Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.
At Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, there are several sushi restaurants where tourists try out never-frozen fish at what is truly a bargain price for some of the world’s freshest sushi. I went to Sushi-Dai. After a mere 2h in line (starting at about 7:30am) I sat down in the tiny restaurant for my Omakase (chef’s choice) breakfast. This is the entire restaurant, which explains the long wait times:
Here’s my delectable piece of Toro, or fatty tuna:
This one I don’t recall the name, if anyone knows just leave a comment. I am guessing red snapper?
The first piece is Uni, or sea urchin. The second, Aji or horse mackerel (I think).
Yet another “no idea” (I should have brought a pen and paper!).
A few rolls, then Anago (Sea Eel) and another slightly-unsure.
There were a few more, 10pcs in all plus 1 more of my choice (anything on the menu); then the rolls, layered egg nigiri, and miso soup. Well worth the 3900 yen (roundabout $40 depending on the exchange rate).
Let me be clear: this was the best sushi I’ve ever eaten anywhere, for any price. By far. Never frozen, well prepared by a good (and friendly) chef. Tsukiji is truly amazing!
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Posted 2 years, 6 months ago at 12:45 pm. 3 comments
My last day in Japan was American Independence Day. Sadly I didn’t spend July 4th with any Americans, or see any fireworks. Most of the day I was on a train or plane. But I did see a few cool sights along the way.
As I got very little sleep the days before departing, I tried out this little treat on the express train to Narita. According to a friend, it’s what hung-over Japanese salarymen drink on the way to work. This can has 50 lemons’ worth of vitamin C! “Eeeexcellent, Smithers.” <tents fingers diabolically>
After a long day of flying, I arrived in Bangkok and caught a shuttle bus into town. It started pouring just as I stepped off the bus, so I splurged for a taxi… it was 40 Baht (about $1.25) from the bus dropoff to the Baiyoke Sky Hotel.
I was only on floor 25 of this very cool 84-floor building, the tallest in Thailand at over 300 meters! Here’s the view from my room:
It was not a bad deal considering the nice buffet breakfast, and adding in that I could go to the top of the building at floor 84 for free, night or day. I wouldn’t stay a whole week here (a bit pricey), but for a couple days, it was great relaxation and an even better view.
That’s it for now. I’ll have night pictures from the tippy-top at floor 84 coming up. That was tricky due to the super-annoying revolving platform which would make any long-exposure tripod photos useless. I found a way around it, though – mu-hahaha!
What’s the tallest building you’ve ever been in / up? Currently I’m on Taipei 101, over 500m. When I visited Dubai, the Burj Khalifa (a.k.a. Burj Dubai) wasn’t done yet.
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:19 pm. Add a comment
For my final day in Japan, I got up quite late after a night of clubbing. A word to the wise: clubbing in Tokyo is serious business. The subways stop a bit after midnight, and taxis are paid in gold bars or firstborn children. So once you decide to go out, you’re in until dawn!
Anyway, on July 3rd I headed to the seaside district of Odaiba. There’s a lot to do and see: shopping, Tokyo’s huge Ferris wheel, the Future Museum (officially the emerging sciences and technologies), waterside stuff, and cool Toyota showrooms.
I took a ferry to Odaiba from Asakusa, where I saw this building known to locals as “the golden turd.” Well, it’s supposed to be a flame representing the heart of Asahi beer, but judge for yourself:
Unfortunately due to my late wake-up (and I do mean late), I missed the Future Museum with its Honda walking robot. But Toyota rocked!
Yes, that’s right. A car showroom rocked my day.
First there was the museum of old cars in the Mega Web shopping complex (free):
Then, a showroom of new cars with lots of concept vehicles and a few rides (like a self-driving car!). Also, free (well, not the rides). I got a laugh out of this decorated city car:
After this adventure I met friends for KARAOKE! If you go to Japan, you have to do karaoke with some Japanese. Not only is it a great way to chill with the natives, but they are good singers! I bet due to the culture’s love of karaoke, they have the highest singing skill of any nation.
