Juggling Japan – Day 2

At the end of our Juggling Japan Day 1, Yuya’s mum kindly asked what time we would like to have breakfast. As a traveler with a limited-budget mindset, this question was completely unexpected.  I mean, it felt like we were getting a room service treatment only provided in a 5-star hotel! So thrown off we were by the question that we simply looked at each other and stuttered: “Err…Six?”. WAAAY to early for breakfast, I know. But it was the first number that popped in my head and my innocent friend went along with it. There was no turning back. We had to set our alarm clock at 5:30 in the morning so we could wash up first.

At 5:30 the next morning, my mobile phone alarm rang. My eyelids were as heavy as 10,000 tons of bricks, so I pressed the Snooze button. Five more minutes

The next thing I knew, I heard a gentle knock at the door. I opened my eyes, looked around the room, and mumbled a coarse, “Yes?”.

Yuya’s mum’s peeped inside. “It’s 7 o’clock now. Are you okay?”

WHAT ?!

I staggered off my bed, looking all kinds of mess. “I’m okay, I’m okay. I’m coming.” Turns out I pressed the Dismiss button by accident, instead of the stupid Snooze. Great. This wasn’t exactly the kind of first impression you want to give to your kind-as-an-angel host family. And what was worse, my friend was also dozing off when Yuya’s mum knocked on her door! I swear, it was as if we were on sedatives! But what else would you expect when you get to sleep under a warm, thick blanket in a cold autumn night?

By the time we were ready for breakfast, Yuya’s mum was already sitting in the dining room. Again, with a limited-budget  / couch-surfing mindset, we really didn’t expect anything more than a couple of toast with butter and a cup of warm tea. But God bless her! She had prepared for us a Japanese feast! We could only gape in disbelief at the lines of delicious food on the table, just for the two of us! I should have taken a couple of pictures of the bowl of rice, the marinated roasted beef, the spinach saute, the egg dumpling, the miso soup and the cup of hot ocha. I know I should have. But man, we were too busy devouring the heaven-sent feast that was laid in front of us!

Yuya’s mum taught us which sauce to pour on the egg dumpling, the Japanese manner in eating gohan (bowl of rice), and how to hold the bowl of miso soup. It was the perfect Japanese Culture 101, free of charge! She also told us that she had always wanted to have a daughter, so she was more than pleased to have us as her guests (God, I’m tearing up as I’m typing this part!). Looking back at our 7-day trip in perspective, spending quality time with her every morning during breakfast was the most precious memory of all.

After breakfast, Yuya’s mum took us to greet Yuya’s grandma who was on the other part of the house. She was the most adorable 80-year-old I have ever met! Despite knowing no English whatsoever, she was very friendly and not at all shy! She patted our backs and bowed in a Pleasure-to-meet-you kind of way, it was transparent how happy Yuya’s grandma was to have us. It was such a sweet moment on a fine Tuesday morning.

Now that our stomach were completely stuffed, we were ready for our day 2 adventure. Yuya walked us to the train station – which meant he had to wake up early as well despite the fact that he only had one afternoon class (God bless him!) – and told us that he was going to catch up with us later at 15:00 after his school was done for the day. Our first stop was Asakusa, a total 1-hour train ride from Tsutsujigaoka. Having to leave quite early in the morning (around 8:30 – 9:00 AM), we got to experience Tokyo’s rush hour, which consists of people jostling inside the train like a giant can of sardines. One thing I realized about the citizens of Tokyo was how serious they mostly were. There was barely any noise inside the train compartment, even from a couple of people who knew each other! All of them were either reading newspaper or checking out their mobile phones, which by the way was set to vibrate mode (or as they say: Manner Mode). It was complete and utter silent.

Commuting in Tokyo, courtesy of http://tonymcnicol.photoshelter.com

Commuting in Tokyo, courtesy of http://tonymcnicol.photoshelter.com

One more thing about the Japanese and their ‘train mannerism’. The people waiting at the platform ALWAYS let the people walk out of the train first before they get on board. They literally waited until the last person got off, and they did so in such perfect lines! There was no fuss whatsoever, no worries about the train leaving before they hop inside because there would be some kind of a jingle playing throughout the platform to warn them that the doors were about to close. Did I mention that every station had their own jingle? I didn’t even realize it until Yuya told me later on. How unique and fun!

