Back in town, we brought along great weather!

The day after our last post we got up at 05:15 to head towards Narita Airport. We made sure our suitcases were stuffed as much as possible (with still taking our messenger bags into account, they would have to fit in our hand-luggage suitcases)

At the airport we double checked that our check-in luggage was below the maximum weight. (While weighing, the couple next to us were desperately shifting stuff around between their suitcases since the woman had way too much in hers.)

At the hand-luggage check-in the staff asked Marcel if he still had stuff like a tablet in his case. Marcel knew he had a tablet somewhere in there but didn’t really feel like taking his case apart to look for it. Strangely the scanning of the case went fine and I could continue. What was even weirder that right after this I opened my case and also saw I still had two bottles of water in the front pocket…

After checking in we ran into several last-minute souvenir-shops which were loaded with all different kind of Kitkats. Since are hand-luggage was already approved we filled the gaps we left for our messenger bags with Saké, Hokaido Melon, Red bean paste and green tea Kitkats.

The flight itself wasn’t that special, the food was reasonable this time, although one of our deserts consisted of 5 different colors of jelly blocks, which were all equally tasteless.

Luckily we both got some decent rest on the plane, so when we arrived back in the Netherlands we were only a little bit tired. Marcel’s parents picked us up from Schiphol and we went back to their house for dinner and some rest.

So luckily not much of a jetlag from the trip. Marcel still has some trouble sleeping because of his back pains though. He went to the local doctor in Leeuwarden and was told he damaged several muscles in his back that are hardly used (but he apparently over-tightened them when preparing for the fall), so the recovery will take some time unfortunately.

In the end we both agreed it was an amazing trip. Although we had “lost” half a day due to Marcels inability to walk down steps and we had to visit a doctor, it was still a fun first to visit a doctor in Japan. The other days were all equally awesome. Sightseeing, especially by bike, was great. Eating regular/semi-regular/Why-are-we-eating-this/We-don’t-even-want-to-know-what-we’re-eating meals was also an amazing experience.
We also brought along enough souvenirs to put around the house to keep reminding us of our awesome vacation, but there’s always room for more…

More shopping!

Today we headed towards Harajuku again. They have a pretty big store there with lots of cool stuff, but unfortunately yesterday it was closed.

When arriving at Harajuku station we immediately noticed it was a lot less crowded compared to yesterday.

We did some (tax free)  shopping there, so now I have two receipts stapled to my passport.

Afterwards we reserved some traintickets for our train towards the airport tomorrow. (it’s mandatory to reserve seats for that train. Found that out the hard way during my first trip)

Back in Akihabara we also did some more souvenir shopping

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Loaded with bags we headed back to the hotel to have some lunch.

We had some onigiri, which itself is great, but the way it’s packaged is really cool!

Onigiri consists of a nori(seaweed) covered riceball which is filled with fish. Some brands just stuff the complete thing in plastic, but while it’s laying in the shelves waiting for you the nori gets kinda soggy.

Most use this neat packaging method which keeps the nori nice and crispy.

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You start opening the onigiri by pulling at the 1,so it cuts the plastic in the middle. Once you’ve done that you pull on 2 and 3 and you’ll notice that the rice and nori were separated from each other by plastic. By pulling out the plastic in between the rice now rests inside the nori

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Time to eat!

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(this one was filed with tuna and mayo)

After lunch we headed back into Akihabara again.

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Bought some more stuff, got scammed by the ufo catchers, and headed towards a Coco for our last dinner in Japan.

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On our way back to the hotel we ran into a lot of maids which were all handing out flyers for the maidbar they worked for, tough competition!

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Now back at the hotel it’s time to figure out how to get all this stuff in our suitcases…

 

Souvenirs, knives and arcade!

Today we started with a visit to Meji Shrine.

It was a bit crowded but still it took us away from the busy streets.

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Afterwards we did some souvenir shopping in Harajuku. Also here there were a lot of people but it was a great place to visit.

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We also spent probably over an hour on Shinjuku station, we read that they had a wall filled with all the Yu-Gi-Oh cards ever made, but unfortunately they were already removed :-[

In the afternoon we went to one of the best knife shops in Japan to get some good kitchen knives for our kitchen. It cost quite some money but it’ll be worth it! (they also look awesome)

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For dinner we decided to walk towards Kanda, where we found (another) BBQ style restaurant, although this time it was a bit more tricky.

