Japan Travelogue (Part 3)

12:31 am PHT

It has been almost two weeks since I’ve been here in Tokyo. The weather has been mostly overcast, with isolated rain showers, and the temperature is slightly uncomfortable at 10–20°C. (The coolness is actually quite bearable, if it weren’t for the icy wind.) Right now autumn is catching up with about half the trees still in summer green and the other half in fashionable fall colors or winter nakedness.

The combination of the cold weather and dry air is making my skin dry and flaky. Good thing I brought with me a bottle of Jergen’s extra dry skin moisturizer which I’ve applied liberally and alleviates the skin condition. And the lip balm helps a lot, too.

It’s really weird coming out of the office at 5:30 in the afternoon with the sun long down the horizon. It feels as if it’s 7 in the evening.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned before that the place I’m staying in has broadband Internet connection. We’ll, one of the first things I did upon arriving was to set-up the laptop and surf some websites. I measured the connection speed using the slick and arrived the the following results:

Broadband is fast inside Japan, but the the first result above for Yokohama is actually in the low range already, as my friend Ramil would attest. (Then again, 10 Mbps is unheard of in consumer Philippines.)

As I have postulated before, yes, all that bandwidth is strangely addicting.  :D

Food in Japan

I meant to write this way, way before but I never did get around to talking about it. Anyway, dining in Japan has been influenced by the Japanese penchant for efficiency. While there are many restaurants that still have the menu-waiter style, especially in social-oriented and leisurely-eating establishments, and fast-food style places like KFC, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s, many restaurants have automated vending machines which eat bills and coins and spits out order tickets. It leaves staff hands free from handling money.

Food in Japan is quite expensive when compared to the Philippines. A reasonably-sized meal in Japan would set you back about ¥500 or about 200 pesos. Expensive meals reach into the ¥900 range and the McDo set meals (with really small portions) cost about ¥400. Well, that’s what it’s like in one of the world’s highest cost-of-living cities.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I have never seen a menu that does not have photos of every item. In some places, you even have the famous life-like-fake food. It really helps when ordering especially if the dish name is written in hiragana or kanji.

Despite my liking for sushi, I ate none during the past two weeks and only a few times during the last trip. They’re expensive unless you get the discounted but not-very-fresh-anymore variety. I’ve tried ramen and various donburi (rice topping) meals. And omurice (rice in omelette) is heavenly (and tasted exactly the same as the omurice I tried in Kimono Ken back in the Philippines). Breaded anything (chicken, fish, pork, beef, tofu) is quite popular, and misleading, as one fellow officemate discovered when she tried a breaded dish and found that it contained oysters, which she hates.

Interestingly, I learned that miso soup can be served in a variety of ways. Usually, in the Philippines, it is served with seaweed/vegetables and tofu cubes. But in Japan, you can put anything in the stock soup. Onions, carrots, beef slices, fish flakes, you name it.

Green tea is popular; you can have it in almost all establishments aside from water. But it’s really, really bland. The C2 green tea back home is noticeably sweeter, and it’s already bland by Pinoy tastes. I remember ordering iced tea in a Japanese restaurant back home. They literally gave us green tea with ice. Tasted horrible; I guess it was meant to be served hot. Here in Japan, you get the same thing frequently, and I grew to appreciate it.

Unfortunately, KFC in Japan doesn’t have their famous gravy. Booo! (And there are tons of tiny McDonald’s everywhere.)

The Past Two Weeks

I didn’t do much sightseeing for the past two weeks, mainly because work has been keeping me busy and the broadband Internet has been keeping me home.  :D But I did get out several times. The other Thursday (November 23), which was a holiday in Japan, we took our first-timers, Franz and Karen to Shibuya and Akihabara (Akihabara is almost always the first place first-timer “trippers” go to).

We ate lunch at Pepper Lunch (great steaks—if you don’t mind smelling like one after eating), walked around the streets and then proceeded to Akihabara. Because it was a holiday, the main street of Akihabara was closed to vehicular traffic and so people filled the streets. There, Karen bought two iPods while Franz got himself a nice shiny Canon EOS Kiss SLR. And I finally purchased the iPod nano.  :)

We also walked north to Okachimachi, where some got some nifty perfume. I’m not into perfume so I didn’t get any. We had dinner at Denny’s back in Shibuya. That’s where I got my fix of omurice.

The past two Sundays I attended mass at Kaizuka, Kawasaki and went shopping and sightseeing after.

The first Sunday , I got some nice second-hand CDs (¥250–750!) from Book-Off and got myself a wristwatch for ¥4,040 (I can’t remember the time when I last wore one). It’s an Alba analog quartz watch with a metal strap—a first for me. It has a day of the week and date displays, and is water resistant at 10 bars. I experimented if it would indeed resist water, and it did.  :)

The second Sunday, I ventured out the western side of the busy Kawasaki Station for the first time. Well, it’s because there was a new shopping mall, called the Lazona Kawasaki Plaza that opened recently. And it’s a really, really nice upscale mall. If La Cittadella is like Eastwood City (described in Part 1), Lazona is like Greenbelt, but without much of the greenery. I also checked out the Muza Kawasaki nearby, where musical concerts are held.

Part 1 | Part 2

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