I hereby bring you Japan Travel Chronicles Part Two: Tokyo.
(this is a long post)
I've actually spent the majority of my life in Tokyo. Tokyo is like my huge fun backyard. Though I am so glad I don't live there anymore (I was not born to be a city gal. I'm too much of a tomboy who likes wide open spaces), it really is fun to visit every once in a while. Tokyo seriously is like a whole other universe compared to the sleepy little beach town I now live in. Tokyo is like... an anime movie came to life and got high on crack, sprinkled glitter all over the place, drowned in itself and exploded in full force and gagged out skyscrapers and enough people to fill every nook and cranny. Seriously.
Anyhoo. I hope you are ready for a MONSTER of a post. And let's not forget about the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post! I promise it is full of Japanese whimsy :)
(click on photos to enlarge)
Exhibit A: Sushi
Sushi anywhere else just ain't sushi. I don't care what you say. Until you have tried real fresh sushi in Tokyo, don't even try to argue with me. This was one yummy crab. In the above photo, you can see the sushi counter (tip number two: don't even bother sitting at a table at a sushi place. The only place worth sitting at is the counter). You can see the Itamae-san (sushi master). One reason why sushi is so good in Japan is because no average Joe can be a sushi chef. Only those who have gone special, sushi-specific training can serve you sushi.
Exhibit B: Heaven
This is an "Ichigo Daifuku". Daifuku literally means great fortune. But what it actually is is this:
an entire strawberry wrapped up in soft gooey bean paste stuffed inside a delicate, chewy mochi wrap. OMFG. My dad told me this would be dangerous. This thing could consume your life. This thing could very well be the best damn thing to ever enter my mouth. Holy cow. Good thing they don't sell these babies in the states. Otherwise I would surely be 500 lbs of bean paste oozing out of my pores by now.
Exhibit C: Tatami
Tatami is the traditional flooring in Japanese homes. Though you see less and less of it now, I actually find tatami to be very elegant looking, and very comfortable in the summer time. Also, it really brings out the colors of my stripey fuzzy socks.
Exhibit D: Omotesando
Omotesando is a very posh part of Tokyo, with streets lined with fancy, expensive boutiques, cafes, and galleries. I used to live just a quick hop, jump and skip away from Omotesando. This photo was taken just outside of a huge Max Mara store. My mom likes to pretend we are glamor pusses who can actually afford to wear that kind of fancy, city-glamor stuff. Me? I prefer lululemon, thanks.
Yes, that building really does get thicker at the top.
This is the street that connects to Harajuku. Yes. That Harajuku that Gwen Stefani sings about. Yes. People actually did used to dress like that. Did being the key word here. Please don't ask me why Tokyo girls dress the way they do. I'm still scratching my head asking the same question. One time, I saw two girls walking around, shopping, having a grand old time. Only problem was, they were dressed as hamsters. Like, it would put any kid's Halloween costume to shame. Oh, and don't even get me started on the guys. If you don't manscape, and get all metrosexual, well then, you will never get any p+++y. Excuse the language, but it's late, and that's how my brain rolls at that hour ;)
Tokyo is full of little crepe stands that will make fresh crepes for you and fill it with toppings even your little brother isn't creative enough to conjure up. Want curry rice in your crepe? Got it. Want octopus in your crepes as you stroll down the street window shopping? They've got you covered. Want to indulge your every sugar filled wet-dream fantasy? Why not try a crepe filled with custard, bananas, chocolate shavings, caramel sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles?
Exhibit F: Subway Public Service Poster
Cause you are allowed to drink virtually anywhere, including the subway. You can also buy booze from vending machines and basically any convenience store. (incidentally, you can also buy Proactive face soap in vending machines in Tokyo. Random) I absolutely love the humor in this poster. Tokyoites tend to have a huge stick up their asses most of the time, so I was glad to see there's still someone out there who likes a good chuckle.
Exhibit G: Random pretty shit
a huuuuuuge spider statue (?) in Roppongi Hills.Japanese people are SUCKERS for illumination during the Christmas season. Apparently, it's "romantic". A suave man is expected to know the best "illuminated spots" in town, and supposed to woo the pants off his lucky lady friend by showing what a romantic Romeo he is. For some really famous "illuminated spots", people come out in droves, and will actually WAIT IN LINE to see a bunch of bushes all lit up. I can say this cause I'm half Japanese, but man! I really don't get Japanese people sometime. Seriously, there better be some reindeers having wild animal sex or something if you want me to stand in line to see some effing light bulb on a plant.
(I did tell you I was writing this late at night, right? haha)
Exhibit H: Bento Box
Exhibit I: Yakiniku
Yakiniku, (translation: grilled meat), or Korean Style BBQ, is as big in Japan as Godzilla himself. You can find a Yakiniku place on virtually any street in any town.
