Japan - Tokyo, Japan
Throughout my trip I traveled to Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima. I wrote one blog for the entire week, so it is a long read, with lots of photos and videos. I have gone over it once or twice in piece, however, I am sure there are spelling and grammar issues, please ignore. Warning- I don't suggest reading the blog on an empty stomach. I was traveling with two other foodies. We ate very well, and often times at world renowned restaurants! ----------------- My trip began at 4:45 in the morning on Tuesday September 30th. I had to be up ready and at the back gate of the school for 5:25 to take a 40 minute car ride to the airport. I was going with four other people, two of which were on my flight to Taipei (my connection to Osaka). They were traveling to Taiwan and that would be there final destination for the day. The airport in Zhengzhou is small but organized, it was the first time in the past month I had actually seen a line established and people patiently waiting their turn rather than butting in line or simply attempting to overtake someone else who was being served. It took about an hour to get through the ticket desk, customs, security, and another random check points that no one was working but everyone was standing around waiting for. Eventually we were told we could go without being checked, this was of course after I had attempted to go through but was told to get back in line. I was then of course at the back of the line for everything. Haha, can't win them all :) My flight from Zhengzhou to Osaka was 10 hrs which included a five hour layover in Taipei. I was not overly worried about the time, but rather looking forward to it as I would be able to read with little distraction. In the past month I haven't had much time to read my personal books. I figure this would be a good time to catch up! I arrived in Taipei without any issues, despite a number of people who I'm assuming were military, that began checking over everyone's passports two or three times. It is not easy for Chinese people to travel to Taiwan as there are many restrictions and they require a visa. We were delayed about a half an hour in Zhengzhou. Finally, I made my way to the transfer counter to find it closed -in the middle of the day might I add. There were numbers for all the airlines for which I had to contact then they would send someone to help me. I'll say it again, working does not seem to be of huge priority, especially when it comes to customer service. I had to take a train to another terminal for my gate. There were so many stores, Burberry, Coach, Guess, Gucci -I couldn't resist and with 5hrs to kill I decide to stroll through. Long story short I ended up with a new Coach watch :) So I made it to Osaka. The great thing about Asian airlines is they always serve a meal, bad thing is it tastes awful! I finally arrived in Osaka and was only 30 minutes late. I was able to transfer money there and set off to find Tyler (he is the guy I was meeting up with who is friends with Luke and Lauren -fellow teachers). His flight got in at 10pm and it wasn't hard at all to pick him him out of the crowd, 6'2" and a ginger! Once the introductions were made we set off to find our way to our hotel. We had to first figure out the subway which was somewhat confusing as there are different lines that you have to pay for in order to get connections else where. The hotel was easy enough to find and by the time we had dropped our stuff off it was after 12. We walked around the area and found that it was a small town and very clean. No garbage, awful smell, or pollution, it was actually quite nice. We found a restaurant close to the subway and went in for a late night meal. The food was pretty good, we tried a couple different dishes. The tables had bells at them so when you were ready to order or needed anything you simply rang for a server. The nice thing about the food was that everything had its own distinct taste and flavour. The bathrooms so far have all been proper toilets and are actually quite advanced as there is a side piece in which you may choose to further clean your self and a button you may press to make the flush noise in case you want to mask the sound but not actually flush. I went into a bathroom at the subway and it was probably the cleanest place I have been in a while. As you went into the stall it began to play music, a lovely waterfall with birds chirping in th background. I cannot tell you how shocked yet impressed I was. There was also a place in, which you could put your baby while you used the washroom. I later found out that the toilet seats are also heated. On our way back to the hotel after supper there was a couple people out. One group was a couple young people with a small sound system out break dancing in the square. Music was low enough for them to hear and they weren't causing any trouble, just having fun! We also stopped at a 7Eleven, I wasn't expecting it but there was quite a large selection of food items that were sealed like a vacuum. They did not look edible but apparently are not to bad. Haha, I don't think I will try it out, there is way to much good food to try other than 7Eleven food packs. They are also obsessed with vending machines, everywhere you look there are at least four or five within a short distance. You can get just about anything in them, water, juice, coffee, cigarettes, noodles, etc. WEDNESDAY- We left the hotel at 8:30 and made our way to down town Osaka, there we walked along the streets, looking into little shops along the way. We