dakroland's Japan Journal

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Weight Update...

One of the things I haven't mentioned yet, and probably should, is how my struggle with my weight went while I was in Japan.

Well, I am proud to say that my weight hit an all-time low (for the past year) at 91.0Kg (200.2lbs). I hit that mark again on Sunday and this morning it was 91.3Kg. The moment I hit 90.7kg, I will officially be under 200lbs, a point I have not been to in at least 7 years.

Unfortunately, I'm back in the US now, and will suffer the temptations of snacking and foods that got me in trouble in the first place. >.<

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4:35 p.m. - 2007-10-30

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Massive Update...With Pictures!

Enough with this wallowing in self-pity and depression. It's time to update and post more pictures. So, when I last posted pictures, this was what happened so far...

Wednesday - Arrived
Thursday - Toured Sasayama Castle
Friday - Universal Studios Japan
Saturday - Osaka Castle & Dotonbori
Sunday - Soccer game and Yakiniku

So here are the next few days...

Monday - Walked around Sasayama alone & cooked a dish for dinner
Tuesday - Joshin shop, 100 Shop & Sushi in Sanda
Wednesday - Kyoto day #1

Monday

On Monday, everyone had school or work, and so my daughter and I had some free time to ourselves. Miho left us a key to the house and we ventured out after a bit to walk around Sasayama on our own. We walked down to the Castle Ruins and took some more pictures, as well as around town, in front of City Hall and elsewhere. We did a little shopping, and for a couple people who didn't know much Japanese, we seemed to do very well. One shop keeper even complimented me on my Japanese. It was very cool.

I also went to Super Fresh Sato for some supplies for my dish I would be cooking that night. The afore mentioned Chicken Parmesan. It's a very simple dish, but I hoped it would turn out okay. It's hard converting everything I'm used to in temps and measurements without the assistance of my Mac. But as it turned out, everything worked out okay.

Since there was some free time before dinner, and Miho had some chores to do (and my asking constantly if there was something I could help with must have been getting on her nerves, LOL) she asked if my daughter and I would take her daughter to a playground that was about 10 minutes away. We had a lot of fun, and I was able to take a lot of pictures too. Her daughter is so cute.
And she actually got my daughter to play and smile, and actually laugh too!

Even the manhole covers in Sasayama look beautiful!

The 'theme' for that night's dinner was western dishes, so Miho made Potato Graten, her mother made Shrimp Chili, and Miho's friend Angela made a pasta dish whose name STILL escapes me. I think I better ask. >.<

Tuesday

Tuesday was another free day. We went to Joshin electronics store. WOW! What an interesting experience! When you walk into the store, the first thing you notice is how BRIGHT it is. Then, you notice the visual explosion of signs, ads, prices, and banners hanging from the ceiling. Then comes the noise. Music is playing loudly from almost every corner of the store, and it's not all the same. In one corner, you hear sound from a DVD system, another corner is playing music advertising Gundam, yet another corner is blasting video game ads, while next to that is a children's toy shop with a piano blaring music. Joshin is literally sensory overload to the 9th degree. It's unreal. It really began to wonder if I wouldn't get a headache from all of it.

Luckily I didn't. Because after that, we all set off to the Shrine where Miho's grandparents are buried. This shrine, I think is the most beautiful one we had visited while we were in Japan. The Shrine is not marked by one Torii, but by 27! Climbing up the steps to the Shrine wasn't nearly as bad as climbing up the steps in Osaka Castle. At the top and even along the way were several small shrines. Many had images of cats next to them. The main shrine was beautiful, and on the ground was marked the zodiac signs, and of course, a compass marking North, South, East and West.

On the way back to our car, my daughter got friendly with a couple praying mantis, one actually clamped onto her glove and wouldn't let go. Finally when it did, we were able to move on, but that's when I noticed my first Japanese bee. Honest to God, I thought I had just seen a small bird take flight, but I was told it was a bee. It had to have been 4cm long at least! I was shocked that bees could get that big. Where I live in the US, Honey Bees only grow to about 1cm in length.

From there we drove to Sanda and went shopping at the 100 Shop. Wow! That was fantastic! I bought LOTS of gifts and food there. I spent around 6500 on that stop alone. :) I like 100 Shops. :)

After that shopping spree, we went to a Sushi Restaurant. When you sit at the table, there is this belt that goes by carrying various plates of Sushi. All you have to do is, when you see something you like, pick it up. At the end of the meal, the waiter/waitress counts the number of plate, and multiplies it by 105 per plate. We wound up eating about 27 plates between the 5 of us. It was sooooo good! Oishiikatta! I ate raw squid, octopus, cooked eel, shrimp, salmon, yellowtail, and tuna Sushi. It was Soooo good. I wanted to eat more, but I was stuffed! These were fairly good sized servings of Sushi. Plus, we had all the Tea we could drink.

Once finished, we went to a used book shop, called "Book-Off". It's a funny name to me, but it really was a great store. My daughter and I wound up buying about 4 mangas and a movie book for about 650. Mobile Suit Gundam F91, GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka) #1, Death Note #1, Yu-Yu Hakasho(sp?) #1, and a movie book for Returner, a DVD I own at home.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning we packed up some clothes, the kids and hopped into Miki's SUV and trekked off to Kyoto. The trip took just under 2 hours by car, and our first stop was Togetsukyo Bridge. It spans the Oi River. Arashiyama is the beautiful backdrop for this old bridge, which was built in 1934. Togetsu means "moon crossing", I found out. And it is very lovely indeed.

We did some shopping and even bought something to eat. While everyone else got Crepes, I got a potato croquette, and it was very delicious. We checked out this old train station which had this beautiful faux bamboo ceiling and walls, even the columns were covered in this green painted fake bamboo. It was visually striking and for a train station, very relaxing. There was even a reflecting pool in front where we sat and rested for a bit. I was able to pick up a nice happi coat for my Dad for 1000 and my daughter got a new Yukatta and Obi for 2000.

