Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 2009 Trip to Tokyo and Hong Kong

Can you tell by this photo alone which country I'm in?
The cuisine of a country can say it all. My trips back
to Hong Kong and Tokyo allow me to visit with friends,
visit old haunts, eat wonderful food and of
shop until I drop.

The first leg of my trip was in Tokyo and I stayed with
two friends. The first friend I stayed with is my friend
Jon whom I've known for a very long time. Originally
from California, he's spent almost 10 years in Japan and
has decided to make it his permanent home.

Jon prefers small neighborhood haunts like this one where
one can go for great food and drinks in the evening. He's
been here so much that he knows the family who owns
the place pretty well.

The others laughed at me when I took this photo but
it's to show how clean they keep the kitchen. The
Japanese are insanely clean people. Believe me, I
have no complaints about that. Years ago, on one
of my first visits to Japan - my friend Jon caught me
taking a photo of his toilet. If you saw the toilet, you
would have taken a photo of it too!

Father and daughter.

Jon and Taki

This is the family the owns the small but warm place.

In the winter, the Japanese eat something called Oden
(pictured above.) It has different ingredients like tofu
and daikon (white radish) that is steeped in broth. My
favorite is the white radish.

Favorite place to shop? Harajuku
and Shinjuku hands down. There's
a reason why Gwen Stefani is obsessed
with this place!

On this trip, I traveled with a friend named Lindsay. Of
course the first place we hit was Harajuku. I had TONS
of bags going home - always a chore when I finally remember
that I have to lug it all home. This was literally our only
nice day out of the entire trip. The rest of the trip was filled
with rain and a typhoon no less. Lindsay was smart enough to
stay home on the day of the typhoon. I ventured out to see an
old friend I hadn't seen in a while and half of the trains were

Because I got a new camera, I was determined to try it out.
Although I wasn't able to take many photos outdoors because
of the weather, we did our best. Here's me in a Harajuku
cafe in the middle of the crowds and the shopping.

Here's Lindsay.

And I particularly love this photo
of her since it was so natural.

A fun photo in the train.

Lindsay had never been to Nikko so I took her on a short
excursion to Nikko. Nikko is a wonderful 2 day/1 night
trip from Tokyo and is about 2.5 hours away. The round
trip train tickets cost about 5200 yen ($50-$60) which
is very reasonable. I always stay at a minshuku called
Rindou no Ie (family run Japanese style inn or their version
of the hostel or bed and breakfast.) It's owned by a wonderful
couple who have been running it for years. Look up Rindou
no Ie if you ever plan to visit Nikko.

Nikko is a national park as well as a Unesco World Heritage
Site which has many shrines including the shrine and grave
of Ieyasu Tokugawa (who was the founder and first Shogun
of the Tokugawa dynasty during the Edo period.) It is an
absolutely gorgeous place to go during the changing colors
of the autumn leaves. The best time to see the leaves in Nikko
are the end of October and the beginning of November.

We paid for dinner at the Minshuku and look at the
feast we got! In traditional Japanese style with little
plates of fish, tofu, pickled vegetables and more.

I thought this was an interesting function on my camera
that I found where you can overlay exposures into one
frame. Funky.

In Hong Kong, we were also hit with rain. I managed
to get some photos in before the rain set in (the rain
often comes and goes quickly.)

I bought a lens to go with my camera (the D300) that has
really great bokeh (the blurriness in the background) which
is really awesome for taking photos of subjects or portraits.
Here's Lindsay in the foreground with a gorgeous bokeh in
the background.

A little earlier in the day (like 20 minutes) where I was
using my wide angled lens which I also love.

It's amazing the angles you can get with a wide framed lens.

Here's a typical street market in Hong Kong.

Always busy busy.

Lindsay totally cracked me up. She had previously lived in HK
for about half a year as an exchange student and had loved an
eggplant dish that she had practically eaten every day when she
was there. Only she didn't know the name to the dish...The two
full days we were in Hong Kong, Lindsay literally ordered every
eggplant dish she could in hopes of finding it. On the very last
night of the entire trip, when it was pouring, I cornered the waiter
and asked him if he had an eggplant dish that had salty fish in it.
Lo and behold, Lindsay finally got to eat her favorite eggplant dish
before we left. Things worked out after all. Being able to converse
in the local language has its perks. Linds chowing down.

Street food is the best!

When I was trying to pack all of my contraband in Japan,
my friend Satoko whom I stayed with most of the time in
Japan helped me pack. I have this habbit of going to the
supermarket for a shopping spree in most countries I go to.
Not only can you find wonderful souvenirs there, but you
can foods you can't easily get home. She thought it was so
funny the stuff I bought that she made me lay it all out and
take a photo of it. So there you have it - magazines, teas,
Japanese wooden slippers, food products, etc.

And This is my dollar shop contraband. That's right, who
else can come out of a dollar store having spent $60. That's
right, that would be me. Cosmetics, bags, portable slippers,
ceramics, eye glass pouches, containers and bottles, pouches
for loose leaf tea...and the list goes on. Believe me when I say
that I identified with the book "Confessions of a Shopaholic."
Did I mention that I came home with 9 pairs of shoes (three
pairs of long boots, 2 booties, 1 pretty chic pair of rain boots,
1 pair of gladiator sandals, 1 pair of lace pumps and my first
pair of purple pumps.) I literally came home with another
suitcase and to weigh both of them to make sure I wasn't
overweight. It's not difficult to exceed 50 lbs!

Where do you like to travel? If you were to go to a place
like Hong Kong or Tokyo - what would you want to do
there? Nature? Hot Springs? Shopping? Culture? Food?
I'm curious.