went to a Temple in the heart of Osaka, it is one of the oldest Temples and first Buddhist Temple in Osaka. although it had burnt down a number of times over the centuries the design and structure remains the same as the original. We then made our way to the 'Food Theme Park' which was a food market on the waterfront of the port of Osaka. There were so many different types of food to choose from we finally decided on a place that made their own Udon noodles. I ordered this delicious but huge meal, it had a side plate of rice with a sauce, tempura chicken and fried egg, then the main dish of cold Udon noodles with a soya sauce broth -came in a separate cup that you pored in when you were ready. The Udon noodles had on them, green onions, fish flakes, seaweed strips, zucchini and bean sprouts. It was sooo yummy, I have never had cold Udon before, but enjoyed it so much more than hot. You really get to taste the actual noodle and flavours of the dish. There were also smaller side dishes of fresh ginger, hot pepper paste and chives that you could add to it, if you so desired. We had also ordered a fish cake appetizer which was also delicious, it was like a omelet, but so much better. We were so full by the time we left. Next to the market was the Osaka Aquarium, we decided to check it out. There were so many interesting sea creatures, and I was really impressed with the size of the tanks. It claims to be one of the biggest aquariums in the world and so I took lots of pictures! We also went on a Ferris wheel ride, it was huge and took about 30 minutes to go around once. The view from the top was amazing. You could see the down town core of Osaka, the port, and urban sprawl. I really enjoyed getting a better look at the port of Osaka, it was huge and had so many different ships along side. We had about 2 hours before we had to be to the air port to meet up with Luke and Lauren -two friends from Zhengzhou, so we decided to make our way to down town Osaka, check out the sights then head to the air port. Well, it didn't quite go as planned and it took us three hours of riding the train to get to Osaka downtown then back to the airport. We were on the train for a go portion of that three hours and were late picking up Luke and Lauren. Fortunately they weren't to rattled by it as they had a long time getting through customs and only waited about 30 minutes for us. Once we all had our train passes ready to go, we hoped on the fast train and headed to Kyoto. By the time we got in it was pretty late. We all still needed supper so we walked around looking for a bar or restaurant that was still open, we found a place, and quickly ordered. We had a salmon, avocado salad with potato, beef that came still cooking on a hot rock, with ginger spread and tempura. It was delicious, and all of it would be relatively easy to make, I am definitely going to make the salad again! THURSDAY- We started our day around 9:30, heading just outside Kyoto to Tenryu-ji Temple (Tenryu Shisezen-ji), located in Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo Ward —is the head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, located in. It is a UNESCO heritage site, the temple was built in the 16th Century and has sustained 8 fires, but was rebuilt with the original design and materials. The garden around the temple was absolutely beautiful resting on a hill side with small streams running into a larger pond with coy fish. There was also a large pond of lotus flowers, which I posted a picture of. The area was picturesque, and an absolute pleasure to walk through. Definitely a place you could sit and be content just listening to the silence and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer. The temple garden lead to a large bamboo forest. It was incredible how high the bamboo was and how blue in colour it appeared to be. I really enjoyed this area, as I have not been able to enjoy much greenery while in Zhengzhou. After leaving the temple and bamboo forest we made our way back through the town, this time stopping and checking out the different shops along the way. We settled on a snack of soft ice cream and rice balls with a sweet sauce. The texture was something to get use to (gooey), but I really liked the sauce. We also tried this yummy green tea wafer with white chocolate, it was delicious, I didn't buy a box, but if I see them again I am going to get some. -There are so many things I am tasting and seeing that I would love for everyone back home to try and experience, but unfortunately, I won't be returning home until the end of the year. I want to bring Japan to all of you, honestly one of the best places I have traveled. It beats Europe hands down!- We meandered back to the train station, hopped on and ventured back to Kyoto, from there we made our way to Nishiki Market which is located in the hub of down town Kyoto. Nishiki Market is a world famous food market where many amazing chefs like Gordon Ramsey and David Chang have all visited. The market is huge, my guess, 5 or so city blocks long with countless side streets. There were so many different things on at the market, fish, vegetables, food on sticks- some unidentifiable, Teas, cooking knives, random Japanese touristy items, sushi, noodles, spices, plants, there was so much food! We spent over an hour to go through the market. Stopping and tasting everything we could get our hands on. The people there were so kind and helpful. They were so polite and wanted you to try everything, they would tell us a story about what we were eating and absolutely loved