Monday, August 4, 2008

Tokyo Sojourn (Part III) - Food & Shopping

Food, Glorious Food

I am not a sashimi (nor any kind of raw foods) person, so I stuck to non-adventurous food whilst in Japan. Alot of our meals were provided for in the tours (some of crap Chinese buffet-style, complete with China people jostling for food), and we did not have the chance to go around much and be experimental with our taste buds (I made up for it with alot of snacking in between - haha!).

We had BBQ buffet on the first night there (eat until very full lor)...

then had a udon set lunch the next day (local colleagues found the food quantity to be too little, and the udon to taste different from China types - I found it nice..heh!)...

on the second night, whilst staying at Hakone small town, all of us dressed up in traditional gear (ok, it's the pyjamas they actually provided us), and sat down on tatami mats for a traditional dinner. It was very hard for us all to sit like the tour guide is demonstrating, so in the end I just stuck out my legs - some of the little girls even "zhao gng" (exposed themselves), but the food and experience was fun nonetheless!...

it was lunch and dinner on our own expenses the next day, so I ate in a small ramen stall where I first had to buy a ticket from the vending machine, and then passed it to the very handsome cook over the counter to whip up a bowl of vegetable ramen (was delicious! the ramen, not the cook). I did not dare to take photos too blatantly, so here's a sneaky shot across the table of somebody else slurping his ramen.... SLUUURPPPP!

For dinner, by the time we were done with shopping, I was starving and totally not in the mood (nor have energy) to capture photographs, but we ate chicken BBQ rice - again very delicious...and for the last day, that was where we were brought to eat the yucky Chinese buffet lunch, so I won't even bother wasting time complaining about how yucky it is...(though I found out that for China tours, it is mandatory for the tours to include at least one Chinese meal, and alot of my local colleagues appreciate it as they were not used to the less flavorful seasonings of Japanese cuisine).

One thing about Japanese items and foodstuffs is the fact that they all look too good to be eaten. It's all about packaging, packaging, packaging, and the foodstuff I brought back for my colleagues and friends/family are all so kawaii (cute), that I couldn't bear to open them up...

Another thing about Japan are the vending machines - and you can see them all over the place selling anything from burgers to cigarettes to hot coffee... I could not resist and bought some drinks - you can see even their drink bottles are oh-so-cute....

It was snacks galore as we went from place to place, and I had to kick myself hard to resist my sweet tooth (although I succumbed at times), as I was mindful of my blood sugar levels. I enjoyed the lovely snacks and desserts, and took the chance to try out various foodstuff as much as possible (quite easy as I got hungry relatively fast!) - so no regrets!


Shopping, Glorious Shopping

We were brought to a few areas for our shopping:

Ginza, Japan's premier shopping district with various international designer brands, and a place to see and be seen...

and on our free and easy afternoon, instead of heading to Tokyo Disneyland as I originally intended to (decided not to in the end as I'd only have half a day there, and can't enjoy the rides in my condition), we went to Shibuya for some serious walking around. This area is a popular shopping and entertainment area and one of Tokyo's most colorful and busy districts and birthplace to many of Japan's fashion and entertainment trends. They have major departmental stores in this area as well, and I managed to pick up quite a few maternity wear from various places, including affordable pieces from Muji (they are not actually for pregnant women, but these days, large, flowy dresses are in, so good for me!) My colleagues basically went crazy over the cosmetics/toiletries stores, which has alot of local brands like Kose or Fancl selling at much cheaper prices than they get in China, so they bought like as if they were going to export (seriously)...


On the last day, we had our last does of retail therapy at two places - one at VenusFort, which was tourists' duty-free heaven, and interesting because the indoor decor is replicated after 17th-18th century European architecture and streets. In the day time, there is an open ceiling showing clear, bue skies, changing to a starlit night in the evening.


It was a pity I was too busy covering the three levels of shopping to take in the nice interior decor (and they had alot, alot of baby clothing on the first floor, which fortunately, I did not succumb to cos I know if I started, I would not stop! I saw a can-die-for pullover for a kid, that read "My voyage has just begun", and at the back, it read "Guide me" - it costs SGD60!).

Next door to this was the Toyota Automobile Museum (free entry too), but seriously, who cared about viewing this when I don't already have enough time shopping?!!

En route to the airport, the coach stopped us at Jusco - I seriously underminded this place - Jusco was just one of its major tenants - there were two storeys of serious shopping and other outlets and in only one hour, there was only so much I could cover! At one point, I was walking so fast that I felt slight pangs of pain and had to slow down (sorry, darling daughter!)...


The only "lowlight" of the shopping was when the tour guide forced all of us to go to this lousy "duty-free" shop (even after violent protests) that basically did not have anything much and has service staff who were all Chinese-speaking (so guess who their target "victims" usually are)...wasted at least one hour of precious time there - luckily we scooted out to get more food, haha!

Surprisingly, I did not end up with too much shopping at the end of this trip. Japan has alot of cute knick-knacks and nice clothing that make my eyes and mind whirl (and if I was shopping in my non-pregnant figure, I'm sure the damage on clothing would have been colossal!), but alot of times, the stuff are things that make me go "hmmm...what on earth would I do with soemthing like that when I bring it home?" or "would I seriously wear something like that?"...they are having their summer sale now so prices are really reasonable, and their service is very, very impeccable. To the point when I am rushing around from shop to shop and had to bite my tongue to not be rude when they take forever to wrap up my items, or walk from behind their counter with my purchases so as to see me out of the shop (haha!).

See my spoils at the end of the day..not too bad, isn't it?

Enough posts for the day - I will wrap up my final Tokyo Sojourn postings with commentaries about the hotel, the folks on this trip, as well as random musings...till then!

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