Oct 21, 2017

Ikebukuro - DAY 5!

actually,  the title of this blogpost is somewhat misleading. i apologise. 

///

after the quick jaunt to hakone and iwahara that's all too short ( T.T ), we arrived back in tokyo and checked in for our stay of the night -- the much anticipated book & bed tokyo! if you have some bookworm friends on your social media you'd probably have seen stories about this bookish stay here, here and here

they take a very novel approach to the capsule hotel concept by filling  up the spaces between bunks with books. so. many. books. what's better, there's even an english section! 

we alighted at the ikebukuro station in the evening and dragged our luggage around office blocks while trying to figure out its location. it's tucked away in one of the buildings, but actually it's just a three minute walk to the station. we finally found it, took the elevator up to the claustrophobic speakeasy-style reception, gave an obligatory laugh at the 'have a book night' greeting, settled our stuff at the tiny bunk beds, and set to exploring the bookshelves. 

book & bed call themselves an 'accommodation bookshop' but THAT'S A LIE. because the books are not for sale. WHYYYY. 

so many books that i want! darn it. 


made peggy take a photo here. if you squint you can make out some of the titles. 

they're hiring, if any of you guys are interested.

also note 'oishinbo' on the left. i first heard of this food-themed japanese manga at a media lunch where the kind pr lady shared about it and how i can learn a lot about japanese food from the series. i googled around but i forgot all about it after the prices made my eyes water. until i found the complete series at book & bed! hehehehehehe ini kali lah.


super engrossed in oishinbo already. 

that's my only problem with this place. you just want to stay in all day long to read and give up on sightseeing altogether.

finally liz and peggy had to drag me away from the shelves to head out for dinner!

tonight we'll be having japanese pizza for dinner! much as we love japanese food, there's only so much pork chops and convenience store food you can eat, so we (more like i) decided to go to seirinkan at naka-meguro. hence the misleading part of this blog post (although we were staying at ikebukuro, we did not explore that area at all). instead we took the train to naka-meguro hahaha.

turned out that seirinkan wasn't open until 6pm, so we walked around freezing to death in the late evening breeze. it's actually a lovely area with quirky old shops (kitchen supplies, vintage stores, old school pharmacies, some fancy barbershop, funny hats, florists, lifestyle shops) and a sense of general neighbourliness. every now and then a bike whizzes past or some stylish office worker strides home for dinner. pretty good for people watching too!


///


i present, Naka Meguro Shopfronts:





we bought warabimochi from this energetic dude. he basically let us try all of the mochi (sweet potato, green tea, roasted sesame, i think. there are a couple other flavours and varieties which i couldn't seem to catch).


///

after lots of wandering and checking out vintage stores (lots of great stuff, by the way), it's finally 6pm! 

most of the shops were already closed by then so we made our way to seirinkan. we suddenly found ourselves on a street with some pretty good restaurant options but we're here for pizza and nothing else! nothing will stop us. not even some truffle pork pasta. hmmph. 

we bravely made our way in, smiled nervously at the staff all busying themselves around the huge pizza oven on the ground floor, and were led by another staff up the spiral staircase to the second storey, a significantly quieter space where an elegant lady holds court at the bar and a few tables were scattered around the tiny area. 

timeout tokyo describes it as steampunk, and i guess it's the closest description you'd get. it's a dark space, lit by a few 'industrial' lamps, lots of metal and exposed brick everywhere, but it's not the overdone cafe industrial look that you get in kl cafes. 

it's DARK. which we think they're making some point for us to not take photos of our food. lol. we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves though. 

here's the thing: seirinkan only serves two types of pizza - margherita and marinara. 

we ordered both, plus starters (grilled octopus, salad) and drinks. 

we were the first customers, but the place gradually filled up: an incredibly stylish couple out on a friday date, a group of friends went up the stairs to the third floor, a girl on her first date with another guy (but she brought a friend along). 

if you think you'll miss freshly shaved truffles and ham or whatever on your pizza,  you won't. i think the reason for seirinkan's simple menu is to allow the beautiful crust to get all the attention. 

there's a subtlety to the pillowy dough, and just the right texture and taste that goes with the garlic, garlic oil and tomato sauce.

if you need a photo to go with  my terrible description, here's a terrible photo taken in terribly low light conditions to allow your imagination to go wild. look at that beautiful char and crusty bits and juicy and sweet tomato sauce and perfectly browned garlic. 

lol. 


