Shinkansen – Bullet Train of Perfection

Being from Norway, I am not exactly used to speedy trains and if the train is not (for some reason) replaced with bus-for-train, it often does not depart or arrive on time….

Entering Japan, the birthplace of punctuality, where the top leader of the train company has to officially apologize if the train is ever late (which is as good as never). When I was in Japan in March, I took the bullet train and instantly fell in love with this mode of transportation. Standing on the station, we were almost blown away by the sound and pressure of trains passing by with a speed up to 320 km/h. The inside was immaculately clean and the seats were spacious and comfortable. If we had more of these, I would definitely switch from flying to taking the train.

 

Tokyo – Close Encounter With Sumo Wrestlers

As mentioned in earlier posts, Tokyo was an amazing city and it was sad to see our final day approach. But what better way to finish off our trip than with some sumo wrestling? To us westerners seeing 2 flubby men in a skimpy little outfit can seem a bit strange, but in Japan it’s the national sport and the wrestlers are idolized.

We had hoped to see a genuine sumo wrestling match, but unfortunately none were to be arranged during our stay. Instead we settled for an organized tour, ordered through getyourguide.com, but arranged by a local operator. It included an introduction to the sport by some retired wrestlers as well as a show-match. A very touristy thing to do of course, but hey, we wanted to see sumo wrestling, and this was the only viable option to obtain that. The price was about USD 110 and the activity also included the option of going against one of the wrestlers (spoler alert: I skipped that…) and lunch.

We were to meet up in the Ryoguku area, famous for its many sumo stables. We had a bit of a hard time finding the place since the entrance felt like just a whole in the wall, but we had predicted this, so we still had some time to spare when we finally reached our destination.

We were greeted by an amicable middel aged Japanese lady, who fortunately spoke English fluently. She took us to our table, located in a big room with a big mat in one end. Around the room we saw memorabilia of two wrestlers’ former glory.

Soon the show started and we got to meet the wrestlers (which names I heard, but managed to forget like 5 seconds later). They took us through the rules, warm-ups and techniques, all in Japanese of course, but the lady from before translated with

The wrestlers also did 3 show matches, where the big one (still do not remember his name ) won 2-1.

Before the lunch was served, we learned that sumo wrestlers cook their own food. They actually get so experienced in cooking that 50% of them choose the restaurant business as their second careere. They only eat two times a day, but then they eat a lot. The guy below revealed that when he was active he was able to eat up to 300 shushi pcs in one single meal, but now he is down to like a hundred.

The lunch was like all other food we have tasted in Japan; really tasty. We got a «Chanko Nabe», a real sumo lunch consisting of a hot pot with vegetables, proteins an chicken broth.

At the end we had the option of fighting the wrestlers and to take pictures. All in all a great experience and well worth doing when in Tokyo.

Tokyo – All In at the Karaoke Bar (#CoverYourEars)

It would have been a real shame leaving Tokyo without experiencing karaoke, so on one of our final days there, we looked up the venues in the neighborhood for a night of singing. The choice fell on Big Echo Karaokebar, only a 10 minute walk from our Marunouchi hotel.

Before we booked a table at the karaoke bar, however, we made a pit stop for some food and (lots of drinks) at the bar next door as a warm-up. Then we booked a private room with a big TV screen and two microphones for the six of us (with additional drinks to further loosen up the vocal cords…).

Earlier in the day, a couple of the boys were a bit skeptical of the whole karaoke thing and claimed audience status only. But, being in the room with a drink (as in many) in their hand, made that skepticism evaporate within minutes. The whole room took off and we went all in singing wise. We (of course) felt that we were really nailing it, but in retrospect, I think we made a wise call deciding to prohibit audio/video recording of the seance.

Our plan was to only book the room for like 30 minutes to an hour, but 3,5 hour later the staff practically had to force the microphones out of our hands. A super fun experience, and the possibility of booking a private room made even the shyest of us break out in singing.

Tokyo – Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is the Times Square of Tokyo with its huge billboards and neon lights. It is also one of the most busiest intersections in the world with people crossing in all directions at once. Check out this to get the feeling of participating in the chaos of crossing the intersection.

We managed to spend a couple of hours just crossing the street from all angles and by just looking at the crowd. The Starbucks nearby turned out to be the perfect hangout for the spotting activities. This intersection has also appeared in movies/TV shows such as Lost in Translation, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fuller House and is definitely worth a visit. ..and this is the neighboring area…

Shinkansen- Bullet Train of Perfection

Being from Norway, I am not exactly used to speedy trains and if the train is not (for some reason) replaced with bus-for-train, it often does not depart or arrive on time….

Entering Japan, the birthplace of punctuality, where the top leader of the train company has to officially apologize if the train is ever late (which is as good as never). When I was in Japan in March, I took the bullet train and instantly fell in love with this mode of transportation. Standing on the station, we were almost blown away by the sound and pressure of trains passing by with a speed up to 320 km/h. The inside was immaculately clean and the seats were spacious and comfortable. If we had more of these, I would definitely switch from flying to taking the train.

