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The Fongs in Japan 2007

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BC: Resources Eyewitness Travel Guides - Japan, DK 2005 Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette - Japan, Bramble 2004 Clueless and Still Clueless in Tokyo - A Sketchbook, Reynolds 2003 and 2007 I Live in Tokyo, Takabayashi 2001 283 Useful Ideas from Japan, Koren 1988 www.signettour.com www.mixbook.com

1: The Fongs in Japan 2007

2: Things Needed for a Successful Trip 1. Quickness to spot and capture beauty 2. Fondness for airplane food 3. A strategy for using the restrooms 4. A picture-filled travel guide 5. Hand cream to replenish sanitized hands 6. Money! $150 a day should do it

3: A Guided Tour Although this was a Cantonese-speaking tour, Steven, Mom, and Dad were able to help translate the guide Ai San's jokes, personal anecdotes, and historical accounts. Our guide was competent and well-liked by most, most of the time. She eventually got the whole group of 30 or so to call me Sen Po Jai - "new one to hold."

4: Japanese Television! From sumo wresting to cooking...everything cute, dancing, and singing: "gurru gurru gurru gurru!" Completely mesmerizing.

5: In Japan, even P.E. is more fun. Yes, they are playing leapfrog. And yes, I did have my students try this out when I got back to school.

7: East and West Shinjuku Western Tokyo is the land of skyscrapers and tightly-packed buildings that seem to go on forever. In this region, East Shinjuku is characterized by a carefree nightlife. We loved the excitement of the neon lights, glamorous department stores, arcades, and amorous solicitors. Here we found an amazing udon shop. We also observed a tiny pet shop the size of our bathroom. On Sundays, the outrageous "Fruits" fashions can be seen. In contrast, by day West Shinjuku's cold, steel gray buildings are filled with workers. We saw the view from the top of its landmark, the double-towered Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices.

8: Imperial Palace Home to the Emperor and his family

10: Best thing ever! | The Chiri-men Craft Museum

11: The obsession began almost the moment we arrived in Japan. Hanging throughout the lobby of our Tokyo hotel were 15-feet long, amazing garlands of fabric dolls, animals, and flowers. We later learned that these were chiri-men crafts: mobiles traditionally made from the inside lining of kimonos. Mothers often crafted these for their children as good luck charms or for additional income. Mom, Dad, many of the ladies on the tour, and I could hardly contain ourselves when we discovered the Mecca of these treasures - the Chiri-men Craft Museum stores - at three locations in Kyoto. There are two more we have yet to visit...

12: Asakusa Kannon: Sensoji Temple | - Large red laterns - Five-story pagoda - Daily rituals of cleansing mouths, incense burning, and fortune telling - Surrounding shops sell goodluck charms, trinkets, papers, and kimonos - The area is known for fine rice pot dishes

14: Golden Rule of Shopping: | pet accessories - kimonos - anything cute and furry - beautiful decorative packaging

15: If you see something you want, just buy it. Chances are, you'll never see it again. | animals made from silkworm cocoons - trinkets novelty treats - large selection of ear picks

16: A Confusing Place to be a Woman | With our new found Japanese friends Mai and Tomoko, we were able to get their perspectives on women's roles, relationships, body image, and other juicy topics.

17: - compliant school girls by day, trend-setters by night - - scantilly clad Anime girls decorate arcades and Pachinko machines - - tradition and technology side by side - - numerous ads, drugstores, and cosmetics are reminders you're always being watched - - Ai San talked about how her child was shunned when the simple bento lunch boxes she had prepared were "untradeable" by his classmates' standards -

18: Meiji Shrine

19: In contrast to the bustling Senso-ji Temple, Meiji Shrine is much more peaceful. This Shinto shrine is set apart in a serene, sprawling, tree-surrounded area. We were astounded by how quiet, clean, and pure it felt. As we arrived, we were fortunate to observe a wedding processsion.

20: Memorable Meals Only two of our meals were not Japanese, and yet we never got tired of their delicious food! (Back home, we stocked up on noodles and tea at Oto's.) One night, Steven and I took a snowy walk and found a Japanese diner. After waiting quite some time for service, we realized we needed to ring our table's buzzer. | Prior to our cruise across Lake Ashi, we had a delicious lunch where you fry your own tempura and tonkatsu. We ground sesame seeds to thicken the dipping sauce. In urban areas, hole-in-the-wall noodle shops offer quick service. You place your order by inserting coins into the vending machine. Once inside, the dispensed ticket verfies your order.