When we got to Asakusa, the place was packed! People of all shapes and sizes were there to catch a glimpse of the Kaminarimon, an entrance gate decorated with a huge (and I mean GIGANTIC!) red lantern. Once we passed the gate, we were greeted by Nakamise Shopping Street, which was basically rows and rows of souvenir shops and food stalls, all beaming with the authentic Japanese atmosphere. It was like a vibrant flea market, except there was nothing ‘flea-ish’ about it. Every key chain and refrigerator magnet has got Made in Japan written all over them, which made them so bloody expensive for a couple of backpackers like yours truly. Mind you, my mum and I have always been souvenir junkies. Back home, in the living room, we have a huge glass cabinet filled with souvenirs I got from my domestic and international trips. The thought of handing mum a bag full of snow globes was enough to torture myself as I squeezed my way through the crowd. Despite our mental note of NOT buying anything, we found ourselves exploring all the stores for a good 45 minutes, tormenting ourselves by staring at the beautiful stuffs we couldn’t afford. After minutes of struggling, I finally cracked and bought a lovely pack of book markers with pictures of Japanese women in Kimono on them. Yes, out of all the interesting things I could have got, I chose a pack of book markers. What a nerd. Oh, and we tried this INCREDIBLY delicious Tempura Manju, which is basically a fried dough filled with red bean paste. Lord, have mercy! They smelled and tasted like heaven !!! I may forgive you for not buying any souvenirs in Nakamise, but it would be a crime to not try this wonderful snack. I’m telling you, they are so very addictive! Oh Gosh,my mouth is watering!

Puput in front of Kaminarimon Gate

Puput in front of Kaminarimon Gate

Nakamise Shopping Street

Nakamise Shopping Street

Drooling over every little thing...

Drooling over every little thing…

Once we were done going through Nakamise, we finally arrived at Sensoji Temple. It was the first temple we had ever visited in Japan, so we were in complete awe as the stunning temple came in full view. Before entering the holy temple, we had to clean ourselves at the nearby ablution pond. The water was ridiculously cold, but it didn’t stop both of us from diving head first into Japanese’s holy ritual. Next to the pond, there was some kind of a well. We couldn’t get too close to it because of the crowd, but we could see smoke coming out of it. People were trying to breathe the smoke in because it is said that the smoke can bring you health. So if you’re not feeling well when you’re traveling in Tokyo, Asakusa might just be your solution!

Since Sensoji was the first temple we visited, we decided to have a little fun and got ourselves fortune papers. The fortune papers were kept inside a large drawer, and the only way to get it was by shaking a can until a piece of stick fell out. There would be a number written at the tip of the stick, and you had to get your fortune paper from the drawer of the matching number. I was really pleased with the good fortune I got, but the same couldn’t be said for my friend who got the unfortunate one. We just laughed it off, but later on I found out that my friend actually tied her bad fortune somewhere near Mount Fuji to prevent it from really happening. Ha!

The water was freezing cold!

The water was freezing cold!

Her unfortunate fortune :P

Her unfortunate fortune 😛

The Sensoji Temple grounds

The Sensoji Temple grounds

After Asakusa, we went to Ueno Park. I could probably compare its vastness with New York City’s Central Park, though I’ve actually never been there. It was a really pretty park, but I didn’t get to see as many yellow leaves as I had expected. In fact, many of the trees were withering, some were even bald. I could only picture how beautiful it must be during spring, with all the cherry blossoms. Mental note: return to Japan in April. Despite it all, I had a good time at the park. I got to sit on the pavement and relax while watching the street performance: a beautiful lady playing accordion and singing Opera.

We met Yuya a few hours later at Edo-Tokyo Museum, which was only a five-minute walk from Ryogoku station. It cost 600 Yen to enter, but we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that we could actually use our university student card to get a discount. We only had to pay 450 Yen instead!

