Last day in Kisarazu

29 03 2010

Our apartment inspection went quickly with no troubles apart from being told that some items we had put in non-burnable rubbish were actually burnable. Eww too much rubbish incineration.

During the inspection it started to snow.

After dramas at the post office trying to post our stuff home (they wouldn’t accept our suitcases so we had to pack stuff in boxes to send home. Now we’re stuck with suitcases while ‘backpacking’ shoganai), we caught the express bus to Tokyo and met Emma for dinner at the vegan pub, Non. It will close for good soon, so we went one last time. And that was our final meal in Tokyo (this time, anyway!)





Shinkansen -it’s the only way to go

18 02 2010

We got up early and signed out of the hotel, caught the subway to Sapporo station and got on the limited express to Hakodate. Three hours later, we transferred to another limited express train to Hachiohe, through the tunnel under the ocean connecting Hokkaido and Honshu. Then we caught the Shinkansen down the eastern side of Japan, through Sendai, back to Tokyo. Three hours of Shinkansen and we’ve travelled about 600km. Express bus and we’re home safe and sound. Time for some densha otaku photos.

Inside the Shinkansen.

Our Shinkansen.





Tokyo FAIL

26 01 2010

After work on Saturday we both headed into Tokyo on the express bus. Benno bought a new toy, a metallic blue Nintendo DS with a kanji learning game, a dictionary and Zelda. We ate some vegan soymilk doughnuts from NY Doughnut Plant near Akihabara station. Benno at a Yuzu orange flavour and Lara ate a Fruits Tomato from Kochi. Interesting.

We met up with Shannon and Lucy and went to find Hanada Rosso…only it wasn’t where we thought it should be. There was only a bike shop featuring a bright pink bike. Benno inquried and Hanada Rosso had moved…FAIL…so we caught the train again to Harajuku where Hanada Rosso now lives. We ate burgers (with mustard and mayo) and ‘fish and chips’ with parfait and bancha.

Afterwards we joined the girls for some Karaoke. Emma was kind enough to let us stay at her house overnight. She has a lovely, warm, modern apartment.

The next day we were planning on seeing Avatar in 3D with Emma in Roppongi Hills. But the session we were planning on going to had already sold out by 11am so we choose another time but unfortunately had go to on our own :-(. In the meantime we bought a kg of cashews, got lost, were filmed in the background of some drama, walked lots, misread the  vegan pockeguide and caught the subway to a restaurant that wasn’t open on weekends…FAIL…and struggled to find lunch until we bought some vegan bagels from Bagel & Bagel in one of the subway stations. There are lots of vegan bagels to choose from. Plain, Sesame, Pumpkin, Potato Pepper, Soymilk & Edamame, Blueberry, Cinnamon Raisins, Maple Walnuts, Vanilla. Yay! We had to rush to get back to the cinema on time, and somehow Lara lost her subway ticket…FAIL…only to have the nice inspector give her a new ticket to exit the gates free of charge.

Seats in Japanese cinemas (or at least at Toho Cinemas, Roppongi Hills) are allocated so there’s no point rushing in for the best seats. We ate Cobs popcorn sent to us from Andrew and Emily while watching the movie with our 3D glasses. It was in English with Japanese subtitles. I thought there would be more foreigners there. I regretted eating the maple and walnut and cinnamon raisin bagels before going into the movie…FAIL…i had bad virtual motion sickness from about t=30mins until t=90mins where I had to take off the 3D glasses and close my eyes for a little while until my brain adjusted to the movie. From t=90mins until the end (3 hours later) I was fine and really enjoyed the movie.

We had about 35 minutes to get to the express bus to make the 6pm bus back to Kisarazu. We rushed onto the subway, transfered, got onto another line, exited at Tokyo eki, rushed through the eki to the Yaesu side, climbed the stairs and saw our bus waiting. Then a stupid Japanese man stopped us, asked us what stop we wanted to get off at, then pointed at the now departing bus saying “that’s the bus you want’…FAIL…so we had to wait another 40mins because of that man who then told us to move and wait elsewhere because he thought we weren’t waiting in the correct line…FAIL…after so many fails I was ready to leave Japan and never come back again.

