Thursday, May 10, 2007

Japan: Asakusa, Kamakura & Mt Fuji

OK this is the last of the series on our Japan trip. Hope it has been a good trip for you.

Tokyo
May 2005

Asakusa:


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At the entrance to Sensoji

Asakusa (pronounced "a-suk-sa") is the more traditional area of Japan, with lots of temples and older buildings. The Sensoji Temple with its big lantern at the entrance is a famous landmark. This is also where the important festivals are celebrated. Probably because this area is more traditional, the restaurants here supposedly serve the most authentic Japanese food. I saw several stalls selling hot sembei (rice crackers) in Asakusa and Kappabashi, which is nearby. It would have been interesting to wander around the area to get a feel of old Japan but temples weren't our thing.

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Beyond the entrance but before the temple grounds are hundreds of little shops selling souvenirs and traditional Japanese snacks such as rice crackers and mochis (glutinous rice cakes). Speaking of that, I love dungo: grilled glutinous rice mochis on sticks with sweet soya sauce...yummy!

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Ming begged to try fugu (pufferfish). I said I don't like Russian roulette.

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Kamakura:

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Setting out from the Davis' house in Setagaya-ku

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Waiting for the train

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Gaijins sitting on the courtesy seats

The Japanese are helpful, polite and law-abiding. In public places nobody talks loudly (very different from the rest of Asia, especially China) and in enclosed places such as the subway compartments, nobody talks. From young, the Japanese have been taught to respect each others' privacy bubble as they live in such a highly populated country. It must've been a shock for them to see Megan lying on the seats and kicking her legs in the air because the Japanese all got up and went to the next compartment...

We still laugh about that night in the Ginza station. It was midnight, we were lining up for the next train. Thousands of people in suits and officewear were everywhere, just off from work. The train came, people packed in, the whistle sounded, the station master in white gloves came and stuff more people in. I saw people gasped with their mouths open and eyes wide as the doors closed and the space tightened...especially hilarious was that pretty, well-dressed girl whose face became distorted against the glass. We stood there on the platform laughing till we ached...and I thought they exaggerated it in the movies!

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The whole troupe

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Talking owl

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Street in Kamakura

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Kimono girls

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Bento lunch

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Train station in Kamakura, rustic and cowboy-town like.

Mt Fuji:

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On the ferry

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Going up Mt Fuji

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Eating the black eggs boiled in the mineral pools

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Down the mountain

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Cable car ride

Mt Fuji is very elusive. The two times I've been there I've never seen the mountain the way it looks in pictures, with a snow-top cone. Apparently it is very rare to get a clear day over the mountain.

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Vending machine

Ming loved the vending machines which were everywhere and spent most of his daily allowance on them. Cola is about the only fizzy drink they sell. The rest are non-gassy like all kinds of tea (very nice!), lemonade, pocari sweat (I guess that's what you drink when you sweat, not what the drink is made of...) etc.

The last time we went to Mt Fuji, we stayed at a ryokan (Japanese inn). This time we didn't make prior arrangements to stay in Mt Fuji, a big mistake. Walk-in rates were very high and the place is big so it was hard to check out the rates from place to place on foot. So we saved our money and went back to the city and splurged on dinner. If you go to Mt Fuji, you must stay at a ryokan; it'll make all the difference.

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All-you-can-eat shabu shabu

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Sukiyaki

The guys had all-you-can-eat shabu shabu while the ladies had sukiyaki. I believe what we had was Japanese beef (very likely wagyu) but it sure wasn't Kobe beef. In fact, we checked the supermarkets and never once saw Kobe beef. There were lots of delicious marbled beef, and despite the high prices we knew it couldn't be Kobe beef because a friend who lived in Japan told us he had a Kobe beef dinner for US$1000 for 2 persons!


Misc Notes:

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Yummy ramen

Most of us think of Japan as a very expensive city. We found it to be the same as other big cities, maybe even cheaper than many European cities. When we weren't eating Daisy's kitchen up, we usually had simple meals outside like ramen, fresh egg noodle in a strong dashi-miso soup with thin slices of pork and bamboo. Affordable and super yummy.

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Pachinko and games parlour

Inner Tokyo with a population of over 12 million is the most populated megacity in the world, yet it is also one of the safest cities. Daisy's house had no grilles, even on the ground floor patio door. We walked home from the subway station every night with total peace of mind. In KK (population of maybe 600,000; hard to say with so many transient illegal migrants from Indonesia and The Philippines) my house is grilled up and down and the week the alarm went faulty the burglars came. The Japanese have my admiration for maintaining such a safe, efficient and courteous environment. It may be a concrete jungle like other big cities, but it has kept its culture and character. We are planning another trip, this time not just to Tokyo but also to Hokkaido. Care to join?

16 comments:

Raina said...

I love what you write about Japan - it's one country I have always wanted to visit - all my childhood friends can confirm that. Care to join you? Are you serious? Wow! Extremely tempting.

Terri Hong said...

Ooi!Me too, as a teenager i loved everything Japanese(now i'm curious about Spain & Italy). It's truly everything you read about. Cheeyan's been to Hokkaido n she highly recommends it. Everything is still pristine and natural..we go next spring ok??

hongyi :o) said...

"Everything is still pristine and natural..we go next spring ok??"

where do i fit in?

Ronny said...

there is a small girl looking at you guys in the 2nd photo. part of your entourage?

japan looks very clean. thanks for sharing your trip with those of us who will probably never get there (at least anytime soon).

Terri Hong said...

thnx ronny 4 putting up with Yi 4 so long. if u come to KK stay with us n i'll cook you some nice meals ok?

Ronny said...

thank you for your kinda and generous offer, madam.

the truth is there was nothing to "put up" with about her, and it was my pleasure to help out.

Terri Hong said...

madam thinks Yi smelly feet sometimes! Kidding. she smells good. u study hard!

hongyi :o) said...

what?!

i moisturise my feet often okay...
with Dove lotion summore!! Ask Wennie if my feet smells nice or not la!

Terri Hong said...

wennie is brave to be ur roomie

Ronny said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronny/507676118/

ronny said...

or just click here

same thing.

Terri Hong said...

did Yi let u take tt pic esp 4 this comment? Yukks! I can smell it from here. btw, what does it take to make u smile ronnie? so cool all d time ah?

ronny said...

i smile all the time, madam.

that photo made me smile.
as well as most of the comments on this post!

Terri Hong said...

ronny, u charmer!=)

hongyi :o) said...

what d heck?!~
those look like smooth, soft, well moisturised feet!

and i look horrible there, ROAR!

Anonymous said...

Hi,
We are going to Japan on July 22. We are planning to start in Asakusa and are contemplating hiking Fuji. My kids are 8 and 10 and athletic, but I hiked Fuji 20 years ago and remember it being a bit challenging. How did your sons do? Was it pretty simple to get from Asakusa to the start of the hike. Could you find places to leave your luggage?
Thanks for any advice!

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