Chiba-kun Tour #3: Kicking it where I live

26 Feb

Finally I have made the time to get out this blog about the last Chiba-kun tour (the last one I went on at least). It’s the end of February and Spring is slowly becoming a thing, but this tour happened in November and all the stops were in Chiba City. Some of you know that I live in Makuhari, which is in Chiba City. I really wasn’t the most excited about this tour because I thought after over 3 years of living here, I had seen everything there was to see. I wasn’t right, but I also wasn’t totally wrong. Chiba City is a great place to live. All of the stores that I need are here, trains leave about every 10 minutes, and I really feel no need to own a car. Everything is at my fingertips and I don’t have to deal with the craziness of Tokyo. Basically, I really love living in a city. When it comes to tourism, Chiba City can be a fun day trip. There is a zoo that has a plethora of red pandas, museums of the art and science variety and a lovely park that is easily accessible on the monorail. Oh and there is a monorail… maybe the longest in Japan? I need to research that, it definitely is famous for something…. just forgot what.

We started our morning at the Chiba City Market. Here we were guided through the produce and fish buildings. I would call this market “the poor man’s Tsukiji market.” For those who do not know, Tsukiji is in Tokyo and is where the famous fish auction is held most mornings. When I first came to Japan as a study abroad student, my host family thought I wanted to go to this market and I had to wake at 3am in order to witness this auction. To be honest, I’m happy that they took me because it was really cool to watch the auction go down and to see these huge bluefin tuna carcasses. But back to the market in Chiba…. It was ok. By the time the tour started, the fish auction was already over and that is the most interesting part of a market. The guide first took us into the produce building and then talked about the fruits and vegetables for fifteen minutes. You ever wonder what a bunch of fruit and vegetables packed in a room smells like? Wonder no more, because I’m here to tell you that it smells like garbage!

IMG_2937

Just a ton of boxes… so many boxes…

DSCN3607

Tour guide of the market

There are only so many pictures of boxes that one person can take before it starts to look like a weird fetish, so eventually I tried my best to understand what the guide was talking about. After the produce building, we were slowly led to the fish building where workers were cleaning up because the auction was over. Finally, we were taken to where the public market was held. This was when things started to finally get interesting and of course, this is when the tour was rushed the most. I did my best to get cool pictures of the fish and other seafood being sold.

We were shown some different types of fish being sold and then were allowed to wander around until 10, which was when we would be getting lunch. Yeah, not a typo. I did not accidently write “lunch” instead of “breakfast.” Good news is that I did not have breakfast that morning, so this was a nice replacement. Bad news was we wouldn’t eat again until 5pm. So…..

IMG_2955

Nothing like sashimi at 10:30am!

It might’ve been early, but this lunch was the best thing about the market place. This was amazing! Sashimi is one of my favorite things in Japan and this went down like butter.

There were two options presented to us for the 2nd stop of the tour. We could choose to either 1. ice skate or 2. go sailing. In theory I love ice skating. My ankles, however, do not. So as much as ice skating appealed to me, I knew that I would be hurting the rest of the day. That left sailing… Here’s the thing, I’ve been sailing a few times and it is a little terrifying every time I do it and I have a reason for feeling this way. Let me regale you with a little story. A long long time ago when I was a little high schooler, I had my first real boyfriend. This boyfriend had a sailing license and a tiny little sailboat made for two people. He wanted to take me sailing because it was romantic and how could it go wrong?! I also thought it sounded romantic and plus, I’d never been sailing and I could trust him because he had a license and he knew what he was doing, right?! So we went to Lake Winnebago and put the sail boat in the water and sailed off into the sunset…. sorta. About 3 minutes into our romantic adventure, the sailboat started to take in water and started sinking and then it flipped over. I didn’t freak out, because it was A: Lake Winnebago and B: I generally know how to swim. We weren’t out there for too long before these two veterans in a boat (like a decent boat that doesn’t flip over and has an engine or two) came to our rescue and helped us flip the sailboat upright and once again we sailed off to finally enjoy our romantic day. Yeah, ten minutes later we flipped the damn boat AGAIN and at first my reaction was similar to the first flip; calm and collected. It wasn’t until my flip flop fell off my foot, that I started to lose it a little, not because “OMG that was my favorite flip flop and how will I ever survive without it,” but because I realized that as that flip flop sank into the deep, never to be seen again, I, too, could sink into the deep never to be seen again. Not the best time to have a moment of morality, but I did and I was so over any of the “romanticness” that the sailing could bring me and my beau. After feeling like all was lost, the veterans once again appeared and once again saved us from our doom. This time when they asked my boyfriend if we wanted to try again, I gave him the look of death and he smartly declined their offer. Our saviors took us back to the dock and after spending forever trying to drag that damn boat back on land, my “wonderful” boyfriend finally figured out that he forgot to drain the water out of the boat the last time he took it out. Lovely….

So there you go. That is why I am a little skittish when people suggest sailing. It was the option that I knew I had to take though and I knew that once we started sailing, I would enjoy myself. We went to Inage Yacht Harbor for sailing. I don’t know if boat rides are available on a day to day basis, but I know that it is a place where someone could go and take lessons for their license and rent boats for sailing. So if you’re interested, there you go.

IMG_2960

Inage Yacht Harbor

We arrived at the harbor and were split into two groups. The boat my group went on was aptly named:

IMG_2962

Well, I DO love roses!

There is another reason that I am not the biggest fan of sailing and that is it is a pain in the ass to get on the boat. Look at the picture above. Do you see stairs? Or a stepping stool? No, you do not. There is a rope ladder, which is not the most stable thing to put your feet on. I knew that this was going to be a nightmare to get my butt on, and it was. My purse got stuck on those rope guard rails and I have never been that great at swinging my leg very high. It was an experience… I have found that I generally dislike getting on anything that that takes a ton of effort to get on. Once I’m on all I can think about is how at some point I’ll need to get off and that it will also take a ton of effort, if not more. Same goes for horses. It doesn’t help that horses are basically living cars that can make the decision on whether or not the person on top of them will live that day. Leave it to me to freak out on a therapy horse…. I’m starting to ramble, so maybe we’ll save that story for another day.

Ok, so it took a bit of effort, but I finally got on the boat and I slowly crawled my way to a safe place. One of the sailors (is that what they’re called?) came over and popped my safe bubble and led me to on top of the cabin which made it so I was above the guard rails. Once he made sure I was terrified  safe enough, we set off.

IMG_2965

Waving goodbye to the only stable thing in my life…. ground

IMG_2974

One wrong step and I’m overboard

As I predicted, about five minutes in I started to get used to being on water and started to slowly enjoy myself, because in all honesty it was an amazing day to go sailing. It wasn’t very cold and the sun was shining.

 

IMG_2976

Beautiful day for sailing!

