5 days covering Tokyo and Osaka is definitely an overly ambitious idea! *laughs*
We tried to do everything! ....trying has left us exhausted!
A hectic holiday indeed...but a fantastic and memorable time nonetheless. I have my major exams for first semester of uni in a couple of weeks. I do apologize for the late email responses, I'm getting through them soon.
Here's my list of 40
...of the things I've seen, flavours I've tasted and the lessons I've learnt.
**in no order of importance
1. Lights! Neon lights! BLinking lights! Flashing SiGNS! MassiVE TV scrEENS! crazy bright streets! nothing says Japan like crazy lights.
2. Sushi and sashimi isn't cheap street food. They take pride in their famous raw seafood delicacies. Good sushi is sold like precious gems.
3. Japanese girls are obsessed with being tall. High heels to work, to play and in rain or shine! High heels; specifically tall and pointy sexy stilettos are a must. I felt so pressured to buy a pair myself~
4. Unfortunately the largest size is a 7-8....I'm a 9...apparently pretty shoes aren't meant for big monster feet like mine *sniff*...My sneakers kept me cozy in the rainy days we had.
5. See thru clear umbrellas are the 'in' thing. Almost every person on the street is armed with one of these. It rained 3 out of 5 days of our trip...we didn't let that bring us down.
6. The 7/11 convenience stores in Japan have a wide variety of funky fresh food on the go. I'm not talking bout a cup of instant noodles and some cold sandwiches. I mean salads, bento boxes, burritos, omelets, pastries, creme brulee, tiramisu's, puddings, rice cakes, fried chicken, meat filled buns...the list goes on.
7. The stuff in convenience stores and underground 'food halls' are cheap and delicious. They were life savers for us with tight budgets.
8. Everything Japanese people consume must look good. Much effort in put into every culinary creation to create a work of art. From simple sushi, to bento box displays and cakes/desserts....they were all creatively adorned with trimmings and colourful edible treats on the side.
9. I take my hat off to the Japanese working community. We could always spot offices still lit from our hotel rooms with Japanese men and women working till weee hours in the morning. I know its a tough life, and business is hard to do....but their dedication to their job and careers are amazing.
10. Japanese people are the nicest, most polite and courteous people I have ever come across. Throughout my 5 days of constant interaction with Japanese strangers...I didn't meet a single nasty person. Tourists feel so at home...even when they don't speak the language.
11. 4 Japanese phrases took me through my whole 5 days in Japan with no dramas.
"Arigato" - thank you; 'Sumimasen'-excuse me; 'Gomehnasai'-sorry; 'Konichiwa'-hello
12. I have great interaction skills...*laughs* I'm so proud of myself...I can fit in anywhere! my facial expressions and sign languages gets me by so easily! It got me what I wanted...they answered my questions and got me the help and information we needed to get around. I bet I'll do great in any other non English speaking country too.
13. The level of service in Japanese retail shops are fantastic! I was impressed at how they take the time to make you feel welcomed in the store and attend to you like a princess as you poked around the shelves. The way they help u put on the clothing items...wrap up your purchases in tidy packages and walk you out with your bags before seeing you off with a bow and a thank you! It's mind blowing...outstanding...
14. You take your shoes off where there is carpet! Even in clothing store changing rooms... you take off your shoes before entering...and you put on this face mask that's provided as not to stain their brand new clothing with your make-up. I've never seen this 'face-veil' etiquette anywhere else in the world...I guess in Japan, it makes sense; which brings me to my next point.
15. Japanese girls wear too much make-up. *laughs*
They are all too beautiful and petite...which makes me bitter *pout* :P
16. Sticker photo booths are FUN!! and oHh so~ cheap in Japan!!
17. I was eager to try out Whale, Turtle and Fugu fish while in Japan...but with our budget and my not very 'foodie' group; my suggestions to blow insane amounts of money on cuisine was voted out. I was outnumbered *sniff*
18. Creampuffs and mochi filled with Icecream are the BEST desserts EVER!
19. Japanese people make killer tasty baked cheesecakes!20. Lotteria is a Korean version of Mc Donalds...I had to give it a go; I was pretty impressed. The Koala mascot is just a little confusing though. Koala's aren't anywhere else but Australia. I guess the Koreans thought it was a cute enough bear for branding purposes.
