Monday, March 08, 2010

Tokyo - Pocchari Edition

Our day started in Harajuku - it was terribly wet, dreary and cold. The 100 yen store supplied us with eight 100 yen umbrellas. As with most Japanese things, they were both practical and stylish. Due to the horrible weather, there were no Harajuku teens congregated around the Jingu Bridge.

The rain however was not to deter our shopping efforts given Harajuku is renowned for being the fashion capital of the world for unique street fashion. I had great success having found a pair of anpanman socks! Squee! I'll let you know soon if it actually fits my feet. My feet are on the giant side in Japan - could not find any shoes that fit in Uniqlo Shoes. Speaking of Uniqlo, the boys went Uniqlo crazy, visiting no less than 2 stores today. I suspect that we will also be going to the Ginza Uniqlo tomorrow.

Crepes are a must-do when when strolling down Takeshita Street.

We then eventually made our way to Akihabara, with intentions to try world famous Kyushu Jangara Ramen, and dine at a maid cafe.

The most popular dish at Kyushu Jangara Ramen is the thin noodle, pork based broth with the lot (number 1a). I am not a pork fan, so I went for 2a - miso based soup with the lot. The verdict? Probably one of the best ramen I've ever tasted. It really was good, particularly on a cold, wet night. Be warned though, you could be in for a long wait.

Probably the most exciting and interesting part of the day was the maid cafe. There are a number of 'maids' loitering on street paths inviting passersby (usually targeting men) to come into their maid cafes for more intimate, fun, personal frivolity. Here's a re-enactment ...

By some bizarre twist of event, we ended up in a maid cafe that catered for clientele that has a pocchari (meaning chubby, slightly plump) interest (I don't really want to use the word fetish, because that will degrade the whole experience). The cafe itself was located in a darkish alley, away from the main street, where I suspect the more traditional (or less pocchari) maid cafes conduct their business.

We walked in hesitantly, but with a sense of wonder and ordered 4 coffees - luckily we had Ken (sorry Ken, named and shamed) with us who could read the Japanese menu.

We giggle, marveled and people watched for 30 minutes. It is a fascinating environment, and there is quite a lot of social and cultural commentary I could make about the experience. However, in the interest of brevity, I will say that this: there is nothing overtly sexual about the concept. It genuinely felt like the maids were there just to provide fun company and engage in a bit of friendly, harmless conversation. Sure they were making attempts to shower you with attention, but a lot of the patrons in the joint looked like they really needed it. The experience cost us about 1000 yen each (around $10 AUD). Part of our bill included a photo with your favourite maid (favourite pocchari maid in our case). They insisted that we all do the cat pose, and kept yelling directions of 'meow meow, meow meow, meow meow' from behind the camera. It was hilarious - yes even more hilarious than Ken's awkward face.

Oh, and I find it disturbing that my face is as pocchari (if not more) as the pocchari maid ...

Sunday, March 07, 2010


We have rounded out the snowboarding part of our Japan 2010 trip, and today we spend the day in transit from Rusutsu, to Sapporo and then finally to Tokyo.

The journey was hard going on the now haggard body - there are more than a few weary and sore limbs and muscles in the group.

We are staying in a fairly swish hotel in Shinjuku - Citadines Hotel for those that are looking for affordable, spacious and nice accommodation in a major hub. The highlight of the day was the traditional Japanese dinner at Ukai Toriyama Restaurant which is about 50 minutes from Shinjuku. The setting was beautiful - it presented as self sustained village amongst lush gardens, narrow paths, stepping stones, fancy footbridges, mini water falls, ponds, koi fish. Each dining party has its own room/private dining area, most built with traditional materials, i.e. wood, bamboo, stone, mud walls, tatami mats and washi screens. And this is before we got to the FOOD! The food was sublime. My favourite was the red bean mochi - yum yum YUM.

Unfortunately, the battery in my camera died, probably due to the cold weather, so this photo of the gang will suffice for now.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Rusutsu Resort

We have been at Rusutsu Resort for the past 3 days. To describe Rusutsu in a few words, think: Bellagio + Dreamworld + Snow Resort. A few of the novelties here include: amusement park, arcade, roller coaster, water slide, wave pool, musical fountains, monorail, pony rides, caramel making etc etc ...

We are staying on snow, in a lodge which is positioned directly adjacent to a ski lift. The only downside to the lodge is that there is 1 bathroom between 8 people! Luckily most of us are making full use of the public bath/onsen.

The snow at Rusutsu has been above average. The runs are long and wide, and pockets of powder can always be found on the edges of trails. There are a lot of school kids at Rusutsu, all in their school jumpsuit kit.

Ok, short entry, need to hit the onsen. We pack our bags tonight and its onwards to Tokyo tomorrow morning. I shall leave you with a few pictures from Rusutsu, and our fun tubing experience.

And when in Japan ... do what the Japanese do:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wandering Sapporo

We spent the day wandering about Sapporo, and hitting the usual staples of Japanese shopping and culture including:

A pet store with unbearably cute puppies ... and some not so cute puppies

Bic Camera - you can take a picture with just a blink of an eye with this particular camera

Expensive Fruit Shops - approximately $35 for one rockmelon! Now I feel bad about the rockmelon that is rotting in my fridge.

Subway - check out the mirrors next to the doors. Tell me this is not a great a idea!

Not to mention food halls, moss burger, seven ereven, Lawsons, and of course Anpanman shopping:

Off to Rusutsu tomorrow. Wish my shoulder good luck ...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

First Skidoo Experience

The powder was pretty epic on our last day at Kiroro (popurar ... particurary).

Unfortunately, I was the powder 'buzz killer' for the rest of the group. I crashed at high speed on the freshly groomed, aptly named 'power run' run. Kenneth (prematurely) flagged for the emergency medics, lots of fuss ensued ... and then I was on a skidoo back down the mountain. I ticked the 'overconfidence' option on the form I had to fill out at the medic centre.

I have to get ready ... I will pass over to Sharlene:

Hmm, what to say, that Marissa hasn't already. She has probably torn her rotator cuff, as said by Dr YDG. So, it was not as serious as first thought, but she did hear a *crack* when she went down.

Have to say, the snow was awesome! So awesome, that we dared to go through the trees. I got up, close and personal with a skinny trunk. I think I came off worse, hence the tree not budging, and me adding a bruise to my list of injuries.

Okay, have to go, we're in Sapporo now, taking a two day break of eating and shopping, before heading to Rusutsu resort for a few more days of snow.