Saturday, July 26, 2014

Japan, so far...

With our last day before us (Thursday), we decided to try one more day of Snorkeling. I'd read about Arasuguku beach, near Yoshino beach, and thought it would be a good choice. We got up early, and got to the area about sunrise, 6 AM. The problem is that I couldn't locate the road to get there. Several isolated, narrow, unpaved roads go through, but they seem to be too "rugged" for comfort. Maybe the next time we're in Miyako.

Disappointed, we decide to go to Boraga beach, another nice place. This beach was on the way back to the hotel. This beach is said to have a freshwater pool fed by spring water adjacent. We park, then walk towards it, but suddenly, the screech of a Cicada that whizzes by Em really scares her!  She runs back toward the car. Even though we see, down in the distance, the beach with the pool, as well as the beach,we decide to turn back... Besides, there doesn't appear to be a significant reef to buffer the high surf. So, getting into the water might prove difficult.

On the drive home, we see one of the ubiquitous Miyako policemen on the roadside. They are called Mamoru-kun.  Miyako has very few police, so this is a tool to help them out.  I am pretty sure that we saw only one police car, one time during our entire five day stay. Good thing too, with our driving skills.  Actually, Connie did about 97.6% of the driving during our stay, since she isn't as good being a navigator like Mr. Chekov (she's more like Jim Kirk). She did quite well.

They look scary. Better obey the laws.

Seriously, here are the real ones.

OK, really seriously now, here is a picture of what they look like,

Later that day, at the airport, while waiting for our flight to Tokyo, we saw a book which showed all the different ones that they have on the island.  They're all different.

Oh well, since going 0 for 2 in our trek to find Akira again, we go back to the hotel and decide to go to the pool for an hour before going to the breakfast buffet.   Connie's been trying to get comfy in the water over the years, and now with the help of a crackerjack swimming professor (Em), she is able to float, swim, and open her eyes underwater! Next time, I am confident that she'll be able to fully snorkel with abandon.

After a quick breakfast, we do last minute packing, except for a shirt that remained in Em's closet (picked up later, after lunch), and then head out to Higashi Hennazaki cape, at the SE tip of Miyako.  After parking, we walk for about a quarter to half mile to the tip. There is a modern lighthouse at the very end, constructed due to several significant shipwrecks in the reefs nearby.

The seascape is quite eerie.  There are a number of large rocks in the shallow water, brought in by a tsunami about 250 years ago.  There they remain.

The breeze was strong and refreshing, given the hot and humid conditions. Here are the girls.

We then went into Hirara, to do some last minute shopping for snacks at Max Valu, and then go back to Hiro for a last meal.  Believe it or not, we ate at Hiro's five times in total (once a day!).  It was comfort food, and was typical Okinawan cuisine. This time, we had a different waitress (since this was lunch, not dinner).

This likely looks familiar to all you fans.  Clockwise, from the left, Yaki-soba, Goya Champuru, Somen Champuru, Sake onigiri, Yaki Yasai, and Zaru Udon.

We drop off our car, and then we see Happy again, waiting for us.  I guess he had a slow day, and decided to meet us to pick up our gear.  I'd recommend him wholeheartedly to whomever wants snorkel gear rentals.

Our flight back to Haneda on Thursday went smoothly, though it was delayed about 15 minutes. Our trek through Haneda went well; we grabbed the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho station, where we got the Yamanote to Tokyo Station, the home we know so well.  It was late, just a few minutes shy of midnight, and the basement level was closed, so we couldn't walk through the mall. Once back on the street level, our hotel was a mere one block away. We were greeted by the hotel staff with the usual Japanese hospitality.  Even though we economized by not staying at the Four Seasons, the check in procedure went very smoothly.  

Just as we were about to get on the elevator to our eleventh floor room, Connie spied Cal in the street.  We chatted with Donna and Cal for a few minutes, and since fatigue was the overwhelming feeling for all of us, we bid adieu, and off to sleep.

We were shocked with our room. It was so much the opposite of our room at the Four Seasons.  This was a typical business hotel, and we got one of the largest rooms, "big" enough to accommodate four.  Ugh. We make the best of it; we rationalize by repeating to ourselves that we would spend most of our hours roaming the streets of Tokyo.

