Thursday, May 22, 2014

Travel Diary: Japan - Day 2

So today I ended a tad bit later and it is one of the best days ever! Despite not following what was planned (waking up early..), everything I wanted to do went smoothly aside from dinner at Tsukiji area which I am okay with since dinner turned out amazing.  The day started breakfast-less and both my godmother and I had to ask for directions to take the yamanote line! We were heading to Oedo Onsen Monogatari.  The night before, we researched and figured everything out, but the change in train (companies) was a tad bit confusing...changing from the JR line to the Yurikamome line.  We went from Shinjuku to Shimbashi, then transferred trains to arrive at Tokyo Telecom...and to figure this out, two super nice guys at the information booth of the Shinjuku station helped us figure it out, plus, insert money into our Suica cards (they gave us a map and even drew cartoon characters LOL). Despite the lack of English vocab for them, and my Japanese vocab, we were able to figure things us since I know "sukoshi nihongo", haha.

On the way to Oedo onsen, we found out our next stop was on the way which was Odaiba (Daiba) where the giant Gundam figurine is located + the well-known ferris wheel of Palette Town was.  First, Oedo onsen was smaller than I thought, but still awesome.  The Edo styled interior design made me feel way too hyper since it was like I was in a festival at night (it was lightly dimmed).  I love that we walked around barefoot too.

First, when you arrive at Oedo, you lock up your shoes in a shoe locker and go into the reception desk to receive a key/tag bracelet (along with maps and we got a coupon for a free drink as part of a promotion).  You are then suppose to go to next to the reception to where you will pick and receive a yukata you like (approximately 5 designs or so) and matching it with the obi (sash) you prefer.  After, you go to the separated gender change room to put on the yukata (undergarments on underneath) and then head to the "main area" where the food and souvenir shops are.  There are a lot of authentic games you play at festivals like the balloon catching game in the water, buying masks and cute Japanese knick-knacks.  You walk around barefoot and look at food, purchasing what you want with your bracelet code (which you pay for at the very end when you check out).  There was a lot of food choices, two restaurants I believe, and desserts! It was just awesome walking around, the music and atmosphere made everything feel so authentic!

So after eating, we were ready to head to the onsen!  I had a takoyaki which was surprisingly delicious (I really like!) and my godmother had a clam ramen.  This was technically our breakfast...We chilled and tourist ourselves around (taking pics and stuff) before we decided we were ready for the onsen.

In the onsen area, you enter the change room and you're greeted by friendly staff who hands you a small towel and large towel.  You strip down to your birthday suit (yukata, underwear and all) and lock it in a locker provided.  You can only bring the small towel (which doesn't really hide anything) with you into the bath area.  Note, if you have tattoos, you're not really welcomed to use the facility.  The big bath towel is also stored in the locker and not allowed in the bath area, used only when you finish showering and come out.  The small towel, in the bath area, cannot touch the hot spring water as well.

I'm all over the place today, but yeah.  So after you enter the bath area, you have to first wash yourself with hot water.  A plastic version of the wooden basin is there for you to fill with the hot water and then you pour it on yourself.  In the onsen area, there are three 38 degrees bath, two 40 degrees, three connected 41 degrees and a 39 degrees jacuzzi massage bath.  Next to these indoor baths is also the shower area where you sit on a stool to wash yourselves, scrub each others back and yeah...bareskin bonding! To be really honest, I was super awkward...but after seeing eight/nine naked becomes normal - facepalm-. Inside, there is also a wet sauna and a dry sauna (where the interior is bamboo wood I believe).  There is also a spa area which I didn't really go to since I peeked in a saw naked people lay there and was told it's essentially someone scrubbing and washing you for you...

The outdoor bath is half opened and half semi covered (from rain and sunshine).  There is one big and one smaller outdoor hot springs and five individual tub ones which are adorable!  I really enjoyed the dry sauna (went in twice) and the outdoor bath, especially with the breeze since it helped the heat build up.  I should explain that the tiny towel provided is meant to be soaked with cooler water, rung out, and then placed on your head to cool you off.  The baths and sauna was nice and I felt like a hard boiled egg smooth with all the dead skin off.  I enjoyed the onsen a lot and it made me feel a bit sleepy too (that feeling!).  After onsen, you shower and head back to the changing room (yes, naked) to your locker to dry off with the towel.  You put on your yukata again and have option to blow dry your hair and such, a lot of moisturizer, hair heat treatment and toner is provided.  The sign also says shaving razors, shower hair caps and such is also available upon request to the staffs.  You return the towel to the staffs before you head out (oh, there are also hair brushes that are provided...each sterilized).  After heading out, I walked around a bit to skype and get the free drink (I had oolong tea while my godmother had ginger ale).  We got shaved snow (milk with mango) and then went to check out the outdoor foot bath.  It was peaceful and super nice with the service of trying the fish treatment (where fishes eat the dead skin of your feet).  It was just so peaceful and nice there...