our questions and attention to what they had to offer. It is a refreshing change from China, at least Zhengzhou. After we had made our way through the main section of the market we decided to find a Ramen noodle place, for an actual meal seeing as it was nearly 5 and we hadn't had a proper meal since that morning. We found this whole in the wall Ramen restaurant by following small signs with red allows and Ramen written on it. You walked in and there was only a small walk way up to a bar counter, and kitchen was behind the counter, the counter seated 8 people, and that was the entire restaurant. There was one lady working, she took orders, made the food, and chatted with us about where we were from, what to do, and where to go next to eat -food was a major part of our entire trip, in case you haven't noticed :) It was about 6 by time we had finished our meal. Not far from the Nishiki Market, was Gion, also known as the Geisha District. There you may -if your are lucky- see an actually Geisha. We walked up the main street, the lights were amazing as it was dark now. Red lanterns hung from restaurants, while white ones hung from the street posts. The lights were soft but gave enough light to enjoy the busy street. We found a quite side street and decided to take a walk through the small buildings, it just looked like a cut out of a play. The street was very narrow, but cars and taxis managed to get by all the pedestrians and on coming traffic. We noticed a crowd had begun to gather and out of a house, a Geisha appeared. She was absolutely beautiful and so posed. Luckily I had my GoPro in hand and took a video of her as she passed. I posted it so check it out :) Continuing down the road we came across a threat house. A building called Gion Corner which held Japanese cultural shows. We were in luck as it started in only 15 minutes. The show was a compilation of 7 different acts all representing Japanese culture. The show went as such, 'Chado' -demonstration of a Tea Ceremony, 'Koto' -playing of the Japanese Harp, 'Kado' -Flower Arrangements demonstration, 'Gagaku' -court music and dance, 'Kyogen' -Ancient Comic Play - this was actually hilarious and they gave us a english translation so we were able to follow along :), 'Kyomai' -2 types of Kyoto Style Dance, and 'Bunraku' -Puppet Play. All of the acts were amazing, I enjoyed them quite a lot and was glad to have been able to see them. We took a taxi back to our hotel, we were all so tired by this point, so we chilled out for a bit then went out to find some supper, it was after 10 so a lot of places were closed. We got McDonalds and I tried their new burger, which had yummy mushrooms, egg, the beef patty, cheddar cheese, lettuce, a yummy sauce on a quarter pounder bun. It was sooo good! Haha, I figured if I was going to eat McDonalds in Japan, I might as well try a burger unique to them! That night I had no trouble falling asleep. Our accommodations were really nice, it was an apartment with a single room and two beds. The bathroom was splits, shower room and toilet room which was super convenient for having four people staying there. I took pictures, it was small but really all we needed for sleeping and keeping our stuff safe as we explored Kyoto. If ever you are traveling check out AirB&B. FRIDAY- We got up at 7 to catch a fast train to Tokyo, the scenic view from the train was amazing, when traveling taking a train is an awesome way to see parts of the country side and enjoy the countries landscapes. I took a couple videos of the train trip. It was a 2 and half hour trip from Kyoto to Tokyo. When we got to the Tokyo train station we dropped our bags at a locker stall in the station. At the train station there was a world famous Ramen Noodle place where people line up and wait for hours to enjoy their Ramen. We were fortunate because the line wasn't to bad and we only waited 20 minutes. While in line the menu was passed back to ensure you knew what you wanted prior to entering the small restaurant. Once at the door prior to entering you placed your order through a vending machine type ordering system, paid and then waited to be seated. It was only a couple minutes after placing our order that we were seated, we gave our tickets to the waiter who then picked up and delivered our Ramen to us. Here there is not time to talk, you order, sit eat and leave. The noodles were so delicious, you got a bowl of cold Ramen noddles then dipped them in the broth like soup that had fish flakes, shredded pork, strip of pork, Japanese boil egg, chalets, and a slice of omelet. The night before we had had Ramen, but this didn't even compare. I can't even tell you how delicious this was, each bite had new flavours that all seemed to fit perfectly together. This was a family restaurant and they had been making Ramen for the past 80years, perfection was an understatement. We then hopped on another train that took us to Yoyogi Park, there we met up with one of Tyler's friend (Erika) from Calgary who had been living in Tokyo for the past year. Erika was to be our tour guide while in Tokyo. Yoyogi park was incredible, I could not get over the size of the forest or the size of the trees. They were so tall and twisty. The park had a gravel path which was so nice, seeing as we had done so much walk on pavement. There was a spot along the path that displayed hops and ingredients that made Sake. It was neat to see the containers as they resembled large lanterns. While in the park we also visited Miji Shrine. Before entering the shrine you must wash first, there was a well for which