We had a really nice breakfast the next morning, Friday the 25th. I had to validate our JR rail pass and make all our train reservations (nine legs) at the station, so I met everyone else about a half hour later. At the Super Lohas Hotel, we get a free buffet breakfast with our room each AM.  It lacked the elaborateness of the breakfasts in Miyako, but it satisfied, nonetheless.  Eggs, Japanese-style western sausages (sounds like an oxymoron, but those who have had western breakfasts in Japan know what I mean -- they look like regular hot dogs that have gone through the Incredible Shrinking Machine), bacon, and Nihon-shoku breakfast (with my favorite hot white rice, tsukemono, nori and natto).  Sorry, forgot to get pictures.

After breakfast, the six of us take the subway to Tsukiji.  We wanted to browse the outer market, one of our favorite places to roam (actually, there are several of us who don't find it fun, and their initials are Sam and Em). We get a bunch of treats, including a steamed Uni bun.

I prefer my Uni uncooked, but Connie was really happy with it.  I didn't ask if the pigment was squid ink but it likely was (this looked very similar to a bun we purchased in the Hakodate morning market two years ago).

We then decided to go to Sushi Zanmai.  My patient, Kunio, is a sushi chef in Cupertino, who told me to go there.  He said that the chefs there are older, and they go there when they cannot find work elsewhere.  We had a great three piece set of Otoro, Chutoro, and Maguro for the amazing price of ¥598.  The six of us shared a bunch of sushi, enough to stuff us all, for about ¥10,000.  Sorry, we have no pics!  Not sure why?

We then took the subway to Ginza (we could have walked, but it was soooo hot that we really didn't want to), and roamed the streets.  Sam and Em wanted to go to Itoya, so we went to the newly opened store (the previous location underwent renovation and I'm not sure if the current location will be the permanent one). Itoya is a really nice stationery store, one of the most famous ones in Japan.

Afterwards, we walk to Yurakucho to go to Muji and Loft.  This location is huge...

Donna and Cal have to meet Kayla, so we walk back to our hotel, and we go have dinner at En in the Shin-Maru building. Sorry, but the only picture we have of this is a mixed up Maguro Ochazuke of Sam's which is not publishable.

We roam around Tokyo Station later that night.  Tokyo station has what I would call permanent construction. There is constant change. New this trip is Granroof.  I thought it was a big new area with a bunch of restaurants, but I later find that it is just a cosmetic upgrade (but a huge cosmetic upgrade -- it is really attractive looking), since there aren't a lot of new restaurants or shops.  It's all a part of a concept called Tokyo Station City (kind of like what Kyoto did with their new train station, and what Osaka did with their new "Osaka station city").

Saturday AM, we have our buffet breakfast, and then meet up with Kayla, who we haven't seen in a year. She's done with school now! We have a few hours before our lunch at Iwa, so we go to Roppongi. Our goal is to go to Don Quixote (a variety store with numerous branches in Japan). Roppongi is Cal's "Japan home."  None of us had ever been there. He'd been hounding me to go there for years. Upon disembarking from our Hibiya line subway car, we are immediately struck by littered streets, a number of unsavory folks, but no Nigerians. 

Don Quixote was interesting.  Another place we'd never been to.  It is a little like a poor man's Tokyu Hands, but they also sell high end stuff like Omega watches and Celine handbags, along with ¥ 200 neckties.

We then head to Tokyo Midtown, a large multi-use project that encompasses a number of city blocks, with museums and galleries, businesses, shops, and a Ritz Carlton. We were only able to see a very small part in the limited time we had, but it was indeed a beautiful area (as opposed to the part on the "other" side of the street where it looked more like Kabuki-cho).

Cal, Donna and Kayla had one more Waseda University event, a sort-of graduation for Kayla, to attend to, so we left to go to Iwa for lunch.

We arrive at Ginza station a little early, so we roam around the area.  I got lost last year, trying to find Iwa (I knew exactly where I was, but Shimbashi station was a maze), so I wanted to make sure we had enough time. We found a "Natural Lawson," and the bento's there seem to be of a higher quality than that seen in other combini's.

Next installment of Humid Summer to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment