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Tokyo! Here we go! And some BOMB yakitori

Today we’re off to Tokyo! We grabbed all our bags, squeezed out of our Osaka abode, and headed to the station. We rode from Shin-Imimaya on the JR line to Osaka Station and then swapped over to Shin-Osaka Station, where we had to be to get to Tokyo — lugging all of our stuff the whole way, of course.

The first thing we did was pickup our tickets for the Shinkansen (the bullet train) which was scheduled to depart in 40 minutes. That, I thought, gave us plenty of time to grab a bite. Again, I thought.

I saw a little food court next to our train platform and headed in with Piggy. They had a takoyaki stand, a curry shop, a ramen shop, and a few others. I was in the mood for curry and Piggy was fine with that. I ordered the fried chicken curry while Piggy got the chicken cutlet curry.

Grabbed some tasty curry cutlet at Tokyo Station

Grabbed some tasty curry cutlet at Tokyo Station

Pork got the fried chicken curry and said it was amazing

Pork got the fried chicken curry and said it was amazing

The cashier told me the fried chicken would take 15 minutes, but since I thought we had so much time, I complied. When we got our food, I checked the time and saw we only had 20 minutes until it was time for departure. Ruh-roh!

I gobbled down my dish and told Piggy to do the same. It only took me about 5 minutes to wipe my entire plate clean. The curry turned out to be on point anyway so I probably would have eaten it just as fast normally. Piggy definitely does not shovel food in as fast as I can so I let her know I would go pick up the bento boxes for our bullet train ride. Because even though we JUST ate, we wanted to experience the bento-train-ride-experience for our 4 hour journey to Tokyo.

With about 10 minutes to departure, I ran over to the bento shop only about 30 feet away. There were so many options! But with the little time we had, I just pointed at two bentos, picked up two drinks, and headed back to get Piggy.

Luckily, she was done and had our bags ready. We rushed over to the platform and saw our Shinkansen had arrived. We hopped into our car, found our reserved seats, and let out a sigh of curry-breath relief.

About 2 hours in, we decided to watch Kiki’s Delivery on my iPad. Neither myself or Piggy have seen it and we figured we had to watch it since we would be going to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. At this time, we also decided to bust out the bentos.

Outside packaging of the bento boxes

Outside packaging of the bento boxes

Ta-da! Inside the bento box

Ta-da! Inside the bento box

Our other bento box with a crazy variety

Our other bento box with a crazy variety

Our wicked setup for a great bullet train ride

Our wicked setup for a great bullet train ride

These bento boxes were amazing. The food was actually alright but I was more impressed by the packaging, variety of food, and presentation. These boxes are prime examples of Japan’s obsession with food presentation as an art.

Once we got to Tokyo, we hopped on a few transfers to get to our Umejima station. We got a bit lost a few times, but nothing too terrible so I’ll skip over it. The fun part was when we got to Umejima station and headed out to find the airBnB.

Looking for our airBnB in the Adachi neighborhood

Looking for our airBnB in the Adachi neighborhood

Piggy running about looking for the place

Piggy running about looking for the place

Piggy, who booked this reservation, told me the address she found from the booking. So we made our way to that address and saw that it definitely was NOT the right place. Without internet connection, it made it difficult for us to look up additional details about the airBnB or to email our host. All we had to go off of was the name of the building and that it was at least 9 stories tall with a flower shop next to it. Given this, we frantically looked around the neighborhood around the station in hopes of spotting something with all of our stuff in tow. This definitely became cumbersome and so we decided to have Piggy wait at the station while I took off to run around the neighborhood to find this 9 story building.

I literally ran around the neighborhood. I zipped through small streets, hopped over a few bricks and sprinted out to the several tall buildings I could see from the distance. After searching for about 10 minutes and to no avail, I decided it would be best if I started heading back to the station. While heading towards the station, I spotted a flower shop and next to it… the name of our building!

To our luck, my run turned out to be productive and I dashed back to Piggy. As I approached her to tell her I found the place, she began telling me how she found the instructions to get to our airBnB from the station. Apparently, she did not read through ALL of the instructions…

ANYWAY! At least we found it.

We got into our airBnB and found the place to match the pictures exactly.

The fantastic view from our room!

The fantastic view from our room!

The view from the room was spectacular and we later found out that we would be able to see Mt. Fuji on a clear day.

After spending some time resting, our hostess, who was gone all day at work, came back home. She was extremely pleasant and asked us all about our plans. We mostly had none so she immediately began creating an itinerary for us. She even recommended we head to Ueno for dinner as that was a great spot with plenty of food and was only a few stops away.

Ueno's Ameyoko market

Ueno’s Ameyoko market

The market was bustling on a Friday night

The market was bustling on a Friday night

Ueno streets are filled with lights

Ueno streets are filled with lights

Ueno was poppin’. And we were hungry! We looped through a few of the busy streets and tried to decide on what to eat. There were so many options! A few times we passed the same yakitori shop which was PACKED with businessmen in suits. But on our 3rd time passing by, we saw 2 empty seats by the bar. Well, we hadn’t had yakitori in Japan yet and the place was popular so we went for it.

Right outside the yakitori - small local joint

Right outside the yakitori – small local joint

We were immediately seated. After a brief bit of gesturing, the waitress figured we were foreigners and handed us a foreigner friendly menu.

The foreigner friendly menu with pictures

The foreigner friendly menu with pictures

Yes! Exactly what we needed. It’s always a relief to get a menu in english AND with pictures. We started with 2 bottles of beer and a few skewers. We were ready to eat!

Getting our drank on at the yakitori joint

Getting our drank on at the yakitori joint

Pork tongue and garlic miso chicken skewers - SO BOMB

Pork tongue and garlic miso chicken skewers – SO BOMB

The chicken parts combo - chicken heart, thigh, meatball, cartilage, and skin

The chicken parts combo – chicken heart, thigh, meatball, cartilage, and skin

ALL of the skewers were SO GOOD. I enjoyed all of them, including the chicken cartilage and skin. Even the pork tongue I liked (which was weird given our nicknames–or was it?). We were so impressed, we ended up ordering 2 more orders.

More amazing chicken skewers

More amazing chicken skewers

These too were also incredible! And best of all, the place was considerably cheaper than any yakitori place I’ve had in the States. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the name of the shop. But thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to find it in STREET VIEW!

Despite our full bellies, the dessert shop next door caught our eyes.

Piggy with her dessert

Piggy with her dessert

Om nom nom

Om nom nom

Now completely satisfied, we roamed a little more around Ueno and headed into a few of the SEGA/Taito stores that have our beloved UFO catcher machines.

And then, we did what we’ve been doing before…

WIN TOO MUCH STUFF TO BRING BACK.

Piggy's super winning!

Piggy’s super winning!

She got another one!

She got another one!

We cleaned the machine out

We cleaned the machine out

Fluffy kittays omg

Fluffy kittays omg

A great first day in Tokyo indeed.

– pork

Claw Machines Will Ruin Us: Osaka Shopping at Shinsaibashi

Full first day of Osaka, here we go! We decided to hit up downtown Osaka otherwise known as Minami (Namba), which consists of smaller shopping and restaurant districts. The main shopping and restaurant districts we explored were Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. But first stop, lunch! So what you will find in Japan in general is that at a lot of subway stations and inside malls, there will be restaurant floors, where you either go to the basement, or the 10th/11th floors of the building to find restaurants galore! And if you are little piggies like we are, this is either Heaven or Hell, depending on how you look at it. It is Heaven because there is food everywhere! It is also Hell because if you are indecisive, then it will take you a long time to decide where to eat.

Also, word of advice: before you go to Japan, learn how to read/speak Japanese. A lot of Japanese restaurants actually don’t offer English menus so just keep that in mind. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t learn anything, but it will definitely help since Japan has much less access to English than Korea did, therefore making foreigner-native interactions very charades-like with a lot of pointing, nodding, and bowing..haha. Anyway, Pork and I downloaded 2 Japanese language learning apps (“Learn Japanese Phrasebook” and “Learn Japanese”) to learn some common words/phrases. For those interested in downloading these apps, “Learn Japanese Phrasebook” is by Codegent and “Learn Japanese” is by Bravolol. The apps definitely came in handy at certain points of our trip but we will get to that in a different post.

So anyway, back to the restaurant Heaven/Hell. It’s GREAT seeing so many restaurants in one area but it makes your decisions that much harder because Japanese restaurants put out a lot of fake displays of what’s on their menu (as you see at Japanese restaurants in America), so every restaurant has something that looks delicious but then you also don’t know if it’s good. So another tip: do as the Japanese do. If you see a lot of Japanese people waiting at a restaurant, that restaurant must be pretty good and you should probably wait too. If there aren’t that many people in the restaurant, then I bid you good luck. Haha, I’m kidding, it’s not that scary. Just don’t expect the food to be great. Our first glimpse to this restaurant Heaven/Hell was in Osaka station. We decided on this ramen restaurant and once seated, the waitress quickly realized we didn’t speak any Japanese so we ordered our food by walking to the outside of the restaurant with the waitress and pointing at one of their fake displays of ramen sets. Thank goodness for those fake displays! 🙂

Grabbing lunch on the way to Shinsaibashi

Grabbing lunch on the way to Shinsaibashi

Piggy and her ramen set

Piggy and her ramen set

Pork's sesame noodle with side of omelette rice

Pork’s sesame noodle with side of omelette rice

Piggy's ramen and fried rice set

Piggy’s ramen and fried rice set

Once we finished and paid, it was time to shop! Woot! We stumbled past a lot of different types of stores selling clothes, shoes, accessories, you name it. We didn’t really buy anything though. I bought shoes because I definitely wore the wrong pair of shoes that day, so yay! New shoes for me! ^^

Uniqlo in Shinsaibashi. Looks heavenly

Uniqlo in Shinsaibashi. Looks heavenly

Sanrio store

Sanrio store

Silly Attack On Titan paper model

Silly Attack On Titan paper model

And then we stumbled upon this…

Sega UFO Catcher store!!

