Japan trip: Touchdown and getting lost in Shinjuku

The flight on board SouthEast Airlines was a killer. The service was good if you’re a big white man and the seats obviously felt like it’s made for midgets to snuggle in. Also what made the start of my trip bad was that my malaysian passport was due to expire in 4.5 mths time and the Japanese immigrations authorities could refuse entry for me into Japan upon the basis that I’m planning to overstay and work as an illegal immigrant.

Oh well, thank goodness they’re relying on the person who granted my visa. And off I went to the JR tourist centre to get the Narita Express+Suica package for 3,500 yen. Pretty cheap for a 1.5 ride to Shinjuku which costs 3,115 yen and a tourist edition Suica card with 2,000 yen value in it.

Narita Express at platform 9 heading to Shinjuku

Narita Express at platform 9 heading to Shinjuku

During the train journey, I saw rows of green rice fields turn into colourful 2 storey residences and towns with fantastic architecture such as a love hotel built like a fairy tale castle; and as the train neared the city, great gleaming buildings loom over us , reflecting the evening sun rays with sheets of glass windows. Particularly Takashimaya Times Square which shone and glittered like a giant multi-faceted Swarovski in the heart of Shinjuku.

The train station itself is overflowing with mass human traffic. The crowd is just so crazy! And the whole station is so big it is probably 10 times as huge as Outram Park MRT!!! I kept heading to the West exit as that is the direction of Kadoya Hotel where I’ll be bunking in for 3 nights in Shinjuku. Unfortunately, the West exit itself is so huge and has many exits to the surface of the station that I lugged my bag about aimlessly until I stopped a nice Japanese lady, called Takae,who took me all the way to the hotel. Her reason was that she’s heading the same direction as me. Ah well. (^^)

It was 4.30pm when I reached the front desk and got all the paperwork done. I let the concierge charge to my Citicard. I nearly fainted when the slip came out with crosses on it and she said she couldn’t charge it to my Visa. Thank god she tried again and was successful at the 2nd try. Otherwise I’d wish the immigration had rejected my visa and send me back to Singapore. It was nice they could speak english perfectly and the concierge was really friendly.

So up to my room I went and it was so cosy with a cute, compact bathroom. 

Bath sponge, razor, hairbrush, shaving gel toothbrush and toothpaste.

Body shampoo, Hair Conditioner and Shampoo!

 

Nice pajamas, nice bed, nice sleep!

Nice bed, nice pajamas, nice sleep!

There’s even a night dress folded nicely on the semi double bed with a futon quilt over it. Much as I wanted to jump straignt into bed to snore my life away, I had only 10mins to get ready before meeting dear Chihaya san and Ayakuni san. Ayakuni san knows Ikebukuro inside out and of course the doujin/ manga/ cosplay shops and even a doll shop in Otome Road cannot escape her. As we walked the street flanked by glittery neon signs and other blinding visual spectacles, swimming with the thronging crowds, picking up freebies like tissue packs along the way, I was just totally amazed by the sensory spectacle the city is buzzing with. And of course, those doujin shops!!! And those fuujoshis!!! Generally they are the female version of otakus(anime/manga/game geeks) and often seen with long hair and glasses, browsing boys love material.

Vending machine selling Sengoku Basara canned drinks

Oh man, I could spend all day browsing the tons of doujins sealed in plastic and drooling over the character goods. It’s really a test of luck by pulling out a doujin randomly from the tightly packed shelves.

Pretty dolls at the doll shop which sells everything like doll eyes and body parts.

This doll has a very lolita look~sexy!

More beautiful dolls with the most exquisite costumes.

My favourite feature in the doll shop. Mushroom toys. Mario says that eating mushrooms will make one grow big.

Quite impossible to go through every book just to find the doujin you want. I’m totally amazed by Japan’s consumerist enterpreneurship. They can just make and sell anything. Doll parts, doll underwear, Sengoku Basara canned fruit juice etc.

After all the walking, we went to this place called ‘A Fantasy Place'(I was too awestruck I forgot the name) where the winding stairs led to a restaurant. Inside, it is a bamboo forest with woody, romantic enclaves for the patrons to enjoy their little world. Chihaya san made reservations for a table and seriously, although we came early, we had to wait for our appointed time at 8.45pm. 

The food is amazing.

Grilled hokke getting deboned by chihay san

...and the grilled shisamo. Can be eaten whole, bones and all

Fried Japanese taupok is yummy!

Fried Japanese taupok is yummy!

1st dish was tofu cooked in a little wooden container. The soybean flavor just filled my mouth. It’s so delicate. The grilled hokke fish was tasty and sweet. The grilled shisamo fish was wonderfully juicy in the inside and firm on the outside. Nest was fried Japanese taupok with bonito. The outside was crispy and light and the inside was a little juicy from absorbing some stock and oil. After that we shared a cold tofu dish garnished with slimy okra, crunchy turnip or daikon(I can’t tell) and refreshingly sour ume. Ayakuni san ordered 2 chawanmushi. When it came, it looked like this:

Nabe! What is this?

Nabe! What is this?

The nabemushi with golden steamed egg, chicken, mushrooms and gingko nuts

The nabemushi with golden steamed egg, chicken, mushrooms and gingko nuts

Never try stuffing a ladle into your mouth on a Japanese table full of strangers. Attempt only when with friends.

Never try stuffing a ladle into your mouth on a Japanese table full of strangers. Attempt only when with friends.

Seriously, their chawans (tea cups) look like nabes (claypots) to me. Chihaya san and Ayakuni san call it ‘Nabemushi’. The steamed egg was a rich golden yellow and so soft it melts in the mouth. In there were generous cuts of chicken meat, gingko nuts and sliced mushrooms. Ayakuni san and I had yakitori (my god, it’s so juicy and well grilled. No black charred bits!). Finally, we had strawberries and cream pancake.

The total bill came up to about 12,430 yen (abt S$130) but with great company, great food, great service and great ambience, it’s worth it. (^^)

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