Bento Box Bits of everything

8Jun/101

Japan

I've never traveled anywhere with just my dad so I thought it would be nice to spend some time just the two of us. He was wishy washy on Japan because of the costs but he caved and here we are. We joined the Wing On tour for 5 days 4 nights in the Tokyo area. There's only 15 people total in the group so it's nice. It's nice having everything explained to dad in Cantonese but it feels a bit restricting being on a tour schedule.

Day 1:

We started the tour with an hour or so at the Venus plaza/Toyota showcase. It was ok. Some locals were in line there to see Mika, but other than that it seemed like a mediocre tourist stop on the way from the airport.

The first meal was terrible but edible Chinese/Western/Japanese buffet. Bad sign when all the patrons were other Chinese tours and all the staff were Chinese speaking as well. The mall it was in was totally dead as well. Complete tourist trap. I bet some Chinese businessman owns the whole building. All the restaurants there were advertising buffets.

The view from the buffet place, bridge is famous, or something:

Checked into the Keio plaza hotel after that. Hotel is nice. Rooms are small and furnished from the 80s/90s but that was expected. Walked around Kabukicho by myself at night and got solicited by a guy hostess. Dad is snoring like a Harley so I took an ambien and hoped for the best.

The busy streets of Kabukicho:

Front of Shinjuku station:

Gave up on updating daily so here's some ramblings:

Tour Guide:

Our tour guide (TG) was really funny and very talkative. There wasn't any bus rides where wasn't telling us about the surroundings, Japanese culture, history lesson, etc; except for the one time he let us sleep.
Other notes about him... divorced a Japanese stewardess. He courted her for 6 months before she would go on a date with him. They divorced over something gambling related. Not sure whose. He might be harboring some ill feelings toward the Japanese. Says they are selfish and heartless but "they have their reasons" or "it's just part of their culture."
He told ghost stories about haunted hotels. How one time he was in an old hotel and a couple of school girls got on the elevator at 11pm to go to the bottom floor. He checked with the receptionist to see if there were any school tours going on, and was also told that everything on the bottom floor was closed.
Gave us an education about WWII and somehow parlayed it into a sales pitch for magnetic bracelets and necklaces. Says the roads in Hiroshima were paved with natural magnets that's how come they recovered so quick. The rocks or whatever soaked it all up. And he only needs to sleep for a few hours when he wears them.
Also gave us snacks on the bus and offered to sell us some to save us the trouble of buying on our own.
Most of his amusing stories turn into sales pitch for something. Face masques and "horse oil" for skin, says it's their secret to good skin.
"Japanese will respect anyone who can beat the crap out of them: America, Bruce Lee, etc."


The Food:

Further into the tour the food has been getting better. I'm really sick of sashimi now. Even though all the places we've been are hot spots for tourist groups, I understand it's tough to find a good restaurant for large groups. Most of the meals were set meals, had a little hotpot, soup, rice, fish.

One of the restaurants near Lake Kawaguchi that could seat many people, where we had the sushi boat too:

Typical set meal:

We added onto our set meal twice, once for sushi boat and another for long legged crab sashimi/hotpot. The sushi boat we had was really good, with raw lobster too. It was delivered from a separate restaurant.

The raw crab was really good too. Sweet and not very 'fishy' like Alaskan crab would be.

And the sashimi and hotpot portions:

We ate fugu, the poisonous fish which only a specially licensed chef could prepare. We had the sashimi and also hotpot. The hotpot was in a wooden basket lined with wax paper on an induction heater. At the bottom of the paper was a piece of metal, which was transmitting the heat.

The fish says hi:

Fugu sashimi, texture was crunchy, like calamari or tendon. The cooked meat was crunchy as well.

The hot pot for the other fish parts (mostly bones):

Earlier into the tour, my dad and I had a free day in Shinjuku so we had to eat on our own. Our first meals (besides the hotel breakfast) was at some really crappy and cheap sushi belt place. Horrible. Then we treated ourselves to some expensive Unagi don.

Here's a 3670Y unagi don (it was 3 huge pieces, and the unagi was much better than frozen):

The Lodging:
One word: SMALL. Imagine a 1/2 of a size of an American hotel room and half the size of the bathroom. First place we stayed at was the Keio Plaza Hotel, a short walk from the Shinjuku shopping area. Our TG hyped it up as a 5 star hotel, but besides the fancy looking lobby, it's more like a 3.5 star hotel by American standards. Oh yeah, and there's NO FREE WIFI. Anywhere. I checked plenty. My friend said Japan is in 1998 when it comes to the internet. The only way I got internet was by paying 100Y for 15 minutes at the public use computers in the hotel lobbies.

