Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tokyo Trip – Day 8

Day 8, the last day, was one filled with fun and hillariousness. The day was as usual spent in training. Post training, C, J and I headed off to Tokyo Towers. My plan was to go to Tokyo Towers, buy the souvenirs, have dinner, then head to Akihara Bara and then Asakusa. Tokyo Towers coz I wanted souvenirs, Ahikara Bara as it is supposed to be an IT hub and I wanted to see it well knowing that the shops would be closed and Asakusa as it is the old Tokyo and I wanted to see something of Tokyo other than modern sky scrapers. C and J liked my plan and decided to accompany me.

Oh, I must talk about lunch. Lunch was not packed but on our own, so I decided to have Subway as being Sunday, most shops in that area was closed. Well, the Subway was damn good. I had something called an avocado veggie subway with wasabi-soy sauce as dressing. This is the season for avocado, so a lot of food in Japan includes avocado. There is avocado salad, avocado dressing, avocado mash, avocado pasta and the list goes on…

Anyway, the sub was delicious. The wasabi-soy sauce added a tangy flavour which was delicious. In fact, so much so that my mouth is watering as I type!

To continue, went to Tokyo Towers and bought my shotglass. Then we had dinner. C and J tried out the Japanese Mac while I had pasta (the only vegetarian option available there without a Japanese guide to explain). The Japanese Mac was slightly different from the SG one in that their fillets were not fish based but prawn based. The pasta I had was quite oily, though equally authentic.

We then headed up the Tokyo Tower which is a replica of the Eiffel tower except that it is longer and higher (by around 1000 tonnes). The view is the view of Tokyo and nothing great considering that I had seen the Eiffel. The one thing Tokyo Tower had was something called ‘Lookout Glass’ which was a glass on the floor which allows you to see all the way down. Now that was crazy.

We then took the train to Akihara Bara where S joined us. As expected, the whole area was closed and we did not spend too much time there. We then decided to go to Asakusa.

Asakusa is supposed to have the old Tokyo feel in terms of architecture and the like. Thus, the number of temples in old Tokyo is much more and though the temples would be closed, I still wanted to see whatever I could from outside.

And what a good decision that was. At the control station in the subway, one of the directions said ‘Sensoji Temple’, and not knowing anything better, we headed in that direction. I still do not know was god/goddess the temple is dedicated too but the exterior of the temple was awesome. It was huge and spacious and made completely of wood. There were paintings and motifs all over the place and temple had a feel of peace and serenity. A place worth going to.

At 2345, we realised that the last trains run at midnight and ran back to the station. We took the last train and whewed in relief as the train was a direct one and thus there was no need to worry about any connecting train stopping for the night. A relief come too soon.

The train we took apparently stopped at Ueno, one of the stations on the way. It did not go any further. Fortunately, Ueno is also a connecting station and we ran towards the Hibiya line, hoping to take the last train to Kamiyacho; our stop. Well, missed that too!!!

By that time, the two boys were hungry again from all that running and we headed to a convenience store to get some food. Post which we took the cab back.

Cabs in Tokyo are extremely expensive. They start at 700 Yen, which is 10 SGD. And for 700 yen, the door opens on its own πŸ™‚

Well, so we had a bet on how much the fare would cost in the end and I won. I had bet around 4000 yen and it cost 3990 yen πŸ™‚

Well, after that slight bit of adventure, I headed back to the hotel for a nice hot tub bath. I also washed my hair as it was dirty and I know I would be too tired to wash my hair once I reach SG. Hit the bed at 130, got up at 7 and went to the airport and back home!!!

Tokyo Trip – Day 7

Tokyo day 7 saw a new instructor and new cases. We packed lunch from a nearby convenience store, which for me ended up being a huge bowl of salad and vegetable sandwiches. In the evening, we went to a dinner place called ShinjuTokyo in Shibuya. It was an authentic Japanese restaurant where we had to sit on the floor. Needless to say, we had hardly settled on the floor when people started wriggling on their seats with their legs. The restaurant is famous for its fresh veggies which they apparently grow in their own garden. So the concept was that the would bring a basket with multiple bowls having various veggies. We were given one common plate where we put in as much veggies as possible and then the basket is taken away.

We also ordered pumpkin friend balls, avocado salad, green veggie rice, mushroom rice and tea. In addition, meat was ordered but I cannot comment on that having not tried it. But the veggie were delicious. Absolutely delicious. The veggies were raw but as usual combined with sesame sauce and miso sauce, it was as good as any cooked food eaten.

Post dinner, we walked around Shibuya, enjoying the Friday night atmosphere. Around half and hour later, the rest of the group headed off to the hotel while I decided to check out Shinjuku.

Shinjuku is the best place I have been to in Japan so far.The place is teeming with people and lively as anything. I usually prefer gardens, and historical places but shinjuku makes an exception.

Well, after Shinjuku, as usual, I took the train back to hotel and crashed

Tokyo Trip – Day 5/6

Day 5 was spent in training till 1 am, so nothing to report except that we worked a lot πŸ™‚

Tokyo day 6:

Today, post our presentation, the co-ordinator decided to give us the afternoon off as none of us had done the pre-reading necessary for tomorrow. Instead of spending my time in the hotel room, I decided to do the next best thing: go roam Tokyo.

