Tuesday, January 5, 2010

GIVEAWAY TIME: Win a Japanese Whimsy Goody Package. And part two of my Japan travels

I hereby bring you Japan Travel Chronicles Part Two: Tokyo.
(this is a long post)

I've actually spent the majority of my life in Tokyo. Tokyo is like my huge fun backyard. Though I am so glad I don't live there anymore (I was not born to be a city gal. I'm too much of a tomboy who likes wide open spaces), it really is fun to visit every once in a while. Tokyo seriously is like a whole other universe compared to the sleepy little beach town I now live in. Tokyo is like... an anime movie came to life and got high on crack, sprinkled glitter all over the place, drowned in itself and exploded in full force and gagged out skyscrapers and enough people to fill every nook and cranny. Seriously.

Anyhoo. I hope you are ready for a MONSTER of a post. And let's not forget about the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post! I promise it is full of Japanese whimsy :)

(click on photos to enlarge)
Exhibit A: Sushi
Sushi anywhere else just ain't sushi. I don't care what you say. Until you have tried real fresh sushi in Tokyo, don't even try to argue with me. This was one yummy crab. In the above photo, you can see the sushi counter (tip number two: don't even bother sitting at a table at a sushi place. The only place worth sitting at is the counter). You can see the Itamae-san (sushi master). One reason why sushi is so good in Japan is because no average Joe can be a sushi chef. Only those who have gone special, sushi-specific training can serve you sushi.

Exhibit B: Heaven
This is an "Ichigo Daifuku". Daifuku literally means great fortune. But what it actually is is this:
an entire strawberry wrapped up in soft gooey bean paste stuffed inside a delicate, chewy mochi wrap. OMFG. My dad told me this would be dangerous. This thing could consume your life. This thing could very well be the best damn thing to ever enter my mouth. Holy cow. Good thing they don't sell these babies in the states. Otherwise I would surely be 500 lbs of bean paste oozing out of my pores by now.

Exhibit C: Tatami
Tatami is the traditional flooring in Japanese homes. Though you see less and less of it now, I actually find tatami to be very elegant looking, and very comfortable in the summer time. Also, it really brings out the colors of my stripey fuzzy socks.
Exhibit D: Omotesando
Omotesando is a very posh part of Tokyo, with streets lined with fancy, expensive boutiques, cafes, and galleries. I used to live just a quick hop, jump and skip away from Omotesando. This photo was taken just outside of a huge Max Mara store. My mom likes to pretend we are glamor pusses who can actually afford to wear that kind of fancy, city-glamor stuff. Me? I prefer lululemon, thanks.
Yes, that building really does get thicker at the top.

This is the street that connects to Harajuku. Yes. That Harajuku that Gwen Stefani sings about. Yes. People actually did used to dress like that. Did being the key word here. Please don't ask me why Tokyo girls dress the way they do. I'm still scratching my head asking the same question. One time, I saw two girls walking around, shopping, having a grand old time. Only problem was, they were dressed as hamsters. Like, it would put any kid's Halloween costume to shame. Oh, and don't even get me started on the guys. If you don't manscape, and get all metrosexual, well then, you will never get any p+++y. Excuse the language, but it's late, and that's how my brain rolls at that hour ;)

Exhibit E: Crepes
Go ahead, drool a little onto your keyboard. I'm not looking.
Tokyo is full of little crepe stands that will make fresh crepes for you and fill it with toppings even your little brother isn't creative enough to conjure up. Want curry rice in your crepe? Got it. Want octopus in your crepes as you stroll down the street window shopping? They've got you covered. Want to indulge your every sugar filled wet-dream fantasy? Why not try a crepe filled with custard, bananas, chocolate shavings, caramel sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles?

Exhibit F: Subway Public Service Poster
Cause you are allowed to drink virtually anywhere, including the subway. You can also buy booze from vending machines and basically any convenience store. (incidentally, you can also buy Proactive face soap in vending machines in Tokyo. Random) I absolutely love the humor in this poster. Tokyoites tend to have a huge stick up their asses most of the time, so I was glad to see there's still someone out there who likes a good chuckle.

