30 July 2006

This is Japan... again (Part 2)

Woke up really early one morning to go to Tsukiji fish market. Now, this was a rather big thing for me because I've been thwarted on the past couple of attempts to get there. The first time, it was raining. And on the second time, it was ALSO raining AND I didn't have enough sleep.

Anyway, I finally made it!

Tsukiji fish market, from the outside.

If you're wondering what all the excitement's about, Tsukiji fish market is one of the biggest in the world, with deep-sea trawlers coming in as early as 3am. By 5am, it's jam packed with housewifes and restaurant owners bidding on fresh tuna and other seafood.

Unfortunately, I only got there about 6:30am. By then, it was a lot calmer.

A little quiet...

The sheer variety and amount of seafood here is fantastic. But the stars of the show are the huge frozen tuna, unloaded fresh from the trawlers. I always knew that tuna were big, but I never expected them to be dolphin sized.


Of course, the REAL reason why I was at Tsukiji was because it had the freshest sushi in the whole of Tokyo. And it was about time for breakfast. My travel book recommended this place called Sushi Dai.

That's it - the one with the green sign and a queue of people

I had to wait about 20 minutes to get in. It's a really small restaurant - only enough room for about 12 people or so. However, it was definitely worth the wait :)


They've got a relatively small menu. I chose the "middle sized" set, which was awesome.

The dude who made my breakfast!

I'm lost for words in describing how fantastic the sushi was. It was SOOOO fresh, I could probably eat a bucket of it and not be sick. The way the fresh tuna and other strange looking squirmy things tantalise your tastebuds is priceless.

Well, actuall it costs 3000yen (approx. RM90), but it's worth every bloody yen. Mmmm...

Maybe I'll post some more sushi pics later... ^_^

23 July 2006

This is Japan... again

Been back for about a week now but have been too busy at work to write anything.

Basically, Tokyo was a blast. Not that a great deal happened but it was nice being able to wander around and do whatever I wanted without worrying too much about time.

I stayed at this wonderful ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) called Ryokan Shigetsu, located at the quaint district of Asakusa in Tokyo. The rooms cost only about 250 Ringgit a night (single room) with an attached bath, nice tatami mat floors and a fluffy futon to sleep on. I forgot to take pictures of the outside but this is what my room looked like:

The ryokan even has a public bath with a nice view of the nearby pagoda (see the website!!!). Unfortunately, the water was WAAAAAY too hot - just five seconds in it and I was starting to doubt my ability to procreate after.

Considering that it was the middle of summer (temperatures reaching 32 degrees Celsius, with high humidity), it was a little pointless to have a boiling hot bath anyway.

There are actually two public bathrooms - a bigger one with huge windows that give you a view of the city (the baths are on the 6th floor) and a small one with only a small slit near the ceiling.

But what's rather dodgy is that people in the neighbouring tall buildings can actually look right into the larger bathroom at night.

Which is why the Ryokan swaps the male and female baths, so that the girls get the bigger bath in the morning (with a nice view) while they get the smaller, more private one at night.

The problem, of course, was that when I walked into the big bathroom one morning (which had been a 'male' one the night before), I hadn't realised that they swapped the male/female signs at the doors (wasn't wearing my glasses). Thank God no women decided to have early morning baths that morning... -_-" (free show!)

I highly recommend this Ryokan, especially for the whole Japaneseness of it. It's also really convenient, being only a 3 minute walk from the Asakusa Tokyo Metro station.

They also serve darn good breakfast in the morning, although you have to order it the night before (it's about 30 Ringgit). The other problem is that all the rooms are cleaned between 10am and 3pm, which means that you have to vacate your room.

The ryokan is located right next to the Asakusa Kannon Temple and the shopping district.

This is the famous giant lantern at the entrance to the shopping district. It's normally crowded but I took this shot at 5:30am.

The shopping district itself is full of stores selling souvenirs, food and traditional Japanese stuff like fans, kimonos, tea sets, swords, etc. It also stretches across into the neighbourhood, with a huge collection of restaurants and other souvenir shops. Oddly enough, I ended up eating at McDonalds here pretty often (it's cheaper than most restaurants here).

