By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
You may have read the travel article I wrote last year called “Highlights of our tour in South Korea,” in our July 5, 2018 issue. On the same trip, Tracy, my girlfriend at the time who is now my wife, and I also stopped by Japan. This article will serve as a brief overview of some highlights. We booked a short tour to Mount Fuji in Tokyo and wandered around the other three days on our own.
I didn’t do any research on restaurants ahead of time, so we walked into the first restaurant we saw. Apparently some city restaurants do not follow the city smoking laws and we were greeted with a smoke filled restaurant with patrons lighting up left and right. We finished our meal so quickly that I can’t remember if our first meal in Japan tasted good or not.
We learned our lesson and started sniffing the air and checking customers to see if they were smoking before sitting down at a restaurant. Restaurants in malls and inside cities are a good bet. We settled on one of those sushi conveyor belt restaurants. Their clam miso soup was fresh and cheap. So we ordered that a few times. The sushi was also top notch. We went back again one more time.
Of course we had to try ramen. We spotted one with a long line called Mendokoro Hanada in Ikebukuro. I had read about the vending machines to place an order before, but this was our first time and it took a little effort for us to figure out what we were doing. There was only one item on the menu and we were only able to select the portion size. Restaurants in Japan try to master one item after many years of practice. Needless to say, it was one of the best ramen we had ever tasted.
The subway system was very confusing, even though I had done some research ahead of time. I’m glad the locals were friendly. Even though they didn’t speak much English, they went out of their way to get us on the right train. I thought it was funny that even locals did not know where certain trains went. We are especially thankful for one person who showed us the correct subway exit and walked us to our hotel.
This taught me a valuable lesson to always remember to download those offline Google maps.
Disney – Sea
I haven’t been to a Disney location in over 20 years, so it was nice to finally make it back to “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Since so much had changed, I had to research how to use the FastPass and read reviews on the rides.
Tracy wanted to check out Disney Sea since that was not available back in the States. Christmas decorations were everywhere and made the place feel very festive. A parade of ships sailed around the harbor every few hours—that was very magical. I highly recommend checking out Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage. It’s like “It’s a Small World” ride, but not very popular. I enjoyed the nautical theme park and am not surprised this was the fastest theme park to hit 10 million guests.
I saw this on my friend’s Facebook feed a while ago and was immediately intrigued. This is one of Tokyo’s top tourist attractions. Imagine a stage with awesome robot-atronics and bikini dancers interacting with the robots. Flashing lights were everywhere and full of color. The routine is about seven acts and something completely out of this world is happening in every act. This place serves food, but you should eat beforehand and skip it. Be sure to buy your tickets early and use a third party travel site for discounts.
We were extremely lucky that it was a clear day. Apparently there is only a 33 percent chance of seeing the top of the mountain from a distance since it’s usually foggy.
Mount Fuji is gorgeous and one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen. Perhaps my biggest regret was not trying the Fuji apple since, at the time, I did not want to pay the tourist prices when we had them here in Washington.
We barely scratched the surface of Tokyo in our four days there. There are still multiple cities each with their unique culture and landmarks. Tracy and I hope to go back someday to see the rest of Japan.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.