Did I mention that karaoke is all in private rooms? You don’t have to embarrass yourself in front of fifty strangers in a bar… just your closest friends, and perhaps some people you met in a hostel, or out clubbing the night before (haha).
So here’s my shout out to all my new Japanese friends (who shall remain anonymous). We’ll have to meet again next time I’m in Japan! DAVE LOVES KARAOKE!
After all that singing I feel an Elwood moment (or perhaps Ellwood if you go by the street name where I used to live). I feel like saying… “We’re getting the band back together.” Long live Electric Bacon! That is all.
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:52 pm. 4 comments
This discipline is not about perfect focus, optimal exposure, or straight-vertical buildings.
It’s about taking the pulse of a living city, by showing its inhabitants going about their daily lives on the streets. Of course, if the subjects know they’re being photographed, it ruins the scene. Anonymity and unawareness bring these fleeting moments to life, in a way no funny pose can.
Alfie Goodrich offers photography courses on various topics in Tokyo. I highly recommend to try out one of his offerings via Japanorama, or ask for a private class, as I did on July 2nd. You can’t imagine how much I learned in just a couple of hours!
One note: this kind of photography probably isn’t possible everywhere. In a lot of western countries, someone might punch you if they realize you’re taking their photo without asking first. And you’d better not take any photos of kids in the west, either. But after exploring street photography, I have a lot more respect for the results.
Done right, street photography is not meant to expose anyone’s flaws or look up their skirt. It is a means of bringing a city to life. I’d be honored if a random photograph of me in Munich helped to color the city for lovers of photography who might come across it on Flickr. So, if you see me partying at Oktoberfest or wandering on Neuhauser Strasse, snap away!
Thanks again to Alfie for the amazing lesson. I look forward to another session the next time I visit Tokyo! I’ll end with a few photos that really show what Tokyo is about.
I’d seen these “levitating chopsticks” a few times, and apparently this girl was as mesmerized by them as I was!
Style. Fashion. And, everyone is constantly playing with their mobile phone, mp3’s, or both.
Finally: this older woman has it all. Sun-umbrella, matching outfit, and (of course) a germ mask.
More than any of my other photos so far, I feel that the ones I’ve shown today capture Tokyo in a nutshell. Is there any particular photo that you really like? If so, why?
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:42 pm. 2 comments
I must admit, I didn’t take many photos on July 1st. And most of what I did take, I can’t post here. The Modern Art Museum in Tokyo allows photos (very cool!), but they do not allow posting or public use due to copyright laws. I do recommend the museum to art lovers: it’s not huge, but the admission is cheap (about $4) and they have interesting paintings and photos.
A lot of the art was very similar to Western styles. You can very much see the influence of European and American artists on the Japanese artists of the 1800’s and 1900’s! Even a non-art-expert like me could feel it, and my Turkish friend from the hostel (minoring in art, if I remember) confirmed my suspicions.
Later in the day I went by Akihabara, an area on the east side of Central Tokyo with 10,573 shops: electronics, anime, appliances, manga, hobbies, maid cafes, pachinko parlors, and more. Pachinko is a kind of somewhat-legal gambling, where you win dumb prizes that you sell back for money in a shop next door (at least so I read in a guidebook). I guess it’s about as exciting as slot machines (woo… hoo?).
I was trying to be discreet by not photographing any people in the pachinko parlor, but I still just got one this one photo before being yelled at. “No photo, no photo!”
By the way, what’s a maid cafe, you ask? One of the many things I didn’t try: it’s a cafe where the waitresses are dressed up like pre-teen hookers. They stand on the street handing out flyers, wearing high heels and fishnets, short skirts flying as they giggle with the foreign guys they lure in. I’m pretty much against such things, so I’m glad no one dragged me to one. Though I am curious, (ahem), purely from a societal-interest standpoint.