you would dip a ladle into the water and wash each hand (left then right), then your mouth. We then entered the shrine, and were amazed at the preservation of the building. There was a huge tree to the side and around it were boards set up that had small plaques hung on it in rows. Each of the plaques had hopes, wishes and dreams, from people who had visited the shrine. They were interesting to read, one of my favourite ones was a picture of a couple and in their dreams they are holding a baby, I posted a picture of it. We approached the main building to ask for good fortune. There is a way in which you do it, you must first drop in 5yen -this coin is considered good luck/like our penny- then clap twice, bow once, then clap once more then in your head think of what you hope for. It was a very peaceful place to be, quite and very inviting as the park surrounded it, you would never have known you were in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world. After the park, Erika took us to one of her favourite places. It was like the commons, where a huge stage was set up. Every weekend there is a different festival, sometimes themed by country or event. It was Japanese themed, and there was live entertainment going on, we walked through the rows of food huts stopping along the way to sample the food. They also love their beer here, there were so many different types at the festival, we think it may have actually been a October fest Japanese style event. Erika then led us to a street (waking only) that was famous for shopping 'Tanashi' it was actually crazy the random things you could buy as well as wear. Costumes -or just normal clothes for Japan- were every where and people on the street were dressed up as the districts mascot. Each district in Japan has a mascot, some of them resemble vegetables, some monster like things. They are really funny looking and posted everywhere so they are easy to spot as you changed districts. We walked through the street and stopped at a 400yen store, apparently they, along with 100yen stores are popular here. Basically the same as a dollar store, you can get anything for 100yen, but they have everything, clothes, shoes, nicknacks, etc. we also stopped at a Kabob restaurant it was neat to see Kabobs in Japan. Kabob is a European term for donairs, they don't have the same sauce though :(. I would say Europe is which is where the shop owner got his idea. By this point in the day we were all pretty beat and we had special dinners plans, so we decided it was time to find our hotel. Getting around in Japan is fairly easy, biking is the fastest way to travel, then train, then driving. There are not as many cars as you would expect but you wait a long time at lights. By the time we got back to Tokyo station and found our lockers we decided to just take a cab to our hotel. It had started to rain and so we just didn't want to have to walk around looking for it once we arrived at the station. By the time we got to the hotel and settled it was time to get ready for our dinner, you see we had reservations at Yasuda one of the most famous sushi restaurants in Japan, with a world renown chef. It takes months to get reservations and people travel from all over the world to eat here. The sushi chef use to work in a restaurant in New York, however they would not allow him to keep his rice at a certain temperature so he moved back to Japan to set up his own restaurant. Our reservations were at 8:30, and for once we were early. We found a wine bar were we drank delicious sangria while waiting for sushi. In Japan wine bars are very common, which was amazing seeing as they are not in China. I loved the atmosphere, very cosy and chilled. The restaurant, only sits 12 people, 8 around the chef in a bar like style, the other four seats at two tables facing the chef. Honestly, I don't know where to begin, it was one of the most amazing dinning experiences I have had -up there with the meal in Paris, France (all you can eat and drink, personal musician, 5 hours of music entertainment and food. We were able to sit at the bar close to where the chef prepared the sushi. The menu was very simple, we all chose the same option 'chefs choice' this meant that he would make what he thought we would like depending on our reaction to the piece he started with, this would continue until we said no more. Yes, you ate as much sushi as you could possibly eat and it was all designed around you and what you liked and what the chef thought you would like. We also were given a drink menu, again it was very simple, but the choices went perfectly with our meal. I had a plum wine, which tasted so good, almost like a spicy apple juice. Everyone else had beer, which they also said was delicious with their sushi. The sushi was hands down the best sushi I have ever eaten. This man had been making sushi for over 30years, and had perfected it. It was like watching a dance, his hands just moved effortlessly around his kitchen as he prepared individual sushi for the 12 people in the restaurant, the whole time, talking to us and telling us stories about his life, the fish, the rice -which was from his home town in Japan, stories about Japanese culture, and travel, and food from other places. He even hand delivered the sushi to the people who sat at the tables behind the bar. Tyler -being a chef- was mesmerized with Yasuda's ability to move around the kitchen and so effortlessly create these amazing pieces of brilliance that he asked many questions about the chefs techniques and how he came to be so famous. Yasuda