We had some awesome burgers for dinner at home – thick bread with caramalised onion, soymince patties, tomato sauce, cucumber, lettuce, tomato slices, grated carrot, mayo and mustard. Then it was time for bed as school starts 7.30am Monday mornings.





Eat more greens

30 12 2009

On our way home from Sendai we had dinner with Benno’s friend in Tokyo at Eat More Greens.





Vegan doughnuts in Tokyo

19 10 2009

How to find vegan doughnuts in Tokyo Station:

For us, the easiest way to get to New York Doughnut Plant is to enter into the train station via the ticket machines on the Yaesu Central Gate. Walk straight until you see the Information Centre on your right.

Turn left between platform 8 and 9.

Go past the Dila Tokyo (Media Court) on the right, then turn into the small sweets arcade on the right. Go around the corner (following the arcade) and New York Doughnut Plant is on your right. It is right next to the stairs going up to platform 6.

If you are already in the station, head for the South Passage and look for the shop between the stairs for platforms 7 and 6.

Enjoy awesome egg free, soy milk doughnuts. Be sure to go early or they may be sold out later in the day.

doughnutmapRight-click and View Image to see the whole map of Tokyo station and directions to the doughnut shop.





Tokyo VegFood Festa

18 10 2009

We started off the Tokyo VegFood Festa for 2009 at Tokyo station. The New York Doughnut Plant didn’t have the same vegan soymilk donut we had first tried. Instead they had 2 totally awesome new flavours – pumpkin and rose flavours. Breakfast thus completed we went to Yoyogi Park for the actual VegFood Festa.

There were a large number of stalls, but not as well placed as the Kyoto festival (which was in a more open space with grassed spaces to sit, opposed to a long narrow street filled with stalls on either side). However, the entire festival was advertised as veing vegan so we could eat whatever we wanted.

We met-up with some other folks from Vegan Meet-ups and slowly worked our way through the food that was on offer.

Then we had dinner at Pure Cafe, which was actually classified as a late lunch on their menu. It was okay, but the desserts were really good.





Tokyo Excursion No. 3

15 06 2009

We ventured into Tokyo for a third time (Benno’s 4th time) on Sunday. Since we had already visited parts of Shinjuku, Harajuku, Akihabara and Meguro we decided to focus on Tokyo central, Ginza, Shibuya and Asakusa.

We caught the express bus from Kisarazu to Tokyo Station. It only takes about 55 minutes, the stop is about a 4 minute walk from our house, it’s comfortable and is only Y1500.

I still get totally frustrated with Tokyo Station – it’s so huge and there are so many shops and exits that it is possible to waste hours being lost underground. It gets really frustrating trying to navigate around with no sense of direction. So, after walking several kilometers underground to pass from the south to the north side of the station we made it out into daylight!

We passed through the Wadakura Square garden where a couple was having wedding photos taken with the backdrop of fountains. Then we walked into the Imperial Palace Outer Garden. There was a marathon being held at the far end, walking tour groups everywhere, and guards stood at each gate to make sure no one gained access to the Palace itself, which is out of bounds. The Imperial Palace is surrounded by a moat and is built behind trees on a steep hill. Only some of it remains due to fires and war bombings anyway.

We walked up north to the section of the Imperial Palace grounds that is open to the public – the Imperial Palace East Gardens. Passing through Ote-mon gate we crossed over the Kikyo-bori moat and saw koi and turtles in the water. The large gates had massive hinges and the wooden doors were about 50cm thick. It must be such an effort to open and close the gates.

We went into the Museum of the Imperial Collections and saw some floral artwork on canvas, vases, paper screens and tea jars. Then we wandered through the complex and past all of the samurai guard-houses. One of the guard-houses, the Hyakunin-bansho (literally, the 100 people guard house) contained up to 100 samurai living there, protecting the Imperial Palace from attack. Other bansho were smaller, but were stationed with more advanced and skilled samuari. It’s amazing that these wooden building survived when the main tower and castle were destroyed by fire.

