An overnight’s stay at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Entrance of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Entrance of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Before planning my trip to Tokyo, I made a note to visit Ooedo Onsen Monogatari and spend a night there.

My other plan was to overnight at a cybercafe but chickened out and stayed at a budget hotel instead.

The icing on the cake was when I found out that there was an event for my favorite anime/manga Gintama at Ooedo Onsen and that I would be there during the last two days of the event.

For me, staying overnight at Ooedo Onsen meant saving one night’s stay at a hotel. Since I already want to soak in hot springs, adding on the extra 1,700 yen wasn’t too bad. But if you are travelling in pairs, this might be a more expensive option for accommodation.

Checking in

Entrance fee
Entrance fee

Since I was going to spend the rest of my night at Ooedo Onsen, I decided to pay for the evening entrance (past 6 p.m. 1,680 yen) instead of day entrance fees (from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2,180 yen). I also bought my tickets from 7-11 so there was a 180 yen discount.

Before heading to the ticket counter, visitors need to put their shoes in shoe lockers.

Shoe lockers
Shoe lockers

After putting away my shoes, I went to queue with the rest of the people. Since there was still about 10 minutes before 6 p.m., everyone had to wait patiently.

Waiting area
Waiting area

About 5 minutes before 6 p.m., a lady dressed in traditional outfit came out with a pair of clappers and said lots of things in a sing-song tone.

I remember from their Web site that she’s the kanban-musume Oshino. This literally translates to “Signboard girl” which means she’s the attraction of a business.

Too bad I wasn’t too sure what Oshino was saying. I guess it was to welcome all of us to Ooedo Onsen.

Ooedo Onsen's kanban musume (Sign lady)
Ooedo Onsen’s kanban musume (Sign lady)

Soon, the counters opened for the evening session. I handed over my my coupon and was given a wristlet with a barcode taped over and a key.

Before heading into the changing room, everyone gets to choose a yukata. There are different designs and sizes of yukata. I picked on with purple flowers.

Yukata choosing
Yukata choosing

After yukata choosing, it’s time to hit the lockers. Find the locker corresponding to your wristlet. It’s in Japanese so if you don’t read hiragana, you might need help.

The size of the locker was enough for my backpack.

Lockers
Lockers

At the lockers, strip down to your underthings and wear the yukata.

Remember that the left side needs to be on top, or else you are wearing the bathrobe as a corpse would.

Strolling on Edo street’s

Edo streets
Edo streets

In my yukata, I went out to the fake Edo streets. There are plenty of food stalls around so don’t worry about being hungry. There’s also free hot tea and both hot and cold water so you won’t go thirsty.

When I was there, there was a performance at 7 p.m. I think the shows change every season.

Performance
Performance

Soaking in hot springs

I couldn’t take photos at the onsen or its changing room so I can only tell through words.

Before heading to the ladies’ hot spring area, we need to put our things in another changing room. There’s other lockers here to put yukata and underthings in before heading to the hot spring area.

In the changing room, there’s a corner with samples of makeup remover, toner, face lotion. There’s also hair bands and toothbrush provided.

Before heading to the hot spring, take everything off. Everyone strips naked so no need to be shy.

The hot springs are divided into indoor and outdoor pools. There’s a large section where everyone washes their hair and body. Free shampoo, conditioner and body soap is provided too.

After vigorously washing and conditioning my hair, I headed to the pools.

There were a variety of pools and areas:

  • Ooedo Onsen hot spring which was real undersea hot spring, instead of just hot water. The color was a bit rusty. There was also a side with recycled Ooedo Onsen hot spring which didn’t have a rusty color.
  • 40 degrees Celsius pools
  • Massage jacuzzi pool
  • Pool with frothing machine which makes the water much more “fine” and is good for the skin
  • Cold water (brr)
  • Sauna
  • Outdoor pool

The pools outdoors were limited. There was only a large pond and an area with a few fake vintage bathtubs.

Off to bed

After soaking in the pools for the longest while, I head to the changing rooms and bought myself a small glass bottle of milk.

At about 11 p.m., I decided that it is time to find a place to sleep.

Ooedo Onsen has a capsule hotel but it’s catered only to men. The private rooms are too expensive for me.

I think there are also large halls where they layout tatami for people staying over. This I’m not too sure though.

My choice was the ladies’ lounge on the second floor. Here, they have reclining chairs with mini TVs. They even provide blankets.

Chairs for sleeping
Chairs for sleeping

Most of the chairs were taken by the time I got there. I found a chair with a broken TV and settled there. A mother and her young son slept one chair away.

Mini TV
Mini TV

I put on my eyemask and ear plugs and tried to sleep on the 150 degrees chair.

Suddenly as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a loud rumbling noise. I took off my eyemask and discovered an older lady snoring in the seat next to mine.

Hazard: Snoring old ladies
Hazard: Snoring old ladies

It wasn’t easy blocking her snores out even with my earplugs but I managed to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up and realized that she was gone. I was also surprised to find that it was almost 7 a.m. which meant that I had less than 1 hour before the pools close for cleaning.

I went back for a last soak of onsen. Soaking in the morning and at night was different. I could see the blue sky in the outdoor pool while at night everything was a blur because I wasn’t wearing glasses.

After the soak, I changed back into my real clothes and checked out.

REVIEW
Stayed: Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Pros: Save on entertainment and accommodation; fun
Cons: Snoring seatmates; not having a real bed

#FoodFri Glutton at Tsukiji, Tokyo

Tokyo’s Tsukiji is the famous fish market. Some guidebooks recommend visiting early in the morning at around 5 a.m. to catch the tuna auction.

Being the lazy glutton, I didn’t wake up that early. I did visit Tsukiji, but only for the sushi which was slightly disappointing.

As I didn’t want to walk around with an open guidebook, I roamed the outer stalls of Tsukiji and missed the inner market.

Tamagoyaki

Yamanaga at Tsukiji
I broke my fast with a tamago-yaki, or grilled egg, on a stick from Yamanaga. It wasn’t the most famous tamago-yaki stall in Tsukiji but the egg tasted yummy.

Tamago yaki from Yamanaga
I ordered the warm tamago-taki which came on a styrofoam plate. There was some shredded white radish with sauce which gave the sweet grilled eggs a balanced flavor.

Sushi at Tsukiji

Sushizanmai at Tsukiji
It is sacrilegious to visit Tsukuji without eating sushi. So after my tamago yaki, I went off to find my breakfast.

I stopped at the main chain of Sushizanmai. I had to wait outside before I was ushered into the restaurant before I was seated at the counter.

Sushi set at Tsukuji
I ordered a sushi set which was disappointing. I was not as yummy as I thought it would be. I suspect I ordered a lower quality set.

From my side of the counter, I saw the chefs work. One took a fish out of the tank, sliced the flesh off its bones and served the slices on a plate.

It was a bit horrifying watching the fish die in front of my eyes. But I forgot about it after I bit into my piece of onigiri.

Ramune

100 yen Ramune
When I walked back to the train station, I passed by a stall selling drinks for 100 yen. I picked ramune which tasted like ice cream soda. At the top of the bottle, there is a frustrating marble rolling around which sometimes blocked my from enjoying the drink.

I never figured out how to get the marble out. But some people have videos of how you can do it.

Checkout my other Glutton in Tokyo posts

Day 1: #FoodFri Glutton in Kamakura + Tokyo
Day 2: #FoodFri Glutton in Tokyo 2

Money saving tips for Tokyo: Transportation

Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in but there are still many ways to make the trip less expensive.

As I was writing this money saving guide for Tokyo, I realized that there is just too many sub-categories so I split the tips into three different posts.

This post is about saving on transportation. There is another on food and drinks as well as accommodation and sightseeing.

Transportation in Tokyo is crazy. A short trip would cost 180 yen (US$2.3) on the train which is very expensive compared to Singapore.

From Narita Airport: Get the Suica & N’EX package

Suica & N'EX package
Suica & N’EX package

I picked up the Suica & N’EX package for 3,500 yen when I reached Narita airport. It includes transport into the city (and slightly beyond) as well as a 2,000 yen Suica.

The package also good value because the N’EX limited express train to Tokyo is 2,940 yen (gasp!).

There’s also a package with return fare.

From Haneda Airport: Get Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket

Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket
Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket

Only available on weekends

If you arrive at Haneda Airport during the weekend, remember to pick up this discounted ticket.

For just 500 yen, you can take the monorail and leave at any stations on the Yamanote Line. If you are exiting at other JR stations, just pay the extra at the counter.

Free one-way day trip with Suica & N’EX package


If you have a day trip planned to either Yokohama or Kamakura, I recommend doing it on the day you arrive if you reach before noon.