Exhibit G: Random pretty shit
Traditional style New Year's decorations with a modern flair
a huuuuuuge spider statue (?) in Roppongi Hills.
Japanese people are SUCKERS for illumination during the Christmas season. Apparently, it's "romantic". A suave man is expected to know the best "illuminated spots" in town, and supposed to woo the pants off his lucky lady friend by showing what a romantic Romeo he is. For some really famous "illuminated spots", people come out in droves, and will actually WAIT IN LINE to see a bunch of bushes all lit up. I can say this cause I'm half Japanese, but man! I really don't get Japanese people sometime. Seriously, there better be some reindeers having wild animal sex or something if you want me to stand in line to see some effing light bulb on a plant.
(I did tell you I was writing this late at night, right? haha)
Exhibit H: Bento Box
'twas good.

Exhibit I: Yakiniku
Yakiniku, (translation: grilled meat), or Korean Style BBQ, is as big in Japan as Godzilla himself. You can find a Yakiniku place on virtually any street in any town.

Yakiniku is pretty much the best thing ever. You order single size portions of raw meat which you cook on the grill on the table. You can also order seafood or veggies to grill up. Yakiniku places also serve a variety of pickled Korean style veggies like the Kimchi, or the Namulu (pictured above), salads, and Korean rice and soup dishes.
My mom grilling up some meat. Meaty Goodness
Grilling up some intestines. Sounds gross, but it's my second favorite cut of meat, right after Kalbi. One thing I miss about Japan is def the yakiniku. Despite it's emphasis on meat, Korean style BBQ is actually a LOT lighter and healthier than American style BBQ. Each piece of meat is about the size of two fingers. Each serving usually only has like, seven pieces of meat. And you are highly encouraged to alternate between bites of kimchi, veggies, rice, and meat. And all the red chili peppers and fermented pickles are really good for your metabolism and digestion. It's not as "Heavy" as American BBQ, because instead of sugary BBQ sauce, Korean style BBQ uses a lemon sauce or a soy sauce based sauce. Soooooo good I'm telling you.

Exhibit J: Jinja
A Jinja is a shrine. Shrines are built in the Shinto belief, and temples are built in the Bhuddist belief. They are two separate entities, though by this day and age most people don't really care about the differences.

Tokyo, as well as the rest of Japan, is literally scattered with shrines and temples of all magnitudes. From your local neighborhood shrine to the huge sprawling temple gardens, Japan is filled with little bits of history every where you go. The amazing thing about some of these temples and shrines is that they have been here for CENTURIES, from the time samurais were roaming the streets, duking it out for control over the country. Some shrines are said to be extremely spiritually powerful, and people will come from all corners of the country to visit and pray for good luck.

Some jinjas, like this Hiei Jinja, is very modernized. It's located right smack in the middle of a business district, and even has a sleek, modern looking gate and escalators to escort you to the main shrine. I love how Japan can blend technology and design with a thousand year old tradition.
Hatsu-moude, or the first visit to the shrine in the new year, is a VERY IMPORTANT Japanese tradition. I don't know of anyone who doesn't go to Hatsu-moude. The new year is the most important time in Japanese culture, so it's vital to visit a shrine to cleanse yourself from the evils of the past year, and make offerings to the shrine for good luck in the new year. You can buy all sorts of Omamori, or good luck charms from the shrines, which is said to protect you in the new year.

Since I was going to be back in CA for the new year, my mom and I did our Hatsu-moude a little early. In the above photo, you are supposed to walk through the main entrance and through the wreath to wash off all the hardships and evils of the past year. My mom even saw Audrey Hepburn at this shrine way back when she was in her 20s!

Exhibit K: Wasabi
Bet you didn't know what realy fresh wasabi looks like and how it's prepared!

Exhibit L: Tai-yaki
Tai-yaki is another one of my favorite Japanese treats. It's a fish shaped pancake filled with bean paste. So good.

Exhibit M: The subway
The subway and railroad system in Tokyo is the best in the world, in my opinion.

Exhibit N: Modernization and traditions
a perfect blend of thousand year old traditions and modern amenities. The first photo is a tiny little shrine tucked away in a concrete jungle. Second photo: 2010 is the year of the tiger! Such a cool display.

Exhibit O: Business class seats
Holy sh!t. Holy sh!t. I almost nearly crapped my pants when I got called up at the departure gate at the airport.

"I'm terribly sorry. The flight is awfully full today. We had to upgrade you to Business Class. Is that OK?"