DSCN3631

Can you see me? I’m wearing my signature color😉

Of course, all good things must come to the end and eventually it was time to get off. I spent a bit of time during the ride thinking about my plan of attack. I decided that it was ALL coming off. My hat, jacket, life vest, and bag would be handed off to someone off the boat already and that way I wouldn’t be so cumbersome. Unfortunately, some of the guys that took us on this ride were also thinking of how they would get the most clumsy girl off the boat. When it was my turn, I handed off all the things and prepared my dismount. Everything was going to plan until I felt hands (not just two) gripping my body and trying to guide me off the boat. This wouldn’t be so bad if I actually was losing my balance. I most definitely had two hands on my butt at one point and let me tell you, that was the most action I’ve had in years….

Our third stop was a place that I have actually been to a few times. We toured the Mihama Garden which is actually about a 30 minute walk from my apartment. It’s a pretty little garden in the middle of the city and for a little extra, one can enjoy matcha tea and a traditional sweet. It’s only 100 yen to enter the garden and an extra 400 yen for the tea.

IMG_3008

Slowly making Panorama my b****!

IMG_3009

The back is drowning in light a bit, but still a nice picture….

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Look of concentration and hoping I don’t screw it up…

IMG_3022

Just relaxing at the garden. Also, another wonderful shot of my bow!😉

After our tour of the garden, I was starting to get a bit peckish, which makes sense because, if you remember, lunch was at 10 that morning. Thankfully we ended our tour at this thatched room place where we made miso and pizza. I should really look up what this place was, but it was far away from any train station, so the chance that anyone that reads this and will go there is low in my opinion. Also, there was a lack of English on the pamphlet they handed out to us. When I heard we were going to make miso and pizza, I for some reason thought the two would be going hand and hand and wasn’t looking forward to this. For those who don’t know, miso is a paste used in a lot of Japanese dishes and is made by mixing soybeans, rice, and salt together and then left in a bin for a year to ferment.  It’s good, but it would be really salty on a pizza. I was wrong, thank God, and we would be making the dishes separately.

My group first made the miso. This required a lot of hand mixing. I have a weird thing about getting my hands dirty. It’s gotten better, but even with gloves on, the feeling of gunk on my hands and not being able to wash it off right away is a my own little hell. So logically I tried to give others in my group silent support as my hands stood on the sidelines, hoping no one noticed me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Go Team Go!

Eventually, I was spotted and was encouraged to join in on the “fun.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One hand in to show that I am “participating,” the other one clenched in fear of what’s to come.

Then we were taught how to mix it using both hands. This was done by one person at a time and of course I had to have a turn…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*Internally screaming*

Once everyone had a turn, we then put the mixture in a grinder thing and pushed the dough-like mix in a bucket where it will stay for the next year. As soon as I could, I washed my gloved hands in water before taking off the gloves and washing my actual hands to double make sure that all of the graininess was off. Writing this out and reading it now, I now can now understand the looks on peoples’ faces when I tell them about this little quirk of mine.

Lastly it was our turn to make pizza. I was very much “hangry” at this point. It was close to 5pm and I needed food. While everyone made a pretty design with their pizza, I literally dumped out all the ingredients and once I made sure they were all on and not going to fall off (I’m not a total monster), I ran out to be the first in my group to make the pizza.

IMG_3017

My “personalized” pizza

This picture almost didn’t happen. I inhaled this thing and everything around me slowly started to not to be as annoying as it was in my hanger rage.

This was my last tour on the Chiba-kun Ambassador Program. I was in China for the last one. I’m still going back and forth on whether or not I will do a few blog posts about China. I think it might be fun to  write about if I can find (or want to find) the time.

 

Chiba-kun Ambassador 2nd Tour- Journey to the Ear

27 Nov

It’s been a crazy month and I am now finally able to blog again. About two months ago I went on the 2nd Chiba-kun tour and visited Narita, Asahi and Choshi. I had never been to Chiba-kun’s ear before so most of this tour was a first for me. A lot happened on this tour and I was exhausted by the end of it but it was all worth it to experience things that I never thought I would have a chance to experience.

As usual, the bus left Chiba City early in the morning and we headed to our first stop of the day: a sake brewery/shop place. Geographically speaking, it made sense to go here first, but time-wise….. I’ll let you make your own opinion. The name of the place is Kabushiki company and the shop was called Iinumahonke.

Listening intently to sake owners/workers

Listening intently to sake owners/workers

Sake Brewery

Here I was told about the process of making Sake or what the Japanese call “Nihonshu.” In America, some people think it is rice-wine, but because the rice is brewed, it really is more “beer” than a “wine,”process-wise at least. Another little known fact; “sake” is not pronounced “sa-key,” but actually “sa-kay.” Jesus… am I turning into that ONE friend?! Haha, sorry, I’ll stop now.

We walked around the factory learning all about the process of Nihonshu. It was all in Japanese so I only got about 50 percent of it, but in all honesty I am more of a “hands-on” and “visual” learner anyways. I think I got the gist of it.

sake tour2

This is the rice with the husk still on, it goes through a turny thing that takes the husk off. Some other things happen and then it gets steamed.

sake tour3 Sake tour4

As factories go, this one smelt the best! It smelt of sweet cooked rice. Remember when I went to the soy sauce factory in Noda many blog posts before? Compared to that factory, this one smelt heavenly! 10/10 stars!

Uchi-sake1

After steaming, next comes yeasting. At least that is what I am calling it. Just smelling the inside of the tanks gave me a buzz. A lot of other things happen before it becomes Nihonshu, but I am getting a little bored now writing about it and I am going to guess that you are getting bored reading about it. So let’s move on to my favorite part of any alcohol tour I go on.

No! not the group pic...

No! not the group pic…

I mean it's 9:30am... but why not?!

I mean it’s 9:30am… but why not?!

I love me a good Nihonshu tasting! It was really early in the morning, and my stomach was mostly empty, but I soldiered through it.😉 The Nihonshu was good, but I tried an Umeshu (plum wine) that changed my world. I didn’t want to have to carry it around with me for the next two days, so I didn’t buy it. Now I am on a mission to find it again. It was not too sweet and not too sour, but the perfect balance of the two.

Filled with a belly full of Japanese liquors, we made our way to the 2nd stop of the day; Narita Temple. I’ve been to this temple many a time already and it is still one of my favorites in Japan. Not only is there a temple, but also a beautiful garden/park in the area. It was extra special this time because we got a tour guide to take us around. I was given two types of tours to choose from. One was a tour of the garden area and the other was a tour that included a stop at the temple to witness a Buddhist ceremony called the “Goma Fire Burning Ceremony.” Narita Temple is one of the few temples that let the public witness the ceremony. At first I wanted to check out the ceremony, but then my “uncomfortable” senses started tingling and I remembered how much this country loves sitting “seiza.” After many a google search, I decided not to risk it and chose the garden  tour.

narita1

This tour was so informative and my English-speaking tour guide told us so much about the Temple’s history and culture.

