2008-07-31

harajuku, tachikawa, flamenco, sushi and karaoke!

Thursday was a busy day for us - we were going to go back to the fabric district, but we decided not to, and to go to this 8 story craft store instead, and then to go to harajuku. We went to Shibuya station, and saw the famous crossing through the window:



The craft store was in the train station, and was pretty amazing, though several floors of it were uninteresting (one of them containing only underwear and lingerie). Trina got some fun fabrics, notions and other little things that I'm sure she'll blog about. After that we went to harajuku, as we were going to go to an asian bazaar and maybe buy some dishes













However, it was closed, so we ended up going to ChocoCro instead and getting a chocolate filled croissant and coffee, and then heading off to Tachikawa, as Alina's boss and his wife, the Sakumuras were taking us to a flamenco show that evening.

We arrived at Tachikawa station, and from there walked to the Palace Hotel, where the show was taking place. We met Alina's boss' wife in the hallway, and she mentioned that her husband was there, but knew everyone, so he was off talking to people. He came out in a few minutes and we said hello and then went into the bar that had been re-arranged for the flamenco dance performance.

We sat down and got food and drinks, and talked for a little while. Mr. Sakumura had a bottle of scotch at the hotel, so he asked for it and two glasses, for he and I. I was surprised to find that they serve it there diluted in water. It was still good, though, and shortly after this, the show started.

The flamenco group was 4 people, a man and woman dancer, a woman singer, and a man guitarist. Here are a few videos we took (sorry, the last one is sideways):







During the break in the flamenco show, Mr. Sakamura called his favorite sushi bar in the area and made reservations, and we snuck out early to go for sushi. In this particular bar, one of the sushi chefs is the father of one of Alina's english students. We got there and sat down, they brought us tea and sake, and then just started dishing up a wide range of sushi - crab, squid, tai, tuna, anchovies, uni, all kinds of things. Everything (except the uni, which I'm really not fond of) was amazing and delicious.







We had a good time eating and talking - and the Sakamuras were amused by ordering strange things for us and seeing what we would do with them.





This went over better with me than with Trina, as after the uni she was feeling a bit queasy - quite understandably so - but all in all, we really enjoyed the time. After a while they gave us some miso soup as well, and then Mr. Sakamura suggested that I try sea pineapple (I forget what it's called in Japanese). He said he didn't like it, but that I should try it. So, they carved one up and I tried it :)







It actually wasn't bad - similar texture to squid, and pretty mild flavor. Much easier to get down than the uni. Upon leaving, we got a photo with one of the sushi chefs:



And then, we went to Mr. Sakumura's favorite bar for karaoke. The bar is almost just across the street, and is run by an older japanese guy and a younger chinese girl. Apparently there is rarely more than one or two other people there, and when we were there, it was empty other than us. They served us drinks, and some mango and melon that were delicious, as well as some chocolates that were also amazing. Here are some videos of the fun:













We finally said goodbye at the Tachikawa train station and headed back to Alina's place. Cheers all!

2008-07-30

kamakura!

So, on the Wednesday we were there, we went to Kamakura, which is a city just outside of Tokyo that is very old (the oldest human tools found in this area are dated to at least 10,000 years ago). It was our first real experience with old Japan, as most of Tokyo itself was destroyed in World War II. We were meeting Alina's friend Mike, and taking trains there with him.

As usual, we saw some funny advertisements on the trains - this guy found a doughnut:



There was also a flying penguin:



Trina found a new friend, who fell asleep on her shoulder :)



He later fell asleep the other way, against the butt of a guy who was standing by the door. The guy gave him a weird look, and then when he saw the guy was asleep, he was kind of like "ok, no problem" and just let him sleep there.

Alina-chan!



The main shopping street in Kamakura:





Random to have a store called Portland - we decided it must be Portland, Maine based on the clothing style :)



There was this pretty awesome combination of this penguin and that amazing cat guy:



Here are the gates to the Hachimangu shinto temple that is in Kamakura. By the time we got here (about 15 minutes), we were already dripping sweat.





There was a pretty garden with lotus and water lilies:



A tomba (dragonfly):



The back of a turtle:



There were also these enormous black butterflies:



Lotus flowers are so beautiful:





Alina posing in a hollowed out tree :)



The road leading up to the shrine:









The building at the bottom of the hill:





Up the stairs to the shrine:



The shrine itself:



Those wooden cards are prayers - for something like 20 yen you can write one and leave it there:



The view from the top of the hill - you can't see very well in the picture, but you can just see the ocean out on the horizon:



Going back down the hill the side way:



When we came down from the shrine, there were two musicians doing a sound check in the building at the bottom of the hill:



These guys were out in front of one of the shops in town:



Railroad tracks next to a liquor store:



Back on the streets:



We had lunch at this little place that a rickshaw driver had recommended to Mike on a previous trip to Kamakura - it's a bar in the evening, but during the day it's a small restaurant. You go in and sit down, they serve you whatever is on the menu that day, you pick your own tea cup and serve yourself tea or water, and then pay and leave. It was delicious food. We arrived about 5 minutes before the place opened, and by the time they opened, there were about 5 people waiting. By the time we got the first bits of food, the place was full and there was a line at the door. Here are some pictures of what we ate:



wilted spinach with sesame:



rice, of course:



cold eggplant and daikon radish:



Japanese curry - it was amazing:



Rice seasoning is a brilliant idea:



Miso soup:



Here is the front of the shop:



After a very satisfying lunch, we headed to the famous giant daibutsu (buddha).









His sandals are hanging on the wall :)



Whee! It's hot out!





For again about 20 yen, you can go inside the daibutsu - we went in, but got a bit claustrophobic, as it was really hot and the air was very still inside, and we had to leave pretty quickly.

After the daibutsu, we went to a place where you can hike through a cave to go up to another shrine that overlooks the ocean. Trina and I were feeling pretty woozy from the heat, so we waited for Mike and Alina as they went up and came back. We then went and had some gelato, and then headed on to the trains to go back to Tokyo.

It was great to see Kamakura, even though it was extremely hot that day. Hope you enjoy the pictures!