Odaibadaibadaa

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Tokyo or New York?

The Monorail is a good way of seeing Tokyo from a different perspective. After a short ride enjoying the scenery, it takes you to the (fake) island of Odaiba. Oh, Odaiba!

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Again: Tokyo or New York?

Of course Japan needs its’ own Statue of Libery! The two towers (SkyTree and Tokyo Tower) just are not enough.

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No, it’s not a space shuttle. Fuji TV headquarters.

What is an artificial island without an UFO-like television station? Oh, and there is a huge Gundam-robot statue, too! (Yeah, I had to Google the writing and I have no clue what it is, but apparently it’s a BIG deal. Enormous.)

 

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Venus Fort. Shopper’s Paradise?

 Besides the huge robot, there’s also a Toyota play showroom, and apparently some kind of amusement park, or at least a giant ferris wheel. When the boys are with their toys, the ladies can spend hours in the Venetian/Greek-style shopping complex. Besides the Venus Fort, Odaiba has another shopping center with amusement park and maybe an aquarium as well (I can’t remember everything!).

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“Please keep the rules!”

There’s also a beach, and an Onsen “park”. I didn’t go there, so can’t really tell much about that. But you get the idea: first a sightseeing trip over the sea (cool), then to all of this and so much more – escape from the city to someplace rather bizarre! Plus the view to Tokyo is, well…

 

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Tokyo from “outside”

You can also take a cruise boat to the city, if you will.

If in Tokyo, do to Odaiba while you’re at it. Why not? Round trip is about 640y (6,5e) depending on the station. 

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Kurisumasu Japanese way

My New year’s celebrations resembled the Finnish Christmas since I spent days indoors, surrounded with family and eating heaps of special foods almost non-stop. The real Christmas in Tokyo was rather unlike what I am used to, but it was definitely interesting, too!

The essence of Christmas: Fried chicken (combini style) and a santa suit, only thing missing is the strawberry cake!
The essence of Christmas: Fried chicken (combini style) and a santa suit, only thing missing is the strawberry cake!

 

The Japanese have adapted some parts of Christmas that suit their taste: the holiday is just like any other day, except for the fact that Christmas cakes are aplenty, restaurants are filled with couples or groups of friends, and the Christmas jingles are everywhere.

Jolly Santa with no presents
Jolly Santa with no presents

It was a bit last-minute, but I ended up spending my Christmas eating the most fabulous and abundant buffet possible (thank you Intercontinental Hotel), with live music and the most wonderful company possible: my father. I was sleeping in a nice hotel, in a Western bed with a real pillow for the first time in months. What a better way to spend the most important holiday of the year! On Christmas Day we went for a walk in Yoyogi koen, watched the crowds sitting in the sunshine in Harajuku, got lost trying to find our way to Roppongi Hills, and had a terrific dinner in an izakaya (6 days for dad in Japan without eating sushi, it was about time to have some on the last night!).

Since there has been enough food porn on the blog lately(and surely there will be plenty more to come), I will not post pictures about the Christmas feasts. I am not sure if your imagination will do justice to the delicacies, but oh well. I do have pictures of other things than food, too!

Blending in with the locals
Blending in with the locals

My dad traveled from Thailand to meet me, so his presents from Finland  had suffered a bit on the road and in the heat and moist climate. I can say that before I could have never imagined eating this, not to say enjoy it, but different sorts of salmiakki candy mushed and melted together, blended with scrapes of the paper bag they were packed in, served from a shower cap was rather enjoyable. I finished the whole kilo, and licked my fingers afterwards. This is what I call patriotism!

My goodie bag for Christmas, with an unconventional presentation
My goodie bag for Christmas, with an unconventional presentation

 

Sunny Sunday stroll in Yufuin

Next to Beppu, there is a small town called Yufuin. It is a perfect location for a day trip, relaxed walk along the bustling streets.

Sunday stroll
Sunday stroll

Yufuin is old-fashioned and rather different from Beppu: along the main street you can find gift shop after another, selling specialities in various product categories (excuse me for the term, I have been studying too much marketing recently).

Successfull concept: Buy your sake and (pickled) snacks from the store, and go to the hut outside to enjoy!
Successfull concept: Buy your sake and (pickled) snacks from the store, and go to the hut outside to enjoy!

Yufuin is perfect for half-day or one day, since it can be easily walked within few hours. The area is famous ofr the Lake Kinrin as well as some onsen (though not as famous as Beppu, ha!). The style is more upscale and visitor-oriented than Beppu’s.

Famous Lake Kinrin (bit of a disappointment)
Famous Lake Kinrin (bit of a disappointment)

 

The speciality of Yufuin is korokke (croquette), but there are plenty of other novelty stores lined next to each other.

Enjoying cheesecake tofu ice cream
Enjoying cheesecake tofu ice cream

 

Most of the stores don’t hold back on samples, so there is no need to leave Yufuin with an empty stomach.