From there we drove to Toei Studios, and toured their Toei Uzumasa Eigamura Movie Museum. Finding parking was a chore, as we wound up driving by the place about 4 times going back and forth looking for a place we could park and then walk to the studios. Once that was accomplished, we got our tickets and went inside. The entrance to the park is a huge complex with examples of interior sets and set pieces, including vehicle props to smaller props, such as ninja weapons and blades.

Walking through the main building, we exit out into the studio lot. All of these buildings are real sets, used occasionally for movies and TV shows. Sometimes they redress them, or build onto them for various needs, but the studio is still active, and they were filming a popular historical drama there as we watched inside one of the inner sets.

Our first stop in the studio, however, was for something to eat. We were all very hungry. I was able to have my first taste of Ramen in Japan. Needless to say, I loved it! Miho split a bowl of Ramen & fried rice with her daughter, while I ordered the Ramen, Gyoza, Fried Rice and Kimchi meal. My daughter ordered Ramen, Karage and Shumai with plain rice and Kimchi.

Toei Uzumasa Eigamura Movie Museum was once called the "Hollywood of Japan", and for good reason. The sets here look real, and many old famous movies and TV shows were shot here. The studio is not as active as it once was (being that I believe most of the filming activity is now centered in Tokyo or with On Location shooting) but it is still in use. You can play around in the various sets, and be a court judge...

Or go for a stroll downtown...

Just be careful of the locals. They get testy when you least expect it..

I did try to save some walking, but the rickshaw was missing something important...like the person who was supposed to pull it...

You could walk down an ancient red-light district and order yourself up a temporary companion for the night...

or not...as they were either painted cardboard or mannequins. heh

Toei Studios was definitely a great place to visit, and I'm very happy we went there. It was a lot of fun.

When we had finished our tour of Toei, we headed back to our car and went to Kinkaku-ji, home of the famous Golden Pavilion.


The pond upon which this pavilion stands is filled with huge Koi, or Carp. The literally liked to rise up out of the water and it was an incredible sight to see.

Behind the pavilion is a path that meanders up the hill, passing by another pond with a stone monument resting on a small island, and various stone image with bowls into which you can try to toss money. Should you make it, you can pray for something, and it is supposed to come true. I happened to make it. So I prayed that our trip would not pass by too quickly.

Unfortunately, as I look back now, all trips pass by too fast, so perhaps I should have prayed for something else? No matter. Leaving Kinkaku-ji, we drove to downtown Kyoto and parked our car in the underground parking garage (too expensive!) and made our way to our Hotel, the Hotel Alpha Kyoto. Folks, this place looked great when we walked in. The lobby was lovely, and the tables & chairs were really cool and rustic looking. The staff was a little flamboyant, but they were well versed in English so I had little trouble checking in. The real problems because when we got to our room.

Maybe I'm a spoiled person, but when I check into a room, I expect to be able to plug in a few devices for recharging and kick back in a clean, fairly nice room, with a semi-decent view from the window. Our room had only one electrical outlet, a window that was covered by metal shutters, and holes in the carpet. The ceiling vent by the door was lifted into the ceiling and perched precariously and had I not noticed it, it might have fallen on top of us or the kids when the door closed rather hard. There was a display on the over crowded desk that advertised "FREE INTERNET" (in japanese, no english), but the problem was, there were only 10 Ethernet Cables for the entire hotel, so if you didn't ask for it at the desk, forget about getting online. There was a public Internet computer in the lobby, but who wants to check their bank account on that? Add to that the mysterious stain visible under the sheets on my bed, and the craptastic radio/alarm system built into the night stand, I was definitely NOT happy with this 11,400 per night room. What a dump. If you're staying in Kyoto, DO NOT stay at the Hotel Alpha. TRUST ME.

Once 'settled in', we ventured out onto the streets of Kyoto, and went to "Donkey! Bier" for some dinner. They serve Hamburger there, and not like Hamburgers here in the US. This is just the meat patty with something on top, some kind of rice and salad, and of course, a drink. As simple as it sounds, it was fantastic. I was very impressed, and I think I shocked the waitress, who brought my daughter and I a fork & spoon while she gave chopsticks to everyone else, when I asked "Ohashi, kudasai." We ate all of our meals with the exception of a couple with chopsticks. It's become something I am so used to now, I've used them a lot since we came back.

Now it was time for a little roaming and power shopping. We walked around and made our way through a few shops here and there until we got to Shinkyogoku, and then proceeded to really shop! This place is like a shopper's paradise! Stores everywhere, Sushi shops with ordering windows to you can take out whatever you want. There was even a shop that specialized in quirky items from the US. Of course, the theme currently was Halloween, so it was kind of like home. I almost bought a Japanese exclusive remote control R5-D4 Astromech droid from Star Wars...but resisted. My daughter, however, failed to resist temptation often enough, and we wound up buying a lot of things for her. LOL

Every so often we'd happen upon a little side street, and even those were filled with little Ramenyas, bars, and soba shops.

And at the heart of Shinkyogoku, was a shrine. I forgot what it's name was, but it's location in the middle of all that shopping frenzy was a little odd.

Our feet were killing us so we headed back to our hotel rooms, and took our showers and readied for bed. We gathered together to eat our take-out sushi (which was really good) and drink some Chuhi, and then retired for the night.

At this point, I'm going to close this post. I started it at home this morning and it's now 1:48pm at work. I'll post more tomorrow. I can't post anything tonight as I'll be at my parents enjoying a birthday Lasagna. Yup, today is my birthday, and I turned 35.

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3:38 p.m. - 2007-10-29

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