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.