Dried persimmon outside a condiment store
Dried persimmon outside a condiment store

Of course, most of the products are locally made, on-the-spot.

Edible flower cookies, as tasty as they are pretty
Edible flower cookies, as tasty as they are pretty

 

There is also a mountain near by with a ropeway and possibility to hike, but we concentrated on the village atmosphere and food rather than exercising.

Break, 1st quarter: Finnish in Fukuoka

Last week we had quarter break here in APU, so I more than gladly took the chance to get away: first to Kyushu’s biggest city Fukuoka, and from there to South Korea’s capital, Seoul!

It took just two hours from Beppu to Fukuoka by highway bus, watching the beautiful fall scenery. During the two days I saw a lot, and visited all the main “areas”: Tenjin, Hakata and Canal City. It was great to get to a bigger city, and to get to eat good bread and “westernish” food!

More or less lovely Christmas decorations were all over the place

 

Besides roaming around all the department stores and malls, I found something quite peculiar in Fukuoka: The Moomin cafe!

Moomin cafe, selling oh-so familiar Lapin Kulta beer (yuck)

The Moomin shop sold Iittala and Arabia products from Finland as well as other Moomin-related stuff.

The cafe menu was not “Finnish”, even though they had bread rolls that were supposedly made by a Finnish lady whose picture was on the wall. Seeing those white buns, I doubt their Finnish origins. Notice the only Finnish thing on the bottom of the menu: glögi, our traditional winter/Christmas drink!

Cute, (over-sweet) dishes featuring Moomin characters

The Moomin cafe had Moomin books in Japanese, and the background music was actually Moomin episodes (nihongo, of course)! The slogan of the cafe is: “Kaikki hauska on hyvää vatsalle” which means “Everything fun is good for the stomach”. Cute!

I also stumbled upon this:

Kitchen, selling clothes

Oh yes, I do like Japan, especially the cities. You never know what you might find (in my case, that is not clothes, though)!

Next time, something about Seoul.

Japanese harmony and perfect fall weather

 

Yama, shiro, faamu and gift shoppu!

Field trip Japanese style! 3 destinations, 12 hours and closer to dozen gift shops – despite being behind schedule for a while, we made it back to Ap House in time, happy and tired.

The first stop (after the 10 minute bus pit stop) on our trip was Aso volcano, about 2 hours away from Beppu.

Crater, not an onsen, though both look pretty similar

The terrain on Asosan was rather rocky and rough. Since the volcano is located over 1500m above sea level, it was rather chilly, too. There was several warning signs for people with asthma, heart disease etc., since the fumes contained something not too healthy to breathe.

Pray to gods the volcano won’t erupt

After looking at the craters, we were supposed to walk down the mountain to the bus. Me and my friend too initiative and rode the cable car back down: we had plenty of time at the gift shop, and avoided freezing outside.

Cable car ride to Asosan, Mountain Aso volcano crater

Next stop was next to Asosan, a bowl shaped meadow Kusasenri, which actually was just a visit to a gift shop to hawk on all the free samples of the regional omiyage. (No pictures of the pond.) Next stop, my definitely most favorite part of the trip: lunch in Aso farmland.

Shrooms! And many different kinds…I would have needed a tour guide

The mushrooms pictured above were just a small part of the most likely best buffet I have ever had on an organized trip. The restaurant was called “Viking” for some reason, but the food was mainly Asian, luckily with many different salad and mushroom options. Unfortunately we did not have nearly enough time in Aso Farmland, so I did not even get to understand what the place was all about. There were some exercise domes, farm animals and funky activities for kids, spa, shops selling beauty and health products as well as loads of omiyage and other food, milk factory, mushroom cultivation and I can’t even imagine what else. I would have definitely liked to spend the whole day (or weekend) there! After rushing to the bus, we were off to the tourist highlight: The Kumamoto castle.

Part of the Kumamoto castle, and not even the best part

After few hours bus ride, we had an hour to explore the Kumamoto castle. After rushing through the main castle, me and my friend got to the best part: shopping area. Unfortunately, once again time was against us.

Time is money, so I saved my money here by not having time to shop!

3 hours on the bus with a sugar rush, I learned few new Japanese words. The trip was an overall success, and the price was ridiculous as well: 3000yen (30e) wouldn’t normally have even covered the entrance fees, let alone transportation and the magnificent lunch! I wish I had 2 or 3 days trip, but this was definitely worth going as it was. Now I just need to find out, if there are any similar places to Aso farm land!

Ps. The Kumamon bear started off as being cute and nice, but seriously: how many products can you make with it? It is everywhere! If you don’t know which bear I am talking about, google it and see if it looks familiar. If not, you should definitely visit Kumamoto – the castle is nice, too! And the city, even brom inside the bus, seemed so alive after Beppu.