///

after dinner, we were wondering what to do as there's nothing planned on the itinerary yet. finally i decided to scam them to come to tsutaya daikanyama with me HAHAHAHA. i've longed to visit it ever since i read about it on dezeen, and i wasn't sure how to sell it to liz and peggy lolol. but thankfully they were both game! also it helps that tsutaya is open until two in the morning and we were in dire need of late hangout spots. 

it's a short train ride away from nakameguro, and a nice walk through the affluent neighbourhood (if you can call it that) of daikanyama. 

as we didn't take any photos of the place, here's one i stole from dezeen so you'd get an idea: 

Image: Dezeen

we spent the rest of the night there. the bookstore is made up of three buildings connected by a corridor in the centre, with sections for travel, art, design, architecture, cars and motorcycles, and even a space dedicated to magazines. even zines. it's really inspiring to see how far print as a medium can go. 

anyway, i found a couple more books along the same vein as the 'japanese salaryman' series HAHAHAH so i bought one for wai yeng. after awhile i noticed that both liz and peggy were curled up in one of the seating areas, each engrossed in a book. to be honest these two girls aren't known for being bookworms, and liz has always joked at how i read all the time and how she couldn't do it, so i was super surprised at the sight. but anyway i was glad they were distracted HAHA so i can continue browsing my architecture and design and amazing japanese food magazines and japanese literature translations while searching for the best deals lol. 

finally, i went searching for them and sat down with them. that's when they noticed that they're both reading the same book lolol. 

what is this coincidence. in a bookstore of three buildings with so many books they both picked up the same book and were reading it at the same spot but didn't notice each other hahaha.  

anyway english books there are really pricey lah. only get books that you won't get in malaysia! 

///

we had to catch the final train, so we headed back to the hotel and settled in for a night of leisurely reading at book & bed and snacking on warabimochi we bought from the guy earlier. 

 i stayed up laaaaate. and it's great to relive doraemon adventures again. hahahaha. 

our bunk beds were plastered with magazine and book pages, but i just felt that this landscape magazine is particularly interesting. 

////

after reading till late in my bunk. i woke up bright and early to continue reading oishinbo. AHAHAHA. liz was so shocked to see that i'm the first one awake lol


 basically oishinbo is a super popular manga in japanese, but we non-japanese readers are lucky enough in the sense that someone decided to translate some of it into a sort of 'best hits' of the series, categorised by the type of food such as rice, sake, vegetables, etc.

(confession: i bought the complete set after i returned to kl. lol.)
here's the pantry area!  
and here's a cosy nook to read in. 


it's too bad that we're only for one night. but maybe it's a godsend la. i wouldn't be able to see any more of tokyo if i stay here any longer hahahaha. we finally checked out of book & bed and headed to our last stay of the trip - an airbnb in asakusa!

///

seriously. book a stay at book & bed.


Oct 17, 2017

HAKONE - DAY 4!


happy diwali everyone! it's deepawali tomorrow and i'd been moping around the whole night being completely indecisive about what i should do. 

should i read? should i bake matcha swiss rolls? should i paint? should i go to sleep at 9pm? should i go for a jog? should i play volleyball? should i watch some japanese drama about magazines that siauli sent to me last week? 

at the end i had dinner, read a bit, sprayed some herbal lemongrass anti-cockroach spray all over the house, then decided to continue chronicling my trip to japan! ever since swee ping told me that they're shutting down blogspot i've been meaning to migrate the blog to wordpress, or maybe start writing on medium. 

maybe i'll do that on another public holiday eve, but for now, i'll just write more captions to my hakone photo pile. 

good morning! first thing after waking up is to take some photos of the morning view from our stay - high school kids heading to school, this fuji supermarket, little dogs trotting after old ladies with shopping carts. 

hakone is cold. google said it might snow that day, so here's peggy all wrapped up and ready to go!
beautiful japanese train crossing signs.
hello train! if you read the electronic display, this train's final stop is 'daiyuzan station', whose route includes a stop at our onsen last night.

there's even a very exciting-sounding 'fujifilm-mae station'. if it wasn't pitch dark yesterday i would've gotten off to hunt down some camera shops.

but we wouldn't be taking this train. instead we preoccupied ourselves with taking photos while waiting for the train to odawara station, which is in the opposite direction.
some serious map studying going on. 

after a transit at odawara station and a lovely train ride through villages and streams sparkling in the early spring sunlight, we're at hakone! here's liz posing with the station master props.
i think we're at hakone yumoto. it's the entry town to the main attractions of hakone such as lake ashi (where you'll get views of mount fuji), temples and such. so we're technically here to take a bus. also, this view reminds me of tanah rata at cameron highland. 
while waiting for the bus, we walked around for more photo ops then we spotted this camera-sensitive rickshaw runner.
LOOK AT THIS VIEW.