told us a Japanese story about a secret. He said that when children ask their parents or grandparents why things are the way they are and they don't have an answer, they simply say 'it's a secret' of course, his version of the story was much more eloquent, but it was entertaining and we all had a good laugh about it. Besides the food being absolutely amazing, Yasuda of course was a huge part of the experience. He was charming and spoke English very well-lived in New York for years, so he was able to talk and joke with us while we ate. The servers -only two- were as equally amazing as they also participated in our conversations. Actually thinking back, it really left like we were eating in someone's home, everyone laughing, sharing stories, comfortable and enjoyable. The place was so small, but clean and comfortable, a very intimate dinning experience were everything was personalized. We asked him if he missed New York, he said 'only his customers' he missed seeing them come in and being able to talk to them as if they were family. He told us that he loves seeing new faces and meeting people, but misses familiarity too. He said a few of his customers who have traveled to Tokyo have managed to visit him, which you can tell brings him a lot of happiness. He also told us about many famous people he has entertained, but even then, he said was not the same as those friends he had made in New York. Back to the food - he made and prepared everything himself, including his own soya sauce and wasabi. Each piece of sushi he made was unique in the amount of wasabi used, the amount and shape of the rice used, and anything else that might have been included. In fact he told us that rice is to the fish as the dough is to pizza - it is the main part. The fish is actually there to compliment the rice, not the other way around. We didn't use our chopsticks, instead he told us we should use our fingers especially when it is wrapped in nori. Each piece was perfectly balanced with the rice, sauce, and fish. I don't know how much we ate or all the different types, but there were a few I remembered. An oyster one, which when you put it in your mouth it literally melts like butter, there was another one that was from the coast of Ireland, I don't know how to describe it, but it was absolutely delicious. We also had one that was just challotts, and Salmon form New Zealand I loved them as well. After over two hours of eating sushi, we finally had had enough. We taped out and asked to get a picture with our new friend. He honestly felt like a part of the family, a very down to earth man with a lot of worldly experience. He is also a martial artist and was completely jacked, so at the end we decided a picture was required, during which he flashed us the gun show, obviously this picture is also posted on the blog. My bill of two hours worth of sushi, and two plum wines was 200$CAD. Perhaps a little expensive but completely worth it and would do it again gladly. After our amazing meal, we decided to walk home as Google maps said it was only 20 minutes and we really could have used the walk - we were soo full. We walked for a good 30 minutes and realized were were completely lost, it took us nearly an hour to get home. But I didn't mind to much as I was able to find a place to get ice cream. Our day was busy and amazing but the meal completely made it. If ever you are in Tokyo, do your self a favour and go to Yasuda! SATURDAY- It was an early morning on Saturday, we woke up at 5:30am, and headed to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Tourist are not allowed into the actual market until 11, due to the fact that there is barely any room. So, we spent the first part of the morning just outside the fish market at a fish food market, or at least that's what it was like, there were so many little shops with food on sticks and and sushi, and places with spices, knives, pottery, pastes, chopsticks, pretty much anything you could ever imagine finding in Japan. We spent a large amount of our time there tasting the food-many sea food- and checking out the other shops. I found a teapot which I purchased, it is so cute and tiny. Actually now that I think about it, I bought a lot at the market, mainly food like spices I haven't found in China, and sauces that were delicious. The shop keepers were so friendly. Side note- I have traveled a fair amount and realize that most shop keepers are friendly, obviously because they want you to buy something. In saying that, I understand that shop keepers in Japan simply want you to buy their product as well, however they are not forceful, they do not hover, and they actually take the time to show you how they make it, how you eat it, and if you don't like it they offer you something else. It is nothing for them to open a package let you try it, and if you don't like it, they are not offended. If any thing they seem to enjoy just showing you what they have, they are simply excited about their product and your face when you realize how amazing it is! In a nut shell, Japanese shop keepers are the best :) One shop keeper was so excited I was buying his sauce he wanted to take a picture of me holding the sauce. You see he had been taking pictures of people from different countries who had bought his sauce and he didn't have any one from Canada yet. Of course I said yes, and I think he was more thrilled about the picture than I was the sauce, and I was pretty excited because the sauce was really good! I tried so many different things that morning, I was so full, but kept sampling. I even had this