Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arigatō Gozaimasu!

Definitely the phrase we used the most in Tokyo is, "arigato gozaimasu." It means "thank you" in the polite form, and we said it like a thousand times a day. Most everything and everyone in Japan was so surprisingly wonderful and polite, and we were really grateful!

We rented a classic Japanese house in the Sumida Ward, which was built just after World War II. If you'd like to see pictures of it, you can click here. Even though the owner warns of the low ceilings, actually experiencing them was a surprise - I could touch the ceiling without standing on my toes! Thankfully, Mike and I, and our friends Josh and Bernice, are all on the shorter side.

Mike on the night we arrived, you can see how low the doorway was,
and the ceiling was only an inch or two above that!

It is awfully difficult to get around if you don't speak Japanese, and the subways, buses and trains here are a mess, owned by different companies and running everywhere and nowhere. We ended up walking A LOT. Fifteen miles, in fact, on just one of our longer days. But I think this allowed us to see more random things we might otherwise have missed.

An all-female band we saw, walking down the street.

A shot of restaurants and bikes in the Asakusa district. Everyone bikes!

Another Asakusa street scene, with the Tokyo Skytree in the background.

The Tokyo SkyTree, lit up at night.

A random "Ninja Warrior" training ground that Mike and Josh tried out.

We went to the Kappabashi District, which is where they sell all the restaurant supplies. I could have wandered that street for a full day - they had all the fake food you see in Japanese restaurant windows, cutlery, knives, cookware, robata grills, rice cookers, dishware...you get the idea. It's a great place to shop for souvenirs that aren't your usual key chain or t-shirt.

The display at the knife store - bought myself one!

A gorgeous ceramics and dishware store.

One day, we made a pilgrimage to the Cup Noodles Museum, where they have recorded the entire history of the Nissin Foods company, and its founder, Momofuku Ando. If you've ever had instant ramen noodles (either in cup form or package form - Top Ramen, etc), it's most likely from the Nissin Foods company. This was a staple of my college years and my corporate office days, so a visit to the museum was a must. 

Obligatory photo with the giant cup and the Nissin mascot.

A shot of the "Ramen Cube" which showed every flavor the company makes.

We got to make our own instant Cup Noodles, with customizable flavors and add-ins! 

First you decorate the outsides...

Then you pick your flavors and mix-ins!

After awhile, we started navigating the subways with ease, and even falling asleep on the train like the locals.

Mike and Josh checking out Bernice's napping style on the subway.

We visited so many places and ate so much food that I can't put it all into this post, but I can definitely say we will be back to Japan. In fact, our friends are already planning a trip for next year! It was one of the cleanest cities I've ever been in, and the locals were so kind and helpful. The only issue is the language barrier, but we've got a whole year to learn any crucial phrases. Although we heard a lot of warnings about the high cost of food and housing in Japan, we had the opposite experience and food and the little house we rented were very reasonable (we spent $500 for 6 nights at the house, and about $50/day per person for food and transportation). Eat local and wear good walking shoes; that's my recommendation!