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Turning Japanese

One good thing about what I do is I get to travel. I have been meaning to write about my Japan trip since I have set foot in the country two years ago although I was not really sure where to begin describing this beautiful place which I adored for a long time. 
 

Japan culture has always amazed me. I loved mangas, Japanese fashion, the language, the heritage — everything! I love Japanese brands, I work for a Japanese company, some people even mistake my last name as Japanese! Anyway, enough of the obsession! 

 
Discovery 1:  Japanese food
 
I have talked about the awesome ramen experience I had in Dazaifu in my previous post but it’s not only the noodles which would make you miss Japan. Everything is so pretty from the presentation to the taste — it’s so darn perfect!
 

Never encountered so many veggie sushi  and whatchamacallits in my whole life.

Never encountered so many veggie sushi  and whatchamacallits in my whole life.


The Japanese can define what fresh is.

The Japanese can define what fresh is.

 

Beef.

Beef.

 

More beef.

More beef.

 

Mouth-watering beef in a Korean BBQ way at Dragon Kalbi restaurant. (Only in Japan, it is better. Hahaha! -overheard from a local.)

Mouth-watering beef in a Korean BBQ way at Dragon Kalbi restaurant. (Only in Japan, it is better. Hahaha! -overheard from a local.)

 

Giant, sweet strawberries served fresh in Oita Prefecture.

Giant, sweet strawberries served fresh in Oita Prefecture.

Even the bentos look nice.

Even the bentos look nice.

Next stop, the few tourist spots I have been to. 
 
Discovery 2:  Dazaifu


I went to Dazaifu on my first Japan trip and it is located at the Fukuoka Prefecture. We went to one of their attraction sites which is the Komyosen-ji Temple. 


A really geometric Starbucks at Fukuoka. 

A really geometric Starbucks at Fukuoka. 


Kawaii stalls near the temple.

Kawaii stalls near the temple.


You would not believe this. Dorae-mon!

You would not believe this. Dorae-mon!


At the temple garden with Chonx.

At the temple garden with Chonx.


"Cleansing" yourself before you go inside the temple.

“Cleansing” yourself before you go inside the temple.


Temple entrance.

Temple entrance.

The temple is surrounded by lush gardens which is characteristic of most Japanese temples. It is full of people with a mixture of locals praying and some tourists taking a snapshot of this wonderful place. 


Discovery 3: Going around Tokyo

 
The most efficient way to go around Tokyo is through the subway since cabs are very expensive. Since I was only free for several hours, I chose to get tickets on a per destination basis however, this comes out fairly expensive as well. There is a “One Day Tokyo Combination” at Y1580 or roughly PHP700.
 
The routes look complicated even if they aren’t. All stations would have the directional signage however, most of them are in Japanese. There are some who can speak English though and the people are very friendly and eager to help. There are also some foreigners who approach you especially if they see that dazed look in your eyes already ^_^.
 

Running around the busy subway of Japan with their oh-so-efficient train system.

Running around the busy subway of Japan with their oh-so-efficient train system.

 

So this is where everyone is at.  Shinjuku Station at a non-rush hour.

So this is where everyone is at.   Shinjuku Station at a non-rush hour.

 

Organized stalls everywhere. I really wonder how  they can make their surroundings so clean!

Organized stalls everywhere. I really wonder how they can make their surroundings so clean!

 

Venturing to see cosplayers at Akihabara District. FAIL.

Venturing to see cosplayers at Akihabara District. FAIL.

 

At Harajuku District looking for cosplayers.  We didn't see a single soul. Boo-hoo!

At Harajuku District looking for cosplayers. We didn’t see a single soul. Boo-hoo!

 

Wolfgang Puck's resto at the Harajuku District.. 

Wolfgang Puck’s resto at the Harajuku District.. 

Discovery 4: Oita Prefecture
 
From Tokyo to Oita, you need to take a short plane ride. Oita houses an expansive industry line-up from agriculture to food to housing factories to big Japanese companies like Canon.
 
 
Cute greeting material on the conveyor belt
at the Oita Airport.

 

Canon Oita Factory.

Canon Oita Factory.

 

Asagiri-kan. On top of the mountains.

Asagiri-kan. On top of the mountains.

 

 

Devil is in the details. Found in our room.

Devil is in the details. Found in our room.

 

 

Morning snow at the Oita mountains.

Morning snow at the Oita mountains.

 
We stayed at a private facility which exemplified the traditional Japanese way of living — from the food, to the tatamis, even my much-dreaded onsen

Traditionally, men and women bathed together at the onsen and sentō but single-sex bathing has become legalized as the norm since the opening of Japan to the West during the Meiji periodMixed bathing (混浴 kon’yoku?) persists at some special onsen in the rural areas of Japan, which usually also provide the option of separate “women-only” baths or different hours for the two sexes. Children of either sex may be seen in both the men’s and the women’s baths.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onsen

Seriously?! Good thing, we were not so traditional. Our onsen experience had separate baths for men and women. Thank God. ^_^
 
Discovery 5: Yokohama
 
At our last stop, things got really busy in Yokohama. I was not able to go around the place except the malls near the hotel. 
 

The world's largest clock in a giant ferris wheel,  Cosmo Clock 21 at Yokohama.

The world’s largest clock in a giant ferris wheel,  Cosmo Clock 21 at Yokohama.


With Chonx. Pan Pacifico Yokohama.

With Chonx. Pan Pacifico Yokohama.