Is that OK? Is that OK? Ha! Are you kidding me!!!!!! It's more than just OK! It's the sweetest thing I ever heard! Free updgrade to business class on a ten hour flight? Hallelujah! I couldn't believe my luck. The seats fully reclined to a sleeping position, the food was excellent, I could choose what movie I wanted to watch when, and I could sit cross legged. When I told my mom about my good fortune, she explained to me that it was because we had visited many shrines earlier that week. She said spiritual powers work in mysterious ways. I almost believe her :)

and phew! now I'm done. Thanks for sticking with me through this huge monster of a post. And if you didn't read all of it, and just scrolled down to the giveaway, I don't blame ya!

Without further ado, time for my second GIVEAWAY!!!
I would like to call this my Japanese Whimsy Goody Package.

Included in this package are:
  1. Specialty Gauze handkerchiefs from the Kansai Region of Japan
  2. Fuzzy socks (they are my favorite socks in the world!)
  3. Pocari Sweat Powder
    Pocari Sweat is the Japanese equivalent of Gatorade. It has a mild flavor, and you can dissolve this powder in water for hydration on the run.
  4. Japanese Protein Bar
  5. Guu-Pita Chocolate Banana flavored diet cookies
  6. Balance Power nutrition bar
  7. Strawberry Vanilla flavored "Sweets Gum"
  8. Pinky; peach flavored mints
ANNNNNNDDD last but not least,
Aroma Shoe Keepers!!!!

These adorable little rabbits will fit nice and snuggly in your disgusting, sweaty sneakers, and turn them into Peach Scented Aromatic wonders.
Look at how cute they are! These two sweet little cuddlies will turn even the stinkiest sneakers into peach scented wonders of the world. Fresh sneakers guaranteed! haha
All joking aside, I'm actually for real. Stick these rabbits into your sneakers after a run, and hopefully they will take some of the stink out. Or if they are just too cute to stuff into some dingy old kicks, why not hang them up in your room? It will fill your room with the fresh scent of peaches.
So what do you need to do in order to win this fun little package from Japan?
It's as easy as 1-2-3!
  1. Leave a comment on this post saying what you find most bizarre about Japan (mandatory)
  2. Put a link to this giveaway on your posts for an extra entry
  3. Become a follower of my blog for an extra entry
  4. And if you really really want to win, you can always add me to your blogroll for another entry!
You can keep the entries coming till Saturday night, and I will announce the winner on Sunday!

Again, thanks for reading this huge Godzilla of a post! and good luck with the giveaway!


  1. Wow! This is a great giveaway! I am already a follower (you are in my reader) and I'll add you to my blogroll! As for the other question:

    I find it odd that people would stand in lines waiting for hours to see illuminated bushes!

    Welcome back; it sounds like you had a wonderful trip home and your pics are beautiful.

  2. OMG I love this giveaway!! I have been a follower for a while and you are added to my blog roll, too!

    The most bizarre thing about Japan would have to be the cuisine. Not that it's bad, but I love learning about really interesting foods. That strawberry wrapped in bean paste looks delish and I think that fish shaped pancake is super bizarre--but I'd still try it!

    What a great post. Things for sharing! I'm forwarding this to my husband--I think he'd get a kick out of it!

  3. oh, and you will be linked in today's post! :)

  4. Booze from vending machines?!! How has that not made it across seas to the US?!! ;) (that would be *so* dangerous here....)

    This post was Epic - loved it! I agree with Casey - cuisine that cannot be matched. Korean Bbq soudns amazing - you should open up a restaurant! I'd fly acorss the country to eat there :) Octopus filled crepes...ehhh, might not be trying those anytime soon...

    but the MOST bizarre thing? bean paste in Desserts!! Uhm, I don't *doubt* that it tastes delicious, but it just SOUNDS weird. ha, just sayin'!

    Those sneaker-bunnies *are* pretty cute....

  5. Ok this really was a Godzilla of a post but I loved the crap out of it! I love seeing pics of places and the video's were great too! Seriously I couldn't name just one thing about what I think is weird because it is all frigging weird to me! LOL! Strawberries with bean paste? Intestines?!?!? Um I'll pass! LOL!

  6. Wow, you made me want to try the strawberries with the bean paste. The food pictures just look phenomenal!! What a great trip :-) I would love to get upgraded to business class!! Gotta love those shrines :-)

  7. Awesome post about awesome travels....loved the pictures and I learned soooo much!! Nor sure about intestines though - I'll take your word for it that they are good!!!