We sat down on the manicured lawns called Honmaru Oshibafu and had some morning tea then checked out the bamboo grove, the main tower ruins and went out through the Kitahanebashi-mon gate, returning our entry token.

We walked through Kitanomaru-koen, past the lake, explored the dry waterfall in the forest and went up to the Nihon Budokan. Normally a centre for martial arts, today it was host to the Japan National Ballroom Dancing competition.

Continuing north past the hordes of people flocking to watch the ballroom dancing we entered Yasukuni-jinja. It had the largest torii I have ever seen and was celebrating its 140th anniversary. It is a controversial shrine as it honours the war dead (including Japanese war criminals) from Japanese wars. It often makes the Australian news when the Prime Minister visits the shrine on the anniversary of Japan’s WW2 defeat, much to the anger of Asian neighbours who suffered at the hands of Japanese armies.

At this time there was a scout gathering (Be Prepared) being held in the temple complex with stalls and sausage sizzles. We looked inside the Yushukan, a war memorial museum, where they had numerous canons, a fighter plane and a train engine used in the Thai-Burma railway (also known as the Death Railway) on display. This seemed a little insensitive – although part of Japanese war crime history – to celebrate a railway line built by Japan in WW2 to further its invasion using forced labour (including Asian and Australian POWs). They had the entries from a kids’ drawing competition (that featured the train) pinned on the wall.

We made our way past the scouts, sat in a garden watching koi in a frenzy swimming rapidly around the pond, and ate one layer of our lunch, sharing some tofu with a pregnant shrine cat. Then we got on the subway with a Open Day Ticket (Y710 for unlimited daily travel on all Tokyo Metro subway lines- we ended up doing more that Y1500 worth of subway travel so the ticket was well worthwhile).

We caught the Tozai line to Nihombashi, transfering to the Ginza line and getting off at Ginza. The stations can stretch for miles underground and have exits quite far away from the station itself. In fact, there can be exits that lead straight into popular department stores several blocks away. So we walked all the way under the city to the Sony Building, exiting on the 2nd floor in the middle of the building. We looked at the gadgets (some fancy headphones that clip on the outside of your ear, a round music player that moves/dances to the beat of the music to express your style) then caught the Hibuya line to Roppongi. We walked past the Roppogi Hills Mori Tower to Spice Home, an indian store that sold bulk cashews, red lentils, chickpeas and curry powder. Now we have 1kg supplies, rather than 50g packets of food. There was a noticeable increase in the number of gaijin (foreigners) in Roppongi, whether Iranian, Indian or white Westerners.

From Roppongi we doubled back to Ginza before transfering to the Ginza line to Shibuya. We met Yuki and his fiancee at Tower Records, the largest music store on Earth (maybe). They had 8 floors of music including a very well stocked English music selection. Benno bought a Perfume album and Yuki pointed out the good Japanese bands such as Greeen, Ellengarden and Exile. After comparing music tastes we looked at the amazing display of Japanese souvenirs, games, dolls, party supplies and electronics at Tokyu Hands, a large department store. We had dinner together at Vegan Healing Cafe – simple but nice but the best thing was the PETA ‘Fur is Dead’ car parked outside the shop.

We saw the Hachiko Statue of a dog who would met his master, a professor, at the Shibuya station everyday after work, including for 11 years after the professor died. The story has now been made into a movie called Hachi.

We parted with Yuki and caught the Ginza line to Asakusa where we walked through the rain to Senso-ji temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo. We were looking at a statue of a man with dragons when a Japanese business man came up to us and started talking English. He was an Engineer in Tokyo and told us in great detail about the history of the statue, the temple and the Japanese language. He was very friendly and obviously wanted to practice his English.