If you look at the picture of the pagoda above, you can see that it has a cloud and wave design painted on it. Also there are dragon heads carved into it and jutting out. The dragon is a water god and the reason for the “water themed” design is so that the pagoda is protected from fire damage. That is why you often see dragons in the decorations of temples in Japan. Also, the building of the pagoda was built in such a way that it required no nails. It’s called wood joining. Our tour guide also said that the terrace at Kimizudera in Kyoto was made this way as well. While interesting, when I heard this news, I shuddered a bit because I’ve been there twice and it is a far fall from that terrace. Sometimes, I just don’t need to know ALL the information…

narita3

The deity of temple “fudo myoo.” He uses his rope to draw people into Buddhism.

Before going around the garden area, we stood outside of the temple and saw a little bit of the ceremony going on inside. It looks like you don’t have to sit “seiza” if you don’t want to so there you go… I guess I’ll check it out next time. I thought I took a bunch a pics of the garden itself, but I guess I didn’t this time around. Whoops… well… does it feel better to know that the garden is 3 baseball fields large? No? Here, I’ll make it up to you with a picture of the food I ate after.

narita4

Uchi-Narita3

Nothing much I want to say about this pic except… Look at that bow action!

Next was Asahi Golf Park where we went golfing… sorta. I grew up on a golf course when I was young and my father enjoyed golfing so that meant my brothers and I had to take golf lessons in the summer. I hated it. Golfing is not very fun for me. You hit a ball, try not to get hit by a ball, and walk a lot just to do the latter two things. Oh and there is a hole. I wasn’t super psyched to do this at first glance, but now I’ve done it and I can officially say that is was……. alright… yeah… not too bad. The golf park isn’t really your average golfing experience. I would say that it is somewhere between mini golf and real golf.  First, you only have one club to carry (thank the Lord God Almighty!). You use a driver club for every swing. The driver club is the biggest of all the clubs and the scariest.

Uchi-golf1

standing far away from the noobs with golf clubs…

So yeah, smaller course (so less walking), less baggage to carry around, and colorful balls which then equaled a much more enjoyable time. Also, the more I swung, the less rusty I became. I can honestly say I would like to check it out one more time with my friends in the area.

Uchi-golf2

A little rusty, but got better towards the end

Uchi-golf3

I was pretty exhausted by the end of the golf experience, but there was still one more stop before arriving at our hotel for the night. We went to the Choshi Observatory to watch the sunset.

Horizon1

Sunset in Choshi

horizon2

Obligatory pic of lighthouse #1

horizon3

Slowing getting good at panorama

Apparently you can see the curve of the earth from this observatory. This was my first time in Choshi and it really is a beautiful port city. As tired as I was at this point, it was a great way to end the first day.

At least I thought it was basically the end of the day’s events. When we arrived at the hotel, I experienced otherwise. We stayed at the Inubosaki Hotel and there was a sign greeting us by the entrance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’re important! haha!

I don’t even know where to start with the hotel… first off, it was lovely. The rooms are nice, the restaurant is nice, the outdoor onsen is amazing and there are penguins.

hotel3

Yay!!!! ….. but why? (This has been my reaction to most things while in Japan)

Yep, you heard me right… and I don’t really know how I feel about it. Still trying to figure that last one out.

lighthouse 1

Obligatory lighthouse pic #2

After being shown to our rooms, we were basically thrown a fancy banquet. I took pictures of ALL the dishes, but I’ve decided to save that for when I post the pictures on facebook. Almost all the food was a Choshi specialty though and it was multiple course.

Not only did we have a fancy Choshi themed dinner, but we also got swag!

Uchi-dinner1

I’m in the back looking excited af for getting Choshi “swag”

Uchi-dinner2

SWAG SWAG SWAG SWAG!

Ok, so fancy multiple course meal and big bag of swag; how can this meal get any better?!

A taiko drum group performance, that’s how!

This taiko group is from Choshi and they have been to Wisconsin a few times I have been told. I honestly can say that this is one of the best Taiko performances I’ve seen while in Japan. Their energy was amazing and they were so much fun to watch.

After dinner, I ended the night with a well deserved soak in the outdoor onsen. I wish I could’ve taken pictures of it. It reminded me a little of Ariel’s Grotto with all of the tall rocks. And despite the fact I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I could make out some stars as I relaxed. Truly magical…

My original plan was to break this tour into two parts: Day one and Day two. My slowness in writing this has changed the plans a bit. Cause guess what?! I have the third tour tomorrow! lol Welp… strap in everyone, gonna do my best to crank out the rest of this.

Day two:

light house2

Obligatory lighthouse pic #3

We spent the whole day in Choshi this day and by the end of the day I felt a real bond with the city. Choshi reminds me a little of my hometown Fond du Lac. How? You might ask. Fond du Lac is landlocked and Choshi is most definitely not. Location-wise and climate-wise they are pretty different. Well, I have one word for you…. lighthouse. Both Choshi and Fond du Lac have a lighthouse and both cities milk the hell out of that fact to try to get people to come visit.

283563_10150242421306994_2338813_n

Here’s Fond du Lac’s lighthouse…

lighthouse 4

and here is Choshi’s

Fond du Lac is French and it means “bottom of the lake” in English. This is because Fond du Lac is on the bottom of Lake Winnebago. We have a lighthouse as a result of that and we put it EVERYWHERE.

When I went to college and people asked me where I was from, my answer was always “I’m from Fond du Lac…. we have a lighthouse!” It’s kinda our thing. So when I saw that Choshi had a lighthouse too and how it was everywhere as well… well.. I just felt at home.

One difference I noticed when we went to visit the Inubozaki lighthouse is that is is much higher than the one in Fond du Lac. The Fond du Lac one is only  12 meters high and the one in Choshi is 27 meters high… so my fear of heights immediately kicked in as I climbed the 99 narrow windy steps to the top.

lighthouse5

Narrow stairs that lead to my doom

lighthouse6

Hiding in the corner, trying to garner the strength to go out on the balcony

lighthouse7

One of the few pics I took from the top before I got the hell out of there!

lighthouse7

Going back to the sweet sweet ground!

So my time in the actual lighthouse was pretty short, but I was comforted by the fact that Uchiyama-san would get some awesome shots from the top and I would just steal some of them for this post.

Uchi-light house1

Safely on the ground

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She did not disappoint🙂

I walked around the bottom of the lighthouse and checked out the small museum areas. In one building there was this awesome light and this machine area with a red button on the display case. I took this as a “hands-on” display and pressed it. What came next was  a loud and scary alarm erupting from the machine. I predictably freaked out and panicked a bit before walking out of the building and “casually” strolled to a different area. It lasted a long time too, I still have no idea if I was supposed to press or not press that button. No one said anything, so I’m guessing I didn’t do anything wrong, or I just Gaijin-smashed it.

lighthouse8

Take notes Fondy!

lighthouse9

Uchi-lighthouse3

I feel at home in this light house museum

 

Have you ever looked at a balloon and thought “I wonder if I’ll ever get to make this.” No? Me either. Mostly because I never thought the opportunity even existed in the world. Well, apparently it does, cause the next thing I know I’m being shuffled into this little country home in the middle of a cabbage field and the inside looks like a clown threw up everywhere (I mean that in the best way possible). That’s right, I made balloons.