21. All toilet seats come with warmed seats, bidets and bottom sprays. Even in shopping malls, train stations, hotels and public toilets on the street! They have cleansing sprays, wipes and seat covers in most of them! So very hygienic...I love it! I must admit; it was the 'flushing' music buttons which top the "WAHH" list for me. I was confused at first...but it eventually came to me why toilet seats needed flushing sound effects without the actual water flowing. You see;....it muffles the sound of wees and poos as the shy girls carry out their business. *grin*
22. Subway and train inspectors actually do help shove people into the trains before the doors shut at peak hour!! It was crazy!!!! I watched a lady's face smashed up against the glass as the train came past. I trembled at the thought of needing to fit into that tiny cramped space. Sardines are an understatement.
23. The intensity of Sunday afternoon shopping in Shibuya; Tokyo is incomparable with anything I've seen in my life. At the main intersection of the famous retail district; thousands swarm in opposite directions from all corners. You couldn't see pavement looking from above.
24. Vending machines are cool... I think I've almost tried all of Japan's variety of various fruit drinks and soda's. I'm not certain of what exactly is it I'm drinking half of the time! *laughs*25. Deep-fried gnocchi ain't too bad! *grin* I was a skeptic at first...but after having a couple of these golden soft centered gnocchi nuggets laden with parmesan and oregano; I was hooked! I might try making these some time soon...doesn't look too complicated.26. Pachinko slot machines are EVERYWHERE!! Its something about trying to get as many metal balls into the slots. The Japanese version of a slot machine.
27. Wasabi is a root...and when pulled straight out of the ground and bitten; it isn't pungent...it's sweet!
Octopus marinated in wasabi is yum.... might try making this one too.
28. Takoyaki (octopus dumpling ball thingies)...famous in Osaka; I had my share @ Doutonburi markets... The place is great for tourists and bargain hunters alike!29. Hello Kitty haunts you as you walk around each City
30. The Shinkansen (interstate bullet train around Japan) is fast... expensive *wink*; but fast...
31. Can someone tell me what beans these are? THey are SOOO good!
32. The Japanese edo period streetscapes are very well kept in Iidabashi, Tokyo. Most of these little lanes are now made into bars and expensive sushi bars. They are called "hide and seek" alleys. Some of these lanes were less than a meter wide. I would have insisted we dine in one of them quaint little themed restaurants...but there wasn't any we could afford *tear*
33. How to eat Shabu-Shabu. First the a pot of water is brought to a boil. Condiments such as vegetables, mushrooms and noodles are thrown in. Sauces are brought to the table. As pot begins to bubble gently again....you 'shabu' the thin slices of meat in the pot with your chopsticks. "shabu-shabu" means to dunk and wave the meat around in the hot liquid till its cooked. We had lots of fun having authentic Japanese Shabu-Shabu. Goes well with beer *wink*
34. Markets are the best place to try traditional Japanese Street snacks and desserts. THese glutinous rice ball covered in bean flour were amazing! definitely going to try to make some on my own. Doesn't look too complicated.
35. Many Japanese desserts are filled with red beans. They just love their red bean. From pancakes to glutinous rice balls and deep fried dumplings. I would expect red bean with every new bite! *laughs* Not complaining though...red bean is the BEsT!~ *grin*
36. Japanese rice crackers from our local Asian grocery stores are nothing compared to the piping hot fresh ones at the hawkers. I had mine laden with chilli flakes and Japanese seasoning. It was probably the best rice cracker i've had in my liFE! Though i admit...the burning sensation of chilli on my lips was hard to ignore *laughs*
37. Gyoza's were cheap and so very delicious! Most of the locals had them as snacks but with the amount we ate...they were more like full meals! They come pan fried, steamed and deepfried.
38. The excitement is over at the fish markets after 8 in the morning. Those with me refused to drag themselves out of bed to watch fishermen haggle and trade their early morning catch. *sigh* at least we got there in time for some good sushi.
39. The Japanese have a thing for fake food displays. Almost every restaurant had a display shelf of fake plastic food. I suppose it doubles up as a menu for those of us who don't speak the language. To order; I would point and say "ichi"-one..."ichi"..."ichi"..."arigato!" *grin*
40. Modern Japanese bento boxes have PASta inside!
...we even spotted some sandwich loaves with soba noodles and spaghetti! I wasn't brave enough to try one of them though *laughs*
Japan is an absolutely fabulous place to have a holiday. The city scape's are magnificent...the people are kind and courteous....and there's a great holiday in store for almost every budget; ranging from high end luxury to tight a$$ travellers..there's so much for everyone to do.
I had a pleasant 5 days....pleasant but exhausting; i've made time to recuperate and it's back to work for this bludging University student now. *sigh*
Catch ya guys soon~ XOXO