 

it was a cloudy and gloomy day with the occasional burst of sunlight. here's one of the rare occasions!

just so, so gorgeous. 

we also spotted some ducks waddling about in the stream. 

///

one twisty bus ride later, here we are at Lake Ashi! 

another burst of sunlight! we basically wandered about the perimeter of the lake checking out attractions such as a torii gate at hakone shrine and an ancient cedar avenue that dates back to tokugawa ieyasu's era.

IT WAS A TERRIBLY COLD DAY AND I KEPT WONDERING IF THIS IS HOW IT FEELS TO HAVE FROSTBITE. i couldn't even feel my toes in my useless boots anymore.

i have a friend who would make fun of me for wearing chelsea boots at kl and she said something like 'why are you wearing winter boots in kl?'

WHAT WINTER BOOTS HELLO ITS SPRING AT HAKONE AND THESE BOOTS CAN'T EVEN SAVE MY LIFE.
LIFESAVER - hot red bean soup from the vending machine. i kept cradling it in my coat pocket lol.
 best levitation attempt despite frozen toes. 

said torii gate by the lake! the wind from the lake was adding on to our freezing misery, so we just took a few hurried snaps before running away to escape the cold.

RARE MOMENT OF BRILLIANT SUNLIGHT SO MUST TAKE PHOTO.

then we did more bumbling around. actually it's a huge lake and we're only at one small bay but google map's 15-minute walk turned into torture as we were facing the wind head-on and liz's runny nose was running outta control so she basically stuffed tissues into her nose and tried to hide that sight with a face mask.

that being said, it's all very picturesque lol. hakone is highly recommended.

after a couple of detours (wrong stop, then 7-11 to stock up on face masks and heat packs), we finally found the historical cedar avenue!
here's me being all artsy with some mottled maple leaf.

then we ambushed some poor traveller to take this photo for us. spot liz and her lifesaving face mask.

then we walked back to the town area to wait for a ship to take us to the next stop in our hakone tour. we had some time to kill before the next ship departs, so lunch it is! too broke to afford lunch at the fancy touristy joints with touristy prices, so we walked to a quieter street behind the main thoroughfare and found a family business selling ramen and rice bowls for a fraction of the fancy prices.
not the best photo, but i'm putting it here to remember how the warm sun felt on my frozen toes. may have been the heater in the restaurant, but it felt great all the same.
stalking fellow holiday-makers from the warmth of the restaurant.
JUST LOOK AT THAT VIEW. 
liz's ramen is here!
alison bought this disposable camera for my trip! 

(this reminds me that i need to get it processed)
my oyako-don! another dish crossed off my to-eat list.
peggy haz pork chop! 

after a satisfying lunch, it's time to brave the cold once more. 
hail captain peggy! this is a thoroughly dramatic but pretty fun ship that seems to have floated straight out of a japanese's idea of captain hook's circus. fun for photos though. 

lol look at that kumamon bottle. we disembarked to get on the ropeway to owakudani. and they have some pretty fun bottles for sale.

while this boat ride brings us all across the lake, one of the main highlights of the ride is to get a nice view of mount fuji. however, the ticket attendant told us that it was too cloudy for fuji-san to make an appearance today :(


:(

but since we already have the hakone freepass, might as well go to all the attractions available right?

here's the view from the ropeway! look at that lovely lake glittering in the evening sun.

we were in a tram with two visitors from hong kong, a young japanese family with impossibly chic parents and two photogenic kids, then us, three disheveled shivering malaysians.

we were chatting in the tram, enjoying the amazing view, when all of a sudden, the japanese kid exclaimed, 'fuji-san!'
cue commotion as all of us in the tram repositioned ourselves and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the majestic mountain rising right before us.
it is a ridiculously photogenic volcano.

