We’re home, well not quite, we’re in a cab. The 11-hour flight was exhausting, not because of the length, but all the food. There was an appetizer, then a first course of shrimp and veggies, then beef with foie gras, followed by dessert. And, it’s still vacation so we had to order from the inflight on-demand menu (pork cutlets for Craig and pasta for Ryan). Then we had our second meal before landing. Japan Airlines knows good service!
And, we landed in a whiteout blizzard. Isn’t it spring? Maybe we should go back to the airport and pay a visit to the Caribbean…
For lunch our last day we went for one more meal of sushi. This time we found a bustling spot in Shibuya. Orders are placed via the tablet at each seat and the food comes zipping out on one of three conveyor belts – similar to the trolleys in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The sushi was buttery and so very tasty.
Words cannot accurately describe the experience of attending the Robot Bar. The waiting area looks like Liberace’s living room – every spot is covered in some jewel. The main attraction is a the robot show, a multi-million dollar performance featuring scantly clad ladies and robots. You should search for it on YouTube or go to their website. You will be amazed.
And, they have Zima. Who still serves Zima?
As if Japan couldn’t get anymore interesting, we learned about animal cafés. No, not animals you can eat, but animals you can pet. These cafés have birds, rabbits, dogs, and on and on. We opted for a cat cafe. After paying ¥600 for 30 minutes and washing our hands, we were let into the room. A dozen cats were roaming the floor, jumping from scratching tower to scratching tower, and soundly sleeping; there were half as many people enjoying their company. The cafés and animals are meant to provide companionship, which I’m not sure they do, but nevertheless the cats were adorable.
A must do in Japan is visiting the Tsukiji fish market. And, you have to go early in the morning to see all the action and taste the fresh fish, which means sushi for breakfast. There were thousands of people and hundreds of different smells coming from every building. We figured the best way to find the good stuff was to find a long line, and we did just that. We grabbed a package of fresh tuna and went to town – so delicious!
Yeah, we went to Tokyo Disney. You can only walk through so many museums or visit temples before they all blend together. We opted for DisneySea, a park special to Japan. While we only made two rides because the waits were nearly three hours, the real treat was people watching. The oddest thing was groups of teenage boys decked out in Disney gear. And, who could forget the Teddy Roosevelt Bar? They even had New England clam chowder. Japan is amazing.
After a short metro ride to the seaport we spent some time walking around Miraikan – National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The museum was described to showcase Japan’s latest technology, including lots of robots, but it turned out to be a science educational museum. There were a few robots, which were mostly creepy. We missed the Honda robot show, but we at least we saw him on display.
There are so many kinds of noodles in Japan: ramen, udon, soba and more. Tokiwa specializes in soba, a gray buckwheat noodle. We both ordered soba noodle bowls with tofu, and a side of tempura to share (it’s vacation after all). The noodles were delicious and the tempura was perfectly prepared. A great last meal in Kyoto!
Tea is large part of Japanese culture and there is no better way to fully appreciate this than attending a traditional tea ceremony. En, just north of the Gion neighborhood, provides an hour long tea ceremony demonstration. After a short explanation of the tea making utensils, they ceremoniously prepare a cup of matcha tea. The movements in Japanese ceremonies are very deliberate and fluid, which makes them beautiful to watch. After the ceremony, she explained each step, and then guided us through making our own cup. First you put powdered green tea (matcha) in the cup. Add hot water. Wisk back and forth until it becomes frothy, and finish with a circular motion so the tea looks pretty. Then you drink it. But you can’t just throw it back. You turn the bowl twice so the front is to the left as to show respect to the bowl. After a few deliberate hand motions and bowing, you take three and a half sips, with the final half sip making a slurping noise to show the host how much you appreciate the tea. Then you wipe the spot where your lips touched the bowl with your thumb and pointer finger. Because the tea is so bitter you eat a sweet before drinking it. America should have more formal ceremonies. Anyone up for a formal tea ceremony next week?
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for nearly 1000 years, and during that time the Emperor and his family lived in the Kyoto Imperial Palace. With prearranged tickets, visitors can join a tour around the palace as the guide explains how the palace was once used as a residence. Since the capital was moved to Tokyo the Imperial family lives in the Tokyo Imperial Palace. When they come to Kyoto they stay in a more modern facility a few kilometers from the palace. Now the palace is only used for official purposes, as it was in 1992 when George H. W. Bush visited. The highlight of the tour was, not a surprise, the Japanese garden. If the Imperial family doesn’t want to live in the palace we’d be happy to call it home.