April 17, 2016
This morning we woke up earlier to finish packing and to check out of our hotel. I’ll miss all the comforts of that hotel room for the rest of our trip. We were spoiled!
7 Yi-Ma met us in the lobby at 10am to bring us to her church for Sunday Service. The church that 7 Yi-Ma goes to is called Osaka Chinese Presbyterian Church. The congregation is 80% Taiwanese people living in Osaka and the rest are mostly Japanese people. The service is an hour and 45 minutes (a lot longer than a Catholic Mass), and is said in Mandarin and Japanese. It’s no wonder the service is long, because everything has to be repeated twice.
When we walked into the church, the greeter asked 7 Yi-Ma to write down our names and where we’re from so they could introduce us to the congregation at the end of the service. Tim was able to understand the majority of the service and translated bits and pieces of it to me on the spot. It was nice to be part of the service, even though I didn’t understand anything, I’m glad 7 Yi-Ma took us to her church. It felt like a very good community to be a part of and I’m glad that she has that in Osaka. We sat beside Tim’s extended relatives, they are 7 Yi-Ma’s oldest brother’s son. I know, a bit confusing, but they’re related to Tim (Tim: my first cousin, once removed, or more specifically, the oldest brother of my paternal grandma’s second son). Tim’s Dad’s side of the family is quite extensive and seem to be all over the globe.
After church we took the subway back to our hotel since we left our bags there. On the way to the restaurant for lunch, I noticed a cookie counter that Tim mentioned he really liked at Takashimaya, called Yoku Moku. I pointed to it to show him. 7 Yi-Ma saw me pointing to it and Tim told her that I recognized the brand because he told me about it yesterday. Then she b-lined it to their counter and bought us a variety of cookies to take with us home and for our train ride. That was very nice of her, but we also felt bad for pointing it out since she’s already been so generous to us during our time in Osaka.
The cookies are really good. I can see why Tim enjoys them. I just googled Yoku Moku and it looks like you can get them at Neiman Marcus and Shirokiya in Hawaii, so I won’t feel too bad if we eat them all before we get home (Tim: because we go to Hawaii all the time?).
For lunch, 7 Yi-Ma treated us to an unagi lunch. We went to the same restaurant as we did the first night we arrived in Osaka since that restaurant specializes in unagi. The unagi here ranged from 1,500 JPY = $17 CAD to 3,100 JPY = $36 CAD. As Tim mentioned before, 7 Yi-Ma takes her unagi seriously and ordered the three of us the 3,100 JPY box. The set was presented in a square box and was delicious. She told us that you don’t have to eat all the rice, but we both did. We liked to pour more unagi sauce over the rice. They could probably tell we weren’t Japanese when we did that. It’s like people pouring soy sauce over their white rice (Tim: nothing wrong with that :P).
After lunch, we took the subway towards Shin-Osaka Station, our Shinkansen (high speed rail) to Tokyo was leaving at 3:16pm. 7 Yi-Ma took the train with us until we had to transfer. I felt sad saying goodbye to her as we waved goodbye from the train. I think having to say goodbye to family on this trip has made me very emotional.
We got to Shin-Osaka with about 45 minutes to spare before our train left for Tokyo. I walked around the station looking at the bento box counter, which serves really good looking train food. Unfortunately, we were really full from lunch and we had cookies to eat so we didn’t get a bento. William had mentioned these specific boxes because there is a set that comes with a ceramic bowl that you can keep.
Our train ride was just under 3 hours because our train made quite a few stops along the way. It went by quickly since I got to watch the Amazing Race and the Mindy Project. Then as usual, I fell asleep until we got to Tokyo Station.
Tokyo Station wasn’t as crazy as I imagined it to be. Maybe my expectations of the crowds here are very high so when we got there it was manageable, and I suppose it was a Sunday, and not a weekday. We transferred to the Chuo Line to get to Shinjuku Station. We booked an apartment on Airbnb that is about a 7 minute walk from Shinjuku Station. We followed the host’s instructions and didn’t have any problems finding the place. It’s amazing that you can go from an area with thousands of people to an area where it’s clearly more residential and is very quiet within a couple of blocks.
When we got into the apartment, everything was exactly like the pictures and it is very clean. The location is really central considering we are only paying $85 CAD/night (before taxes and fees, the list price seems to be around $110 CAD/night normally, but we booked last minute and the room was still available so the price probably dropped). Most hotels in central Tokyo are closer to $200/night. The apartment also has a washing machine, which is great. We won’t have to hand wash while we’re here. The host also provided a portable cellular wif hotspot, which we can bring around with us while in Tokyo. (Tim: Speeds aren’t so great though).
We settled in and I looked up some sushi restaurants in the Shinjuku area. Since coming to Japan, we haven’t really had much sushi since there’s so many other options. I felt like having sushi today and wanted to try a conveyor belt restaurant. Unlike North American conveyor belt sushi restaurants, the ones in Japan seem very popular amongst locals and they serve quality sushi.
We headed out towards the part of Shinjuku where all the action is and searched for Numakuzo. When we found the restaurant, there was a line up (it was around 8:30pm), we waited about 10 minutes before being seated. I actually don’t think I’ve been to a conveyor belt sushi place before. I only remember that Daimatsu (where Ebisu is now) in Richmond used to have one a long time ago.
The restaurant was filled with Japanese people and tourists (I see that it’s been listed in Lonely Planet). When we sat down, there weren’t that many plates going around as I guess we came at a really busy time so the sushi chefs weren’t keeping up. If you don’t see something you like you can order it directly from the sushi chef. After you’re done, the waitress comes and counts the number of plates you have. Overall, I thought the sushi was really good. My favourite was the Bluefin Otoro (fatty tuna) which melted in our mouths. It was our most expensive piece at 520 JPY = $6 CAD. You can get this at some restaurants in Vancouver for about $12-$15 per piece.
We ate more than I expected and it worked out to be about $53 CAD, which isn’t too bad considering we had some pretty special pieces of fish, like the Bluefin Otoro. We walked back towards the apartment and stopped by Lawson’s to buy some yogurt for breakfast tomorrow morning.
My first impression of Tokyo is that the city is huge – taller buildings, bright lights, super wide cross walks and lots of people. I feel very insignificant in a city like this. Even though Shinjuku was very busy (around the few streets that we walked through), it didn’t bother me as much as I thought. I think it’s because it’s like an organized chaos and there’s no one pushing you out of the way to get past you (like in Hong Kong). We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, maybe we’ll see more tour groups.
Steps today: 10,500