I was planning to visit Yokohama but when I found out that the package covers Kamakura, I changed my plans immediately.

A trip from Tokyo Station to Kamakura would cost 890 yen. So in theory, I’ve saved a little by heading straight there instead of taking the day trip on another day.

Transfer rebate with Suica

Buying tickets for Tokyo trains
If you are using Suica to pay for your transport, it automatically gives you rebates when you transfer from trains of the same company.

Stick to the same company on trains

Tokyo Metro
Tokyo Metro

Planning your transport within Tokyo is really tricky. There are just too many lines and too many different train companies.

Many times, I had to transfer from one train line to another to reach my destination. I accidentally took different train lines for a ride and it cost me more than it would if I had transferred from the trains of the same company.

So, I suggest taking trains from the same company when you travel. This might mean an extra 5 minutes, but it’ll cost 200 yen less.

Check the rest of money saving tips for Tokyo:

Among the ruins of Kellie’s Castle, Ipoh

Kellie's Castle

My blog is turning into a Visit Japan blog with all these posts about Japan! We interrupt your regular program with a visit to Kellie’s Castle in Ipoh.

I first read about Kellie’s Castle in a guidebook. It sounded like a fairy tale gone wrong. Let me tell the story with a bit of help from Journey Malaysia.

“Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a Scot by the name of William Kellie Smith made a lot of money in Malaya.

“In 1909/1910, he built a Moorish-styled manor for his family (wife Agnes Smith and daughter Helen Agnes). When his long-awaited son was born, he decided to extend his house into an even grander building.

“Unfortunately, the great building was never finished as many of the workers caught the Spanish flu and died. Smith was said to have died in Portugal of pneumonia.

The wife, daughter and son who left Malaya never returned.

“Nobody lived happily every after.

“THE END”

Yes, that is the sad tragic tale of Kellie’s Castle.

Kellie's Castle Ipoh
Kellie’s Castle Ipoh

From town to Kellie’s Castle

As L and I were not familiar with the public transport, we took a private cab recommended by the Tune Hotel Ipoh receptionist. I believe it was a RM40 trip to the site and back to Ipoh town.

The castle wasn’t as creepy as the travel brochure portrayed. Kellie’s Castle wasn’t the grey stone castle of Scotland which I had imagined. Instead, the walls were mostly brick red.

Most of the castle was crumbling. There were dangerous areas on the upper floor with nothing to protect the visitor from falling of the building.

Living on the edge at Kellie's Castle
Living on the edge at Kellie’s Castle

One of the rooms was reportedly haunted by a young girl. The problem is, I don’t think Helen died when she was young. I think it’s one of the stories people make up to pretend it is more mysterious than it is.

Haunted room at Kellie's Castle
Haunted room at Kellie’s Castle

Yellow House

Yellow House of Kellie's Castle
Yellow House of Kellie’s Castle

Behind the red building was a crumbling yellow house. This used to be the original manor but was somehow damaged really badly.

I mostly felt sad wandering in the unfinished compound. Some of the walls were newly painted but most were uncovered and other had moss crawling all over.

What made me happy were the two sets of people having photoshoots.

A couple was taking pre-wedding photo shoots while we were there. I adore wedding shoots at historical places as they are more interesting than generic flowerbeds.

Wedding shoot at Kellie's Castle
Wedding shoot at Kellie’s Castle

Then a bunch of people were also taking cosplay photos. The people dressed up in futuristic warrior outfits while the camera folks held reflective boards.

Cosplay shoot at Kellie's Castle
Cosplay shoot at Kellie’s Castle

When I showed my colleagues photos of the castle, they were unimpressed. I think they wanted to see buildings as grand as Edinburgh Castle.

Have you visited Kellie’s Castle? Did you see ghosts there?

#FoodFri Glutton in Tokyo 2

tsuke men

This is a follow up of Glutton in Tokyo part 1 which I posted last week.

On Day 2 of my Tokyo trip, I walked around Shinjuku waiting for the day to end so I can spend the night at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari’s hot springs.

Tsuke-men

I visited the Tokyo Municipal Building around noon. As it was a Sunday, most of the shops under the skyscrapers were closed.

Luckily, the noodle shop was still open.

Naoku at Tokyo Municipal Building
Naoku at Tokyo Municipal Building

Tsuke men, or dipping noodles, is another way of eating ramen. Instead of a noodles in a bowl of hot soup, I got cold noodles and a small bowl of thick stock.

