I couldn't WAIT to get to Japan, this new part of the trip (ie new part of the world) would allow me to indulge in my favourite cuisines being sushi, Chinese and curries (when I get to India) - although I would prefer Malay curry, but beggers can't be chosers.
Oh. Before I start, I must mention the Swine Flu. The Japs at the airport took things very seriously (a good thing too), and they handed out questionnaires - 'do you have symptoms such as cold, runny nose, cough, sore throat'. Unfortunately for me, I had all those symptoms since I still had a cold. The Japanese ground 'health' staff in their full body suits, headgear, goggles and masks got very excited and very politely asked me to go to the front of the plane to get a test. They were incredibly friendly, and as the gentleman stuck a long ear bud into my nose and throat, he kept apologising. I had to wait 10 minutes for the Swine Test results, and they confirmed I was negative, and thanked me about 100 times. So lovely.
My very first stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market. The filets of fish looked
so good! The salmon was a deep rich colour. Perfect looking caviar. There were sushi, pastries, dried squid, thick omelettes, japanese rice crackers, bread with red bean paste, savoury peanut snacks .... I wanted to have it all ... unfortunately thanks to New York I was on a diet, and this was absolute torture. I recognised 85% of the food (from my Singapore life), so I knew how good it was, and wasn't 'afraid' as the other foreigners. The market is fairly big - as everything in Tokyo, and there were shops selling just (!) seaweed. The sushi restaurant prices were horrendous though, with up to 30 euros for a plate of only about 12 pieces.
So I went on to visit Shibuya and Shimbashi, where at one of the pitt stops I just about jumped off the toilet seat when it started to get hot! They have toilet seat warmers in the public toilets. What THE??? Anyway, this led me to explore more, and I found the buttons to make a flushing sound (for those too shy girls), and even a deodoriser. You've got everything in a cubicle, you really never need to leave.
... But I
did manage to tear myself away from the toilets and so I visited a festival in the suburb I was staying in - Asakusa (the old part of town). It was a harvest festival, and there were many people dressed in traditional clothing (although, unfortunately for them, this consisted of a nice blue and white shirt. No, really. That's it. Only the shirt, and their underwear was on show). They would proceed to lift and carry a huge shrine, and march through the streets chanting. There were millions of people, and it was very festive, with drums and japanese music. I saw some Geishas in their Kimonos - they were stunning! I really enjoyed it.
As for the language, thanks to South America, I instinctively want to answer with Hola and Gracias ... stupid, stupid. I'm so intimidated by the technology! The simplest thing is automated, and catches me by surprise ... eg when something automatically makes a sound, or opens, closes, heats ... without me expecting it. The people here are so so soooo sweet, and geniunely friendly. They are willing to help even with limited English, and seem so happy!
I then went to lots of
other places, including the Electric City, Shimbashi, Shibuya, Ueno ... and I even saw a Sumo Wrestler waiting for a bus!
In the shops, the staff would greet the customers every 5 seconds (no. really.) ... so much so that in clothes shops, it was programmed in them. Every few seconds one of them would say loudly, 'mashite' (i think, but don't quote me - they mean to say 'welcome'), except they would drag out the 'te' part... so all you hear all the time is 'mushi mushi teeeeeeeeeh'. And then there's me: 'Hola!'. Sigh.
On Saturday night, I went out to a huuuuuge nightclub, which charged a ridiculous 40 euros entry fee (!!wtf!!). The music was good, and I met Gustavo, a soft-spoken, luvely Brazilian. On Sunday, I went to Kyoto. After returning from Kyoto, Gustavo took me around town to the waterfront which was beautiful. At night, he took me to ... and don't laugh .... a Brazilian Restaurant. It was EXCELLENT EXCELLENT! The food was amaaaaazing, and I'd forgotten how good meat can taste. The musicians in the restaurant handed drums and instruments to the guests, so that the whole restaurant was involved in the
music. The guests were singing and dancing samba, .. twas a good time :-) Gustavo, who's a third Japanese, explained some words to me, which helped me to understand that the Japanese language is made for the words to sound similar to English! Like Egg is Eggu. See? We can all speak Japanese fluently ... we just don't know it!
Thoughts of the week:
- Still laughing about the Fool on the Hill, kiddo from the US, who insisted on being an *&^! and peeing outside the nightclub and being arrested and the police DEPORTED him!! Good on him.
- 'Lost' my Ipod, in Japan of all places. See that's what happens when you are in a 'safe' place and let your guard down.
- I heart Udon Noodles
Books: I finished another 2, one is 'Marching Powder' as mentioned in the Bolivia, La Paz blog. Definitely worth a read Brenton!
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