Outside we noticed something with unlimited drinks, but when we asked for the English menu it didn’t say anything about that. After some mobile phone translation with one of the waiters we decided to just go for it. We started with some drinks, Marcel went for beer and Rhonja decided to go for sake (which gets filled for a few seconds after the glass is full)

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Although we weren’t sure what we were getting into, we felt a bit safe knowing that it would all be beef.

When our first plates of meat arrived we just put everything in the grill, but one piece of meat really stood out. It was quite Oishii! (delicious)

When we asked the waiter what is actually was we found out we were quite fond of beef tongue 😛

Every piece of meat we put on the grill was amazing, although we weren’t quite sure we probably had most parts of the cow by now…

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After dinner Rhonja was a bit tired so we headed back to the hotel, while Marcel headed into Akihabara.

In one of the arcades he met this Russian guy who was a real fan of a particular rhythm game (unfortunately no photos) and Marcel played against him.

Marcel got his arse kicked a bit, but he had a good excuses since his arm was still a bit sore (the game mainly involved slamming buttons, which didn’t help the pain much)

That were all adventures for today, tomorrow we’ll probably do some more souvenir shopping since it’ll be the last day in Japan 🙁

Akihabara!

Yesterday morning we decided to immediately head to our next stop since Matsumoto was a lot less interesting than our destination: Akihabara.

We got on the train and it would take us a few hours.

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After some time, which mainly consisted of sleeping, looking out the window and playing games we arrived Ochanomizu from where we went to our hotel to drop off our luggage.

Afterwards we paid a visit to Akihabara

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We strolled around for several hours, visiting most of the shops available. (even went to The Super Potato, which is a bit of a legendary game store, although a bit expensive)

In the evening we decided to go for some pizza, and although the pizzas were great, it was a bit weird that they didn’t have any pizzas with salami. (also in the English Pizza almost every pizza was called the “Napoli” pizza…)

After dinner we head back into Akihabara and found out what the latest fad was: driving arround in karts in Mario costumes

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We did some tax free shopping (tourists get a discount when spending over ¥10.000) and went back to the hotel to get some sleep.

This morning after breakfast we were a thinking of going either to the Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Sky tree for a good view of the city. When googling “Tokyo tower vs sky tree” we found out that there was a better place to go, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Since it’s the golden week the other towers were probably crowded, but at the TMG we had to wait a whole 3 minutes before we could get on the elevator.

On the 45th floor we were treated with some great views

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Everywhere you looked you saw buildings, it was like Tokyo was a never ending city!

Afterwards we went down with the special elevator, which only had 4 buttons

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(we were a bit curious where the blanco button would take us, but we weren’t allowed to press it)

Ofcourse we also went to the Tokyo Mega Pokémon Center

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We were glad we had already done our Pokémon shopping before, it was really crowded and the lines for the checkout were pretty long…

In the afternoon we went to Tokyo central station and visited the Imperial Palace Garden where we had some lunch.

For dinner we met up with my niece Anya and she took us to a great place in Ebisu. The food was really great, we had some chicken skewers (normal meat only this time), shiitake mushrooms, noodles and edamame but what really stood out was our sashimi

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They put a bowl of dry ice in the box which gave a really cool effect (although I couldn’t really capture it that good in the photo)

We filled our bellies with all the goodness, got some tips from Anya on where to go next and ended our day with a short trip to Shibuya to see the legendary crossing

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Now it’s time to get some more rest, we surely walked a lot the past few days!

Kamikochi and weird chicken

Today it was time to leave Takayama again and head for Matsumoto, with a hike in between at Kamikochi.

We headed towards the bus stop to get tickets to Kamikochi, surely we would be running into this Golden Week crowdyness right? We were a tad too early for our bus so we were first in line.

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To kill some time we flipped over one of our suitcases which worked perfectly as a table to play a card game.

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Of course Rhonja won. Marcel still has yet to win one round at this game…)

When the bus arrived our suitcases fit nicely in the luggage storage and we headed to Hirayu Onsen, where we had to transfer onto another bus heading for Kamikochi. The first bus wasn’t crowded at all and gave us some great views.