21: In Kobe, their famous beef was prepared on our table's grill. Lucky for me, they fried large garlic chips. The fat was used to sautee veggies. Another course included cream of mushroom soup! Definitely not Campbell's. | Rice porridge with delicious toppings of salted baby anchovies, seaweed, and green onion Tofu cooking in a paper container over individual burners A specialty tonkatsu shop in Kyoto also serves colossal tempura shrimp

22: Lake Ashi in Fuji-Hakone National Park Lake Ashi is a large crater lake at the base of Mt. Fuji. We took a cruise aboard a "pirate ship" to cross over to the ropeway to the top. When we arrived, we ate a meal where you fry tempura and tonkatsu at your table. After reading about the Japanese and their disdain for any show of germs and nose-blowing in public, it was here - in the midst of our tour group and the whole restaurant - that out of nowhere, blood came gushing out of my nose.

24: Owakudani Valley | After riding the Hakone Ropeway cable car, we arrived at the steam-filled volcanic peaks

25: Dozens of people were at the top eating eggs, turned black from the sulfuric hot springs | It is believed that eating the boiled eggs will add five to seven years to one's life

27: Atami Hot Springs Hotel The volcanic hot springs are pumped into grand resorts. The Japanese love to flock to these ryokan when in need of some pampering. Here you can experience outdoor hot tubs and public baths, or onsen. Though a Westerner might need to mentally prepare to bare all, in Japan this is a normal part of life.

29: Swanky Hotels All of the hotels we stayed in were quite grand. Each breakfast, we enjoyed a buffet of miso soup with various toppings, smoked fish, stews, and stir fries. One of the most surreal hotels was the hot springs ryokan. We stayed in traditional rooms with tatami mats and separate rooms (and slippers) for the shower and water closet. We experienced a traditional multi-course dinner, pristine hot springs, and - GASP - public baths. Upon exploring the ballroom and bizarre costumes, we made friends.

30: Getting Around

31: chubby vans - subway - taxis lined with lace doilies - scenic train - ferris wheel yes, that is child riding a gigantic, motorized stuffed animal - rickshaw - pirate ship ropeway cable car - a pie - Shinkansen bullet train construction vehicles in emasculating jewel tones - bicycle

32: Osaka Castle In a park-like setting, the castle is the perfect place for spotting highly-groomed, specially bred mini-dogs. In the castle tour, bypass the crowds in line for the elevators and climb the stairs up to the eighth floor. After your workout, you'll have a great view of the city, then can look at the exhibits from the top down. | Shinkansen Bullet Train From Tokyo to Osaka, we took a bullet train. Traveling at 186 miles per hour, the train is smooth, spacious, and whirls you past a variety of landscapes. The trip took a short 2.5 hours, compared to our bus' 7-hour drive. A wonderful surprise was a lunch of tea and bento boxes the tour had prearranged.

35: Sakura Although we were in Japan one month before most cherry blossoms would be in bloom, we were able to observe bits of pink here and there. As prevalent as natural blooms were artificial ones. Pretend blooms decorated malls, small businesses, and even the lobby of our hotel. In Japan, the blossoms are highly anticipated, signifying beauty and coinciding with major life events.

37: Nara Park and Todai-ji Temple World's largest bronze Buddha at 49 feet Deer are considered "messengers of the gods"

38: Temples of Stone and Gold

39: Large stone steps often must be conquered before reaching the temple - A Shiba Inu stands guard - Nijo Castle's squeaky nightingale floors warn of intruders - Kinkakuji Temple's landmark is the Golden Pavilion, inspiring thoughts of heaven and earth - Shoes must be left outside of the temple, where bags or cubbies are provided - Inside, monks chant while visitors bow in reverence and prayer - Wood or clay dolls eternally bow at the base of a Buddha

40: Rare but enchanting were the quintessential Japanese rock and water gardens

41: Architectural features of bridges and lanterns were always accompanied by religious symbols

42: Kiyomizu Temple

43: As an UNESCO World Heritage Site, this Kyoto temple surrounds you with amazing | views, artifacts, and souvenirs. After touring the grounds, spot geisha among the old shops.