Asakusa is perhaps the closest link to olden Tokyo, with old aunties (and the occasional young woman) trotting around in their latest summer kimonos.

Compared to the rest of Tokyo, Asakusa is a relatively nice, quiet place. Almost like a small town. This photo's actually been altered - the sky is untouched, but i increased the brightness of the foreground for a better look.

During my stay, I had to pay a visit to the neighbourhood coin laundry (the Ryokan didn't offer such a service). Summer was so hot that I had gone through all of my shirts halfway through the trip (I sweat. A lot). Had the opportunity to mingle with some old uncles and aunties, which was great fun. Really.

In fact, the only problem with Asakusa is that everything closes so darn early. By 7pm, half of the stores in the shopping district have closed. By 9pm, it's a ghost town.

Nice place to stay, though. I'll be back with more pics and updates!

09 July 2006

Bushy-tailed kitty...

There's this stray cat (I think) wondering around my neighbourhood lately.

It looks absolutely adorable, thanks to its really thick, bushy tail (unlike the rest of its body) and these really bored-looking yellow eyes.

Took the opportunity to get to know the furry fella better:

Awww... -_-

08 July 2006


After various form of drama throughout the week, it seems that I'm actually off to Japan this coming Monday. I've got my air tickets and visa here on my desk, which means that - unless my streak of misfortune continues - I'm off.

Haven't taken a holiday in a long time. Sure, the first couple of days is a working trip but the rest of it will be time for me to be alone. To do whatever I want. In Tokyo.

Tokyo Tower - taken during my previous trip

Sorry if this sounds all emotional or even boring, but I'm really looking forward to this trip, even though I probably won't get much done and won't get to see a lot of things I'm hoping I'll get to see. Chances are, something will happen right in the middle of it all to ruin one of my many plans (I hear it's been raining a bit).

I've been meaning to visit the famous fish market there at 5am in the morning to snap some photos and eat fresh sashimi for breakfast (haven't had the chance). So far, it's rained every blasted morning I've tried to go.

But yet, I don't care if I end up being thwarted by rain again. Whenever I'm in Japan, I just feel good. Even if it turns out to be a complete disaster, I've got this baseless confidence that I'm going to enjoy myself.

Tokyo is one of those cities where I've always felt rather comfortable in for some funny reason. Familiar, even. Maybe it's because of my many years of anime/manga fandom/geekdom. At least I've stopped fantasising about having a Japanese girlfriend.


Erm, maybe I haven't :P

The other thing is that Japan is the only non-primarily-English-speaking foreign country I know of where I'm actually able to speak the language somewhat (I'm completely hopeless with Cantonese, which is why I dread going to Hong Kong). Other than Indonesia, of course.

But what I'm quite surprised about is the fact that I'm actually looking forward to this trip!

This is a big deal because - in all honesty - I've not really looked forward to any sort of holiday since I was 9-years-old and realised that every trip to Singapore guaranteed a new Autobot or Decepticon. And mind you, I've been on plenty of trips since then.

And the best part is - I have no idea why I'm so looking forward to it!!! Maybe it's because I'll be travelling alone with nobody to wait for or to keep waiting. Maybe it's because I'm itching for some sort of urban adventure. Maybe this time, I'll get off the correct exit at Shunjuku station (the incorrect one being the West exit).

It's 4am... time to sleep.

BTW, this is also my 100th post, which is a milestone of sorts, I suppose. And this blog itself is a month or two shy of its first birthday. I still remember signing up with Blogger, not knowing what to write on this blank virtual soapbox. Now, I've got enough rubbish written to be compiled into a coffee table book.

Thanks for reading.

04 July 2006

Fairly useless trivia - Part 1

And now for this week's completely useless bit of trivia.

Some of you may be aware of the existence of two distinct marine clownfish: The Ocellaris Clownfish and Percula Clownfish (also known as a false anemonefish / false clownfish).

Both species are very closely related and have very similar patterns and colours although an experience marine biologits could probably tell the two apart at a glance.

What I didn't know (and I bet you don't either) is that the 'easiest' way to tell them apart is to count the number of spines on their dorsal fins - Ocellarises have 11 while Perculas have just 10.



Well, now you know.

It'll be difficult keeping the little buggers completely still while you count, though.