This is the last factory in Japan that makes balloons the traditional way. It was awesome! They even had balloons that were shaped like bunnies and pigs! Now I have like 30 pink balloons at my disposal. Maybe I’ll have a party that just celebrates “Me.” I guess that would be my birthday, huh? Well, birthday party it is then!

Uchi-balloon3

Concentrating hard on getting all of those balloons off the molds

balloon 1

Made from the narrowest balloon made in Japan

Uchi-balloon4

Nicest instructors ever!

After lunch, there was one more stop on the tour left. We said goodbye to our bus and took a little train (Choshi Electric Railway) to a little town called Togawa.

At this point, I am getting tired of writing this post which coincidently was how I was feeling at this point in the tour as well. I’m getting old so my patience wears thin when I start to become tired. My patience was barely holding on at this point. And we were going to go on a two hour walking tour of this town. Oh! And this is when they decided to film us and our reactions to the tour. I am so thankful not to have a TV so I didn’t have to see how I looked and reacted at this point. When we got on the train to take one stop to our destination, there was this delightfully energetic lady to greet us and to get us excited for Togawa.

Uchi-train1

Choshi’s hype girl

When we arrived to Togawa, we were then passed off to a bunch of volunteer tour guides who were all very excited to tell us about their little town. We went to a house/room thing (later I was told that this was a museum the owner made herself) and we were told all about the history of Choshi/Togawa. Did you know that the city broke off from one part of Japan and moved up to where it is now!? Just kidding! That is what exhausted Kristen believed she was being told about Choshi’s history and later was corrected that is was actually about how Choshi was all about agriculture and farming until people from the middle of Japan moved up to Choshi and taught them how to fish and stuff. I guess that makes more sense.

Uchi-Togawa1

Trying my best not to fall asleep on camera

Next we walked around a bit. Here are some pictures I took.

togawa2

10 fu’s = Tofu Get it? This one is for you Rachel😉

togawa3

Where the 3/11 Tsunami ended

togawa4

From where this pic was taken, was how far the 3/11 tsunami went

Uchi-togawa2

Then we went to the port/old port/ I really couldn’t tell ya. We were talked to some more and then we walked to this random guy’s house where we were shown these magic rocks that bring you good luck and grant all your wishes and everyone gathered around to take pictures of them. At this point I was like “NOPE” and walked to an area that I could sit and wait for people to be done. I knew Uchiyama-san had my back.

togawa5

Everyone taking pictures of a rock… F’ that shit

Uchi-togawa3

Oh look at all the pushing and shoving I did NOT have to do to get this picture!😉 Tired Kristen= Sassy Kristen

Also, I should probably let you know that these rocks are not magic…. that is what exhausted Kristen told herself when she saw how everyone clamored around them. In reality, these rocks are from the building of the old port and people put them in their yards for decoration. Personally, I like my version better.

Finally, we were back on the train for our long journey back to Chiba-City. Despite all of my sassiness, I really enjoyed this tour. I got to see another city that I had never been to, feel at home next to a lighthouse and day drink sake at 9:30am. What more could a girl ask for? And with that, I’ll end this post with a picture that sums up my feelings for Chiba-kun’s ear.

Uchi-train2

 

 

 

Adventures in Singapore!

30 Sep

Ok so this blog isn’t about Chiba, but I promised/hoped to get another blog out before my next Chiba-kun tour (which happens to be this weekend) and it mostly rained in September so if anything, you brought this upon yourself Chiba!

Something wonderful happened this fall and it was called “Silver Week.” Every May Japan has “Golden Week,” which is a week full of national holidays and everyone goes crazy and travels somewhere. That happens every year. “Silver Week” on the other hand, does NOT happen every year. It usually happens once every 3 or 4 years (according to one of my coworkers) and it happens when some national holidays all happen one day after the other. I was lucky enough to be here during one of these years and I am happy to say that I took full advantage of it. Singapore was not originally on my list of places to travel to while living in Japan, but I am sure glad that I visited this “Food Paradise” of a country.

I traveled with three other wonderful girls and we spent four days exploring and eating in this awesome country. Let me tell you all about it!🙂

The first day was spent basically traveling, so I don’t have much to say about it except that “Spy” is an awesome movie and “Home” was fine.

The 2nd day was when the real “adventure” began!

I’m not the biggest fan of Japanese summer as most of you know because it is beyond humid and hot. Singapore is basically that all the freaking time. The guy at the hostel said that Singapore’s seasons were hot, hotter, hottest and wet and I totally believe him. It was the only downside this country had while I was there. I am not good with humidity and the longer I must deal with it, the angrier I get. It’s why I spend a butt load of money on air conditioning and then suck it up in the winter time.

I tell you this because our first real day in Singapore was spent mostly hiking. I’m not going to lie to you and act like it was an awesome time and that the “view” and the “scenery” made it all worth it. Yeah, I’m not going to even tell you where it was that we exactly hiked either… I refuse to, because then I have to: A. look up the name that I never ever want to hear uttered again to me and B. If you so badly want to put yourself and others through the same hell I went through, you obviously have way more drive and motivation than I will ever have and therefore can take the time to look for it yourself.

I’m just going to say it, because it has been boiling in me ever since that horrendous day. IT F***ING SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKED!

Ok, so now I will show you some pictures that I took and try (kind of) to tell you about the hike in a little more detail.

Everyone's' feels at the beginning of the hike.... naturally

Everyone’s’ feels at the beginning of the hike…. naturally

This trail led us through the Singapore jungle/forest/I don’t really give a shit…. and at one point on top of the canopy.

On this trail we were told that we would see monkeys, monitors and wild boar. We saw two out of the three, which was pretty cool I guess.

Can you see it?

Can you see it? It’s a Monitor

Look cute from a distance

Looks cute from a distance

I think we hiked 10 kilometers in total, but I still feel like it was a little longer than that once you count the distance to the bus station before and after.

Canopy from below

hike

Pretty? Yeah, of course you can say that from your heat controlled room, but when it was actually happening, I kept wishing for sweet sweet death.

BAMBOO!

I look “happy” but really this is me opening my arms and offering an exchange of my life for a room with air conditioning.

I kept telling myself that it would all be worth it once I was on the cool canopy trail that would show me a view of the jungle from above, but I forgot one little thing about myself… and that is that I am terribly afraid of heights. Especially when I am on something that sways. I thought the bridge was going to be this steel solid thing that stayed in place, but I was sorely mistaken.

