My mom studied in Japan for 2 years almost right after giving birth to me. She loved it there so much even if she had to hustle away from her awesome newborn. :) When she came back, she promised to bring me there one day and spoil the crap out of me to make up for her time away from me. That she did (even if she didn't have to, honestly).
We usually go the touristy places over there:
- Disneyland and Disneysea (Do not skip Tokyo Disneyland. I repeat, DO NOT SKIP TOKYO DISNEYLAND! It's Disneyland only or Disneyland and Disneysea - 2 days!)
- Asakusa (ala Mercato or Night Market)
- Akihabara (FAVORITE PLACE IN JAPAN EVARR because #ShoppingForAwesomelyWeirdJapanElectronics)
- Tokyo tour (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza) for more shopping and eating
- Just about everywhere with FOOD!!!
This year, we added a few firsts and here they are:
1. Maid Cafe in Akihabara
Mom usually likes to shop for watches and bags in Laox. It's a 7-floor shopping building and right across I saw a Maid Cafe. I dragged my parents to try and have lunch there instead of going to our favorite place, Denny's.
We couldn't take pictures inside, but...
Honest opinion: It was... ok.
I probably should have done a bit of research on the prices because once you enter, they will tell you that there's an entrance fee of ¥500 each (about PhP220). And that's only for an hour. You have to pay again when you exceed. Food was limited and expensive and when you wanna take photos with the maids, they will charge another ¥500.
There were dance and game shows inside which was fun to watch. But we were hungry so we really couldn't enjoy them. The maids were cute though.
Mom got pissed off because it was taking a long time for them to serve the food. #HANGRY (I think they did that so we would extend our stay and pay the extra ¥500. But it's Japan, the Land of the Honest People, so I don't know.) Once they were served though, it was worth it (a bit)...
Overall, I enjoyed our 1 hour in the Maid Cafe. I don't think my parents can say the same thing though since dancing Japanese maids may not be their thing. I suggest stopping over there AFTER lunch. Have some dessert and coffee, then yell out "nyan nyan" (their version of "meow meow") to get the attention of the maids if you want something (seriously, we had to do that).
2. Space [f*ckin'] Mountain
3. Mt. Fuji
It was so breathtaking. From the car, it looked like a painting on the sky...
My mom told me that the Japanese really think highly and respect Mt. Fuji that sometimes they call it Fuji-san. They treat the mountain as a living person.
Another thing that made this trip to Mt. Fuji awesome was the snow at the Fourth Step/Station.4. Sakura EVERYWHERE
First time to experience snow!!! *sings Let It Go*
Ohh, we were really blessed that we came just in time for Sakura season (spring). Sakuras were everywhere and JUST starting to fall. It was amazing.
I was surprised to see the Japanese also taking pictures and truly enjoying the weather just like all the gaijins (foreigners) around. I asked my mom why that is. I assumed they were used to seeing this beautiful thing every year so why were they celebrating. My mom's Japanese friend told us how the Japanese perceive the Sakura season and the story is hauntingly beautiful.
She said the Japanese long to see the Sakuras bloom because it means that the dreadful winter is over. For 5 months, the weather becomes excruciatingly cold and when they see Sakuras, it is finally the end of their suffering.
Sakuras also symbolize how the Japanese perceive life. The Sakuras bloom and they are celebrated. It's calming and exquisite. But after a couple of weeks, once the Sakuras know they have already exhausted their delicate beauty, they slowly let go of the stems and leave the trees empty and lifeless. My mom's Japanese friend said, "It's like they're committing suicide." Harakiri, she said.
She said that the Japanese are hardworkers. Work is their life. Without work or anything to be proud of, life is meaningless to them. When this happens or when they're too weak to do anything anymore, it is acceptable, even preferable, to end their own life. Because for them, being useless and a burden to someone is not an option.
I never thought a flower can be perceived as a celebration of life and death. (Uhh, this is why I love Haruki Murakami.)
5. [Legit] Sushi and Kimono Tour at Shizuoka
We went to the my mom's friend's house which is in the province. We had to take a bullet train (Shinkansen) to get there. Her house was enormous and peaceful.
She showed us around and fed us with legit sushi in a legit sushi house. Just reminscing about it now is making my mouth water...
It was prepared right in front of us so we could see how fresh all the ingredients were. My mom's friend taught us how to properly dip sushi in soy sauce. You should dip the fish not the rice so you flip it to the the fish side, dip, then slide towards you.
There was lobster, scallop, eel, sea urchin,etc.! I wasn't a fan of the sea urchin because it was slimy, but the others, I had no problem devouring. The plate may look like you won't be able to finish it in one sitting, but trust me... you can do all things in the name of sushi.
One more thing that my mom's friend made us do is to walk around a "village" wearing kimonos.
It was such a cool experience because you get to choose which colors you want and the fancier the better. They said a woman wearing a kimono should not open her legs or walk fast. Maybe that's why the slippers/sandals were so uncomfortable and the kimonos are so tight. My mom's friend told me to walk in small steps. I didn't have a choice but to do just that since kimonos are wound to your body multiple times, limiting your movements.
It was such a nice experience though because somehow, we were able to immerse ourselves to the amazingly rich tradition and culture of the Japanese. I hope the Japanese people preserve them forever.
5.1. Onsen (Hot Spring)
When we were at my mom's friend's province, we stayed at a hotel with an Onsen. It wasn't really my first time going to an Onsen, but it was my first to go at night and have the place to ourselves.
This is an example of Japan's public bath area. People go in naked, shower, dip their naked selves in the 40℃ volcanic water, meditate a bit and let all their anxieties melt together with their dead skins. Uhh, I loved it. Right after we bathed in the Onsen, we had a foot massage, and slept like babies. That's. How. It's. Done. Goodnight.
We had such an awesome time during our trip. Mom promised that next time, we may finally go to Kyoto and see them temples! I can't wait for my next firsts in the Land of the Rising Sun!