Taking Time to Smell the Roses

24/06/17

Morning walk

So this morning I woke up quite early, and decided a walk would be in order. On my explorations down the main shopping street near our accommodation, I discovered the entrance to a shrine, so of course I had to explore! It was a pretty little shrine, only I met an unexpected friend… I saw a little snake! The presumption is that he belongs to the shrine, because it’s extremely rare to find a random snake in the city.

 On return to the house and after breakfast was had, us girls decided to get ready for our breaking of bread, which meant it was time to get our kimono and yukata on! It took a couple of tries, but we finally got my obi to work, and we went downstairs to show off. Everyone loved them! After our meeting we headed off to Shinjuku Gyoen. It cost us $2 to get in, but it was so beautiful! There were so many flowers, trees, so much grass, and it didn’t feel like we were still in the middle of Tokyo. We had a couple of locals say we looked cute in our yukata/kimono, and a few wanted to even take photos with us! It was so surreal.

We finished the day with yet again more karaoke, which was so much fun!

25/06/17

This morning we were moving back to the first house, so the morning was spent packing and cleaning up our current accomodation. At lunch time the owner of the house arrived and took us to am amazing little curry restaurant, which served all you can eat curry! And we got to try some berries straight off the tree on the way!

After we moved back to the apartment, we explored the local shopping mall, then moved on to Shinjuku and Shibuya again! We saw a really fantastic beatboxer busking in Shibuya, and explored a massive shopping centre in Shinjuku.

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Intersections and Interruptions

So much has happened over the past few days, and I cant really write about it at all. So I’m going to do something a bit different… have a brief intro then a picture blog. I take a lot of pictures of random things, so it helps when I decide to do things like this! Each photo will have a caption below it. The next few days should calm down again, which will be nice after the hectic rush of the past days! So here goes.

22/06/17

Today we went to Asakusa, Harajuku and Shibuya after our morning classes. I bought a kimono in Asakusa, spending more than I originally wanted to, but it was totally worth it! I should have photos on Saturday or Sunday of it. Harajuku was not what I was expecting, but still an experience worth repeating! And Shibuya… not a place to go if you’re bad with crowds! And I thought the train home was bad today, but Friday’s was worse… super cosy is an understatement. We managed to get in some karaoke after an interesting talk on Bible mission work in the Caribbean, and boy was it crazy! Over a fantastic but tiring day.

A bike park near our accomodation.

Asakusa!

…Tanuki totem pole, anyone?

Playing spot the shrine in the city.

Main street in Harajuku (sorry for dodgy quality pic)

Other end of the street, featuring photographer-san.

Selfies at Shibuya Scramble! (Like all the other tourists)

Hachiko, the most famous pup in all of Japan.

23/06/17

Today was a long day. After our classes in the morning, we popped out for some sushi for lunch – an excellent decision! Then we went back for our afternoon briefing, in which we were to do some “pen-fleting”… like pamphleting but with pens! We got taught the basic Japanese phrase to use, go split into groups and off we went! Unfortunately our location had lots of tourists, and the website we were advertising was in Japanese… but we had a good time! Then we all met in Yoyogi Park and sang for a bit, the first for the week other than the karaoke last night. Riding the packed train home was not so fun, I was practically being crushed against the doors by some guys over 6ft tall. So not fair… but bringimg back the karaoke after dinner was so worth it! We went to a different place, pricier but nicer, and it was even better than last night.

The sushi “train” 😮

After sushi.

Apparently the spiders like Yoyogi Park!

Feeling the sardine vibe…

Having just a bit of fun!

Really getting into the Elvis songs.

~Tash

Yonder, In Yokohama

20/06/17

As you can probably tell by now, I’m attempting to concoct clever titles for my blog posts… is it working?

Today was another packed day! As with yesterday, the day began with breakfast and a shower, but with an added twist; I would be taking the kids for their class today, instead of sitting with the adults! We talked a bit about how Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), then made an epic mess making some mason jar lights.

After our class and pack up, it was lunch time, and of course, exploring! Today’s destination was Yokohama, a port city south of Tokyo and a beautiful little city (well, compared to Tokyo). It was much less crowded, and the sky was sunny, the perfect day for being out and about. As our train ride had been straight after class, our stomachs were grumbling and lunch was a top priority. Once we arrived in Yokohama and figured out how to get to the Cosmo Clock 21 (our primary destination), we were on the hunt for lunch. Our station was really close to the Yokohama Stadium, so we detoured via the stadium and gardens around it. The stadium had a really cool baseball themed fountain, and the gardens nearby were beautiful.