We spent a few hours there before deciding to head out and go to Odaiba!  At Odaiba, we went to the Diversity outlet as well as the one next to Palette Town.  Diversity had a lot of food and we did snack on the Pretzel fastfood chain (American, I believe...with Japanese twist to it) and had one-bite gyoza (shrimp one and pork too). This was later though, to hide from the rain that poured after thunder and lightning.  Before the snacking and rain, we took pictures of the Gundam figurine and headed over to the ferris wheel.  We went through Toyota garage display (which was HUGE) and played the Nascar game before riding the ferris wheel.  For the ferris wheel, you had the option of a transparent or colored gondola (and we chose transparent).  It was quite affordable.  After, we went to the arcade next to the ferris wheel and got reeled in to play those claw-catching games.  Did not win and spent probably 1000 yen on that -facepalm-. After that, we went through the outlet and the sky got darker, preparing to rain.  It was awesome because before that, we saw sunset on the ferris wheel! The rain also finally forced us to pick up the classic transparent umbrellas everyone has!  We snacked at the Diversity outlet as well, before purchasing the pretzel (and hot dog cheese pretzel) and umbrella.

We headed back to Shimbashi to take the JR Yamanote line to go to Shibuya! Shibuya was overwhelming...I knew right away the Hachiko exit was the place to go.  The Shibuya crossing was as awesome as I thought and the Hachiko statue! Them tourists spot, easiest place to see where the foreigners are.  There was a lot of people there too, meeting others (more beautiful Japanese teens). We decided to hunt for food in Shibuya and found this sushi shop (which I love so much!) and it was a standing one.  Some people ate with there hands (a hot wet towel is provided at first) and the sushi chef makes the sushi in front of you as you order.  He place the sushi on a leaf (not a plate!) on the counter in front and you just order as much as you want.  We ate a total of 30 pieces of sushi, plus me a cup of sake.  It was awesome and I got a little tipsy, feeling the buzz and became very talkative.  Thanks to this, I was able to meet two local Japanese people and became friends with them! We chatted (my Japanese skills kicking in) more later on, initially talking when they asked me which sushi we were eating and they helped us with the Line QR code discount.  It was awesome, making friends at the sushi shop.  I should mention, I was told that I was 18, 16, and 15 years old today.  I shocked everyone, as usual, when they found out I was turning 20 at the end of the year (story of my life). The sushi was so fresh and delicious, and the sake made it better!  It was one of my better experiences, where the sushi chef told me: "See your tomorrow" and I hugged my newly-made friend goodbye (after inviting her to Canada).  The alcohol really made me more sociable (haha) and anyways, yeah...the shop was also having line-ups and was just amazing.  Must upload them photos! Sadly, I also got too caught up talking I didn't photograph all the sushi we ate.  We ate a total of 6,480 yen.

After that, we walked around Shibuya and went in another arcade to watch people play a more advanced version of DDR.  That dude (yes, a guy) was a perfect 100 at the game...those hand gestures, dang!  Restaurants were close to closing (it was 10 something, I believe) and so we just walked around, hoping to head back to Shinjuku. There was a lot of drunk people, puking on the side in a bag or even laying on the floor asleep.  There was a lot of tipsy people who couldn't walk straight and was being carried.  Anyways, we headed back in the packed train (it was packed around 8pm, trains were full of men in suits) to our hotel...never finding the ice cream we searched for.  I also want to mention that there are A LOT of men in, A LOT - Japan lifestyle seems to be very pressuring as well..or tense.

Anyways, I should head to bed. I really enjoyed today, that feeling when you come out of the onsen and wear a yukata to sip on cold oolong tea!  Meeting a new friend from Philly, USA, two new friends from Hong Kong and another new Japanese friend here! The sushi was delicious and I just really feel even more psyched to see more! Off to Skytree and maybe Akihabara tomorrow! Good night!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Travel Diary: Japan - Day 1

Day 1 just went by in a blur.  I should be sleeping, but obviously, I am still awake despite walking around all day.  I will probably fill in photos a little later (put them on facebook and stuff) when I go back to Hong Kong.  Unfortunately, I didn't take much photos day 1 since it was raining and also, I need a new camera strap to put it around my neck since strapping it to my wrist really isn't that convenient for shopping and trying to hold my phone to google map everything.

First, I took Delta Airline's transfer flight to go to Japan since it was a part of a pretty decent deal with the hotel.  As a Japan-tourist newbie, I now know to do something different next time I come.  Legit, the hotel isn't that nice and it's really small...but in the end, most of the time is spent walking around so I did agree beforehand to spend less on accommodations and more on shopping and such.  The flight was 3.5 hours and when we landed, it was starting to rain.  Japan is quite chilly, especially in contrast with the Hong Kong humid and stormy weather. Wearing my Zara cardigan is actually appropriate (I also had on a pair of tights with my heavier weighted skirt). We took the Narita Express directly from Terminal 1 of Narita airport to Shinjuku station.  The train was so awesome! That food, the cleanliness and might just be because extra awesome in contrast to the train ride from Guang Zhou to Gui Zhou. Everything is so high tech, I feel so stupid like I was from the countryside and never seen a train before.  (To be honest, I might've been extra derpy because I was so overwhelmed and it's really not as high tech as I make it seem...) I also love how on time everything is.  The train left exactly at 14:18!

