Author: Yellow Duckie
The other day Sue-Anne asked me a question that I can't seems to get it off my head. Her question was " What is your best experience, thus far, in Japan?". After giving much thought about it, I have come out with a list of my best experiences (since I can't decide which is the best) in Japan and here it is:

1. Spending an evening at the New York Bar (Park Hyatt Hotel) with live Jazz Performance
For a Jazz lover like myself, I have actually dreamt of being in a Jazz bar with a live performance with the city night's light as the backdrop and New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Hotel has it all. I couldn't ask for more.

As we reach the entrance of the hotel, I was totally unimpressed by the casual entrance which I thought that the Putrajaya Marriot Hotel was more impressive. Not until we arrived at the lobby which is situated on the 41st floor. I was totally dumb founded. As the lift opens, the dim hotel lounge that overlooks the city lights greeted us. I was led to a hall way full of bookshelves and then I was on my way to the 52nd floor where the New York Bar is.

"Are you ready, Ivy?" was Sue-Anne's question to me and before I could answer it, the lift door opens revealing one of the most magnificent scene I have always dream of seeing and I couldn't help it but I was caught breathless. I even let out a gasp that made the lady at the counter turned and look at us. Trust me, at that moment, time really stops and I wished I could hold that moment for a little while longer. Standing between me and the city lights of Tokyo was a thin glass window. I was so thrilled. I was trying to keep my calm but trust me it was really difficult. I wasn't quite dress for the occasion (more like a Texas farm girl) but it didn't stop me from getting into the bar, thank God for that!

To our excitement, a live Jazz performance were on at that time and that was it, I really couldn't ask for more. Not until the bill arrives (there was a cover charge for the live performance), Sue-Anne literally had a headache after that but I must say, it was worth it all.

2. Sento
Communal bath house. I have never tried bathing with some many other girls in a bath room. So I tried it in Kyoto and I must say, it was quite an experience. It is not our culture to bare ourselves with the same gender and bath. It was initially quite ackward but the women there were all so casual about it so it does help. I find it pretty hard to get undress but I eventually did as I was pressing for time. I must say, this experience will tear down your pride and dignity (hehehe alright I am exaggerating).

However, I do recall one of the lady who happened to be soaking in the tub staring at me when I make my way to the tub. As I sat there I couldn't understand why is she looking at me strangely until I look at the angle she was looking at. From where she sits she could actually see me pretty well (eeewww.. she must have been looking at my butt!) and then I recall my dilemma earlier on at the shower. I couldn't decide which was the shampoo and which was the soap (They didn't bother labelling it in English!). So, you could have guessed, I studied both cleansing liquid like I was doing some research on them. In the end, I actually mixed both of it and use it as a shampoo. I guess she must have found it amusing. Weird gaijin!

The soak in the hot tub has an extremely positive result although soaking for 10 minutes could be a pure torture for a low heat intolerant person like myself.

3. Outdoor Onsen
I was lucky enough to be able to try the outdoor hot tub at 19.2 degree celcius , the water in the tub of course is hot. Mind you, you'll have to walk out naked from the room to the tub which is situated outside of the bath room. After ten minutes of soaking in the hot tub ( if you can withhold that long), you will have no problem withstanding 19.2 degree celcius with no clothes on.

4. Dinner by the Irori
Irori is a pit that is found in the middle of an ancient traditional Japanese home where there is a pot hung over the ceiling and it is used to warm the house and cook dinner ( I think so). My trout was cooked over the charcoal in the Irori. Having dinner by the Irori simply gives you a whole new experience of eating by the fire place. Hiromi ( the inn keeper of Goyomon, Ainokura) served me a really sweet warm sake to go with my meal, needless to say it was really a good compliment to the extravaganza meal she served me.

5. Boating at Lake Yamanakoku (with no experience in rowing a boat)
I was glad that Sue-Anne suggested that we go for the boat ride to watch sunset over the Mount Fuji. Word of advise, even if don't know how to row a boat, you'll get it somehow so pick up the oar and start your adventure.