Sega UFO Catcher store!!

So if you guys don’t know what UFO Catchers are, they’re claw games. Pork and I got ridiculously addicted to these claw games when we studied abroad in Taiwan for 3 months way back in 2010. So, OF COURSE we went crazy and spent a ridiculous amount of money on these claw games in Japan because we’re such suckers for cute things and anything that has to do with LINE or any anime that we know/watch!!! This hobby is not recommended for anyone. You feel so much pride and joy from winning the prize, whatever it may be, but then you end up with a bunch of things that you don’t even know what to do with, and you can’t part with them because like I said, they’re your pride and joy. Please don’t judge us. (Okay okay, judge all you want. We shall pretend that you guys are all jealous of all the stuff we won, so HA! Ignorance is bliss.)

They have LINE characters!

They have LINE characters!

Brown and Cony dolls

Brown and Cony dolls

Piggy won a Moon doll

Piggy won a Moon doll

Pork won 2 Brown dolls at the same time!

Pork won 2 Brown dolls at the same time!

After our fun, we explored more through the downtown area.

Famous Dottunburi Glico board

Famous Dotonbori Glico board

Oh, another thing that we found very common in Japan is restaurants having gigantic mascots (I’m not sure if this is the right way to describe them) above their location to attract attention and boy, did they get our attention!

Giant crab that moves!

Giant crab that moves!

If God made and handed us sushi, I imagine it would look like this

If God made and handed us sushi, I imagine it would look like this

We found more claw machines! Of course, this machine has things that only Japan can get away with… Not sure if you guys know, but the subject of “sex” is way more common and open in Japan. No one really talks about it, but it’s just understood that Japan has an entire industry involved around sex. I’m not talking about prostitution. Yes, Japan has that, but Japan takes the sex industry to the next level. I’m sure a lot of you have heard, but we can save that talk for another time. Anyway…the next picture, haha. 🙂

Japan can be silly...

Japan can be silly…

So we got to Dotonburi and this area is filled with more shops and restaurants.

Dotonburi shopping

Dotonburi shopping

And it was time to try some takoyaki (octopus dough balls)! Pork and I didn’t look up any really famous takoyaki places to go to, just because we figured any place in Osaka would be good. Osaka is known for having the best takoyaki and okonomiyaki. So the takoyaki that we’ve had back in the states were more fried and chewy, whereas this takoyaki that we had was very soft and runny. All the foreigners I spoke to about it said the same thing as well. I’ve noticed a lot of Japanese dishes have egg and most of the time, the egg has that soft boiled or poached texture. (I also noticed a lot of the eggs we ate in Japan had an orange-red colored yolk, as opposed to a yellow yolk that’s so common in the states.) So if you’re into that type of texture, then definitely try some!

Takoyaki covered in green onions

Takoyaki covered in green onions

It started to rain later so we rushed inside a department store to get some coverage. Near the entrance of the mall, we found a small group of people gathered, examining at first glance, what looked like a girl dressed up in a kimono. But when you step closer, you notice that she’s not exactly a human. It’s pretty crazy where technology is going these days.

Super creepy and life-like robot girl

Super creepy and life-like robot girl

Anyway, after we checked that out, we left and went to go find more UFO catcher places. 🙂

More UFO catchers!

More UFO catchers!

So before you plan that trip to Japan, make sure you have a handy coin pouch. Everything below $10.00 US is a coin in Japan. So if you don’t have a coin pouch, be prepared to jingle. Pork and I won these silicone coin pouches from (what else) a claw machine!

Pork won a much needed coin pouch

Pork won a much needed coin pouch

Piggy with her coin pouch winning

Piggy with her coin pouch winning

After all of this spending (ahem, I mean WINNING), we needed some dinner! Pork and I were determined to get some good sashimi/sushi (since we weren’t so impressed with last night’s sushi), but we kept finding Sushi Train/Boat places, and knowing the reputation of those types of places in U.S., we wanted to avoid them. So we finally settled on this rice bowl place and both ordered the Deluxe size of the rice bowl pictured below. It honestly wasn’t…great. Truth be told, there weren’t that many people inside the restaurant either. That was our first mistake. The uni had a bit of a fishy aftertaste (bleh). So, we spoke with a friend (hi Tim!) we met at the Osaka airbnb about it afterward and he was the one that told us we should just follow as the Japanese do. We should still go into a Sushi Train restaurant if it seems popular, and if we see the Japanese people taking sushi off the train, then the sushi should be okay to eat it, but if we see the Japanese people ignoring the sushi train and ordering directly from the chef, then we should follow suit too. Good advice, however, we never even set foot into a Sushi train restaurant for the rest of our time in Japan (heh..we kinda forgot about them). But nonetheless, the advice still generally applies to dining out at Japanese restaurants. So remember guys, I know I’ve already repeated it a lot, but when in Japan, do as the Japanese do.

Uni, salmon, and negi toro rice bowl

Uni, salmon, and negi toro rice bowl

-piggy