The Black Egg of Owakudani – Will add 7 years to your life, but at a cost…

One day in Tokyo and one day we went on an excursion to (among others) Hakone and Owakudani Valley, the latter s vulcanic valley with a spectacular view of Mount Fuji in fair weather and with hot springs “en masse”.

Earlier this valley was called “Jigokudani” or “The Valley of Hell” due to the sulfuric smell that hits you the minute you approach. But the view was amazing and the hot springs quite amazing, so the stink was totally worth it.

In Owakudani Valley they have a very special kind of egg, the black Owakudani-Egg. The unique color is due to it being cooked in natural spring water containing sulfur and iron and legend has it that if you eat this egg, you will add 7 years to your life. Well, I did not find the egg very tempting, so on a pure gut feeling, I chose to skip the whole eating experience. The cost was simply too high…

Japan, Kobe Beef – A feast for the palate

I wouldn’t exactly say that we here in Norway are spoiled when it comes to beef, or food in general for that matter. That is why we went totally berserk on the food front when we were in Japan in March, and, besides the hours completing the marathon, where I did not manage any intake at all, I think I was more or less stuffed the whole time. To sum it up, the Japanese knows food!

We did, however, save the best for last, namely the Kobe beef, known for being the most tender beef of them all, and it certainly delivered. It was, of course, not the cheapest thing to buy, I would guess it had a kilo price equivalent to…. let’s say gold, but, man, it was so worth it… I could actually go back to Japan just for another delicious, tender bite of that Kobe beef.

Tokyo – Sensoji Temple

Sensoji is a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa and is one of Tokyo’s most colorful and popular temples (source: japan-guide.com). It is easily reachable through the metro system (Asakusa Station, exit 1), it has free admission and is well worth a couple of hours of exploring.

The temple was completed around year 645 and is the oldest temple in Tokyo, build in honor of Kannon, the God of Mercy. It suffered major damage in WWII, but was reconstructed afterwards into its former glory. As you approach the entrance to Sensoji temple, you will pass a Nakamise Dori, with lots of shops selling crafts, souvenirs and plenty of sweet and savory snacks.

Even if the entrance into the area is free, you are welcome to donate money or to by a Omikuji Paper fortune. If you dare buy a fortune and end up with a bad omen, rest assure that not all hope is lost. There are ways to neutralize any bad fortune you may be predicted.

As always when visiting religious, sacred grounds, be respectful and curious and you will have an excellent experience.

 

Tokyo – Tsukiji Fish Market

The day after Tokyo Maraton, in rainy weather and with sore muscles and tons of blisters, we decided to visit the Tsukiji Fishmarket we had heard so much about. The inner marked, where they in early morning hold auctions (e.g for tuna, which is worth its weight in gold obviously) is now closed for tourists, but visiting the outer market was more than enogh.

The outer market consists of a few parallell, narrow streets with street shops and small restaurant. Our umbrellas made it a bit difficult to navigate due to space issues, but we were able to taste some of the amazing street food they were selling, while standing up and holding an umbrella and a beer at the same time.

We also tried one of the many small restaurants that seemingly was just a hole in the wall, but revealed a long, narrow restaurant once inside. Let me just say, best sushi ever!

Tokyo – Elefantføtter fra Helvete

Fredag var det hjemreise og jeg forlot Tokyo med noe ambivalente følelser. På den ene siden var det så mye av Japan jeg ikke hadde fått sett enda at deler av meg ville bli igjen. Men, på den annen side (og definitivt den mest dominante) var det store savnet etter poden, som jeg kun har Skypet med sporadisk de siste 9 dagene.

1 times togtur, nærmere 12 timers flytur til København, lett sprint gjennom Kastrup pga forsinket fly, ytterligere én time fly til Torp og en kort Taxi-tur, var vi endelig hjemme i Sandefjord. Koffertene måtte imidlertid kaste inn håndklet i Køben, så de har ikke ankommet enda.

Det var stort å endelig se Christer igjen og han tok det faktisk med stoisk ro at det japanske godteriet jeg hadde kjøpt til ham fortsatt var på reisefot. Noe som derimot selvfølgelig lå trygt forvart i håndbagasjen var de nye tilskuddene til medaljesamlingen og første punkt på agendan  (selv før en dusj etter 20 timer på reisefot) var å henge de opp på sin rettmessige plass på veggen. Det er noe veldig riktig i synet av «Six Star Finisher»-medaljen-omkranset av sine undersåtter, ikke sant?

Turen hjem var som tidligere nevnt ganske så strabasiøs og jeg merket at bena var noe hovne. Men, jeg må innrømme at jeg ikke var heeelt forberedt på de elefantføttene som veltet ut av sokkene på kvelden. Greit nok at jeg følte meg litt flubby fra før etter 9 dager med binging av delikatesser fra det fantastiske japanske cuisine, men dette var jo litt å dra på. Sjekk forskjellen under mellom i går kveld og i dag morges (grøss…).

Alt i alt var det greit å være hjemme igjen. Det som værgudene imidlertid kunne spart seg for var å belemre oss med mer pokkers SNØ allerede første dagen!!! Nå som jeg endelig trodde vi var kvitt elendigheten for i år (sukk…).