The other day I was speaking with my financial adviser and telling him how after the U.S. economy tilted and my stocks tanked, I thought I would get a little crunky.

Dango is ill!

...only for 10 minutes.

My mom suggested we pack a large suitcase with our worn clothes and have that shipped to the airport for pickup on our way back to Hawaii. She also suggested that we drag around smaller suitcases with our clean clothes (and omiyage). Awesome ideas, thanks mom! We left Yokohama in the morning, stopped at Ameyoko to check out the marketplace, and headed on our merry way to my favorite place, Mito, Ibaraki.

One restaurant that caught my eye in Ameyoko was Mr. Moses' Kebab, selling Doner Kebabs. I didn't sample their food and wish I had. After doing a little research on the Interweb (where all posted information is TRUE), I found that Doner Kebab is a Turkish dish, made of lamb meat. It is cooked on a vertical "spit" and is sliced off, per order. Interestingly, the "spit" or skewer spins while a vertical flat plate cooks the meat. This restauranteur, (if you will,) had both chicken and beef. Looks yummy.

Ameyoko was an interesting little alleyway my mom suggested we stop by, on our way to Ibaraki. Located directly alongside the Yamanote Line railway and between the Okachimachi and Ueno Stations, this alleyway had many vendors selling seafood, shoes, glasses, clothes, and so much more. It reminded me of Waikiki's International Marketplace. To throw a little history into the mix, Ameyoko was the site of a black market, post-WWII.

I should probably make an entirely new blog dedicated to Japan's cool stuff. After all, they have a lot of, well, cool stuff. This mesmerizing photo, which seemingly depicts some sort of collection of urn lockers was actually at the entrance of an Izakaya in Yokohama. These are shoe/footwear/flipflops/slippahs lockers. Put your shoes in and pull the WOODEN key out. What a trip...

I make it a point, on trips, to get in as much as I can in one day and this particular day, while tiring, was VERY fun. We met up with my uncle, cousin, and 2 of my 2nd cousins. We went to the Kirin Beer Factory, went on a boat cruise in Yokohama harbor, and visited my other cousin whose children contracted the wonderful H1N1. We returned to the hotel around 4 and planned to meet my aunt, uncle, cousins, and their family, once again for dinner before heading over to Ibaraki. Oh man, the food? Delicious... My cousin, who had driven all day had a chance to finally have a beer or 2 or 3 and a sake or 2 or 3. Anyway, he drank us all under the table and caught the train home with his family.

The view from my hotel room at Yokohama Prince Hotel. I know, I know, there's a reflection on the glass. The Shin-Yokohama hotel was adjacent to the Yokohama Eki and all kinds of department stores and mom/pops stores. I give it the thumbs up!

My cousin graciously volunteered to take us around Yokohama for the day and had asked what we wanted to do. He suggested that we either go to check out 1 or 2 sight seeing spots or go shopping. Being that the Internet makes shopping capable from almost anywhere, I opted to go sight seeing.

In the morning, we drove over the Kirin Beer Factory and that was amazing! It's always interesting to see how things are made, done, created, and etc. I wasn't able to snap photos in their factory but, was able to have ice cold ones after the tour. The folks over at Kirin gave us a sample of their soon-to-be debuted Cola-flavored 5% alcohol drink. Amazing... I don't know if it will make its way to America but, if it does, I'll be sure to buy some.

Our next stop was the Yokohama Bay cruise. Previous trips to Japan had netted some unclear skies and muggy weather but, that day was different. Putting around on the outskirts of the harbor with beautiful skies, cool temperature, and comfortable humidity was amazing. Family never ceases to amaze me and just being able to share a beer with my uncle, dad, and cousin and watch my 2nd cousins tear sh*t up like I used to back in the day, was awesome.

$9 for 4 slabs. Dang!

After a couple of days on the island of Kyushu, touring all of the onsens and taking in the wonderful countryside of Japan, we boated back from Beppu (on Kyushu island) and made our way to Yokohama. Japan's bus and train system is so complicated (well the complications come in the form of Kanji illiteracy) yet, very efficient. In the whirlwind of everything, my pops and I followed my mom and made sure that we didn't lose her (or rather, made sure she didn't lose us). Just a suggestion for those visiting Japan, make sure you 1) walk about 3 paces faster 2) be ready for little old ladies running you over 3) don't be too courteous when you walk or you'll never get to your destination. =)

...and pipi kaula style.

AKA: Monkey Park. The sign said not to touch them, stare at them, chase them, taunt them, or share food with them. I did stare at 3 of them and they swiped at my camera. The Mt. Takasaki National Reserve is located against the mountain side and every night, the monkeys would return to the mountains to sleep. In the morning and throughout the day, of the roughly 1300 monkeys, 700 would venture down to the park to eat and interact with humans.

What was very interesting was the hierarchy and social habits of these monkeys. There was a Big Dog (monkey, rather) who was affectionately named, "#1". On this particular day, #1 and #3 ventured down to the park. The park officials mentioned that when #1 is in town, you won't see #2 and you may see #3 (who happened to be there). When #2 is in town, you won't see either #1 or #3. These monkeys, when born, cling to their mothers until they are 2. As the official described it, "the monkeys don't marry and the fathers don't play a vital role in their childrens' lives."

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