one dish they prepare in front of you where they cook a scallop in its shell over an open flame and toss in some strips of fish, they then put on some salt, lemon, and soya sauce, torched the top so all the juices were boiling the fish pieces and then served. There is a video. We also went to a shrine in the area. Once 11 o'clock hit we headed for the market. Now up until this point drivers have been amazing, well here, I felt as though I was back in China, people we zipping around in these small truck like vehicles, I was almost run over three times and that was watching in all directions. There were no road so they were literally coming from all directions. The fish market went on for ever, we didn't even see half of it but spent nearly an hour walking through, they had so many different types of fish, even gooey duck -which I had at Yasuda's. It was one of the most impressive things I have seen. Despite what might look like mass confusion, if you watched closer it was a well oiled machine. Everyone played their roll, and as tourist we were just in their way. To be honest I don't blame them for not letting us in until after the morning rush of the buyers. There wasn't much tuna left, but we did find a large chunk that was only 10,000yen for 1kg, that converts to about 100$CAD for 1kg! We finally made our way out of the fish market. We had spent nearly five hours there. Next we went to a theme park where we went on a roller coaster ride called the Thunder Dolphin. It was insane, you climb to the top then immediately drop and are nearly upside down as you plummet to the ground. It was also really fast and I had the front seat. It was just awesome :) Haha, maybe not the best idea after a breakfast of seafood, but totally worth it! Seeing as nothing phases me, I then had a dessert. Japan loves their ice cream and crepes so I got a crepe that was rolled up like a cone with ice cream, whipped cream, bananas, chocolate and chocolate sauce all over it. It was delicious. We walked around the area for a bit, there was a baseball stadium there and a game was happening so there were lots of fans out and about. They take baseball very seriously and it was fun to walk through and enjoy their excitement. We then had Yakitori for lunch which was probably about 2 in the afternoon. After lunch we decided it was time to take a break, we wanted to go out that night and having had such an early morning headed back to the hotel for a nap. We got up at 6, showered and headed out on the town. We went to the busiest intersection in the world, Shibuya. It was insane, not so much with cars, but with people. I obviously got a video, so check it out! That night we had this thing called Okonomiyaki, it is essentially like a pancake, but with vegetables, meat, seafood or whatever else you might want to put on it. You make it yourself, like Korean BBQ. Once it is cooked you then add sauce to the top, along with Bonito Flakes (shrimp/fish flakes), and Japanese mayo. Depending on which one you order, you were also given cheese and a raw egg yoke to put on it. Those were honestly the best ones, the raw yoke mixed in to the pancake and all the rest of it was so good. After supper we went to a gaming building. 7 floors of games, arcade, billiards, pool, and of course, ping pong. We played for a while, it was a lot of fun, but ******* the head after a while. People take their gaming serious here, some where sweating from those dance games, and other had pretty much set up house. By that point I was in need of a little sugar so we went the Starbucks at Shibuya, which is said be one of the most profitable Starbucks in the world. Erika then lead us to one of her favourite bars, it was absolutely insane, the tiniest bar, it honestly was the size of a walk in closet, it had a band and a fun vibe. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for the group -now six- so we went to another place. This time it was more laid back, we ended up drinking wine in this small little room, where we all sat on this huge mat gathered around a huge table. We met a group of Japanese people there, they were so fun, it was very relaxed despite the dance bar room being located between us and the exit. The people, wanted to know about us, and they were interested in share their own stories. Some about travel, some about work, or language. It was really neat to be able to sit and chat in such a relaxed setting. At about 3 am we had one more stop to make, another hole in the wall at that made caesars! This place was about 1meter and a half wide and maybe 4 meters deep. Just enough for the bar on one side and seats on the other. We even had nachos which was probably my favourite part. It was a really fun night, we made it home around 5am. The train/subway system is so efficient here, everything is on time and most trains leave every 4 minutes. It is a complicated system with multiple rail companies which can be confusing at times seeing as you may need two different tickets for one trip. They are also extremely picky about the use of cell phones, you are not allowed to have your ringer on or talk on you phone while on the bus/trian. Even when walking down the street, no one is on their phone and if they are they have stopped and have stepped to the side of the street out of the way of others walking to talk or text. The other day I seen something that shocked me, there was a man who worked at the station standing at a gate, when the train came up and once everyone had moved from the train a man in a wheel chair rolled to the door where the man had placed