Edo-Tokyo Museum was really interesting, because it was filled with dioramas of the old Tokyo. If you’re into history, this five-storey museum is the place for you. There were a lot of displays you get to touch, enter, and even play with. It was so interactive! My friend got a wee bit too excited and started to roam around the museum with her digital camera, abusing the Diorama Effect on her camera and leaving me and Yuya behind. But thanks to her, we got some amazing pictures!

Yuya being interactive with the props :)

Yuya being interactive with the props 🙂

A replica of an old book store.

A replica of an old book store.

inside a traditional Japanese house

inside a traditional Japanese house

From Ryogoku, the three of us headed to Akihabara for dinner. At first, Yuya wanted to take us to a Maid Cafe, but his Google Map phone application got broken halfway, so he took us to an Udon restaurant instead. Words can’t express how grateful we were of Yuya because he was basically our translator for the menu and he prevented us from ordering the wrong food (read: pork). The Udon we ordered was delicious and well worth the money.

We also got to try Purikura, a popular photo booth in Tokyo where we could edit our pictures. You could literally do anything to your own pictures, from adding cute writings to enlarging your eyes! It was fun, but a bit complicated for first timers such as myself. My friend, on the other hand, was into it like a pro! We got to pick our top 6 favorite pictures to have them printed, and most of the ones we picked were her ‘creations’!

Slurping some Udon...

Slurping some Udon…

PURIKURA, making girls look creepy since 2012 :P

PURIKURA, making girls look creepy since 2012 😛

The highlight of our second day of Juggling Japan was our next (and final) stop after Akihabara: Tokyo Sky Tree Tower. An interesting story behind our visit to the world’s highest free-standing broadcasting tower: A month before our arrival to Tokyo, I was talking to Yuya through Skype about the places my friend and I were going to visit when he recommended us to go to this tower. After a quick check on the internet, I discovered that the price ticket to get inside (and straight to the observatory deck) was way too high –no pun intended – for a couple of backpackers like us. I told Yuya this, and added that we would probably just took some pictures outside the tower. I thought that was the end of that. But a couple of days later, Yuya messaged me through Facebook that his mum had given him money for tickets. She was treating the three of us !!! Even before we met, Mrs. Kishimoto had already gone to great lengths as the greatest host ever!

Our night at Tokyo Sky Tree got even more exciting because we were going to meet an old friend, Rani. We had not met Rani for three years, since she left Indonesia with her husband to Tokyo. It was such a fun reunion! We took a lot of pictures together inside the observatory deck like a proper Asian tourist 😛 Too bad we couldn’t stay a bit longer because the three of us didn’t want to arrive at Yuya’s house late at night (again).

with Rani, inside the observatory deck

with Rani, inside the observatory deck

our lovely guide, host, and translator :)

our lovely guide, host, and translator 🙂

High up above...

High up above…

...or down below

…or down below

The tower's purple, the color of Tokyo

The tower’s purple, the color of Tokyo

By the time we got home, Mr and Mrs Kishimoto were already asleep. Once again, the three of us sat under the kotatsu and chatted for a bit about how our day was in a nutshell. We even watched some comedy shows, with Yuya as our designated translator. It had been a really great day, even better than the first. But as I wrapped myself around the comfortable blanket,  I couldn’t help but feel sad as the sudden realization hit me: that night was our last night at the Kishimoto residence.

****

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nadhilaaz
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 16:36:29

    Ooh~ such a precious experience! XD
    Tell us more! We wan’t more! XD

    Reply

  2. Novroz
    Dec 18, 2012 @ 23:57:27

    such a looong post. I noticed that all your Japan posts are very long. I will finish reading them all next year 😉

    I really like the story about the train because it’s so different to us. They also have a pusher if I am not mistaken, it’s a person who pushes people in the train at busy hour.

    Ps. I dnt know whether you are interested or not, I have posted Ruth’s pic and our meeting.

    Reply

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