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At our transfer and Hirayu Onsen the bus driver looked a bit doubtful at our luggage since he wasn’t sure it would fit. Eventually it did and we got onto the already mostly filled bus. Luckily there were folding seats throughout the middle aisle so we could still sit (quite clever!), but it was a bit crowded here. It only lasted one stop though, half the bus got off so we could take normal seats.

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We arrived at Kamikochi, dropped off our luggage so we wouldn’t have to carry it all the time, and went hiking. While walking suddenly some people in front of us stopped and started taking pictures, they had spotted monkeys!

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Now I won’t bore you with all the details of the hike, since it mainly involved walking, walking and more walking. It was a bit weird though, it was around 24 degrees Celsius but still everybody around us was wearing long sweaters and jackets… We did take a lot of pictures though, here is a small selection :

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After hiking for several hours we went back to the bus stop to take the bus towards Shinshimashima.

It was a bit weird, although it was quite warm we still ran into snow occasionally.

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In Shinshimashima we had to transfer to the train towards Matsumoto, again nothing spectacular though.

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At Matsumoto we dropped by the hotel to dump our luggage and made a quick visit to Matsumoto Castle before dinner.

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For dinner we found a place that mainly served chicken, so it seemed like a safe bet. We started with some beers (shocker!) and got some fried stuff as an appetiser. We think it was squid because of the texture and form, but fried it was a lot better than raw! (also not recognising the actual squid itself helped)

As a starter we took some fried pieces of chicken and as the main course 8 chicken skewers,which was a bit of a mistake but completely our own fault. If we had taken a look at what kind of chicken skewers they had we would’ve known exactly what we were getting into as they only had 8 kinds on the menu.

We sat at the bar so we could see our skewers being put onto the grill. When we noticed there was a lot of dark red meat we knew we didn’t think our choice through enough.  

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The skewers (probably) consisted of chicken: thigh, meatballs, breast, skin, liver, heart, gizzards and gristle.

The taste was mainly good, it sure helped a lot that we didn’t actually see which parts of the chicken they were. In the end we were proud to once again finish such a weird meal, but hopefully we’ll be able to avoid these encounters in the coming days…

Since Matsumoto doesn’t have a lot of sightseeing spots we’ll be heading to Akihabara tomorrow morning! In case you don’t know, that is the real geek walhalla ^_^

Shirakawa-go!

We had to get up early today since we made a reservation for a bustour to Shirakawa-go. When all the other passengers finally arrived (a few Chinese people were a bit late) we departed.

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On the bus Yamamoto-san (our tour guide) gave us some great explanation of where we were headed, he also was familiar with “Dank je wel!” (which seems to be a popular Dutch sentence to know, at least it’s better than “…. In de keuken”)

Before we actually went to Shirakawa-go we made a short stop at a lookout point where we had a great view of the village.

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When  we wanted to leave again we had to wait for the Chinese people, since they got lost or something (not sure how though, since this area wasn’t that big)

Now we finally arrived at Shirakawa-go where we first had to cross a suspension bridge before entering the actual village.

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The village reminded us a lot of Hida folk town, but it felt a bit more rustic. The weather was great so we took some great pictures.

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Yamamoto-san also advised us to visit the Doburoku Museum, since we liked sake.

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In the museum they had a special kind of unrefined sake (called Doburoku) which can only be brewed (and drank) in Shirakawa-go. It looks a bit like some sort of porridge and has a sweet/sour taste. It was superb!

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Afterwards we walked around some more to see some great scenery.

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But now it was time to go again. At the bus we had to wait again! But this time it wasn’t the previously mentioned Chinese, it were some bloody Hungarians! On the way back to Takayama we noticed we made a good choice going on the morning tour, the road towards Shirakawa-go was now one big traffic jam which went on for several miles.

At Takayama we waved Yamamoto-san goodbye and strolled around Takayama some more.

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They have some creepy statues here decorating the bridges.

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Next to our hotel we even found this huge tree which apparently was estimated to be over 1200 years old.

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For dinner we avoided the main streets again to find a good place to eat at ran into Suzuya, where they also served Hida beef!