Take the noodles, dip into the stock and slurp loudly. I find this way of eating ramen fun because I rarely get this type of noodles back in Singapore

Tsuke men

Tsuke men

For an extra 100 yen, I added on an iced coffee. yums

Iced coffee
Iced coffee

Udon

I visited the guidebook-famous Sankoku Ichi at Shinjuku for dinner before heading to the onsen theme park.

Sankoku ichi at Shinjuku
Sankoku ichi at Shinjuku

The interior had a vintage Japanese restaurant feeling with low ceiling, wooden floor, tables and chairs.

Katsu udon miso soup

Katsu udon miso soup

Separately I love tonkatsu (fried, breaded pork cutlets), udon and miso soup so I ordered the Nagoya-style udon which was a combination of all three things.

Unfortunately, the sum was not bigger than the parts.

My pork chop sat on top of my udon in a shallow dish of miso. The crispy fried battered skin was soggy because of the soup. The udon didn’t have much soup to go with. The soup was tainted by the salty tonkatsu sauce. The veggie which I don’t eat was left as decoration.

If I ever go to the restaurant again, I will chose a plain udon.

Stayed Hotel Maruchu, Tokyo review

Room of Hotel Maruchu Tokyo

The worse part of travel preparations is booking a hotel. Even with reviews, I’m never sure how a room would turn out.

Luckily, Hotel Maruchu in Tokyo turned out to be alright.

When I extended my business trip in September, I had to look for a place to stay. I found Hotel Maruchu online and thought that its location right next to Minami-Senjuu is great.

As a miser budget traveller, the 3,500 yen (US$44.5) price was what clinched the deal. In comparison, the price of a dorm bed at Sakura Hostel is 2,940 yen (US$$37.3).

The hotel was not too difficult to find. It’s just across the tracks of Tokyo Metro’s Minami-Senjuu station, and a bit more walking if you come from the JR station. There’s an overhead bridge with slopes to roll your suitcase around.

When I reached, the concierge was really enthusiastic and spoke a bit of English. I should have been ashamed of myself for not speaking more in Japanese. (Sorry mom!)

I chose the Japanese-style single room (which is also a two-person room according to the sign outside). The room is really tiny but I guess that’s what you get in space-constraint Japan.

Hotel Maruchu's 3 tatami big room
Hotel Maruchu’s 3 tatami big room

Amenities

There’s a Chinese saying, “A sparrow might be small, but it has all five internal organs.” The saying is a lot more poetic in Chinese, I assure you.

Well, Maruchu’s room is definitely has a sparrow’s innards. My room had a futon mattress, pillow, blanket fridge, TV, bathrobe, towel, a box of tissue, a table and a cushions. It also has free Wi-Fi, take that Marriott!

Hotel Maruchu's bathrobe and towel
Hotel Maruchu’s bathrobe and towel
Room of Hotel Maruchu
Room of Hotel Maruchu

Bonus! A clip of me rambling on about the room.


(I never managed to visit the cemetery because I got lost.)

Shared facilities

Outside the room, there’s the shared toilet and pantry.

The toilet has men’s urinals (though it will be really awkward walking in on a man peeing) and the cool modern Japanese toilets.

Hotel Maruchu's shared washroom
Hotel Maruchu’s shared washroom
Hotel Maruchu's modern Japanese toilet
Hotel Maruchu’s modern Japanese toilet
Hotel Maruchu's shared pantry and "makeup area"
Hotel Maruchu’s shared pantry and “makeup area”

Not included in the my photos is the public bath. For me, this was actually the main attraction.

Hotel Maruchu bath
From http://www.hotelmaruchu.com/pc-j/building.html

In a public bath, you take a shower and bath with other people. Some people might feel uncomfortable about this but I actually like the Japanese’s nonchalance of other people’s naked bodies. As they say, when in Rome do as the Romans.

Do note that the bath is open to women at a shorter timing than men.

Misc

There’s a nice Japanese restaurant outside of the JR station which is within walking distance of the hotel. A 7-11 is a short walk away too. The streets were quite deserted at night when I walked to the convenience store, although I don’t think it’s dangerous for a woman to walk alone.

Minami-Senjuu is near Ueno Park but it’s actually a lot further to the city center. I didn’t like the travelling.