Keio room, two singles. This was the best lodging that we stayed in during our trip. This was it, there was only a foot or so more on my right:

Our second lodging place was at the New in Shizuoka. This was was a hot spring resort, not sure if it was a natural hot spring or a regular bath house. I think it was a regular resort hotel that also featured a bathhouse. The bathhouse experience was interesting. Nakedness abound, but I didn't find it that awkward. I didn't have my glasses on, but I swear the other guys facing us in the bath were staring us down. Everyone was weirdly deliberate/confident, like some Yakuza movie where everyone struts around naked.

The New Akao hotel:

The rooms were small, Japanese style. Smelled like old rice and moldy tatami. I wouldn't be surprised if it was moldy since the air was very salty wet. Every room had a view of the sea and we could see the waves crashing on the rocks from our room. Very cool views. Getting over the fact that the hotel decor and facilities were from the 70s/80s, it was interesting sleeping Japanese style on futons and stuff.

Our room. Tiny bathroom area, we didn't shower since we used the bathhouse.

View from our room:

The "resort" also featured karaoke rooms, an old arcade/slots/pachinko (which some older lady and husband were playing for tokens), hotel shops, a few restaurants, and live entertainment. It was amazing how many people worked there considering how few patrons there were. Walking the old hallways was pretty creepy.

Our dinner came with cheesy live entertainment. Non-Japanese singers sang some English songs and some classic Japanese songs. They had crib notes to help them with the Japanese songs. It was all very cheesy at first, but the view, atmosphere, and a 'go with the flow' attitude really helped.

Nice view of lighted cliffs from the restaurant at night:

Entertainment "MINNA SAN KONBANWA...MINNA SAN ARIGATO...HOWS EVERYONE DOING TONIGHT"

After that we stayed a night at the Prince Hotel hotel. Even smaller than the Keio hotel room. The bathroom seemed like one piece of fiberglass. One nice thing is that almost every toilet I used had a bidet. This made me very happy. I wasn't hesitant to drop a deuce at all. Every toilet felt like home.

There was an arcade near the hotel. It had a cool Gundam game with a pod you sit inside and a screen that wraps around.

The Sights:

Mt. Fuji was cool. We went to a tourist destination nearby that featured Fuji water in separate mini-pools, or springs. The water was very clear and had fish in there. We even drank some of the Fuji water; it tasted like water. My taste buds were messed up though since I took Lunesta the night before and my mouth had a metallic taste for the day.

Fuji-san

Fuji water, with various other pools, filled with water:

Fish

For drinking

No littering sign, notice the Chinese is larger than the others

Lake Kawaguchiko, nice view, ate sushi here, left on the bus

At the prayer monument for peace in Shizuoka

We took a ski lift to the top of this extinct volcano. Our TG kept hyping up the lift as being scary, but it wasn't even more than 4 ft off the ground. There is an archery range at the bottom.

Went somewhere nearby that featured seven small waterfalls

Ginza was pimp. Huge golden Cartier building. Tons of mainlanders buying luxury goods.

Entrance to Tokyo Imperial Palace, nothing to see here really. A huge park with tons of homeless. TG said the homeless were called "trash" and were kicked out by their wives/families because they couldn't earn any money. They have lots of luggage and possessions.

Gomi fabulous

Other Notes:

People on our tour:
Young 30s couple who talk with their mouth full and smack their lips when eating.
Old old man and young wife and 26 year old son. When my dad met them he asked if he was her dad. How embarrassing.

7Jun/100

HK d2

Started the morning with dimsum with relatives. I felt like a kid again, quiet while all my relatives remark about how I look like my mom, how fat I've gotten, or how they haven't seen me in so long. Typical HK scene, relatives all yelling their opinions at each other. It's been a long time since I've seen many of them.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9F55jVHZNc

Spent the rest of the day shopping. I wanted to buy a bunch of shirts from Uniqlo but their XL t-shirts would probably shrink in the dryer and then not fit me. Had afternoon tea with my dad at Cafe De Coral. HK fast food. This is where the real working class locals eat. I had a box set that consisted of a pork cutlet, egg salad sandwich roll, potato wedges, a scoop of potato salad, and some jelly. All for about ~$3 USD. Would have been cheaper if I didn't upgrade to the COLD milk tea.

I think my brother transmitted athlete's foot to me, after borrowing his socks.

6Jun/100

Hong Kong – arrival

Arrived yesterday morning. On the plane, sat next to a guy in shiny Versace pants and a Gucci man purse. HK dudes are serious lol.

Went to the American Club for lunch. My first time in a country club. Rich people abound.

Walked around Stanley for a bit. Tourists abound.

Then hit up Causeway Bay. I love the GOD store. I'm a sucker for design-y lifestyle stores. Tons of products branded with Canto wordplay; fun stuff. Couldn't help myself and got a DLL-like shirt.

Not much else really. I forgot to bring socks on this trip.