Thinking happy thoughts

Thinking happy thoughts

Usually when I am in this position I look down at something solid, but when I did I saw this:

F***

F***.

Soooooo…. yeah. Here I am walking along this bridge that sways with each step I take, everywhere I look reminds me of how high I am and to add to all that there are greedy little monkeys that want your plastic bags walking along the top. One of those little clever A-holes must of heard my friend’s plastic bag in her tote bag because next thing I hear is “THE MONKEY’S COMING!” and my friend behind me is in a tussle with a monkey. I felt bad, but I knew that if I turned to help, the situation could’ve became worse, so I just kept on going. Praying all along the way for the sweet feeling of solid ground and hoping that the monkey would quickly leave. Thankfully my friend was fine and he only grabbed for her head and didn’t bite her.

But was it worth it?

But was it worth it?

So after that terrifying experience we walked another 4 km to exit the trail and I can proudly say that I only screamed from pure frustration twice! Next time I am asked if I want to hike in a terribly humid climate, I can now honestly tell them “NO” because I have tried it and positively hated it. My souvenirs from this hike were two big blisters on the bottoms of my feet and that is the last thing I have to say about this activity.

After “the thing that shall not be named,” I was starving. I had yet to try anything in this “food paradise” of a country (breakfast was at the hostel) and that needed to be changed ASAP. We made our way to a food court and the feast began!

Food court aka "The Night Markets" of Singapore

Food court aka “The Night Markets” of Singapore

Chili Crab and Lemon Chicken

Chili Crab and Lemon Chicken

There was more than this, but the chili crab was the big thing I was told to have here (besides chicken and rice). I used my hands to eat it and it was the most satisfying way to get rid of all my anger from the previous “activity.” I will never use a crab-cracking utensil again! I earned that crab meat with my bare hands!  That being said, the chili sauce made this thing pretty messy to eat so be prepared and wear something you don’t mind getting dirty.

I drank so many juices while in Singapore. Sour-sop juice, Sugar cane juice, Rose milk (looks like pepto bismol, but it is so good!) , guava juice, pulled tea, and so much freaking more. Japan needs to get on the juice train… and quick! That was our lunch and dinner unfortunately. I had already failed my plan to “never be hungry only less full” while there… So this first day I would give it 4 out of ten on the food satisfaction scale.

We ended the day at Marina Bay where we could see two things that everyone asks if you saw while in Singapore. The first thing was the hotel with the boat on it aka Marina Sands Bay.

"I'm so fancy!"

“I’m so fancy!”

There is a laser show there every night.

Laser show

Laser show

And the second thing is the “Merlion.”

Famous Merlion

Famous Merlion

I could now check these things as “seen” off my list and hopefully spend most of my 2nd and 3rd day eating all the things. But this was not totally meant to be….

The 2nd day also included some nature, but in a much more “controlled” manner.

Botanical Gardens

The Singapore Botanical Gardens is a World Heritage Site. Here people can see the country’s national flower, the orchid. This was way more my style. Smooth concrete lined the trails and I didn’t have to climb a bunch of steep steps. Everything was organized in its own little areas and I felt at peace. I also got to see some awesome flowers and plants. I’m going to stop writing and just show you some of the things I saw.

flower

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

flower2

Reminds me of "Secret Garden"

Reminds me of “Secret Garden”

surrounded by orchids!

surrounded by orchids!

SO MANY ORCHIDS!

orchids2 orchids3 orchids4

There are way more in my camera and I will most likely be posting them all on facebook in a few days, but these were some of my favorites!

I just love walking under arches!

I just love walking under arches!

Showing how I feel

Showing how I feel

This garden is my dream home garden. If I could ever have even a sliver of something like this, I would be extremely happy.

We started to all get hungry again and made our way to Chinatown.

Lanterns in China Town

Lanterns in Chinatown

Century Egg and Tofu and Spare Ribs braised with Eggplant

Century Egg and Tofu and Spare Ribs braised with Eggplant

Frog legs in Spicy broth

Frog legs in Spicy broth

The frog legs were really good! It was my first time and people always say that it tastes like chicken and I think I would agree with them on that. I would eat them again in a heartbeat.

We weren’t able to spend a lot of time in Chinatown because we had to get ready for the night safari which is exactly what it sounds like. It is a safari… at night.

Get ready for it!

Get ready for it!

I wasn’t able to get many pictures of this because my camera isn’t the greatest at night shots. It was really cool to sit in a tram and see a bunch of nocturnal animals up close. There was a tapir that we barely missed as it slept next to the trail. I didn’t get to see the tiger though… sigh. We did the safari part and then we also saw the “Creatures of the Night” show. It was nice to hear sarcasm again. I love Japan, but they don’t do sarcasm at all…

Hyena in the "Creatures of the Night" show

Hyena in the “Creatures of the Night” show

Food at the tourist spots in Singapore are pretty expensive so once again we really only ate one meal besides a small breakfast. So I would say this day got a 3 out of 10 on the food satisfaction scale. I had one more day and dammit! I was going to make it count!

On the 3rd and last day in Singapore, we visited the last two ethnic towns; Little India and Little Arabia (still not sure what they call this area…).

Little India

Little India

First up was Little India. It was like we entered an entirely different country.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Here I was able to eat more food and get something done that I have always wanted to get done.

Another thing I can cross off my bucket list!

Another thing I can cross off my bucket list!

I finally was able to get henna done. The lady that did it for me finished it in like 5 min. I had a small one done because I was afraid that I would smear it otherwise.

Cleverly showing how good that butter chicken curry is and also showing off her henna ;)

Cleverly showing how good that butter chicken curry is and also showing off her henna😉

The food was amazing here as well. We had curry, butter naan and prata. I was also able to try the pulled tea here. It was  as amazing as I had heard it was. Frothy and sweet! I miss it so much already.

Next we walked to the the Arabian area of Singapore. We saw some awesome mosques and checked out the shops.

Apparently you can take the girl out of Japan, but you can't take the "peace sign" out of the girl

Apparently you can take the girl out of Japan, but you can’t take the “peace sign” out of the girl

Sultan Mosque

Sultan Mosque

Such pretty architecture

Such pretty architecture

I was able to eat more this day. In the morning we had a traditional breakfast of toast with coconut jam and dipped in soft egg. In Little India I ate curry and drank so much juice and in the Arabian area I ate these bean porridge desserts. Finally we ate at the food court next to our hostel and I finished the trip off with some pig’s foot, biryani, some noodle soup thing, and Thai chicken.  Overall I would rate my final day as a 8 out of 10 on the food satisfaction scale.

After all of that it was finally time to leave this amazingly friendly country. Singapore was great and if I ever get the chance to come here again, I will gladly take it. I will return and eat even more than before!