In a nutshell
Stayed at Hotel Maruchu, Tokyo
Pros: Enthusiastic concierge, cheap cheap price, cool Japanese room
Cons: Train station is far from the city center, people who are shy about being naked with strangers might not like the public bath, small Japanese room

Being a fangirl at Gintama Land

Gintama Land at Ooedo Onsen

During my trip planning for Tokyo, I was most excited about visiting the Ooedo Onsen Monogatari hot spring theme park.

It wasn’t only because I desperately wanted to soak in hot springs and to stay overnight there. It was also because my favorite manga/anime Gintama was having an event.

The onsen place and the anime company teamed up to bring us “Ooedo Onsen Suspense Theater” where visitors can participate in games to win prizes and most of all, enjoy our favorite work.

Ooedo Onsen suspense theater
Ooedo Onsen suspense theater

This post will be very image heavy as I want to show you everything they had at Oedo Gintama Land.

Another warning, you will probably have ZERO idea what I am rambling on and on about if you have not read Gintama.

If you have not read the series, please head to your nearest comic bookstore and buy yourself the books. If all fails, there are the *cough* pirated versions online *cough*.

Outdoor fun with Gintama cast

When my shuttle bus reached Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, I almost squealed out loud seeingthe giant blow-up of Elizabeth guarding the entrance in his yukata.

Gintama's Elizabeth in Yukata at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Gintama’s Elizabeth in Yukata at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

It was close to 6pm when I arrived. The mini outdoor event would close at 6pm so I had little time to play around.

There was two photo taking stations there. One of posing with the police car of the Shinsengumi police force.

Shinsengumi car at Gintama Land
Shinsengumi car at Gintama Land

I posed with a fake bazooka and Okita’s favorite eye masks. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to get into the car.

Shinsengumi car at Gintama Land
Shinsengumi car at Gintama Land

Gin-chan’s broken down scooter was also there for photo opportunities. Too bad they didn’t have his helmet or it would make an even more awesome photo.

Gintoki's motorcyle
Gintoki’s motorcyle

Floating in the wind was Gin-san in his yukata. My inner fan girl was shouting really loud by then. The pink banner says they are selling salted red bean paste–the taste for adults–at 280 yen. I think it’s ice cream.

Gintama banners
Gintama banners

There was even a shop selling Gintama merchandise. Being the cash-strapped traveller, I couldn’t afford to buy the stuff which were pretty much useless even for decoration.

Shinsengumi Police Station selling Gintama goodies
Shinsengumi Police Station selling Gintama goodies

I did get myself one capsule. It was Katsura in yukata with a Elizabeth-yaki. (Too many jargons in this line!)

Gintama capsule station
Gintama capsule station

Entering Gintama Land

After having fun with photos, it was time to head into the theme park.

Elizabeth noren decorating the entrance of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Elizabeth noren decorating the entrance of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Another banner with Gintama characters greeted us inside. My favorite female character Sacchan was disappointingly not among them.

Welcome to Oedo Gintama Land
Welcome to Oedo Gintama Land

Welcome to Oedo Gintama Land
Welcome to Oedo Gintama Land
Welcome to Oedo Gintama Land
Welcome to Oedo Gintama Land

At the waiting area, they put up Gintama goodies. I was really tempted by the Gintoki yukata but the price was too scary for me.

Gintama goodies on display
Gintama goodies on display

Gin-san's yukata
Gin-san’s yukata
Gintama merchandise to steal our souls
Gintama merchandise to steal our souls
Exclusive Gintama merchandise
Exclusive Gintama merchandise

I think the partnership between Ooedo Onsen Monogatari and Gintama team is perfect because the theme park pretends to be a town in ancient Tokyo (Edo) and the comic is set in a fictional ancient Tokyo.

Gintama game

Gintama game: Yorozuya route or Shinsengumi route
Gintama game: Yorozuya route or Shinsengumi route

The highlight of Gintama Land was “Ooedo Onsen Suspense Theater”, a game to find one of the characters.

Shinpachi’s glasses was discovered by his elder sister, O-tae. O-tae was worried about Shinpachi and asked both the Yorozuya and Shinsengumi team to find her brother.

[Note: One of the running gags in the series is that Shinpachi=glasses. And the characters would talk to a pair of glasses as if it was Shinpachi,]

Lost & Found: A pair of glasses
Lost & Found: A pair of glasses

As a player, you buy a glasses pouch for 500 yen to play the game. I chose to be the Yorozuya intern while others can choose to be the Shinsengumi intern.