From Asakusa we caught the Ginza line back to Ginza and looked at the buildings lit up at night. Then we took the Marunochi line one stop to Tokyo, walked through the confusing, sprawling train station again and to the express bus which took us back home to Kisarazu by 11.15pm.





めんどくさい!

30 05 2009

mendokusai – the students’ favourite saying when they can’t be bothered, roughly translated as ‘difficult’ or ‘i can’t be bothered’. Lazy bums.

saturdaybentoSaturday’s bento

I have a long way to go before I have bento looking as pretty as o-bento’s. However, my bento are vegan and don’t contain quail’s eggs. Satuday I had (from left to right) peppermint chocolates, leftover miso pasta with a triangle yaki-onigiri (grilled rice cake), a fluffy white cupcake (with heart strawberry) and popped corn, flower peanut butter sandwiches, strawberries and chocolate cake penguin(?!) with kiwi fruit belly.

Tofu Tonkatsu

Tofu Tonkatsu

To add to our list of Japanese foods we have tried (miso, onigiri, umeboshi, okonomiyaki) on Saturday we made tofu tonkatsu (tofu pork cutlets). We basically followed the recipe from here and they were pretty good. We don’t know how authentic they tasted, but they were yummy and successfully dirtied every plate/dish in our kitchen in the making.

The weather this week was a little dreary – raining most days. However it didn’t stop Benno from having an excursion in Tokyo to see MxPx in concert at the LiquidRoom in Shibuya-ku and going to an Australian Embassy party for Adelaide University graduates. Thanks to Atsu for showing Benno around and letting him stay!

Lunch Buffet at Saishoku Kenbi.

Lunch Buffet at Saishoku Kenbi.

Benno enjoyed a gyoza.

Thanks to everyone who Sykped us for Lara’s birthday or for SSS – we enjoyed catching up over the phone with our Australian friends and family this week!





Tokyo Shopping Adventures

26 04 2009

Today was a big day. First we rode our bikes to Kisarazu station by 9:15 to catch two trains to Minami-Funabashi, where we visited Ikea. We ordered a couch, dining table and chairs, and a rug for Benno’s desk. Also picked up some essentials like a plastic divider for our cutlery drawer, and of course some Swedish (vegan) biscuits and jam.

Next, we headed into Tokyo again and had lunch at Loving Hut in Yotsuya. On Sundays they have a Yum Cha type lunch. We feasted on many dishes including noodles, steamed buns, rice triangles, sugary donuts with bean filling, tofu and mushroom soup, cold rolls, potato slivers, sweet jelly and tea for a bargain set price of 1000 yen.They also have a small range of items for sale, so we picked up some vegan mayonnaise, instant noodles, and a vegan pocketbook with vegan-friendly restaurant listings in various parts of Japan.

Then we headed to Akihabara, famous for its electric town where basically all the shops sell some type of electronics. We picked up a wireless router, some computer speakers, and a shaver for Benno.

Back on the train to Meguro, where we visited Non, a tiny but delicious Vegan Izakaya (food-serving sake bar), believed to be the only one in Japan. We had another delicious vegan Japanese meal with satay tofu, raw avocado rolls, gyoza, brown rice with homemade tofu, iced oolong and tofu tiramasu. We ate sitting at low tables on traditional tatami mats (which means you have to take your shoes off and kneel to eat)

Train back to Tokyo, bus to Kizarazu station, bike home by 11pm. Zzz! Time for bed because Lara starts Mondays with the first lesson at 7.30am!