 

You would not want to miss this BBQ place. Dragon Kalbi located  at Landmark Plaza, Yokohama.

You would not want to miss this BBQ place. Dragon Kalbi located  at Landmark Plaza, Yokohama.


Other Things to Remember

Most of the hotels would have your essentials already so it would be good if you pack light. There are a lot of convenience stores scattered around Japan as well so everything is accessible. Should you need internet connection all the time, there is a rental internet and mobile service at around Y5900 per week. I think this is more economical since roaming rates in Japan is incredulously high. You can check out this site for more details.

Do have your currencies exchanged at the airport since there are very few places around Japan where you can have them converted (except your hotels). 


So there you go, I hope you enjoyed a little Japanese treat! 

One day, I will be back there again. And I promise, I will find you, cosplayers! Until then!

Omikuji: Fortune on Paper

On a chilly afternoon of February, I visited the Sensouji Temple in Asakusa, Japan. Foreigners and locals alike flocked the temple. 

 
 
One thing that caught my eye was this — people swarmed the several stations which featured these wooden compartments. 
 
 
It was a “fortune box” which the Japanese called Omikuji!
 
 

Omikuji, according to Wikipedia, are random fortunes written on strips of paper. It is said that the fortune cookie was derived from this old Japanese tradition. 

 
Before you take your fortune, you are to donate 100 yen (approx. PHP49) and drop it in a donation box among these wooden compartments. Noone is there monitoring you so this is purely honesty system. 
 
After which, you pick up the wooden cylinder full of sticks inside. It has a small hole enough for one stick to come out when you shake it. You are to pray for your wish while you shake the cylinder several times. When a stick comes out, there is a marked character engraved on the stick. There will be a corresponding compartment with the same character as that engraved on the stick. That compartment holds your fortune!
 
Here’s mine: 
 
When spring comes, willows are in bud. Just like flowers bloom in old branches, something happy will come. There is still frost and snow, but brilliant happiness is in it. Your fortune is always good, never be destroyed. 
 
Your wishes will be realized. A sick person will recover. The lost article will be found. The person you are waiting will come but late. Building a new house and removal are good. Making a trip has no problem. Marriage and employment are all good. 
 
Oh, how I love my fortune. And yes, some of them are quite true. 

Reminiscing the Ramen Experience

Last February, I was able to visit Japan for the first time. Together with some media friends, we visited the CP+ expo in Yokohama (more on the trip in the next posts). 

Before heading to Yokohama though, we visited this ramen place in Dazaifu in Fukuoka. I have never really liked noodles and I was a little bit disappointed when I knew that this was lunch already. The place was in a very small area. It was very surprising though that people literally were making a beeline outside of this restaurant!


We arrived inside and sat at the noodle bar which faced their kitchen. Since we did not know any Japanese and the waitress did not know any English, we communicated through sign language. She just asked us to choose the kind of noodles and the spiciness that we want and point our option on a menu board that she was holding (the noodles were categorized into stiff, soft, or something like that).  After that, she disappeared. 


All the Japanese variations plastered on the wall. Of course, we had no idea what they meant.

All the Japanese variations plastered on the wall. Of course, we had no idea what they meant.

   
After several minutes, this was presented.

The Ultimate Ramen. Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture.

The Ultimate Ramen. Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture.


It was the best noodles I have ever tasted! This is not an exaggeration because all of the guests were very satisfied and happy after that lunch. Hmmm… ramen.


I keep on thinking if it was just comforting to eat noodles in the middle of such a cold weather that’s why we enjoyed it so much. Or it was just meant to be that me and the ultimate ramen had to meet.


Ten months after, me, Ronald, Chonx and Jason (together with Aby) reunited to begin the search for a replicate ramen experience here in the metro. Jason recommended this very controversial ramen house in 811 Arnaiz Avenue, Pasay Road — the Ukkokei Ramen House.


Much to my stomach’s dismay, we were waitlisted — number five to be exact. We waited for around twenty minutes to be accommodated. Upon surveying the place, it was somewhat similar to the authentic restaurants in Japan. Good start!


Chonx, me, Aby, Ronald and Jason

Chonx, me, Aby, Ronald and Jason

This was so exciting! There we were, with two agendas in mind: (1) to test if this ramen house can match the “ultimate ramen” we tasted in Japan and (2) to check out if the place was worthy for the hype it was getting. (This place was by the way closed down last August and just reopened last September).

I ordered Ukkokei Miso Chashu. There were several ramen “concoctions” to choose from. Jason got the specialty of the house, the Tan Tan Men (hopefully this is the name, LOL; if I am not mistaken) while the rest ordered the Miso Chashu with Buttercorn and the Curry Ramen.


Ukkokei Miso Chashu

Ukkokei Miso Chashu

 

Our orders came almost immediately. The verdict — to quote Jason — “Believe the hype” —  this could be the local version of THE ULTIMATE RAMEN! Now, I have tried several ramen from Little Tokyo located at Pasong Tamo where my office previously was located and then, the Ramen Bar of course, but this one from Ukkokei is probably the best that I have ever tasted 🙂 


And the verdict, Mr. Ninja?

And the verdict, Mr. Ninja?

So there you go. If you have some cravings for authentic Japanese ramen, this could be it. Ukkokei does not allow reservations so I am afraid that you could not escape THE line when you go there especially during dinner time. 


But as they always say, good stuff is worth the wait! What do you think?