I went around the theme park, looking for the stamp stations. It took a while to find all five because I couldn’t decipher a large part of the instructions. X_x

While walking around, I found really cool cutouts and models of the characters.

For example, at the footbaths, Kondo Isao posed in only his underwear and covered with honey. It was from the chapter where they had to lure something in the forests.

Shinsengumi's Kondo Isao covered with honey
Shinsengumi’s Kondo Isao covered with honey

The very adorable but also very sadist Sogo with a bath towel.

Okita Sogo with a bath towel
Okita Sogo with a bath towel

A poster of the aliens also appeared at the footbath. Strangely, the lines say: “When you enter the baths, soak yourself up until your shoulders and count to ten before you COME OUTTTTT!”

Oi! What shoulders, this is a footbath!

The aliens from the bathhouse chapters
The aliens from the bathhouse chapters

Large panels like these appear at game stations.

Katsura at Gintama Land
Katsura at Gintama Land

Yorozuya panel
Yorozuya panel
Ryoma panel
Ryoma panel
Kamui panel and me
Kamui panel and me

Mini games

Besides the search for Shinpachi, there were three mini games along the way.

I forgot to take pictures of the fishing for water balloon games but I have the other two.

One of it was the paper fan throwing game. The player kneels in front of the two Styrofoam figures and try to knock it down with a fan, I failed at it and my fan flew way off the target.

Geisha game
Geisha game

I was much better at the anpan (red bean bun) throwing game. Each beanie bag of fake red bean bun flew into the holes representing faces.

Red bean bun throwing game
Red bean bun throwing game

At the end of the game, you will find Shinpachi. Turns out, the pair of glasses is not his. He also says angrily, “What do you mean I am not myself without glasses? No one goes to the bath with glasses, does he?!”

Found you, Shinpachi!
Found you, Shinpachi!

Gintama stuff all around!

Besides games, there were plenty of photo opportunities for Gintama fans.

Elizabeth deco
Elizabeth deco

At the center of the food area were lifesize cut outs of the Gintama gang.

Gintama gang in yukata
Gintama gang in yukata

Closer up of Gintama gang
Closer up of Gintama gang
Gin-san~
Gin-san~
Tsura-ko
Tsura-ko

I would have missed out Shogun in his underwear if I didn’t look up.

Shogun in his underwear
Shogun in his underwear

The other casts were higher up on the “second floor”.

(I really miss Sacchan and her crazy masochist self.)

The ladies of Gintama
The ladies of Gintama

Takasugi
Takasugi
Kamui
Kamui

There were also models, for example Gintoki in cat form.

Gintoki in cat form
Gintoki in cat form

And the super huge but super cute Sadakaru.

Sadaharu station
Sadaharu station

Sadaharu~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sadaharu~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Besides all the photo taking and games, there were also Gintama-themed food.

One example is Hijikata’s favorite mayonnaise with everything. The character loves to put mayonnaise on everything.

This poster advertising a plate of boiled ramen had to warn: “Please put as little as you can handle.”

Mayonaise ramen
Mayonaise ramen

I had a great time at Gintama Land. I wish time would freeze for me to stay there forever. But… Reality called, so here I am, back in Singapore.

Instead of moping, I should be grateful that I could be there. So I will be grateful and be wonderfully happy about the trip.

Until the next post!

-Yun Qing

#FoodFri Glutton in Kamakura + Tokyo

In case you don’t know. I love Japanese food very very much.

During my short work trip to Japan, I had a few days to roam around eating.

Instead of flooding everyone with too many yummy food, I’m splitting the meals into different days.

For today, we’re having meals from Day 1: Lunch at Kamakura and Dinner in Tokyo.

Day 1

Zaru soba at Kamakura Karari

Zaru soba with ten-don set

Zaru soba with ten-don set

I took a side trip to Kamakura on day 1 because my N’EX and Suica package includes the Kamakura stop.

I was really hungry when I walked on the streets of Kamakura. But I did not dare pop into casual-looking but surely expensive cafes so I wandered around.

I found several people waiting outside Karari. I entered the doors but was asked to wait outside and write my name on a piece of paper.

Kamakura soba restaurant kitchen
Karari restaurant kitchen

It was an open kitchen concept restaurant. The chefs fried tempura while the customers watched. The second floor was for tour groups so I was stuck downstairs.

The meal was great. I loved the free flow of cold tea as well.

Yayoiken at Minami-senju

Yayoiken at Minami-senju
Yayoiken at Minami-senju

The restaurant near my hotel at Minami-senjuu had coupon machines at the door (like Nakau!).