We order two different dishes. One was a mix between Hida beef with miso paste and some vegetables cooked on a magnolia leaf. The other was a BBQ style dish, where we got to cook our own beef again

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It was absolutely amazing, but we didn’t expect any less 😉

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel again, tomorrow we’ll be traveling to Matsumoto by bus with a stop at Kamikochi!

That definitely wasn’t on the menu…

We got up (reasonably) early to get the train to Takayama. We weren’t sure how well it would go since the Golden Week started yesterday and according to the internet it would be hell.

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Our first train wasn’t crowded at all, but we had to make a transfer at Nagoya and perhaps the crowd would start there…

The train to Takayama consisted of 8 carts, of which only cart nr1 was for non-reserved. We didn’t reserve a seat so we went into cart nr1. Our cart looked like this:

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It seemed like the reserved carts were a lot more busy than ours!

The trip would take several hours, but we got some great views on our way there.

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At Takayama we headed for our hotel where we had to leave our shoes at the entrance, dropped off our luggage, rented bicycles again and headed to Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village. We grabbed some lunch on our way and had a short break.

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After some cycling and walking (since our bikes didn’t have gears and it was mostly uphill) we arrived at our destination. The photographer nicely asked if she could take a cheesy picture of us (she even knew a few Dutch words : “Dank je wel!” ).

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She also told that she would take them with their own camera as well but we weren’t obliged to buy the €10 photos which they immediately printed… (we kindly refused)

We ran into some bamboo stilts and Rhonja desperately wanted to try them out.

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Marcel was enjoying the great view

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While Rhonja was still trying to get on the stilts…

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The scenery was great, it was really quiet there!

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And still Rhonja was trying to get on the stilts…

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The folk village isn’t an actual real village though. Because of new technology (TV, central heating, refrigerators) they started demolishing a lot of buildings back in the day. Luckily some folks decided to preserve some of them, they tool them apart and moved them to this “village” (tomorrow we’ll be heading to a real preserved village!)

One of the houses had a huge streamer of a carp inside.

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They even had some sort of wishing bell, which Rhonja rang.

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Afterwards we headed back to Takayama and wandered around the town for a bit, while also looking for a place to eat. We came across the “old town” part of the village.

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In this street they had a few great looking places to eat, but we knew they would be more expensive because of the location, so we took a few dodgy side streets where we eventually passed this place which kinda looked like it was closed. Their menu looked great though

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The place was completely deserted but we decided to try it out anyway. We started our meal with a few fish as an appetiser.

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We tried asking if we were supposed to eat the whole fish, but after some slight communication issues, where we just got explained what kind of fish it was, we decided to just go for it. We didn’t get any funny looks, so we’re sure it was fine.

Our second dish was some sashimi:

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Now we had some salad with a slight taste of what our main meal would be. It had some Hida beef in it! (there were more slices of meat, but I forgot to take a picture sooner!)

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And now onto the main course, some perfectly cooked Hida beef!

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It was delicious! When we were done and waiting for our desert, the owner had a surprise dish for us, something we weren’t expecting at all:

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Yes, we received three small raw squids each. (while the owner was producing some slightly evil sounding laugh). It was a bit difficult, but we found out that the best way to eat it was not looking at it and just chew. We kinda did look though, the tentacles were okay, but the head part was partly filled with red gooey stuff and the top with white goo. Even though the owner had a good laugh we were really proud of ourselves that we both finished our meals!

Rhonja thought as long as you didn’t look or think too much about it, they tasted a little like the sea smells when ebb tide starts. She thought they were pretty nice for just this once as she was still weirded out.

After we finished our (normal) dessert we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we have to get up early to get onto the bus to Shirakawa-go!

 

Nintendo, shrines, temples and Curry!

The weather improved some though today was a bit chilly. But since we still had some key places to visit we took out the bikes again to head towards the Nintendo buildings here in Kyoto!

First we visited the old headquarters of Nintendo. Nintendo used to be a card game producer before they went into business with video games.

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And though obviously we wanted to pay a visit to the current buildings as well, it was more efficient to head towards a nearby temple, Tofukuji, first. It was pretty impressive though to be fair they all are.