When we finally got back on track for food, we managed to find a Hawaiian restaurant near the port. It was upstairs in a row of restaurants, and the decorations were fantastic! The attention to detail in every aspect of the decor was incredible, with display inserts in the tables to carved wooden ceiling fans. The menu, however, was only in Japanese! We attempted to decipher the menu, but ended up having to ask for an English menu… thank goodness for rudimentary Japanese skills! The menu was predominantly curry and bowl meals (meat and rice), but the food was pretty delicious.

Fed and watered, we resumed our trek to Cosmo World, bypassing the famous Red Brick Warehouses and stumbling upon a massive shopping centre. We later discovered that the building had a rooftop mini golf course that we could only see from the ferris wheel. The shops had a Hawaiian themed foodcourt, with sadly overpriced lemonades and delectable cinnamon scrolls (which Americans call cinnamon rolls… so weird!), but some interesting shops which were good for souvenir shops!

Luckily, just outside the shops was Cosmo World! Entering and purchasing our tickets, we were finally en route to the Cosmo Clock 21! A full 15 minutes of harbour views and crazy selfies.

Afterwards we returned home, but our dinner conversations were highly amusing! Discussions of onomatopaeia across cultures was fascinating, and it turns out that knowing the word for deer is handy when trying to explain a moose to a Japanese person, with assistance from rudimentary English and hand signs!

21/06/17

Today was a slow day – the inclement weather was not conducive to getting out and about… However the local op shop and dollar store was visited, and I finally got myself a fan (perfect for those warmer days). It was a relaxing day chatting with the other Bible Week attendees, feeling poor after paying my fees, and enjoying good food, so I’ll leave it there. Off to Shibuya tomorrow!

~Tash

Adventure in Akihabara

19/06/17

So today was a prime example of the fact, that just because you leave Australia, does not mean you leave the spiders behind… Unfortunately! I have slayed three of the evil things today, one of which had joined me in bed! So after that lovely start to the day, I enjoyed a quiet breakfast and hot shower, then our day began!

We had two interesting talks this morning, one on the birth of Moses and the other on Nicodemus, two fascinating people in the Bible. After the talks was lunch, which we decided to get after we arrived at our destination for the afternoon; Akihabara! Known as the electronics town and home of all things anime and manga, Akihabara is a busy place full of all sorts of fascinating things! We passed a cheese tart shop, many many anime stores, some legitimate and slightly less legitamate electronics stores, and many girls in maid costumes, advertising maid cafes. But following our resident Sydneysider (armed with Google Maps), we managed to find this tiny but amazing ramen restaurant for lunch!

As you step in, there’s what looks like a vending machine on the right, with a menu book accompanying it. This is where you order your food, then give the little ticket it spits out to the owner and she’ll give the order to the chef! The wait was short, and before long we were digging in to some delicious food. I had a shoyu (soy sauce) broth ramen with bamboo shoots, nori, pork and some greenery I ate too fast to identify! The side dish of rice helped with the saltiness of the ramen, but overall it was super yummy.

On departure from the ramen shop, one of our party wanted a drink, and luckily there was a vending machine not too far away! After putting in his money, he had just decided on a drink, when another of our party (who had been catching up to us) suddenly appeared and smacked one of the drink option buttons! He hadn’t expected anything to come out of the machine, but luckily it was what our thirsty friend was planning on getting anyway!

After returning to the main shopping district, a few electronic necessities were purchased, as well as some souvenirs. We discovered that Americans truly do need sugar in everything, and as we were sitting down to eat our crepes (because walking while eating is rude here), a couple of incredibly cute and fluffy looking things appeared nearby. Among all the maid and cat cafe’s being advertised was a single owl cafe with an incredible marketing strategy! Two girls had brought an owl each with them outside (restrained, of course) and were allowing people to pet them and take photos with them! They were incredibly soft, and the lighter brown of the two was so well behaved. The darker one was still a baby, but it would only occasionally get restless, and if you look closely at the picture below, you can see one of our party taking a selfie with the owl!

When we could finally drag ourselves away from the owls, a bit more shopping and exploring was done (including scouting out a retro games store, a ginger museum, and a shooting cafe… there’s something for everyone!) before we had to return home for dinner. Travelling through peak hour was an experience, but luckily most of us got seats before the worst of the crowd – a fact my very sore feet and legs were grateful for!

Dinner in itself was amazing! Darius (our cook for the week) concocted a mazzive curry, with naan and rice and salad and it tasted as good as it looked! Especially considering the curry wasn’t a meat curry, but a vegetable one. This was followed by an egg tart with caramelised honey on top, which was quickly gobbled down. This was followed by the readings, after which the dishes were done, the older folk went to bed, and us younger one were left to our own devices… so what do we do? Pull out the go board, google some rules and give it a go! It was a close match, but I conceded the win to my opponent, who had read slightly more of the rules than I had! After this, we stumbled to bed, ready to tackle Yokohama the following day.