I rowed the boat for half an hour (spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get the boat to get where we wanted it to go) and unbelievably we did manage to get quite far out from the dock. The view... needless to describe. Thank God for the clear weather, we could even see the walking trail on the mountain itself! When it was Sue-Anne's turn to row the boat back, she wished she hadn't asked me to row further away from the dock.

6. Tsukiji Fish Market
Although we only had 4 hours of sleep the night before, waking up at 5.30 am for the Tsukiji Fish market was worth it. Getting into the wholesale area was quite an adventure itself. One must be really careful on where you are walking as there are many trucks zooming for every corner of the road. The Tsukiji whole sale fish market is a really great aquarium for sightings of giant tuna, giant size shell fishes ( "see ham" with the size of your knuckle) and many other weird sea creature that you would never imagine could be eaten. Beware of angry fish mongers!

7. Hike from Magome to Tsumago
Getting lost in the beginning of my walk was quite discouraging but I am glad that I pressed on. The journey was a mixture of walking along side highway and nature trail. You will pass by villages, plantation fields and loads of beautiful sceneries. As I was threading on this trail, I get a feeling of how it feels like for the people in the olden days travelling between these two towns (except of course when the trail leads to the highway).

The most rewarding scene was the Male and Female waterfalls ( so it was named). Although you will have to detour a little from the trail (about 150 m), the sight was quite worth it.

The trail is about 8.6 km and it took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Tsumago from Magome.

8. Dinner at Mutzimi's House (Sue-Anne's Student, and I hope I got her name right)
Less than 24 hours of my arrival in Japan, I was so blessed to be invited for a dinner at a Japanese home of a great Japanese Chef. I must admit that the dinner was very different from what they served in the restaurant and I really enjoyed the meal.

This was the menu: Squid salad, stew taro with squid, cawan mushi, Gyoza, baked seadfood pasta with cheese, chest nut rice and grapes from Mutzimi's father's vineyard.

It was quite worth getting pins and needles at my feet after sitting on the tatami floor for too long and I really appreciate Sue-anne for taking the effort to translate to me what they were talking about.

9. Standing at the platform when a shinkasen(bullet train) passes through the platform without stopping
At the speed of about 250 km/h, you could feel your andrenaline rises when it passes you by. Of course the ride itself is one of a great experience when you are in Japan.

10. Ride on a giant ferris wheel
With the diammeter of 117 m, you can imagine how huge the wheel is. Before the ride I wished that it would move faster but during the ride, the slow speed that it was moving at was just right. From the top, it was really a sight to behold.

11. Walking at the crossroad of Shibuya
For those who watch cantonese movies, you could probably identify a scene of Tokyo that is always included whenever the location is set in Tokyo. Loads of people crossing at the crossroad that was surrounded by sky scrappers and huge LCD screens, yup, I was told it was the crossroad at Shibuya.

My jaw dropped when I saw the amount of people there. Upon seeing the crowd in Shibuya, I think the massive crowd in Hong Kong is really nothing compared to this.

12. Cycling in Kofu
I was rather surprised that I could still cycle after so many years of not riding on a bicycle. I actually enjoyed it. To only funny incident about riding the bicycle is that, one day I have decided to cook dinner. I was so carried away shopping for groceries that I forgot that I will be riding a bicycle back to Sue-Anne's apartment. I shopped as though I still have my 1.5 litre red wira(hero) to bring my goods back. It didn't hit me that I have limited space in bringing my goods back until I stood right in front of the bicycle's basket. I was playing jigsaw puzzle with the goods (not to mention that I did a little shopping at the mall). With a bag hanging from one side of the bike and a basket full of goods, I managed to ride home safely.

This is my list so far. Although I have only noted these experiences, I must say that the entire trip itself was really a sweet surprise and an eye opener. I never thought I would have enjoy Japan so much and I did.
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On November 2, 2005 at 6:02:00 AM GMT+3 , iwannaeatporkchoptonight said...

Let's do em' all again in Vietnam or somewhere! :)