a portable ramp. Once the men in the wheel chair had rolled off, the ramp was picked up, folded and the man left. This is just one example, but I have noticed that Japan is a very accessible city for anyone trying to get around. Their is Brial along the side walks and in buildings, on walls to list the building and floors, on cans to identify the drink so far it seems like everywhere. There are ramps or elevators when required and cross walk sound alarms to let people know when to cross. SUNDAY- By this point a rest day was well needed. We slept in, of course for me that only meant 8, so I was up and the first one out. We all decided to do our own thing today, Tyler wanted to go shopping, Luke and Lauren wanted to relax and read at a cafe and find a pub, I decided to check out Tokyo's National Museum which is the largest museum in Japan. Although we had all been traveling well up to this point, a day on my own was needed. It is nice to travel with people, but I do really enjoy traveling on my own. It was also raining like crazy. Earlier in the week Tokyo was predicting a cat 3 typhoon. So, over all it was a good day to relax. The museum was easy to find the train station brought me near the front gate. I was expecting big, but not the set up or architecture. The museum was probably the best way I could have spent my day. It was so well set up and offered everything in English. It had exhibits from Japan, art and its influences, customary tools, dress, and materials, Buddhism, Christianity, and even how these differed between the surrounding countries in Asia including Southeast Asia. It was basically a large piece of land with a number of buildings on it, some modern, other more traditional. Each building offered a different perspective on the Japanese culture and how it has influenced and been influenced by not only Asia, but Europe and the western world. I really enjoyed the museum. I am so glad to have gone, like I said a prefect way to spend a rainy day! After I had made my way through the museums I hopped back on the train and headed for Shinjuku Station, which is said to be the busiest subway/train station in the world. I managed to find the Robot Wars restaurant. The show was an hour and a half long and close to 60$CAD. We were lead to the basement, 5 floor below ground and asked to take a seat at a table. What happen next I am not to sure about. Please see video for further clarification. There were robots, cows, pandas, and random women and men running all over the place to crazy techno music with laser light crashing in every direction. The show was entertaining to say the least but I am not sure if I would recommend it for everyone. Following the show, we stopped at a small cafe and had some dessert, then headed home. It was still pouring and I was surprised that it was not flooding. It had been a day and a half of none stop down pour. We ended up getting lost on the way home and tracked through a park where the water was up to my knees at times. Finally we arrived home, soaked, so we decided to stay in. Early morning the next day any way. They really think of everything in this country. When it rains they put out lockers for peoples umbrellas, or at the cafe we went to you put your umbrella down through a hole in the top of the machine and then push outward. The machine wraps your umbrella in a bag so that you may take it into the store and not get water every where. In terms of cleanses, you can get portable ashtrays so that you can place your butts in it rather than throw it on the ground. This city is so clean, even though there are very few garbages, people will carry it around rather than throw it on the ground. Also they are big into recycling, and sorting garbage, what can be burned, waste and plastic. MONDAY- Japan had been experiencing a Typhoon l now for the past two days, and Monday morning was no exception. We were suppose to be up for 5:30, unfortunately we all slept through the alarm and only woke up at 7. The train we were planning on taking was set to leave at 7:30. So, that wasn't going to happen. We headed to the Tokyo train station to catch another train but due to the Typhoon that was hitting Tokyo the trains were cancelled, so we ended up sitting in the Tokyo station for nearly 5hours. Finally, after reading, eating, shopping and attempting to sleep, the trains started running and we hopped on the next train, we had to change our plans for the day, so we decided to head right to Osaka where we were going to spend our last day. I could not get over how quickly the weather had cleared, only an hour before departing there was a Typhoon, and to look out side you never would have guessed, the sky was blue, the ground was dry and everything looked just as it had prior to the Typhoon. Fortunately, the sky was so clear that we were able to see Mount Fuji. I love the train so much as you get to see so much of the country side. I took videos of pieces of the route you should check them out! I would have like to go to Mount Fuji, but unfortunately, you were not about to during this season. I would also like to see the cherry blossom festival, so I may just have to make a trip back in the spring. We didn't get into our Osaka hotel until late, and only ventured out to have supper. We found an Italian place near by and decided a change from Japanese would be nice. It was delicious, I had a pizza with blue cheese and salami, it was soo yummy. We all tried different pizzas and traded slices so that we could try the different kinds, they were all really good, the crust and the