That photo changed the subject right quick, didn’t it? Okay, so electronics are not super cheap in Japan, but you can find absolutely anything. Prices are a wee bit higher than the US, but probably below Europe.
I particularly liked this sign: “Cool Old Dude” – “I Love Akiba”
A nearby shop brought back reminders of childhood. It was filled with plastic and pewter models of giant humanoid robots. Anyone remember Voltron?
One thing that impresses me about Japan is the variety of beer. Sure, the standard beers aren’t that exciting. But for about $3-4 a bottle, you can get micro-brewed beer of all different varieties. Made in Japan, no less!
I tried a stout a few days ago that was a bit like Mackeson, one of my favorites. Today, however, I went for nigori sake, a cloudy/unfiltered sweet sake. Delicious!
Tomorrow’s post is one you won’t want to miss. I learn street photography from Alfie Goodrich, one of the most-known (and I think most-talented) photographers in Japan. Sign up with the orange RSS or Email buttons in the left sidebar to be notified when the post is up!
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:16 pm. Add a comment
Before I left for Kyoto on June 24th, I headed to Tsukiji, the largest fish market in the world. Every day, more varieties of seafood are sold here than most people have ever heard of. Nowadays, they only let two groups of 70 tourists view the famous tuna auction; I decided not to get up at 3:30 to try and catch it. BUT I did see a lot of those tuna being carted around and sliced up, after my 7:00am arrival at the market. I think these are tuna?
Here are the unlucky ones responsible for my favorite sushi – eels:
Are these scallops? I’m not sure.
A varied assortment:
These crazy carts drive around everywhere loaded with the day’s purchases, trying (not so hard) to avoid running over tourists.
As this cart drove by (while I wanted 2h in line for Sushi Dai), a block of this frozen fish (I think tuna) fell off, skittering across the pavement. You can be sure, it was recovered FAST.
Since I spent the rest of the day getting to Kyoto, I have some nice shots from there as well. I’ll just throw in one: a beef okonomiyaki, Kyoto style, at the homey Kawa restaurant. It’s north of Syomen street, just east of the Takase river (a tiny canal). Very nice cook, and the first time I sat Japanese-style for a meal on tatami (straw) mats, with no pit under the table to sit “western style.” And the okonomiyaki was good.
In real life, you can see the fish flakes bending back and forth as the heat rises from the okonomiyaki. It’s almost like the dish is alive! If you want to read about this Japanese delight, check out my prior okonomiyaki post. Have you ever found one in a restaurant in your town?
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:29 pm. Add a comment
Everyone’s heard of Kobe beef. There are other similar varieties like Wagyu as well, which I think are more readily found in Tokyo. I didn’t go to a restaurant and drop $150 on a steak meal, but on this rainy June 23rd I did try a bit of it in a department store. Vegetarians: you may want to skip the next few paragraphs – heh.
As I understand, the genetics of this type of cow allow the fat to form inside the muscle tissue, in a way that doesn’t occur in normal cows. I do wonder just how unhealthy Kobe/Wagyu beef is! Perhaps the cows being massaged daily and fed wine makes their meat healthier…?
The piece I got was probably Wagyu, and was about 1000 yen ($11) per 100 grams. It was on sale though, so I paid a bit less. I just had a small steak, plus some little cubes of cheaper stuff (660 yen per 100g, the taste wasn’t really that impressive). Here’s the good piece of meat:
I cooked the steak for about a minute a side in a hot pan. It was VERY flavorful, the fat melded perfectly with the meat, and the steak was extremely tender. I can only imagine having Kobe, which probably costs 3-5 times as much in the store (and 10-15 times as much in a restaurant).
Now, today’s got to be all about food, because the other sights I saw were “no photos allowed.” So here’s my favorite sushi, Unagi (sea eel). They have so many kinds of eel in Japan that I haven’t seen before in any sushi restaurant: conger eel, freshwater eel, sharp-toothed eel… all delicious!