And so my friends I will end my post with this picture from the airport:

Perfect way to end the trip

Perfect way to end the trip

My 1st Chiba-kun Tour Experience: Mobara and Shirako Part 2

28 Aug
At Shirasuna hotel

At Shirasuna hotel

Oh hello again! I should probably not make promises that I can not keep. I am aware that it has been more than a week since my last post and I’m sorry about that. I’m more sorry that I made a stupid deadline for myself…😛

Let’s move on to the last two stops on this tour, shall we!?

The lovely group photo that you see on the top of the page was taken in front of the Shirasuna Hotel in Shirako. It was around noon when we arrived and that meant….

Fried Shrimp lunch

Fried Shrimp lunch

Yep! I got to sit down to a delicious lunch of Fried shrimp, some mushroom custard thing, miso soup with clams and to finish it off, a slice of watermelon. Yep… gotta love a country that considers fruit a dessert. I am only being partially sarcastic with that last statement. If you gave me the option of an apple or a piece of apple pie; before you’d finished asking the question I’d already stuffed that pie in my face just in case the pie was never an option in the first place. True facts. Fruit in Japan is usually on the expensive side, so I can see why some people save fruit for dessert here.  They package the fruit here like they’re fragile little newborns and no ugly fruit allowed.

After lunch we were given two options: enjoy the hotel’s onsen (hot spring) or walk to the beach. Not being the biggest fan of the beach, I decided to enjoy the onsen. It was late June, but thankfully summer had not really come in at full force yet. There were three onsen rooms. The guy’s room on the 5th floor had an (supposedly) awesome view of the ocean, while the women’s room on the 5th room didn’t have much of a view of anything. [Insert sexist joke here] Thankfully there was one more room to choose from for the ladies. It was an outdoor onsen (my favorite!) on the 1st floor.

Outdoor women's onsen in Shirako

Outdoor women’s onsen in Shirako

Outdoor onsens are the absolute best! The cold air mixing with the heat of the water feels amazing. I still hope that one day I can experience an outdoor onsen in the snow before I leave Japan. I really wish Americans would get over their feelings of public nakedness and  get on the hot spring/public bath train. I really feel that this would be perfect for Wisconsin winter.

After getting out of the onsen, we still had some time before having to get back on the bus. Some of the girls planned on walking to the beach and I, at first, was totally NOT planning on doing that. I originally planned on taking a quick catnap on a lawn chair, but the other girls wanted me to join them on their walk to “sand hell.” Unfortunately trying to politely say “no thanks, beaches are f***ing stupid” in Japanese is not that easy. So as I looked longingly behind me at the clean grass surrounding the hotel, I was dragged off to my fate of getting sand EVERYWHERE.

EVERY. WHERE.

EVERY. WHERE.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Smiling on the outside, but cursing the sand gods on the inside.

Why do I hate the beach, you ask? Sand…. the sand is the worst. It gets everywhere and takes forever to get rid of. Right now as I type this and look that that picture above, I can still remember the feeling of the wet sand between my toes. Is it too much to ask that all beaches have rocks/pebbles instead of sand!? I can deal better with pebbles.

To summarize: Shirasuna Hotel has good food, good onsens and is in a good location near the beach (if you like that sort of thing). If you’re interested, check out their website!  http://shirasuna.co.jp/

And now on to the big finale! This next place was where I was looking forward to experience most on this tour. In Japanese the name of the place is: 服部農園あじさい屋敷. In English it is roughly translated to “Kristen’s happy place.”😉 Just kidding! I mean it basically is my happy place, but really it is a Hydrangea Park. Before I show you the first picture of this amazing place, let me first show you what I felt like the entire time we were here.

This is hydrangeas to the extreme! I’d never seen so many in one place before. Hydrangeas are my favorite Japanese flowers. They look like cotton candy and they are nature’s bouquet.

Hydrangea Park

Hydrangea Park

 

Yeah. Take it in. It was of course better in real life, but I’m sure I took at least 50 pictures while I was here. I won’t subject you to all of them (you’re welcome!) but I want to at least show you the magnitude of it all.

So many Hydrangeas!

So many Hydrangeas!

Breathtaking

Breathtaking

It's like "Where's Waldo," but with me!

It’s like “Where’s Waldo,” but with me!

This was the best way to end the tour I think. It kept me going the entire time, just knowing that I would be able to frolic among one of my favorite flowers. Hydrangeas are in season in June in Chiba. You can find them basically everywhere in Chiba, but to find so many like you see here, you’ll have to make a trip to Mobara. It is totally worth it! Even if you don’t have a car, if you splurge on a taxi, it is only 10 minutes away from Mobara station and the entrance fee is 500 yen for adults and 200 yen for elementary school students.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first tour with the Chiba-kun ambassadors. I had never been to Shirako or Mobara before, so it was really nice to experience a new part of Chiba. My next tour will be in October and I will get to experience more of Narita and see what Choshi is all about. I will try (keyword “try”) to get another blog post written before then. No promises though.😉

“All in the Golden Afternoon” My First Chiba-kun Ambassador Tour Experience in Mobara and Shirako: Part 1

28 Jul
Start of Chiba-kun Tour

Start of Chiba-kun Tour

Ok, so I realize it’s been awhile since my last post… but seeing as I generally hate writing, this should be a surprise to no one. Now, I have a reason to blog more often and it is because I am a Chiba-kun Ambassador! It is my duty to share my Chiba experiences with you now. A lot of my past posts have been about Tokyo and the walks I have done there, but now it is time to bring it back to my Japanese home; Chiba.

People who actually read my blog religiously (Hi Mom!) should already know a bit about Chiba-kun. For those who don’t, let me give you a short intro to Chiba-kun.

chibakun1

 

This is Chiba-kun. Yes, I am aware that he looks like Clifford the Big Red Dog… but he’s not. Actually he’s not even an animal, he is a “mysterious creature.” And he is not even a “he”… or a “she” for that matter. In Japanese the ending “kun” is usually used for boys, so to me he is a “he” and from now on I will be referring to him as such. Chiba-kun is one of the many  mascots for Chiba prefecture. I like him because he is actually shaped like the prefecture, making it very easy to tell people where you live. That is, if they actually know who Chiba-kun is. Thankfully he is pretty well known to the people who live here, so that’s all that really matters. Ok, So I live in Makuhari and that is located right below Chiba-kun’s tongue. This first tour that I went on at the end of June was in Shirako and Mobara which are both located at the back of Chiba-kun’s neck. This was my first experience in both of these areas and I got to experience 4 cool places while on this tour so let’s start!

Ok, so if you look up at the top of this post, you can see a pic of the Chiba-kun Gang (I’ve decided that’s what our nickname is, no take-backs!). This is (almost) everyone that is a Chiba-kun ambassador this year. A really awesome international bunch if you ask me! We were always corralled for a group pic at each of the tour stops which NEVER got tiring… I kid… sort of… not really… Just gotta get used to it I guess!