After that, the rain started derp side came out even more and I lost all my ability to comprehend Japanese or even say anything.  In the end, it was English, pointing and I lot of trouble navigating the stupid GPS.  Google map trolled us (turn left, walk straight, turn right, walk straight, turn left get to a place you can get to without turning...).  My godmother and I got lost in the rain with our two luggages and it was kind of funny 'cause some people saw us walking by twice...

We found our hotel and the manager working spoke fluent Cantonese! Surprised us, my godmother and I, and he was able to teach us how to walk to the train stations with a shortcut and yeah, made us feel better.  Also, one good thing and bad thing about the hotel is that it's in Shinjuku...kind of like living in Mong Kok, there's clubs...hosts clubs...karaoke bars and LOTS of pachinko parlours downstairs!  A little awkward at night with lots of people standing on the street trying to get you to go (like what you see in anime and dramas!), and they obviously didn't ask me ): offended. Until this one guy came up to me and asked me to go to this karaoke bar, but I kind of like...refused and then my godmother came he hid the sign! (LOL) She was totally offended 'cause he was pulling out the sign and saw her and put the sign away >< I probably made it less funny, but yeah...

A whole different experience...and seeing them Japanese prostitutes on the streets (a little awkward).  There is A LOT of men in suits who were off work and just going out to eat, lots of adult cosplay stuff and sum it up, I don't hate it.  A whole different experience...but yeah, don't worry, I won't go to a host club (hahahaha!) too intense. Even a butler cafe I'm starting to be hesitant. That's pervy fangirl feels arising!

So where did I go shopping? I walked around the Shinjuku district around my area...went through the department store above the Shinjuku East side and it was awesome already.  Since right now isn't the time for sales, the prices are just decent, not ridiculously worth it and around the same as Hong Kong or even Canada.  I went to Uniqlo (a huge one) and bought some basics, GU (to pick up some socks), a cute random shop for stockings, and HMV to pick up a GazettE CD, and that's about it for now.  Hoping to probably shop more for little gifts and maybe a pair of shoes.  Dad says I can splurge, but honestly, seeing this massive amount of skincare stuff plus clothing, makes me wish my sister is around to help me focus!

Oh, I would also like to bring up that for the washrooms in Japan, Mr. A did not troll me...there is like automatic public washrooms that gives you the option to clean your parts (front and behind).  The washrooms are quite clean...with toilet seat wipers, the disposable sheets, and yeah.  I lost my first time using the one in the hotel room and it was...weird.  I do appreciate the toilet seat warmer though :) Also, I still find it so awesome how the Japanese tubs are so small, but deep! Sadly, I'm too paranoid to use the tubs and don't have enough time.

As for food, first meal was RAMEN! We went to a random chain store and the ramen, you order through a machine (prepay) before it spits out a receipt for the chef to cook the ramen. Very convenient and efficient indeed, but the ramen was just okay (I'm using Nanchu, Santarou, and the other ones I've had in Hong Kong years ago as markers).  It was just really unique with the machine and buttons! We also had ice cream treat at the 7th floor of the Shinjuku Station department where it's a little like marble slab, they "fry" your ice godmother had her red berries flavor mixed with slightly almond flavored tofu pudding and it was yummy! I had a mint oreo yogurt drink where a scoop of mint ice cream freshly mixed with an oreo cookie is placed on top of a calpis-like drink.  It was good :) They also sing you a song while they make it which was soo cute! For dinner, we had this udon which is also a fast-food-like one and it was fairly good for a simple meal (400 yen). Lastly, I did the most tourist-y thing and bought a drink from the legendary, amazing vending machines (taking a photo after) and was awesome!!

In general, I'm falling more and more in love with Japan than I already have.  I have come to a strong conclusion that Japanese people are very, very polite.  They are very courteous and kind (especially to derpy tourists like me), giving us directions despite the language barriers, helping me figure out which coin is 50 yen and 10 yen and 1 yen (picking the coins from my stash!), and how I see they act so politely, even when talking on the phone they still bow.  Things you purchased are handed to you with such care (and your change), with both hands, and especially at Uniqlo, they bowed slightly after you received your purchase.  I love this place...and this is just Shinjuku!

Oh, before I forget...everyone is so beautiful.  Both male and female look so fabulous, I look like a sack of potatoes with my make-up-less face and disgusting blackheads & etc.. I saw such beautiful, long lashed male (who are definitely male...not like they look womanly, but they're just beautiful), it make me feel so sad. I noticed everyone wears make-up and dress up in such cute clothing with amazing hair.  Just dang, them beautiful people here...guess I'll put on some foundation to cover them blackheads and scars at least...thank gosh I brought it! (I see all my friends' types errwhere!)

Tomorrow's adventure is to an onsen for a day, and others! :D Super pysched.  I can't wait for my next Japan trip already! Thanks for reading - Oyasuminasai!