the patient room by themselves, the doctor was already sitting there. He could speak understandable English and told me to sit in the chair across from him (not on the patient bed). He also had a huge flat screen computer where he would look up English medical words to translate to me. He prescribed me 5 different kind of medicines. When I asked him what the dose was of each, he did Yahoo searches on the medicines to get the dosage. That was little alarming. Luckily, I didn't need to go to the pharmacy cause they gave me my medicines right there. Also, no one told me about side affects til I discovered them myself. Basically I feel like I've been floating for the past week. Good thing I haven't operated heavy machinery.

Three times a day, I dump a pack of MSG looking powder into my mouth and swallow with water. Take 2 pills, and gargle w/what looks and smells like Iodine that I mix with water. It gives you gas like a champion.

Most American drugs are illegal here because they contain acephetomin (sp?) as a fever reducer. Luckily I bulk bought them at Cost-co.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Japan: Tokyo 17 - Shibuya and the Imperial Palace

"Every teen in Japan knows Shibuya, the center of youth culture...the distraction of five giant screens playing J-pop videos...Japan's busiest pedestrian crossing, with cheap stores, restaurants, and bars, shopping is pursued with the passion of an Olympic event" from Tokyo Guide.

This is all completely true. Lance and I went there Saturday night and it is the most hopping place I'd ever been to. We got off the train station at Shibuya and just the volume of people at this station will shock you. When we got out into the street I was like "Where the did all these people come from?" It is insane...and apparantly completely normal for Shibuya. Tons of trendy people. We had dinner at a delicious Chinese restaurant and spent time at the HMV music store. You can listen to all the CDs on headphones and we ended buying 2 Japanese CDs.

Sidenote 1: Check out the blowfish sushi restaurant in the pic
Sidenote 2: There was also the largest 2-floor Coach store I've ever seen in Shibuya. I visited and paid homage.

That evening we went to Harajuku but it was dead. It's supposed to be good on Sundays, but were not able to go since we left Saturday morning.

Imperial Palace:
The Palace grounds are huge. If you visit, bring really good walking shoes. I walked 20 miles just to get to the inner gate. Free admission gets you in to see the gardens. However, if you want a tour of the Palace, you have to submit an application at least a day in advance.

Japan: Tokyo 16 - Tea ceremony and Hotel Otani

I went to visit a tea ceremony at the Hotel New Otani. This hotel is fabulous! It is in the Asakasa area. It was only 2 stops away from my hotel. Using a combination of 3 maps I found it....even though it is a 3 min. walk from the station. It is in a super nice area. My Japanese teacher told me Princess Diana had stayed at this hotel. Hotel Otani is huge - made up of 3 buildings and includes tons of high end shopping: Salvatore Ferragamo, Christion Dior, Versace and the likes. Lots of restaurants too. There was an outside Japanese garden in the middle of the hotel buildings.

Tea ceremony:
The tea ceremony is located on the 7th floor. It is $10.00 for a 25 min. performance, cup of hot green tea and a sweet red bean dessert. I was the only person in there at the time, so I able to enjoy it by myself. The tea woman spoke a few words of English so was not able to explain alot. First I took my shoes off of course and sat down on a straw mat. She placed the red bean sweet in front of me and told me to eat it while she prepped. Her actions are deliberate and commanding. First she picks up each tool she is going to use and shows them in a ceremonious way (reminiscent of Karate Kid when Daniel-san went to Okinawa). Then she took a ceremic bowl, opened the lid to a pot in the ground and placed the lid on top of a glass stand. The pot in the ground is very hot and already contains hot water. It sits on charcoals underneath. Then she scoops the hot water into the bowl and uses a bamboo whisk to whisk it around. She then pours this into a bowl on the side. The purpose was to clean the bowl.

Next she takes a container of green tea powder and puts a little into the bowl. She opens another container full of fresh cold water and takes a scoop, dumps it into the hot pot and scoops out a mix of hot and cold water into the bowl. Then she whisks it into a frothy bowl of green tea. She places the bowl towards me on the floor, then she scoots up to it and continues doing that til the bowl is right in front of me.

She presents me the tea by turning it twice clockwise and I take it w/my right hand and place it on top of my left hand and turn it twice clockwise. If the tea is good, I am supposed to drink it in one gulp. When done, I am to wipe the bowl where my mouth was, turn it twice counter clockwise and put it on the floor. She wraps up the ceremony by putting everything back and showing the tools off once more. Despite seeing it in movies and reading about it, it is very cool to experience yourself.

Japan: Tokyo 15 - Asakusa and a Sento

Asakusa tourism:
Asakusa, not to be mistakened for Akasaka, is the heart of old downtown Tokyo. It is famous for the Senso-ji Temple, the largest temple in Japan and a five storied pagoda. Leading up to it is the Kaminarimon Gate and a walkway known as the Nakamise Dori, chock full of traditional vendors and souvenir shops (dates back 500 years of practice). There are also tour guides that hassle tourists there, but they thought I was Japanese so was able to fend them off.