First stop was at 笠森観音 aka Kasamori Temple. I thought I’d seen all of the temples and then I saw this one. I should mention that it was raining for a bit in the morning and at first I was a bit saddened by this, but honestly I feel the rain really added to the experience of the temple. There was this awesome walk through the forest to get there and the sound of the rain and the birds just made the experience more magical. That on top of all the greenery and I was in fairy heaven!

Ferns lined the way up the steps toward Kasamori Temple

Ferns lined the way up the steps toward Kasamori Temple

One of the reasons people come to this temple is to pray for a safe birth and also to come back to say thanks for if they had a safe and healthy birth.

Brings good luck for giving birth

Brings good luck for giving birth

Walking to the Kasamori Temple

Walking to the Kasamori Temple

Kasamori Temple with the Chiba-kun gang!

Kasamori Temple with the Chiba-kun Gang!

So this is the actual temple. It’s pretty cool to be honest and I’ve been to a ton of temples while in Japan. We had to take our shoes off and put on one-fits-all slippers to go up and down the stairs. Now I am not one to tell you how to live your life, but it might be helpful to be wearing socks (or have a pair handy) for this. I did not get the memo and had to put my slippery bare feet into some communal plastic slippers. I also happen to be afraid of heights so trying to go up and down these stairs was a bit of a challenge for me. Let’s just say my mantra while doing this was “Not going to fall to my death.”

That's not terrifying at all.. When was this rebuilt again?!

That’s not terrifying at all.. When was this rebuilt again?!

Despite the height thing, I really loved the view from on top of the temple.

View from Kasamori Temple

View from Kasamori Temple

Once everyone came down from the temple, we moved on to another area where we got to ring a bell. Now I could go and research what this was exactly and the meaning behind it, but I am too dang hot right now and I know you have the ability to open another tab and research “temple bells, what’s that all about?” I’m just going to tell you what I know. It is a giant bell and you pull a log on a rope to hit it with. If it hits just one time and you stop it from hitting again, it is good luck. If it hits more than once… bad luck.

Hitting the bell once brings luck and more than once brings bad luck. So naturally I hit it twice

So naturally I hit it twice

Kasamori Temple was a really cool place to check out. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to access if you don’t have a car or a tour bus. There are always taxis I guess! If you do end up making it here, it is in the middle of a natural park so I’m sure there are a few hiking trails to check out if you’re into that kinda thing.😉

The admission ticket is only 200 yen (2.00) for adults and 100 yen (1.00) for kids. It is generally open everyday from 8am to around 4pm.

Shiraidenen flower garden

Shiraidenen flower garden

The name of this next place still confuses me so here is the link if you’re interested: http://shiraidenen.com/about

This next stop started the “flower” part of the tour. This place is known for its Japanese irises, but we came at the end of that season. There are many other types of flowers that made up for that, like the “Kisege” lilies.

Hanging with the lillies

Hanging with the lillies

We came here for tea ceremony though. Now I love participating in traditional Japanese things. I’m all about experiencing different cultures and trying new things. I’ve done tea ceremony a few times now though and while I love tea and Japanese sweets, I hate sitting seiza. I really effing hate it… it hurts so bad and I lose all feeling in my legs and then it takes forever to get back up. Seiza is when you sit on top of your calves and at first everything is fine and dandy and then the sharp pain starts, it’s awful. It really sucks with tea ceremony too because tea ceremony is slow and takes forever if there are a lot of people in the room. Everyone must wait for everyone to be served and then wait for everyone to finish. I can never focus on much except the pain in my legs and telling everyone with my eyes to hurry the F*** up! *Finally takes a breath* So basically what I am saying is everyone should really experience this wonderful Japanese tradition. Haha… I’m really doing a wonderful job so far as an ambassador, huh!?   I was ready to sacrifice my legs to the torture again, but then I saw there were benches in the room. BENCHES!!! You lovely life savers, you!

Look at my legs in their freedom!

Look at my legs in their freedom!

Tea Ceremony

Tea Ceremony

Being able to sit like a normal human being really let me appreciate the ceremony this time around. Before the tea is served, you are given a Japanese sweet. This sweet is supposed to prepare you for the bitterness of the tea. Depending on the season, depends on the sweet served.

Plum shaped Japanese sweet bean sweet

Plum shaped Japanese sweet bean sweet

The tea is a thick green tea (matcha) and it is really bitter. I personally love it. The sweet definitely helps.

SDC18250

Each cup should be looked at before consuming the tea. The inside of my cup was more interesting than the outside in my opinion.

It's a turtle!

It’s a turtle!

After the ceremony, we could explore around the garden a bit. So while others tried on cat tails (don’t ask), I ran around looking at all the flowers I could see!

SDC18239 SDC18257

Representing Wisconsin!

Representing Wisconsin!

There are a lot of interesting art sculptures in this garden and it reminded me a bit of the craft fairs I used to go to with my mom back in the states. They were quite interesting to look at.

I was originally planning on writing about the whole tour in one post, but it is looking like it will instead be a two parter. I will write part 2 next week! So look forward to that!

So Much Freaking Pink!!!!! Imperial Gardens Walk Part 2

22 May

Finally I was able to complete this walk! I had to backtrack a bit so I could check out the main attraction to this walk; the Imperial Gardens. I was so impressed by these gardens! First of all, its free to enter and second of all, the layout is just awesome! Besides the gardens, there is also a tiny museum showing off imperial treasures.

I want to frolic through the flowers and then have a picnic right in the middle of it all!

I want to frolic through the flowers and then have a picnic right in the middle of it all!

It was so relaxing to just walk around and take pictures of all the flowers. Spring is definitely my favorite season in Japan. It’s just a nonstop flow of blooming flowers.

Imperial Gardens 1

I chose a great day to come the the gardens too, because……

Just look at you!!!!

Just look at you!!!!

And….

I just want to put my face in the middle of it!!!!! Is that weird?

I just want to put my face in the middle of it!!!!!
Is that weird?

 

SO MUCH PINK!!! It was just everywhere! I really felt like I was in a pink paradise and it took everything in me to not to just flop in the middle of them and then just roll around in a pink delirious state. I’m tempted to put all the pink pictures up in this post, but I’ll refrain myself. I really could of just sat in this area of the gardens forever… “food?! what’s that? Is it pink!?”

moat

Unfinished building... but you can climb it!

Unfinished building… but you can climb it!

 

Imperial Gardens 3

 

I do want to come back here soon and just spend the entire day walking around and sitting on the lawn, relaxing among the flowers.

Science Museum

This day was not the day however… I had a schedule to keep! I finally tore myself away from the glorious pink flowers to walk to my next destination. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am not the biggest fan of science. I don’t mean that in the “I don’t believe it/trust it” way, I mean it in the “Science is hard….” way. Science was my kryptonite in high school and college. I’m just horrible at it. So I wasn’t sure how much fun this Science Museum would be for me. As soon as I entered the building though, I had a feeling that I would be fine. It was colorful and there were children running around everywhere. Simplified science! YES! That is my kind of science. Unfortunately, most of this museum is in Japanese and there aren’t any English explanations. But fortunately  there were buttons, levers and things to touch and do. So it really didn’t matter in the end. I got to touch things! Woot! I sped through most of the exhibits here but there was one thing that stopped me in my tracks.