Tokyo Excursion

5 04 2009

shinjuku_gyoen
Shinjuku Gyoen

TOKYO here we come! We got up early to be on the 8.06am express bus from Apita to Tokyo train station. It took about an hour to travel through Kisarazu, along the Tokyo Wan bridge to Umi Hotataru, under the tunnel to Kawasaki and up the expressway into Tokyo. We took the train for a short hop to Shinjuku (the train station is huge – easy to get lost if you don’t know what coloured line you want to travel on). We walked to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building(s) and travelled up the elevator to the 45th floor where there is an observation deck. We looked at the sprawling metropolis of skyscrapers stretching across into the fog/smog horizon. Back on the first floor we stopped off at the Tourist Information Centre to pick up some maps and a guide to veg* & macrobiotic restaurants in Tokyo.

tokyo_skyline_2View of Tokyo

tmgTokyo Metro Building

landb_sakura

Lara & Benno by the cherry blossoms (sakura)

We wandered across to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden where the line up was huge…flocks of people were converging at lunchtime to enter the gardens for hanami (picnic under cherry blossoms). The cherry blossoms were indeed beautiful – mass plantings of massive cherry blossoms all in bloom with pale pink petals floating in clouds whenever the wind blew. We sat down in the Japaneses-style garden section and enjoyed the sakura (cherry blossoms). By 12.30pm the garden was packed – not a single area of lawn was free of a blue tarp picnic rug with millions of Japanese enjoying hanami with their friends and family.

crowds_hanamiThis was the garden when we first arrived – you couldn’t see any of the lawn by the time we left.

sakura_treeBeautiful Sakura

It was time for our lunch so we followed the advice of the T.I.C. brochure and ate at a macrobiotic restaurant called de Chaya in Isetan on the 7th floor, behind the Shinjuku 3-chome subway station. We ate delicious meals – worth waiting for since there was a line up of about 10 people when we got there. We had a tempeh salad with steamed potatoes and tofu tartare sauce and tofu and pea fried dumplings with salad. We also had desserts of strawberry cheesecake and toffee and nut slice. Delicious!
lunch_tempehsalad

Lunch: tempeh salad above, strawberry pie and nut slice below.

lunch_strawberrypie

lunch_nutslice
We caught the train to Harajuku, the hub of trendy high-school aged kids and one of the busiest shopping districts. We saw crazy teenagers dressed up in costumes (who stood around on the station corner for hours).

harajuku_stationHarajuku station – so many people and most of them under 30.

dress_ups_harajuku

Some of the crazy dressups outside Harajuku Station on the way into the Meiji Jingu Shrine complex.

We joined all the other tourists in ‘paying our respects’ at Meiji Jingu Shrine, where there were just as many people as in Shinjuku Gyoen but the ratio was now 1:1 foreigner to Japanese. The Shinto Shrine was built in 1920 by/for Emperor Meiji and is surrounded by around 100,000 trees in a huge garden, making it an ‘enviro-hotspot’, apparently.

meiji_shrine_buildingThe main entrance building to the shrine complex.

meiji_gatesHuge Torii made from massive big trees – entrance to the shrine.

prayer_wall

The wall of prayer tokens.

shinto_wedding

A Shinto wedding occuring at the time – they paraded through the complex a few times and then sat down for wedding photos.

Then we wandered past the fashionable shops (all the big names in fashion have stores along with many small boutiques) and through the narrow backstreets filled with more shops to the Organic Bakery der Akkord. We treated ourselves to a vegan apple pie, adzuki pie, rock-cookies and basil pate/spread. Dinner was at Brown Rice Organic Macrobiotic Cafe. We had another totally delicious meal that included a vegie-burger with fries and salad, bean curry with brown rice and salad, soy chai and a hot sweet drink made from fermented rice called amazake. We had little muffins with struesel toppings for dessert – quite interesting considering the macrobiotic philosophy is no sugar, but the fruit sugar is sufficient.

vegie_burgerBenno’s vegie burger dinner

dinner_curryLara’s brown rice bean curry dinner.

dinner_muffinFruit Struesel Muffin for dessert.

By this stage we were stuffed to the brim with good food so we caught the train back to Tokyo station and took the express bus home. But we caught the wrong bus back to Kisarazu and instead of stopping at Apita near our house it stopped at the train station, about an hour’s walk from our house. All of the local buses had finished so we had to catch a taxi back home. Oops. We’ll remember that for next time.

tokyo_lights_from_bridgeTokyo by night from the bumpy bus going over the Tokyo Bay bridge.








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