OK this is the last of the series on our Japan trip. Hope it has been a good trip for you.
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.
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!
Ming begged to try fugu (pufferfish). I said I don't like Russian roulette.
Setting out from the Davis' house in Setagaya-ku
Waiting for the train
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!
The whole troupe
Street in Kamakura
Train station in Kamakura, rustic and cowboy-town like.
On the ferry
Going up Mt Fuji
Eating the black eggs boiled in the mineral pools
Down the mountain
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.
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.
All-you-can-eat shabu shabu
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!
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.
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?