She looked up to the camera! I mean.... come on! She is just too cute!

She looked up to the camera! I mean…. come on! She is just too cute!

In the robot room…. in the middle of it all… was PARO-CHAN!!! I’ve heard and seen so much of this adorable little robotic baby seal but I never thought I would be able to interact with it in my lifetime! PARO was made so that lonely people (like the elderly) could have something to take care of and talk to. She is terribly expensive, but so freaking cute! There was no line of tiny children waiting to pet her so I just stood there for like ten minutes petting her in absolute wonder. I really didn’t want to leave her… this is another situation of wanting to stay forever (two in one day!? What is this world coming to!?). I didn’t want to become the weird foreigner that pets a robot all day, so I finally walked away… only to come back to it before leaving the museum.😛  I had to say my proper goodbyes….

All I could think was "The Beatles... played here! HERE!"

All I could think was “The Beatles… played here! HERE!”

After a quick lunch and ice cream, I made my way to see the Budokan. This building is known for a lot of things, but to me all that matters is that The Beatles played here in 1966. They were the first rock group to do so. Originally this building was built for Japanese martial arts but many rock groups have performed here as well, the first being The Beatles. On this day, the popular Japanese group EXILE was performing, but as I walked around it, all I could hear was “Rock and Roll Music” and “Paperback Writer.”

 

Showa Period Museum

Showa Period Museum

My last stop was the Showakan. There is a small museum at the top of the building that shows how life was for the Japanese during World War II. This museum became even more interesting for me because I was given an audio guide that was in English. It was nice to not have to decipher anything at this point because I was tired from walking around everywhere.

This walk was a lot of fun and it was even nicer that I didn’t have to spend a lot of money to see everything. The Science Museum was only 700 yen to get into (7.00) and the Showakan was only 300 yen (3.00). I hope to get to do a couple more walks before the summer makes being outdoors suck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk made for an King! Imperial Palace walk: Part 1

1 Apr

 

Recently, my mom visited me for the first time in Japan. One of the things she requested on doing with me while in Japan was to join me on one of my Tokyo walks. Since spring has finally started showing it’s face around here, I thought a park/garden themed  walk would be appropriate. I’ve been to the Imperial Palace a couple of times already, but I really haven’t done more than go up to the bridge (Nijubashi).

Yay for cherry blossom season!

Yay for cherry blossom season!

The first park that we went to was Hibiya Park. I think this park is known for its rose garden, but unfortunately it is not yet in season so that part of the park looked a little bare, but overall I really enjoyed walking around here. Even though the roses were not yet in bloom, there were still plenty of flowers for me and my mom to take pictures of. I think I will definitely be back in later when the roses are in season though.

Old Ministry of Justice

Old Ministry of Justice

The next stop on our walk was the Ministry of Justice. This is the old building and isn’t used as the main building anymore. The cool thing about this building, is that it has a free little museum inside on the 3rd floor. It is only open on the weekdays though, and that does not include holidays. I have to admit that I was a little intimidated about getting to the museum. The gate has guards outside of it and it looked like only people with special passes could get in at first. It took a little courage, but I finally got the nerve to ask the guards if I could get in and go to the gallery. I was ready to be turned away, but they were very nice and showed me which door we had to go into. Once we went inside, another guard was there to escort us to the third floor. It was very official and I felt very important at that moment! The museum was very small and I expected to not to see any English, but this gallery translated almost everything into English! This was very helpful, because my mom doesn’t know Japanese and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have understood much of the Judicial terms in Japanese.

 

My mom modeling next to the Sakuradamon gate

My mom modeling next to the Sakuradamon gate

 

Can you see the "glasses?"

Can you see the “glasses?”

 

The Nijubashi bridge (picture above) is actually made of iron and it just looks like it is made of stone. One of my friends said that it is nicknamed “megane bridge.” “Megane” is Japanese for glasses. I don’t think I need to explain why. My mom and I passed this bridge on our way to the Wadakura fountain garden.

Wadakura Fountain Garden

Wadakura Fountain Garden

This was originally built in the 60s for the emperor’s marriage. It is a really cool spot to walk around, especially if you are a big fan of walking over bridge like areas. I know there has to be more people like that out there… I can’t be the only one! There also happens to be an expensive, but really delicious buffet where one can view the fountains while they eat. If you don’t mind spending 2,400 yen on a buffet, then I recommend checking it out! It currently serves lunch from 11-2pm.

After lunch, we had planned on going into the Imperial palace gardens, but unfortunately I made a slight mistake on scheduling and didn’t see that the gardens are actually closed on Mondays and Fridays. Oops… So… more on that in part 2!🙂

 

So at this point we had to abandon the original walk and make our way to the next place which happened to be the Tokyo National Modern Art Museum. This is where the day got interesting… and also a little weird. I think I have mentioned before in previous posts that I have a tendency to never do much research on special exhibits being shown at the museum that I am going to visit. Yeah, well, I still haven’t done much of that and I totally felt the aftereffects of that laziness with this museum. Of course the one museum that I take my mom to just had to have a special exhibit featuring a “penis-obsessed” artist. Ok, first of all, if the art made by the artist is mostly “phallic” shaped, I really feel as a museum, you should really just bite the bullet and advertise it with one of his many “memberish” works.   Later I realized that they did put one of them on the exhibit’s ticket but by then I already paid for it! By then it’s too late! Now I have to suffer through each room with my mom… MY MOM! Oh, I guess I should mention the guy’s name. The exhibit was on Tetsumi Kudo. To be fair, the whole point of his art was to disturb people, and disturb me he did! His first works didn’t seem so bad, but as soon as I entered the 2nd room I was suddenly surrounded by penises…  I mean they were literally hanging from the ceiling. It was like, “that other room was kind of weird, wasn’t it? Ok, now here’s 6 more rooms of dicks. Enjoy!” I spent most of my time running (fast walking) from room to room and I’ll be honest, it felt like they were chasing me…                                I spent the rest of the time at the museum trying to erase what I had seen prior and tried to focus on the permanent works at the museum.

Craft Museum

Craft Museum

 

She was going to pretend to crawl into it at first, but she didn't want to be yelled at! :)

She was going to pretend to crawl into it at first, but she didn’t want to be yelled at!🙂

The price to admission into the Modern Art Museum also includes admission to the Craft Museum which is a seven minute walk away. The special exhibit being shown there was much more my speed. It’s called “Hana” (Flower) and it will be on display until June. I really enjoyed this one. I love flowers and I also love Japanese pottery. I am happy that I could end my walk at this museum.

I look forward on continuing this walk and hopefully finally getting to see the palace gardens.

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 381 other followers