sauce were prefect. Following Italian, we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow would be our last day and a big one, we were going to travel via train to Hiroshima, to check out the memorial site of where the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on the city. We had flights that evening and with the trains and two hour check in time we had only a couple hours to spend in Hiroshima, which meant another early morning. TUESDAY- 5:30 wake up and this time we did not sleep in. We had set 3 alarms and as annoying as it was hearing them go off in five minute intervals, it was a relief that we had not missed out on the chance to see Hiroshima. After a taxie, train and bus, we arrived at Hiroshima peace park at 8:20. The park was absolutely beautiful, which in a way left me me feeling really awful considering what had happened there. The Hiroshima dome was at the beginning of the park, it was the only building to have survived an be kept in tack within the blast zone. The structure was built by a french architecture, along with the strong engineering and the position of the building directly under the bomb it was left well in tack. The museum was a pleasure to go through, with easy access to English information, and a good flow, it talked about the event and guided us through the horrific attack. They talked a lot about children who were never found, the hospital that was directly next to it and how no one had survived. It talked about the blast and temperatures that basically disintegrated everything in its path, it also talked about the affect of acute radiation poisoning and the aftermath of people who had been exposed to it later in life. Obviously the information was very upsetting but the day was beautiful and the park had lots of memorial sites for the children, worker's and relief people; I was very glad to have had the opportunity to see it and learn more about it. One of the most shocking things I found was that they had expected to not have any vegetation grow in the area for the following 75years, however that fall, only 2 months later, plants began to grow. After about two hours we jumped back on the train and headed back to the station, there we found an Okonomiyaki restaurant which was different from the one we had gone to earlier but still delicious instead of a batter mixed together it was layered, check out video. We left Hiroshima at 1:20 and arrived at the air port at 4:30. My flight wasn't until 7:00 so I walked through the shops until I could check in, once inside the gate, I found a sushi restaurant and had one last meal before leaving Japan -sushi and beer. My flight home wasn't as long as my flight to Japan, I had only an hour stop over in Shanghai. By the time I arrived home it was nearly two in the morning. The taxi dirver had a hard time finding the school, and it is a 50 minute drive at the best of times. ----------------------- I can honestly say that Japan is so far, if not my favourite, one of my favourite places I have traveled. It has taken all of the best parts of other countries and combined them. The infrastructure and small convinces through out the city, how well the city is planned and thoughtfully designed. The people are by far the nicest people I have ever met, in fact, they put Canadians to shame. If anyone is looking for a beautiful clean and vibrant country to visit, were the hospitality is top notch and has so much to offer, whether it's taking in the city lights and attractions or relaxing in the a country side oasis, Japan is the place for you! *Videos mentioned above are coming. I'll message everyone once they are posted :) Random Facts- Considered rude to- point, talk loud or use your phone on the train, walk and eat, walk and drink, leave any food on your plate... Cab doors open and close automatically you don't have toe gem touch them. Slurping your food is a compliment. I am having trouble with this seeing as I think it is rude. You must place money in tray before they will take it. This is something I had a hard time remembering but they were very kind and reminded me gently to place my money in the tray. The cleanest bathrooms I have seen have so far been in the subway. In saying that everything is so clean here it really doesn't make much difference! Japan is full of green spaces, not only along the roads and parkways, but also on roof tops. Shoes come in small medium and large-reason why people walk around in shoes they don't fit them. Stores you can pay to do your own make-up. Weed is illegal - you are put in jail for six months and in Japan jail means sitting on a mat. If you are a foreigner you are departed and never allowed back into the country. The toilets with the flush noises is for those who go to use the bathroom and don't have to you can press the pee button and then flush, so that people don't know you didn't use the bathroom. In order to get your license you have to pay 2000$US then go to a two week camp where you stay over night and learn to drive. They have their own road ways. No wonder they are such good drivers here. The people here where masks not to protect themselves from the air, because the air is so clean, but rather to protect those around them from catching their cold, or germs. Wasabi, is not the same as what we in North America consider wasabi. Japanese wasabi is a route that is grinder into a paste, and it actually spread onto the sushi during its preparation. Often times soya sauce is also glazed on the top. Therefore, you simply have to pick it up and pop it in your mouth, it is delicious.