  8. I'll post your giveaway on my Friday post!!!

  9. I am a follower and I LOVED The photos-it is nice to come by a Godzilla of a post every now and again :) Lots to enjoy!! You dont need to enter me,I just wanted to say thanks for the encouragement-and I love your blog!! :)

  10. Wow, it looks as if you had an absolutely amazing trip!!! First of all, the Ichigo Daifuku ... yumm!!!!! Your bento box looks so delicious, too!

    You know, I could list a bunch of bizarre things about China & chinese food, but Japan, no way. I love, love, love the food and would love to go to Japan one day.

  11. What a fun post! I love your recaps of your trip. The strawberry bean paste treat looks delicious!

    Great giveaway! I love Pocari Sweat. I think that the hamster costumes sound bizarre. Do people make their own costumes or do they buy them at a store?

  12. Oh...business class looks amazing. I love the foot cubby.

  13. cdziuba@aol.com I think the most bizarre thing about Japan is that they have homeless people sleeping in these small tubes. I saw it on the news, I was freaked out.

  14. I would have to say I find the food odd but they might think the same about me living on a cattle and pig farm

  15. Ummm...I find the whole sushi thing odd. I think its odd that ANYBODY eats sushi :)

  16. That's another great re-cap! I feel like I just went to Tokyo. Did you hear about the musical highway in Japan? I'm pretty sure it's forreal, I just found this on YouTube, but found a more legit one years back and can't locate it now (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtH0u2QFfiY). I love seeing things from other cultures and countries and how bizarre and different it is from us. Sweet luck on getting bumped up to business class!

  17. Great post, I love reading anything travel related and the pictures are great!
    I find some of the food bizarre. (some of it looks really good!) An octopus crepe just sounds a little strange!
    Thanks for the great giveaway :)


  18. Glad your home safe and that you had a wonderful time! I have always found some of the superstitions concerning numbers kind of odd, I mean who cares if something contains an 8? But whatever floats your sport bra....

    xomecha at gmail dot com

  19. The subway poster "please do it at home" that's crazy!!! The aroma shoe keepers are so cute!!! I love your pictures! Happy New Year!

  20. Welcome back...It seems you enjoyed a lot back home...

    I hope you are not kidding when you say you can drink anywhere in Japan...

    And I had been your follower for a long time now...

    I will add you to my blog roll tooo :D

  21. I find it amazing how much the Japanese people have embraced Christmas. Wow, the lights are amazing.

  22. The most bizarre thing about Japan, aside from the funky foods, has got to be the fashion...such as the hamster-girls you describe. I have seen photos of such getups; I can't imagine it's not Halloween every day there! Props to those who have such cojones!

  23. Hey there, I just found your blog and I'm so glad that I did. Loved this post! Very interesting and now I really want to visit Tokyo!

    The most bizarre thing would be the costume wearing girls...the whole hamster thing cracks me up! Love it. :-)

  24. !! crepes!! when jamie and i were in tokyo (for a hot minute) we stumbled on a crepe shop while searching for beard papa creme puffs. what did he order? a sweet crepe with ICE CREAM! insanity! so jealous of your trip!!

    um, i have a soft spot for pocari sweat...partially because of the name hehe. Dude, most bizarre thing about Japan - THE TOILETS! omg. it's like sensory overload! i want to know why there's a 'sound of flushing' button haha. too many buttons for me ;p

    following you! computer is on the fritz and can't blog too much at work...will you accept a twitter post about your giveaway?? methinks you should jump on the twitter bandwagon too ;p happy and safe travels!!

  25. btw, i've never done this 'follow' thing on google - you've just opened up a new world for me!!

  26. Thanks for the reminder, I have been SWAMPED this week. I would love to put those cute buddie sin my shoes..

    I will be back to enter more..

  27. I linked you in today.. Hugs to learning more about new cultures.

  28. Godzilla! of course.. And some of the sweets.. they are tooo sweet. :)

  29. I just became a follower of your blog (found you through Tall Mom on the run's blog!)

  30. The thing I find most bizarre about Japan would have to be the food (I'm a Cali girl born & raised), I lived in Japan for two years while my husbad was stationed in Iwakuni as a marine. While living there I became pregnant with my first child and let me tell you that the strange food and smells of said strange food were a doozy during my morning sickness :-( We ate once at this cute outdoor barbeque type place during the cherry blossom festival but they brought me octopus...wth?! needless to say after my crazy preggo crying ensued they quickly took it away and brought my something I came to LOVE! Fried soba noodles....yummo!!!