Yakiniku is pretty much the best thing ever. You order single size portions of raw meat which you cook on the grill on the table. You can also order seafood or veggies to grill up. Yakiniku places also serve a variety of pickled Korean style veggies like the Kimchi, or the Namulu (pictured above), salads, and Korean rice and soup dishes.
Grilling up some intestines. Sounds gross, but it's my second favorite cut of meat, right after Kalbi. One thing I miss about Japan is def the yakiniku. Despite it's emphasis on meat, Korean style BBQ is actually a LOT lighter and healthier than American style BBQ. Each piece of meat is about the size of two fingers. Each serving usually only has like, seven pieces of meat. And you are highly encouraged to alternate between bites of kimchi, veggies, rice, and meat. And all the red chili peppers and fermented pickles are really good for your metabolism and digestion. It's not as "Heavy" as American BBQ, because instead of sugary BBQ sauce, Korean style BBQ uses a lemon sauce or a soy sauce based sauce. Soooooo good I'm telling you.
Exhibit J: Jinja
A Jinja is a shrine. Shrines are built in the Shinto belief, and temples are built in the Bhuddist belief. They are two separate entities, though by this day and age most people don't really care about the differences.
Tokyo, as well as the rest of Japan, is literally scattered with shrines and temples of all magnitudes. From your local neighborhood shrine to the huge sprawling temple gardens, Japan is filled with little bits of history every where you go. The amazing thing about some of these temples and shrines is that they have been here for CENTURIES, from the time samurais were roaming the streets, duking it out for control over the country. Some shrines are said to be extremely spiritually powerful, and people will come from all corners of the country to visit and pray for good luck.
Some jinjas, like this Hiei Jinja, is very modernized. It's located right smack in the middle of a business district, and even has a sleek, modern looking gate and escalators to escort you to the main shrine. I love how Japan can blend technology and design with a thousand year old tradition.
Hatsu-moude, or the first visit to the shrine in the new year, is a VERY IMPORTANT Japanese tradition. I don't know of anyone who doesn't go to Hatsu-moude. The new year is the most important time in Japanese culture, so it's vital to visit a shrine to cleanse yourself from the evils of the past year, and make offerings to the shrine for good luck in the new year. You can buy all sorts of Omamori, or good luck charms from the shrines, which is said to protect you in the new year.
Since I was going to be back in CA for the new year, my mom and I did our Hatsu-moude a little early. In the above photo, you are supposed to walk through the main entrance and through the wreath to wash off all the hardships and evils of the past year. My mom even saw Audrey Hepburn at this shrine way back when she was in her 20s!
Exhibit K: Wasabi
Exhibit L: Tai-yaki
Tai-yaki is another one of my favorite Japanese treats. It's a fish shaped pancake filled with bean paste. So good.The subway and railroad system in Tokyo is the best in the world, in my opinion.
Exhibit M: The subway
Exhibit N: Modernization and traditions
a perfect blend of thousand year old traditions and modern amenities. The first photo is a tiny little shrine tucked away in a concrete jungle. Second photo: 2010 is the year of the tiger! Such a cool display.
Exhibit O: Business class seats
ANNNNNNDDD last but not least,
"I'm terribly sorry. The flight is awfully full today. We had to upgrade you to Business Class. Is that OK?"
Is that OK? Is that OK? Ha! Are you kidding me!!!!!! It's more than just OK! It's the sweetest thing I ever heard! Free updgrade to business class on a ten hour flight? Hallelujah! I couldn't believe my luck. The seats fully reclined to a sleeping position, the food was excellent, I could choose what movie I wanted to watch when, and I could sit cross legged. When I told my mom about my good fortune, she explained to me that it was because we had visited many shrines earlier that week. She said spiritual powers work in mysterious ways. I almost believe her :)
and phew! now I'm done. Thanks for sticking with me through this huge monster of a post. And if you didn't read all of it, and just scrolled down to the giveaway, I don't blame ya!
Without further ado, time for my second GIVEAWAY!!!
I would like to call this my Japanese Whimsy Goody Package.
Included in this package are:
Aroma Shoe Keepers!!!!
These adorable little rabbits will fit nice and snuggly in your disgusting, sweaty sneakers, and turn them into Peach Scented Aromatic wonders.
Look at how cute they are! These two sweet little cuddlies will turn even the stinkiest sneakers into peach scented wonders of the world. Fresh sneakers guaranteed! haha
All joking aside, I'm actually for real. Stick these rabbits into your sneakers after a run, and hopefully they will take some of the stink out. Or if they are just too cute to stuff into some dingy old kicks, why not hang them up in your room? It will fill your room with the fresh scent of peaches.
So what do you need to do in order to win this fun little package from Japan?
It's as easy as 1-2-3!
Again, thanks for reading this huge Godzilla of a post! and good luck with the giveaway!