~Tash

Traipsing Through Tokyo

Above: …it was really good gyoza!

17/06/17

On arrival in Narita Airport, Japan, I could not have been happier to get off the plane… I absolutely love travelling, but sitting for 10 hours does nothing for my poor body! After making my way through customs (where the dehumidifier was not working) and following the crowd to the train station on the basement level, I finally was on the train to Tokyo. The Narita Express (N’EX) was a shiny white train, so shiny I couldn’t see out of the window for my reflection! With a limited view and tired eyes, I unfortunately didn’t get to see much of the “scenic” route into the city. 

But I did experience a slightly tame version of the sardine can trains! I’m glad it wasn’t rush hour, because it was cosy enough as we were let alone with more people… Crowds are not going to be the most enjoyable part of this trip, that’s for sure. I’m spending my first night in Japan on a futon, which is surprisingly comfortable! And tomorrow we should be getting out and about the city, so I’ll update this with more when I’m actually awake!

Below: Cool icicle patterns on the plane window as we were flying into Japan.

18/06/17

So today has been a draining day. After a decent night’s sleep followed by a 6am wake up, a group of us wandered down to the local 7/11 to grab coffee and breakfast. We ended up moving accomodation to a different house, one more appropriately sized for our Bible Week… and boy is this house amazing! An ex-Turkish diplomat’s house with semi-Western style and touches of traditional Japanese is our new home for a week, then back to the original apartment as we won’t need as much space then. I got really excited when I saw the room I’m sharing with two other girls, because not only is it big, but it has tatami mats, and a balcony! And futons! I’m super excited to be staying here.

After we sorted out our luggage and allocated rooms, we wandered out to find some lunch. The local train station (as most Tokyo train stations do) has a shopping centre in it, so of course we had to go there to get lunch! After fumbling through the ordering process, I finally got to sit down with a delicious cashew curry and an oolong iced tea, pictured below.

And yes, it tasted as amazing as it looks! Lunch was followed by some exploration in the shops and a trip to the supermarket for breakfast supplies and tea. I managed to find some loose chamomile tea, and almost cried from happiness! The pocky probably didn’t help either… The tiring part of the day was next; spending time with the kids… They’re lovely children, and we bonded over the Legend of Zelda and Pokemon, but it was exhausting. This was followed by further exploration for dinner – we found a tiny gyoza shop which was amazing, with the Japanese version of Radler or a shandy (beer with lemonade) – an epic quest for dessert which led to fish shaped pancakes, then back home.

Now this is a heavily condensed version of the actual events of the day, but it’s late and I’m tired and a friend who was supposed to arrive in Tokyo today hasn’t landed yet, so we’re waiting for him. I’m going to head to bed soon, sleep is catching me… But tomorrow is the first day of our Bible Week, so it should be fun!

~Tash

Above: Cashew curry!!!

Below: Half of our gyoza selection

Dusting off the Passport

5:52am (ACST)…

I’ve been at the airport for almost an hour now, with most of that waiting to check in. Apparently some people have been having passport issues this morning, holding up the works… On the plus side, security took about a minute to zip through! Probably the shortest time I’ve ever spent in airport security. The only problem was I was left with plenty of time before boarding my plane, so I stopped by Muffin Break (best idea ever, thanks Adelaide Airport!) and almost cried with happiness; they had a fresh batch of gluten free banana choc chip muffins, I was so happy I almost bought two!

As I’m writing this, there’s maybe 6 or 7 other people at my gate, so it should a quiet first flight. I’m off to Melbourne first, then rushing through customs and switching terminals to get on my flight to Narita. I’m excited to get on the plane so I can try and sleep, apparently excitement mixed with stressing over having everything organised is not as conducive to a good night’s sleep as I hoped. 

I’m planning on adding to this post in Melbourne – if I have time – but if not, I’ll be in Japan by the time you read this!
8:50am (AEST)

Just power walked from one end of the domestic terminal to almost the opposite end of the international terminal at Melbourne airport! Automated passport checks do make life a lot easier though, and once again security was pretty fast. None of the water fountains are working, so I’ve had to buy a second bottle of water – a waste of money and plastic, but at least it’s cold! I’m waiting for the boarding call at the time of writing, and after getting a row to myself on the flight from Adelaide, I’m not looking forward to a potentially cramped trip…

But I’m almost there! Only 10 hours to go!

~Tash