Sunday, December 25, 2016

japan 5: nuggets

GETTING AROUND

We didn’t drive. We got around using the trains. Language didn't turn out to be much of an issue, as crucial signs were also in English and, in Tokyo at least, people spoke English.

The lifesaver was a portable wifi device the size of a pager from Changi Airport, which cost all of $5 a day, which enabled all of us with mobile devices to connect to the Internet at very decent speeds.

Day, who carried the wifi device in his bag, and KK, were the navigators. We got around using pre-paid passes which acted like farecards.

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* Our trusty Suica passes

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* KK and Day reading the signs and leading us

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* Much time spent in the train stations

To our great surprise, navigation was a breeze, even in the massive Shinjuku station which we were warned about. Day’s quite the natural. We only got lost once, when we went back and forth between trains trying to find the right one back.

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* The downside of wifi on the go: Boy's on the mobile phone even when we're not travelling

And perhaps because of where we were – Tokyo – we hardly saw any kids. On the packed silent trains, surrounded by hordes of men and a few women in mostly black heading to or coming back from work, I beseeched the kids to be silent as tombs / not sneeze or cough. The commutes all seemed terribly serious and proper journeys on which they really had to behave.

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* Day thankfully stood out like a beacon in the sea of black, so we could follow even when he and KK were far ahead

FOOD

Not much to say here, most people would have been to Japan and know that every bit of food is perfect, even rice balls from the 7-11 equivalent.

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* Lulu covering her face because even though we were in a non-smoking area of the restaurant, the smoke was heavy and the girls choked on it

There were recommended places to check out, but after trying to get into one and seeing the long queue, we just popped into anywhere. Some of the food which I liked:

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We have also discovered that we are not sushi lovers. Rather, we like our sushi and sashimi well enough, but we aren’t discerning enough to drool over the offerings at the Tsukiji fish market. It’s just…. a lot of raw fish which doesn’t taste all that different from what we have in Singapore. (I know, it’s criminal! But what to do when we’re not connoisseurs)

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* Huge pieces of raw fish blanketing the rice

WINTER

We landed freezing, and by the time we left 11 days later I was left holding bunches of discarded puffy jackets as the kids had gotten used to it and felt too hot.

The coldest one, however, would have to be Lu. The poor skinny tyke’s cold tolerance is quite a bit lower than her siblings.

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* Spot Lulu

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* We ended up buying her a balaclava which is perfect

We saw the last vestiges of autumn, and the scenery was mainly that of bare branches and dry, brown grass. I think autumn would have been prettier but too bad, we needed to ski!

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* Remnants of autumn beneath our feet

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* Plains of dried grass

URBANITY

While we had the longest time to spend in Tokyo, it wasn't quite our thing. The people and bustle was draining, and we don't shop. We would infinitely have preferred to spend more time at the ski resort, or the seaside town.

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* We ventured to Shibuya, took one lackluster shot of that crossing and escaped. For us, it really was a waste of time. KK, exhausted, said, "That's it ah?"

VIEWS FROM THE TOP

For some reason we spent a lot of time in tall edifices which offer views of Tokyo. There was the Skytree, which charges for admission. Then there was also the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, which was free and which we went up several times because our hotel was next to it. After a while we went up not for the views, but to eat.

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* Tokyo Metropolitan Government building

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* View from the Skytree with what is apparently the silhouette of Mount Fuji

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* Skytree shadow

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* Skytree viewing gallery

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* Santa window cleaners

A LOSS

Day left his beanie in a convenience store and thought he lost it, but upon returning and asking if anything had been found, retrieved it.

Lu left her balaclava at the ski resort and thought she lost it, but when we asked, it turned up at lost and found.

Jo went to a very windy beach at a seaside town, Kamakura, and in the process of playing at the black sand beach with Lu lost or dropped her phone. (she claims she passed it to me) 

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* Day at the Yuigahama Beach, which is a windsurfing haven

Upon discovering the loss when we had moved on to the Great Buddha, she prayed to the Buddha for good luck and blessings before she and I rushed back to the beach to try and retrieve it. Buddha didn’t grant her wish. Despite all our best efforts are retracing our footsteps, we found nothing as we scrabbled through the sand, trying to spot the phone in the dark.

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* The Great Buddha of Kamakura, where it dawned on her that she wasn't holding her phone

The rest of the family are most surprised that amongst the trio, the one to lose something is Jo.

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* The last photo she took on her phone, similar to this one which I snapped at the same time. She was most upset over the loss of her photos

JAPANOPHILE?

Some friends go to Japan again and again after one time there, they love everything about it.

Between us, KK and Jo seemed to like it the most. 

Jo in particular, kept repeating that she loves the country. Its cleanliness, warm toilets with multiple functions (although none of us dared to try any of it apart from KK), attention to detail, how things are beautifully wrapped and packaged. When she saw a book store lady deftly wrapping a paper cover around a book I was buying, she actually turned to me to smile in delight.

“Why don't they do this in Singapore? I love Japan,” she said.

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* Me, because I took all the photos and I wanted to be in one myself

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