Pic 1: Kaminarimon Gate
Pic 2: Nakamise Dori
Pic 3: Pagoda
Pic 4: Senso-ji Temple

Sento in Asakusa:
I read about a Sento, or a public bath. And yes, out of my own curiousity and for blog material I stripped naked and went in. It was $4 for a bath, $1 towel rental, $.20 soap. Let's just say I have enough images of old naked women, to make me want to work out everyday for the rest of my life. You take off your shoes, put your junk in a locker and go into a room to scrub yourself down and wash yourself, then you are to soak in a huge pool of boiling hot water with everyone. I left after 10 minutes.

Japan: Tokyo 14 - Roppongi Hills

First night we went to Roppongi Hills - one word: AWESOME! It is a brand new complex. Quote from the Floor Guide - "Art and Intelligent Blending with the Urban Landscape. One large city offering a range of entertainment from art museums, movie theaters, shopping and gourmet dining. The movie theater doesn't even close til 5 a.m. on weekends. The website is:

It has American stores like Banana Republic (more expensive than at home!), Diesel, Max Mara, and other recognizable ones like Zara, Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton, Mikimoto, Kate Spade and more. Obviously I love shopping. And it includes a Grand Hyatt. There is an observatory in Mori Tower and the 360 degree Tokyo view is absolutely breathtaking at night. It is open til midnight. You fully appreciate how large the city is. Stretches for further than the eye can see. You can also see the Eiffel Tower look alike close by.

The complex includes:
-North Tower - Casual Gourmet Dining area (where we had tapas)
-Metro Hat/Hollywood Plaza - 5 floors of Collaboration in beauty, diet and health
-West Walk - 6 floors of Trend galleria with open ceiling
-Hillside - Art & lifestyle space including entertainment
-Roppongi Keyaki - Tree lined streets w/name brands. shops, chic cafes

Current movies playing were Mr. and Mrs. Smith, In Her Shoes, Meet the Fockers, and others that I've already seen weeks ago back home. Movie tix are between $18-$20 in Japan. Current museum exhibit was "Vivienne Westwood, 35 years of Fashion" (I'm bummed I didn't have time to check it out).

Japan: Tokyo 13 - Subway and Food

The subway in Tokyo is amazing. First, the are 13 Metro lines and 2 JR lines. There's also streetcars and the Shinkansen line. You can preview a map here:
There are also English subway maps available at each station and when in doubt the station desk can always help. Rates start at $1.60, depending where you want to go. There is also an English rate table above the ticket machines.

The cuisine was so delicious in Tokyo!!!! There are alot of American restaurants - including KFC, Subway, Domino's, TGIF, Hard Rock and of course McDonald's. Of course that's not the good stuff. There are Indian curries, Spanish tapas, Chinese, Irish bars, Italian, Japanese and more! The first night Lance and I had dinner at an awesome tiny yakitori restaurant in Roppongi. I will be forever thinking about it from now on. We had the most delicious radish salad w/ginger dressing and tomotoe salad sprinkled w/fresh grated peppercorns. Followed up with grilled yakitori skewers of steak and chicken. It had the best sauce on them. And asparagus in butter and lemon and grilled mushrooms. That was about $85. Thru the weekend we had tapas including a phenomal one of Japanese beef w/minced olives and some spicy sauce, amazing Chinese food, and strawberry cake at a bakery. They have yummy bakeries all over Japan! There's always fake plastic food outside restaurants so you can see what they serve. One of the nights we were walking we saw a line of people around the corner, only to find out this is what the long line was for....

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Japan: Tokyo 12 - Intro

Lance and I went to Tokyo this weekend. He had to be there for business, so I tagged along from Fri- Sun. Cool doesn't even begin to describe just how AMAZING it is!!!! There is so much to do and it's awesome! A weekend is not enough. I can't wait to go back and see more. I did find out that Sumo is only 3 months out of the yr. in Tokyo (stay tuned for when we do attend an event).

It is a 4 hr. train ride by Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Tokyo (approx. $500 roundtrip each. I belive it costs less by plane and takes 3 hrs.). As quoted from the Tokyo 2005 Guide (website - I got from our hotel lobby - "Expect to be amazed, amuse, and dumbfounded by this city, which presents the past and future side by side. With some 34 million in the sprawling conurbation that constitutes Greater Tokyo, this is the largest city in the world, with 12 million more people (about the population of Greater London) than the next biggest city, Mexico City." Yes, it can be expensive, it is alot of fun, and it is so International! In some areas we heard more English than Japanese. There are also many Europeans. Just a ton of foreigners from all over the world.

Toyko is very westernized. Most sales people, restaurant servers, and hotel staff all speak English. Everything is American friendly. Although it may seem intimidating at first, the subway is supereasy to navigate and get around the city. Taxis will cost you an arm and a leg.

Since Lance had to work on Friday and Saturday, I explored the city by myself. I used many maps and brochures I picked up in Tokyo. This website was also very very helpful: We stayed in the Roppongi area at a hotel called Villa Fonatine Roppongi. Check out how cool the toilets are! I know you're curious.