46: vendor making waffle-like, cream-filled buns - mini-marts like a.m./p.m., Lawson's, and Family Mart carry delicious bento boxes and "French" pastries - many have a working kitchen for fresh treats, such as fried chicken and a delicious seared rice patty with "shrimp" - even the rice crakers are artfully lined up and displayed

47: Snacks | Red umbrellas may signal the location of a teahouse or green tea ice cream shop. Numerous lines of vending machines can be found throughout Japan. Serving both hot and cold drinks, you can get iced coffees, hot chocolate, teas, and the ever popular "Pocari Sweat."

49: Winding Cobblestone Streets of Old Kyoto: Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka

50: Among the Bamboo Forest | We followed the river on the Sagano scenic train to the bamboo forest. At the station, a collection of the Tanuki, or baffoonish good-times badgers, greeted us. During the ride, we spotted three monkeys playing along the river bank! Upon arrival at the forest, tall bells played "Sakura." I couldn't help galloping down each pathway, my eyes bugging out in this lush, swaying Totoro wonderland. Magical!

54: Alluring Entryways

56: The Cleanest Chinatown You've Ever Seen In Kobe, we visited a wonderful Chinatown which - by contrast - felt clean, safe, and had a festival-like atmosphere. Street vendors sold delicious dim sum and fried products quite unlike what we have in California. Our hardest decisions were how much we could eat before dinner and which karage, or fried chicken, to sample.

58: Nishijin Textile Center Kyoto showcases kimono fashion shows and silk-making processes

60: Hatkutsuru Sake Brewery Museum Realistic models depict the stages of the rice wine brewing process. After the tour, we tried a tasty sample. Goes down smooth!

61: Ginza Department Stores In Central Tokyo, Ginza is known for extravagant shopping. Its symbol is the clocktower of the Wako Dept. Store. At their 10:00 a.m. opening, dept. store workers will line up and bow to customers. Mikimoto is the original producer of cultured pearls. There were several 5 to 7-digit pieces worth a good chunk of my house.

62: We Found Them! Totoro store at the Mosaic Mall in Kobe 70's squishy superhero Barba Papa still retails in the Love Plaza of a Kyoto department store

65: Cartoon Imagery and Bad Engrish If you think the Japanese are uptight, serious, and all work, you're wrong. This is a culture that loves cuteness, and cartoons adorn every enterprise: retail merchants, office buildings, vehicles, ads, and temples. They also love integrating English, even if the translation is strange.

66: Magnificent Markets | Fresh meat and fish artfully displayed 5 cherries for 3150 yen, 4 doz for 21000 yen

67: Find all that your heart desires in the department store markets! | Uniformed workers serve up fancy pastries, fried foods, crackers, cookies, and teas

68: The Streets by Day

69: great cities are built around ancient kabuki theaters, temples, and rivers - street vendors pass out ads on pocket tissues and drink mixes or solicit help for animals - the roads to remote towns bear crumbling buildings and suspended auto parts - "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" really are popular street foods - sea of safely parked bikes

70: The Streets by Night The Japanese love to come out at night for all kinds of entertainment. It was amazing for us to see the changing lights and so much activity, so late into the night. It was neat to look at floors stacked upon floors of diners. There are plenty of venues for adventurous eaters, such as the Fugu restaurants that serve parts of the poisonous pufferfish, despite it claiming 100 lives each year. We wandered into a pet shop where purse-sized dogs sold for $10-30,000.

73: Staying in the Penthouse From the airplane leaving Osaka, you can see how the Ana Gate hotel looms high above all other buildings. From the 41st floor suite, we were astounded by our corner room with three panoramic window views of the city. Room rate: 37000 yen per night!

75: Sayounara Japan! A country of: diversity variety versatility connectedness resourcefulness creativity ingenuity history mystery hospitality food, fun, fabulous finds photo opps We are fans and can't wait to come back!

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Lisa Fong
  • By: Lisa F.
  • Joined: about 12 years ago
  • Published Mixbooks: 11
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About This Mixbook

  • Title: The Fongs in Japan 2007
  • A nine-day tour exploring the culture and sights of Japan - Tokyo to Osaka
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  • Published: about 12 years ago