Very sad that today is my last day for this amazing trip. I bought some treats and am planning on spending my last few hours with some friends I’ve made here. Such an amazing trip it’s hard to process it all.
After having an amazing dinner at a Turkish Restaurant in the Ginza district (seriously good dinner ha!), I met a new friend who is in Tokyo for the week with a construction company. We ended up chatting for hours and hitting up a few spots together. Awesome guy and it was fun talking about life, business, and the future. I can’t wait to catch up in a few years and see if we were right.
Today, at the recommendation of my friend Mina, I visited the famous Hama-rikyu Gardens which was only a short walk from
my hotel. The beautiful gardens and grounds were the family garden of Tokugawa Shogun from the early 1600’s. There are a ton of beautiful flowers, bridges, Shrine ruins, and even a tea house! I took off my shoes and joined a bunch of people for cold matcha tea and a wagashi Japanese treat. Just a nice day walking around the garden listening to some relaxing music. Only a few days left here! I’m already sad to be leaving all my new friends.
While walking to have dinner and visit new friends, I saw a protest occurring which was interesting to watch. Similar to the United States, they had a police escort in front and behind to protect them from traffic and violence but it was interesting to watch. I was only able to get a picture from behind unfortunately but I imagine it was close to 50 people marching and chanting on a loudspeaker. I asked a man standing next to me on the street corner what they were protesting and he said he didn’t know. He stopped where he was going and led me closer to the group to find out which was thoughtful. He said that it was hard to understand but it seemed like they were protesting the government’s increase of the national military and defense budget. Interesting.
The food continues to be awesome and there are snacks everywhere ha. Also laughed at an anime version of Cruickshank haha.
I had a wonderful conversation with a new friend for over two hours about ai and how it is changing our world. He works in marketing and we discussed some of the implications. We had many laughs with the translation and I felt like we could talk for many more hours. Great guy.
While walking around the city today, I was impressed with the flood channels. They were widely used for recreation when not in use to control flooding and I enjoyed watching people enjoy the nice weather.
Decided to go on a dinner cruise around the Tokyo Bay harbor. It was awesome. The food was incredible, the views beautiful, and I watched a couple get engaged which was cute. Just a great night! Met some cool people including a girl from Mexico who speaks 4 languages here for three months. On my way to the cruise, I passed by one of Tokyo’s flood gates. Impressive to think that it holds back an ocean!
Today I made it back over to the Fire Museum because I am now the subway master and it was cool! Very impressive layout and well done. Was interesting to see how the ancient Shogun’s handled firefighting hundreds of years before the United States as we know it was born. They focused heavily on “destruction firefighting” where they would destroy houses ahead of the fire to stop the spread as they were all so closely built. The Samurai were not only responsible for protecting the towns from enemies but from fires as well! Was a fascinating tour and interesting to learn about all they have learned from earthquake response, human nature during disasters, and how similar we all are today in terms of equipment and procedures. They even had a fire department helicopter simulator you could sit in and fly around Tokyo. I brought many of our class coins but unfortunately there just wasn’t the opportunity for me to give them to the on-duty shift as they were doing medical training with the same mannequins we have in shop :)
Of course Japan is known for Sake, which is a wine made from rice. I decided to learn about sake since I didn't know anything about it! I traveled 2-hours to the opposite coast of Japan to a city called Niigata. It was a beautiful ride through a mountainous region and I spend about 45 minutes in a tunnel on a bullet train so that must have been a long tunnel! I included a picture of the guy sitting across from me to show you how much room there is on the train. It's amazing and each seat has outlets and free Wifi! I'm in love that all to-go food is in delicious bento boxes. I wish we had these back home. I continually am amazed by the low crime rate. I took some pictures of the bikes at the train station; I didn't see a single one that was locked. People just don't take other people's things. What a beautiful thing! I'm also still amazed at the toilets. The one in the train station even had music for privacy and the bathrooms do not smell at all because each toilet pulls air into it. The bathrooms are all clean and smell good. The only thing is none of them have paper towels. People in Japan bring their own small hand towels with them so there is also very little waste. Even with the bento boxes, they come with wooden chopsticks which biodegrade rather than plastic utensils.