So far, my roaming around Tokyo has been restricted to areas which can be open at night, thus I could not go to the other spots, like Japanese gardens, museums etc. Thus, this afternoon was god sent as there would be no other afternoons left.

I decided to pick the Imperial Palace as the one place to visit if only one afternoon was available. Imperial palace is on the chigodya line (green line). Thus from the Kamiyacho station, I switched to the chugodya line at Hibuya. Coming out of the station, I walked straight to the east palace gardens.

Unfortunately, the gardens close at 1530 hrs during winter (the guide-book said 1730 hrs). Either way, only the east garden of the palace is open to the public. I had 2 hours to spend before going for dinner and decided to do what turned out to be the best thing later; walk around the perimeter of the palace.

The palace is huge and the circumference turns out to be close to 5.6 km. Thus making a circumambulation of the palace took me to various districts in Tokyo all having different views to offer.

My idea of walking around the palace is apparently not new as it also seem to be a very popular jogging spot. One thing which struck me was the number of policemen in that area. I have seen hardly any police people in Japan (except in subway station), thus seeing so many policemen throughout my 5.5 km walk was surprising. But maybe coz it was the palace.

From outside, the palace looks quite beautiful. Not huge and imposing like the western one but quaint, and in harmony with nature.

Post palace-walking, I headed off to dinner at Toscano, an italian place near the hotel. One more thing about food in Japan, every single cuisine here is as authentic as authentic can get. Japanese have very high standards in food and they do not like any food which is localised. Thus Italian food tastes Italian and Indian food tastes Indian.

For example, we had lunch at this Indian curry place one day and the food was amazing, very very good Indian food. The naan was good (huge though!), the curry was good, everything was good! And the food was not Japanesised in any way. Ditto for the Italian dinner, the pasta was as authentic as I had tasted. The creme brulee at Randy’s was also as good as any Creme Brulee I have had in France.

Anyway, post dinner went back and crashed πŸ™‚

Tokyo Trip – Day 4

Day 4 morning was spent in training as usual. In the evening, we went to eat at a Japanese restaurant with another colleague. This restaurant was also in Roppongi but since it was early, guess the party crowd was not out yet. The restaurant is a yakitori restaurant, which basically means grilled as we would do a BBQ. Nothing to say about the food. It was delicious as usual. Just a point about one type of food; salads. I have eaten salads all over the world but Japanese salads are out of this world. They add some kind of sesame dressing which gives a unique flavour to the salad. That green leaf actually looks appetising, let alone tastes delicious!!

Another quirky Japanese thing is that starter always includes salads and in this restaurant, the salad was plain, raw cabbage with dressing. Sounds yucky? Try and you would love it, guaranteed.

The Japanese lifestyle is very healthy. People here are not into bread and cereals very much. Breakfast is usually either porridge or salad, fruits and milk. Lunch is bento and so is dinner. Bento food here is one small box of sticky rice and loads of vegetables. No one people here are slim, I have yet to meet a Japanese who is even on the plump slide, let alone fat!

Which brings me to lunch. We have been having bento everyday. Bento is basically a lunch box with rice, salad and loads of vegetables. Everything is good except the rice; I cannot get use to the sticky Japanese rice, somehow it just does not go in. So food for me has been vegetables πŸ™‚

Anyway, post dinner, H and I went to Shibuya while C and J decided to head back to the hotel. Actually, I wanted to see Shibuya and H, being a local, decided to kindly accompany me.

Shibuya is a nice place. A place where the young crowd gather. Thus, the streets are filled with cafes and hip eateries. The shops are also the trendy, not-expensive ones like Zara and Forever 21, unlike Ginza where only Hermes and Cannels are present.

We roamed the streets of Shibuya for an hour, just enjoying the atmosphere before I headed back to the hotel and bed πŸ˜‰

Tokyo Trip – Day 3

Day 3 started in the evening as the whole morning was spent in training. We met for dinner at a restaurant called Randy as a team building effort. The restaurant touted itself as the ‘Beverly Hills of Tokyo’. However, it had a myriad variety of food including french (Creme Brulee, Ratatouille), Thai, Japanese, Italian and American. The food was delicious though and so was the service. This reminds me; the service in Japan for everything is in general very very good. People are attentive, courteous and in general a pleasure to interact with.

One particular incident which reiterates the service happened during our dinner at Randy. One of my trainers loved the Ginger-Ale at the restaurant and wanted to know if she could buy a bottle to take back home to the US. Unfortunately the hotel does not sell Ginger-Ale bottles. The matter would have ended there and then if not for the waiter. He called the owner, told him the customer’s request, and got permission to sell concentrates of the ginger-ale to my colleague as a special service. Wow!

Post dinner, I decided go and check out Ropongi. It’s a clark-quay kind of place filled with bars. The streets are colourfully lighted but roppongi is a place to go if you are living in Japan or like to try out night life as a tourist; both of which I was not interested.

