Good morning, world.

Not that I really need to be reminded, but this is why I love to travel. As said on the original post on Gizmodo, “I just want to go to the airport and leave now.”

I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to be able to travel and see other countries and cultures – and to have visited a handful of the places in this lovely video.

N.B. This is a long-ish video at over 16 minutes. And it’s best watched in HD full-screen if you have the option.

via Gizmodo

Konnichiwa Osaka!

Spent a quiet last evening in Tokyo – the hard living of going out most every night is taking its toll. But happily was up early-ish and somewhat refreshed on Tuesday morning for the train trip to Osaka. All went smoothly and we arrived uneventfully.

Our hotel in Osaka, the Monterey Gransmere is rather fancy, despite the very reasonable rate. Room a bit smaller than in Tokyo, but nicely appointed. And they have BBC as their one English language channel here – a nice break from CNN in Tokyo.

Had dinner in Dotonburi – octopus balls, followed by noodles with shrimp. And thankfully, the young lady server assisted us in ordering. The process involves using an electronic device to scan the pictures of what you want to eat on the menu, followed by entering your table number. Throughout this, the magic pen speaks to you in Japanese, thanking you for your selection. Sadly, I neglected to record this event – and when I thought to do so, I was afraid I’d wind up ordering 48 more dishes…

Wandered a bit and picked up some egg custard tarts for dessert. I just finished them off as I sit in my hotel room, in pajamas provided by the hotel. Hitting the hay before a day of exploring Osaka tomorrow.

Tokyo Sunday

Sunday was rather low-key. Did a bit of wandering, but home early for a nap. Dinner at a little place near the hotel. Tasty, though I did have an issue with the texture of one variety of sashimi… Then, off to check out the scene at our usual haunts. Bumped into the charmant Ben (he of the tattoos and underpants) at Dragon Men. Also chatted with a pair of Canadian fellows, one of whom highly recommended Jet bar around the corner.

It was a tiny place in the basement of building. Our host (whose name I’ve forgotten) welcomed us with open arms, as did the three other patrons. And then, out came the microphones for karaoke… So much for behaving myself last night. Oh well, I’m on vacation…

Tokyo Day 4 and Beyond

Clearly, the siren call of this city has won out over sitting in front of my laptop banging out posts. Among other things, I visited the Edo Tokyo Museum, which provides an overview of the history of Tokyo; the Imperial Gardens, which are a lovely respite from the teeming masses of Shinjuku; wandered Shibuya, where I did a bit of clothes shopping (starting to get worried about packing everything); and trip down the insane-as-ever Takeshita Dori in Harajuku.

Oh, and yes, I’ve been to a bar or two… Marco and I chatted up a French fellow named Stefan, who we’ve bumped into most every evening and included in our bar crawls through Shinjuku Ni-chome. It’s very odd to be speaking French while I’m in Tokyo… Even odder was the Japanese guy we met who speaks better Spanish than English – so he and Marco were communicating in Spanish.

Of course, the nightly rounds have taken their toll. Both Marco and I were down for the count on separate days, i.e. spending lots of time napping to restore our energy. I’m reminded again that I am, in fact, no spring chicken.

And on that note, now I have to decide if tonight we’ll be spent in or out.

Tokyo Day 3

Arrived at Shinjuku Station before 7 this morning to board the train for the two-hour trip to Nikko. It was a lovely chilly fall day and the foliage was splendid. Not much to add to that – I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Tokyo Day 2

Got a late start today. Someone who shall remain nameless (though his name rhymes with “Barko”…) was over-served last night and was not feeling too good. Headed to Akihabara to look at electronics – but stumbled across an 8-story shop that sold only Japanese robot toys. Spent a good 90 minutes in there stocking up on crazy shit, much of it priced at a couple of dollars.

Then went to to one of the big electronics stores and looked at amazingly tiny camcorders, futuristic rice cookers, the finest ass-cleaning toilet seats on earth and wigs (yes, wigs).

Got our train tix for Nikko tomorrow – have to be aboard at 730AM, so tonight will be low-key. After a nap, we’re having tempura for dinner tonight – which presumably will not contain 11 herbs and spices…

Kentucky Fried Santa-san!

Tokyo Day 1

After a long but uneventful flight, we arrived at our hotel in Shinjuku on Sunday evening. Up early for our soon-to-be world famous televised tour of the food halls at Isetan. Then a quick trip back to to hotel to floss and have some beers, then headed to Takeshimaya, where I had my first craved-for tuna-mayo onigiri (rice ball). It was delicious. Then spent a couple of hours in Tokyu Hands, trying not to buy everything – and most of what we did buy we’re still not sure what they actually are, other than bizarrely fascinating. Dinner later at Katsukura on the 14th floor of Times Square Building – tonkatsu, which was delicious and shockingly reasonable. Dinner for two was under $50 including sake.

Wandered back home through the teeming streets of Shinjuku, stopping to play the prize claw – where Marco eventually won a cheap doll – and by “cheap,” I mean “cheaply-made.” I think it cost us $25 worth of tries to get the damn thing into the claw.

Then spent 2 hours trying to find the gay bars, with no success. I was completely lost. Went back to the hotel to find a map and Marco was able to trace our path there. This time we found where we were going with ease. Had a few drinks at Dragon Men – quiet on a Monday night, so we didn’t stay out too late. Back to my room for beer and then hit the hay.

WTF, Japan? Seriously, WTF?

So Marco and I showed up at the Tokyo Tourist Bureau for our tour of Shinjuku. And, turns out, we were accompanied by a film crew, shooting a news story about tourism in Japan. In other words, Marco and I spent the morning being filmed and interviewed while we were shown around Shinjuku and the food halls at Isetan. It was crazy – we felt like celebrities. The producer said he’d send me a DVD back home. Needless, to say, I’ll be posting it once I get it.  Here are a few pix, so you know I’m not lying…

This was a bizarre and amazing way to start off our trip. We had to come back to our hotel after our tour/interview, so we could decompress (i.e. drink beer) and quickly update my blog with the news of our glory. Sayonara for now!