Katsu set at Yayoiken
Katsu set

I chose a pork chop set because Japanese katsu is delicious! There’s even unlimited refill of rice if you’re hungry.

Unfortunately, my pork smelled in a bad way. At least the miso soup was ok.

5 transportation I took during my travels

I rarely take taxis when travelling. One main reason is that I am stingy thrifty. The other reason is that it’s more interesting to take the public transport and see how the locals travel.

Train in Yogyakarta

Train in Yogyakarta
The ladies-only carriage was among the Top 10 Things I Love about Central Java

D and I were travelling from Jogja to Solo on the local train. Some of the ladies brought their own stools so they don’t need to sit on the floor.

The whole journey felt like a big party, except I was standing.

Public bus in Kamakura

Public bus in Kamakura
Japanese buses are efficient. They even have a timetable of when the buses come.

Biking in San Francisco

Biking in San Francisco
I love cycling and I love cities that embrace cycling. I rented an electrical bike and cycled to Sausalito from San Francisco. It didn’t matter that my bicycle chain fell off and I had to put it back.

Boat in Kuching

Boat in Kuching
A 50 cents ride across the river in the City of Cats.

Becak in Solo

Becak in Solo
One becak drive who took us from Jogja town back to our hotel didn’t manage to get any commission from batik shops and complained about us being “gemuk” (fat). I thought it was quite funny.

Indie Travel Challenge
This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.

Week 36 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about photography: Share 5 photos you took during your travels.

Check out my other #indie2012 posts.

Exploring Tokyo’s red light district at night

Kabukicho in the day
Kabukicho in the day

I’ve wanted to visit Kabuki-cho in Tokyo ever since reading my favorite manga, Gintama. The characters live right on the streets of Kabuki-cho in a fictional old-Tokyo period.

Gintama Kabukicho
Gintama Kabukicho

I managed to walk around in the morning on Sunday. The place was crowded with fashionable people and amazing storefronts.

But I didn’t dare go alone at night because of the area’s reputation. From Japan-guide.com: “Japan’s largest red light district features countless restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pachinko parlors, love hotels and a wide variety of red light establishments for both sexes and sexual orientations. Explore with caution and beware of exorbitant cover fees.”

While I wasn’t prepared to head to Kabuki-cho at night, I wanted to visit Shinjuku’s 24-hour Don Quijote. When S, one of the journalists on the media tour, asked if she could join me to the crazy store. I said “Yes”.

I told her about Kabuki-cho and found someone to go to Tokyo’s infamous red light district with.

Neon lights everywhere

street of Kabuki-cho
street of Kabuki-cho

Kabuki-cho at night was different from day. In fact, the streets felt even brighter when the moon and stars are out than in the day time.

Building with amazing signboards
Building with amazing signboards

There were many backlit signboards, advertising the shop’s wares.

While some shops sold innocent things (food at konbini) and services (manga cafe), a lot of the others sold more mature items.

24-hour manga cafe
Innocent 24-hour manga cafe
Not sure what it is but highly suspicious
Not sure what it is but highly suspicious

There were a lot of “Free Guide” stores in the area. I peeped into one and saw a wall with photos of heavily made up girls which makes me suspect it’s another form of touting.

One of the many "Free Guide" shops.
One of the many “Free Guide” shops.

Speaking of touts, on the streets of Kabuki-cho, there were many well dressed young men in suit with fancy hairstyles. I assume these over-the-top fashionable men were touts who bring visitors to the nightclubs.

Since I looked tourist (and poor), none of them approached me for me to check my theory.

Touts at Kabukicho
Touts at Kabukicho

We walked around only two or three streets of Kabuki-cho, coming across interesting shop names such as “Ninja in New York”:

Ninja in New York sign
Ninja in New York sign

As well as sex toy shops. If you look close enough, there is a piece of paper with Nobita and Shizuka from Doraemon lying down half naked. I had a hard time comprehending why anyone would want to watch Doraemon cartoon porn.

Sex toy shop
Sex toy shop
Sexy shop
Sexy shop

After our quick turn, we headed to Don Quijote for late night window shopping.

I end this post with a rare photo of me in front of landmarks. (The biggest downside of travelling solo is the lack of photos with me inside.)

Me in front of the famous Kabuki-cho
Me in front of the famous Kabuki-cho

More posts on my trip to Tokyo to come.