I then decided to walk to Tokyo Towers. Knowing my horrible sense of direction, I decided to do the simplest thing to reach Tokyo Towers, keep the tower in sight and walk towards it in a straight line. Surprisingly, I managed to reach the tower! Just to find it closed 😦

Well a short walk around the tower and I headed back to the hotel and bed πŸ™‚

Something about the bed; it’s really big!!! I didn’t realise how much I missed big beds till here!! I want my hong leong bed :S

Tokyo Trip – Day 2

Day 2 started off with a 3000 yen breakfast of cereals, milk, 2 quarter-first sized hash browns and a glass of orange juice. We then walked to our office. The office is in Toranomon towers, which is right opposite the south wing of the hotel but being new and having no idea of how the tower even looks like, we made a huge roundabout.

Now the interesting part begins. I know Japan is quite technologically advanced but oh I did not expect a lot of things I saw here. First, let’s go the pantry.

The pantry has 2 kinds of drink machine. One a slot machine with various iced teas and soft drinks and the other a coffee/tea machine. The slot machine was the usual one, so I shall skip that. It’s the coffee/tea machine which is worth mentioning.

I have seen this coffee/tea mechanism before but for the life of me, I cannot recall where. Anywhere the machine’s brand is Flavia and how it works is that you choose if you want to have hot tea, hot coffee or cold drink. Post that, slot a cup into the slot holder. Now there are various sachet types of teas/coffees placed next to the machine. The sachet looks like a rectangular toothpaste sachet, with a tube on top. Choose one and slot the sachet with the top facing up. Et viola! You are done. Brilliant green tea for your service! No dipping of tea bags, no nothing. I was impressed.

As mentioned before, I have seen this machine before, but what impressed me is that this high-end high-tech machine is in a pantry office!!

The next interesting part comes to the ladies (can’t say anything about the gents until I find a way to go inside and check it out! :P)

Firstly, the whole washroom has a very neat and hygienic feel to it. I don’t quite know why as Singapore washrooms are quite neat too…I guess it’s because every room I have seen so far has a very airy feel to it, and is elegantly minimalistic. Ditto for the washroom. The washroom also had small pigeon holes for ladies to keep their personal stuff in, which is another neat concept I have not seen anywhere.

Inside the washroom is where the technology starts. Firstly there is a speaker which fakes the flushing noise for ladies who do not want the sounds of their business to be made public. Secondly, there is a bidet which; no matter how you position yourself; never quite misses its mark. I have not figured out how and I don’t dare press the bidet when I am not seated for fear of making the whole washroom wet. Guess would just have to ask someone!!

For people who find the bidet too strong, there is a spray! Which is lighter on the skin, but equally unnerving in its accuracy of aim.

Other than that, day 2 was spent in training. That evening, we ate at this Japanese restaurant suggested by a colleague of ours. We had umegenyaki (check spelling), a kind of teppenyaki but with a difference. They had a proper vegetarian one which they made for me. That reminds me about food. Anyone who tells me vegetarian food is hard to find in Tokyo has not been here for a long time. Veg food is everywhere, literally everywhere! Not only that, people here know the meaning of vegetarian, it does not include fish, etc etc but vegetarian means vegetarian! I also had cold noodles which was quite delicious.

After dinner, we decided to go and check out Ginza. Ginza is just like Orchard Road but with a difference: the buildings were much more colourful and creative and the streets vastly wider. We walked around the streets of Ginza. There was no point in going into shops as nothing was less than 6-digit figures.

I also spent a good half an hour trying to take pictures of the bullet train, much to the annoyance of my colleagues πŸ˜›

Tokyo Trip – Day 1

Landed at Tokyo at 5pm local time and the first thing that struck is that Tokyo was really in the northern hemisphere. It was as dark as nighttime in Singapore, though the accompanying chill I was expecting was missing as the weather was pleasant at 20 degrees.

Narita is quite a big airport. After walking fo what seemed like ages, we reached the immigration and went through the usually procedure before coming to the interesting part.

Exiting the airport, I was expecting someone to wait for us as I was told there would be an airport transfer. When realisation hit that it was not going to happen, we started looking for public transport. Now, I know Tokyo is expensive but hear this: 43,000 yen for a cab and 3,000 yen for an airport limousine. That’s 716 SGD for the cab and 50 SGD for the bus. And yes, I typed the correct number of zeros and correct number of zeros you have read. πŸ™‚

The first impression of Tokyo I got was that they have fantastic roads. The roads were smooth as honey and the bus just glided over it. The second impression was that Tokyo is the most deserted place ever. True, it was a saturday evening and the places we passed were mostly commercial, but I saw absolutely no-one, and I mean literally no-one walking on the roads! I was beginning to wonder where the people were!

Anyway, arrived at the hotel 2 hours later and the first thing that struck was the size of the hotel. The hotel is spread over 2 streets, with a main building and a south building, connected via an underpassΒ going under a major road. I am not sure of the number of rooms here but it has close to 15 full-fledged restaurants with 2 restaurants offering buffet for breakfast. The hotel even had its own art museum!

I had pizza for dinner and I must say, it was fantastic pizza. Quite quite authentic italian and very well done. Post pizza and a hot bath, I hit the bed.