  31. Granted, I don't know how to read Japanese - but I think each symbol is a word and not a letter, is that right? That's bizzare to me! I would get so freaking confused because everything looks very similar to me. I realize I probably wouldn't think this if Japanese was my first language, but it does!

    I already follow your blog and you are already in my blog roll, so that's two extra entires for me! Thanks!

  32. First of all, this post had me cracking up the entire time, secondly, your part about the hamsters KILLED ME!

    secondly that is a sweet giveaway I love those little shoe bunnies. ha ha :) Thanks for sharing about your trip to Tokyo it seems like it was crazy and fun at the same time

  33. the fish shaped pancake with scales is the weirdest to me. but its pretty rad how ornate all the food is, from the sushi to the little strawberry in bean paste package thingy. here, its like slap some grease on a plate and call it good.
    ps i want to hear you speak japanese, im assuming you do... video! video!

  34. That whole post made me miss Japan. The food especially. Not that I'd expect Nebraska to do it justice, but I've never found anything close to a little sushi shop in Osaka.

    Anyway, the craziest thing I recall about Japan was the beer in the vending machines. So odd.

    Anyway, I just became a follower and added you to my blog roll. I really want that handkerchief for some reason. :o)

  35. I think it's bizarre that people take naps in those little tube/hotels during the workday. If I took a nap in the middle of the day, I would not want to go back to work!

  36. My brother lived in Japan for 3yrs. I didn't get a hence to visit him. (Busy having babies) But my parents went with my nephew. The told me about his bathroom. It was just a small closet you stepped into. My brother is quite tall. I bet that was hard to get used to.

  37. Japan - Nice pic and enjoyed the post.
    I've been to a lot of places, but not Japan. I need to put this on my list.

  38. While I learned quite a bit from your descriptions I think that the most bizzare thing is to put cute little stuffed bunnies in your shoes. Is that a tourist trap or what?

  39. Long post, but worth the read! The pictures are great. Looks like you had a great trip. Fun give a way too.

  40. Booze in a vending machine ! is the strangest I have heard of.

    LOVED reading your post and seeing the photos.

    Retsbar2Go AT gmail DOT com

  41. I am now FOLOOWING You!

    Retsbar2Go AT gmail DOT com

  42. I have to agree with everyone, the alcohol purchased via vending machine is a little bizarre. But when in Rome...:)

    And I love this giveaway! I'm so glad you had such a great time in Japan!

  43. And I'm definitely a follower now :)

  44. Wow! What an A-MAZING trip! I still think the strangest thing about Japan is the food. Don't get me wrong, I love sushi and the crepes look amazing, but you lost me at "bean paste" when talking about the strawberry thing and the fish pancake. I also can't believe that to be "suave" the men have to know the best lit places in town. That's crazy! What a fun giveaway! I'm fixing to host my first one! I just became a follower. You are already on my blog roll. Pick me, pick me!

  45. the most bizarre would be that you could buy booze from vending machines. that's strange.

    tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

  46. I think the food would have to be the most bizarre to me. I admit I am not too adventurous in the food department. The octupus crepe sounds a little out there and the crab looks kind of interesting. Thanks for the interesting post. I really enjoyed reading it.

  47. Gotta say they don't be drunk subway signs are pretty odd.

    Thanks fo r the giveaway, I love those little bunnies

    beccaalley at gmail dot com

    found your giveaway via tallmomrunning :) yay!

  48. Wow! These pictures are beautiful! Sounds/looks like you had a fantastic time! thanks for sharing your adventures!

  49. Most bizarre thing would have to be the "Ichigo Daifuku". But, I am intrigued. I discovered you through Tall Mom Running, and I'm so glad I did. I'll be adding you to my blog roll.

  50. Booze in the vending machine? I'm in!!! :) What a great giveaway!! :)

  51. I know this is an old post, but I felt compelled to say that I love the humor in this post. It was fun getting a glimpse of all the crazy Japanese culture.



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