I’ll round out this food-oriented post with a very expensive cantaloupe. Like yesterday’s cherries, these are meant as gifts. At an exchange rate of 90 yen per USD, that’s well over $100 of melon:
What’s the most costly food you’ve tried, or most expensive restaurant where you’ve eaten?
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:48 pm. Add a comment
Shibuya was my destination on June 22nd. I recommend going up one of the towers at the Government Buildings complex – it’s free and the view is fantastic! Unfortunately the day I went there with a fellow hosteller (Hi Anne!), it was cloudy and very hazy.
Due to the weather, it wasn’t great for photos today. It’s definitely rainy season here. But I did snap this cool building:
And I’ll leave you with the Humax Pavilion, where I had shabu-shabu at Mo Mo Paradise! Mmm. There are a lot of neon lights in the nightlife areas of Tokyo, which are packed with pleasures of all kinds: video games, gambling, seedy stuff, upscale clubs, and of course, FOOD!
No, I haven’t been to a McDonald’s here yet. Or anywhere on my RTW trip, in fact. Whew!
p.s. For those curious what shabu-shabu is, you have a boiling pot of broth, into which you throw vegetables to boil and dip slices of very thinly sliced meat. The place I went, Mo Mo Paradise, is all-you-can-eat!
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:51 pm. Add a comment
On June 21st, I headed to the famous Senso-ji temple/pagoda complex in Asakusa. I particularly liked the temple where women pray for things important to them (meeting a good husband, having strong children, etc).
What was interesting today food-wise: green tea donuts. Seeing Baumkuchen (German “tree cake” with layers like the yearly rings of a tree), with the German name printed on the package. Then there was this:
This small box of cherries (meant as a gift) is $175 at today’s exchange rate. Yes, that’s about a pound of cherries. For $175. This is Japan!
I’ll leave you today with this shot of a street performer in Ueno Park. I did actually give him some change! Okay, it was mostly one-yen coins (I think made from aluminum?) and some fives, but a good handful. Thanks for the music!
What do you think about street performers? Do you ever give them change or a couple bills?
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:33 pm. Add a comment
We headed out of the hostel on June 20th with a downtown park in mind: Yoyogi Park. At the beautiful temple, a Japanese wedding was processing between buildings. 587 tourists had their cameras out and ready. So did I, for the first of today’s Top 5 cool photos around Shibuya (in the order they were taken). Best wishes to this happy couple!
Next up: Greasers! Apparently there’s a big craze to dress up like Elvis (or the Pink Ladies) and dance in this square near Yoyogi and Shibuya. At least on Sundays, there are several “gangs” of Greasers there.
Number three is going to be a double-dip, because I caught the same tourist posing with both of these strangely-dressed people, several blocks apart!
For “Tourist shot number two” check out the guy’s outfit: Cap. Headphones. Ski goggles. Hello Kitty purse. Belt pouches. Short shorts. Red fishnet stockings. Pink socks. SHIN GUARDS. Yellow sneakers. He must have multiple personality disorder, and each of them picked an item to wear?
Fourth is Condomania, a shop filled with condoms and related… stuff. Here’s the Tenga, a one-use male pleasure toy. I found out what it is by accident last year, because I wanted to use Tenga as the name of a town in my fantasy novel Demon’s Bane. A Google search revealed that it might not be the best name for a town; a bit strange for any Japanese readers. Anyone in Mexico wanna buy a Chevy Nova?
Last for today is a famous intersection near Shibuya station. From the Starbucks you get this fantastic view when the cars get a red light and every crosswalk goes green at once:
I actually have a ton more photos from this day. Eventually there’ll have to be an article about the best hamburger I’ve ever had outside the US, at Blacows in Tokyo.
Here’s a question for today: what is the best hamburger you’ve ever had outside the United States? I’m thinking: good beef that can be cooked rare, flavorful toppings, and a hearty, non-crumbly bun. Messy is okay, but tasty is required – in which country/city did you find it?
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Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 3:06 pm. 3 comments