After a nice walk in the rain with my umbrella, I arrived at one of the oldest sake breweries in Japan, the Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery. I had no idea that there are almost 1400 sake breweries in Japan! This one was founded in 1767 and is one of the few that does not add "brewers alcohol" to their sake so it remains pure and they also are one of the few that uses wooden barrels still to brew their sake. It was a cool experience and I learned so much! Because rice doesn't have sugar, which is needed to make alcohol, they first have to polish off the outside of the rice grain and then add a fungus to the rice and let the fungus feed on the rice carbohydrates to make sugar and then the fermentation process can begin with yeast. Fascinating. The Niigata region of Japan is highly rated for their sake because the region has excellent water and the rice grown in the region is excellent quality. Just a fascinating experience!
On the train ride home, I picked up some snacks that I wasn't sure what they were. When I was meeting my friends here later last night, they told me that the potato sticks I ate are actually popular with the high school kids here because they "hack them" to make mashed potatoes by adding hot water and mashing it up. I didn't believe them so my friend ran to get a container of it and proved it to me. It was actually really good ha. I also met two editors that work for a publishing company and had some nice conversation.
Let's see what today brings!
Wow was it hot! Felt like 109 degrees. I got lost for awhile but finally found what I was looking for, the best brunch spot in Tokyo and it did not disappoint! I had a corned beef hash benedict with pickles and avocado on fresh baked and toasted bread. So good! It was only a mile from the US embassy which was cool. Next, I tried to visit the Fire Museum but it was closed randomly. I'll try again another day. Honestly, I tapped out for the day after that because it was so hot and because I got lost. Decided to take it easy for the day :)
Just by chance I was sitting on the right side of the bullet train on my way back from Osaka and had a real treat of watching the sun set over the country side!
Started off the day with a beautiful 3-hour bullet train ride. Yesterday was North, today was South to Osaka. The train hooked around the Mt. Fuji volcano which was way more impressive than pictures can describe. It is so massive! Made an expensive decision today that since I only had about 8-hours in Osaka, I wanted to make the most of it so Uber was the way to go; ground-travel so I could see the city and faster. Started off with a mission… to get a special Japanese embroidery fabric called Sashiko for my mom! I ended up in a 5-floor fabric shop which was impressive and a bit comical. The lobby had a seating area that was filled with husbands waiting for their wives ha. It was a fun place surprisingly seeing all the local fabrics and buying some.
Next stop was the Osaka Aquarium! 5th largest in the world. As I pulled up, I saw a cruise ship docked and knew I was going to be in trouble. Sure enough, the wait time for the aquarium was 3-hours. No sweat! Got myself a ticket and looked up the next cool thing to do in the area while I waited. Ended up on the Tenjimbashisuji Shopping Street; a 1.6-mile long street packed with shops, food, vendors, and energy. Was super fun wandering the shops. Ended up stumbling across something that was on my Japan list of things to try… Grade A5 Black Wagyu beef from Kobe (best in the world). The place was awesome. They serve you a plate of the raw Wagyu beef after presenting it to you for your inspection prior to them cutting it. Next, they turn on a burner in front of you and help you with your first piece. The beef is best served rare which requires only a quick searing on both sides. Wow wow wow. Incredible. Tasted like candy! Walked around a few more shops when I saw the most delicious looking Matcha tea ice cream sundae and just had to stop.
Uber’d over to the aquarium just in time for a kids magic show outside which was fun to watch, then hit the aquarium which was cool. The usual fun stuff like penguins, seals, and sharks but the some of the smaller local Japanese exhibits… I have never seen fish like these. If you told me they were from Mars I might believe you. So weird! Crabs that were 6’ big!!
Took a stroll around the harbor after that enjoying the Sun before hopping back over to the train station. Was a bit early so decided to try the local fish, raw Bonito fish straight from the dock. Seared quickly on both sides this was incredible and I think is my new favorite fish. You don’t eat it with soy sauce as I was yelled at for trying haha. My server used my translate app to tell me that soy sauce will ruin it and I’m glad he told me because he was right. I was just so used to dipping my raw fish in soy sauce. The flavor without it for this particular fish is amazing and the chef salts the outside gently which balances it perfectly. He has been to NYC twice! I gave him a shop coin :)
I still can’t get over how fortunate I am to be able to take a trip like this, it’s incredible and I’ll never forget it or the friends I’ve made. I’m learning so much absorbing as much as I can!