///

when the mountain disappeared from our sight, the kid said sadly 'bye bye fuji-san', and we got off the tram to owakudani of active volcano zone, sulfurous fumes and blackened eggs fame. we didn't get a chance to explore the place as the final bus from owakudani departs in five minutes!
got on the last leg of the journey -- hakone tozan cable car -- a funicular railway that slowly descends from hakone yumoto to gora. the train creaks through dense woodland, and apparently it's most beautiful at july, when hydrangeas on both sides of the track bloom in unison.

we were all a bit disappointed that the sun was setting so quickly so we moved on to the next destination - hakone gora park. but that was closed as well!
we missed it by one minute. here's liz looking disappointed while i forced her to take a photo to prove that at least we tried. LOL
blooming cabbages at the park entrance. sed.
it's time to walk back to the station and take the train to hakone! more ways to amuse ourselves: dorami stamps!
souvenir time! it's all onsen-themed stuff here. it's amazing. i took this photo of rila in the onsen to show melissa later lol
fuji-themed goodies.
ONSEN WASH TO WARM OUR SOULS.

i remembered trying to stalk a fat cat that kept disappearing, then saw some adorable shibas, contemplated buying expensive hakone-themed omiyage, etc.

by the time we returned to our stay for the night, we were all too exhausted to take photos. i don't quite remember what we had for dinner though. ok i vaguely remember liz going home to rest, while we headed to fuji mart to explore the local supermarket scene and being all excited about sakura-themed stuff.

i remember trying to read a copy of 'The Japanese Salaryman' i found at the airbnb. it's this hilarious guidebook to the japanese salaryman, 'the force behind the japanese economic miracle', published by the japan travel bureau. it had all these illustrations of what a salaryman looks like (down to the calculator and three pens in his front pocket), how he spends his holidays, why he hangs out late at night, his wife's tea gatherings at the employee accommodation, company team-buildings such as sitting under a waterfall and more.

here's an excerpt:

make it sing! shoot it down! 

i think there was an electricity outage too and peggy came to the rescue again. i'm just super grateful for my travel mates lah hahahahah. if i were alone i might have shivered in the dark then cried to sleep lololol.

DAY 5!

i'm going to cheat and dump all my hakone photos in one go so the next post can be all about tokyo again.

today we'll be checking out of our lovely airbnb and head back to tokyo!

but first, some proper photos of our stay. it's a definite highlight for all three of us.

tiny figurines displayed all over the house. 
LOOK AT THESE VCRS. the owner also had a functioning vcr player in a corner. i think this is his tuition room.
tiny pots and pans. if you're an enid blyton fan you'd probably imagine all the fairies and elves and household mice helping themselves to these miniature crockery.
here's a quarter of our room. look at all those books (and liz's flu medication on the table).
here's the other side of the room. i imagine this is where the airbnb owner gives english lessons and stuff. it's where we have our meals.
MORE STRAWBERRIES.
THE CARPETING IS IMPOSSIBRUUUUUULY SOFT.
and then this is the other side of the airbnb. we stayed on the second floor, and it's pretty impressive how the owner managed to stuff so many beds in the place. lol. MORE BOOKS. I LIKE.
then you can get a peek of the kitchen behind the cabinet. also this guy had tons of books about japan, all in english. i was so tempted to email him if these books were for sale.
MORE BOOKS. shelves upon shelves above the entry way. hahahhaa.
as you can see i'm a useless travel mate. while i was wandering around taking photos, liz and peggy were hard at work preparing breakfast. look at that beautiful golden brown raisin toast :')
another view of our quarters. beyond this dining room is the entrance and the bathroom. the only thing i didn't quite like about the place is the cold toilet lol. but the rest of it is so cosy and amazing and comfortable it more than made up for that minor discomfort.
LOOK AT THOSE BOOKS GOT SLIDING SHELVES SOMEMORE DREAM COME TRUE LAH.
liz the toast master.
peggy the egg master.
me the japanese paper coffee brew master.
OUR BREAKFAST SPREAD!
ok now with additional hands and sliced cake. itadakimasu!
decided to take a final photo in this lovely place before checking out :(
one final group photo with my camera perched precariously on the street sign on timer mode lol.

goodbye merry lue iwahara! we're so, so glad we stayed here. thank you for an amazing experience!



///



ok the diwali fireworks are going off. time for bed. thanks for reading till the end and stay posted for our next tokyo adventure!