30.04.2016 - 07.05.2016
This is perhaps a cheat one as I went to Japan on a work trip, had a fleeting visit and did not get to see much, but I still feel it is worth writing about! Despite not being allowed to stay on by myself to do a two-day trip to Mount Fuji (I tried, I really did!) I still got a good feel for Japan and really liked the place.
One great thing was the hotel I stayed in was literally next door to the Tokyo Skytree . The Tokyo Skytree is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo. At 634m tall, it is the highest freestanding broadcasting building in the world. Despite not having enough time to go up the tower, standing at the bottom of it was still very impressive. It also gets lit up at night, which is a great sight! I was glad we were located so close to this as it meant that, despite being these on business, I was able to see at least one of Tokyo's great sights.
Unfortunately, due to the time of year I went, we had just missed the Cherry Blossom Tree season. During the Sakura (Japanese for Cherry Blossom) season, the pink flowers fall from the trees and blanket the floors, giving a beautiful site. Although the trees were bare when I got there and the blossom had already fallen, there were trees everywhere and you could still take in their beauty. They were lovely and I can only imagine how gorgeous and magical it is to be there during this event.
Due to being there for work, I had the BEST dining experience. After our meetings, our clients said they would like to take us out for tea and of course we were happy to accept. We had a 10/15 minute walk from their offices to a residential area. We arrived at what looked like a house with a garage type building on the door and a small sliding door at the front - this is somewhere you would never find without being told about it! There were only about 4 tables in there so the atmosphere was great. The tables also had a grill plate in the middle and everything was cooked right in front of you. My clients insisted on ordering for us and I was happy to leave them to it - they are going to know better than me what is good. It was a great opportunity to try food I would never have normally ordered, really traditional Japanese food and, wow, it was great! There were a lot of pickled vegetables, Unagi, meats, fish, Udon and all sorts of other types of food. My favorite was a classic Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki. Literally “grilled as you like,” okonomiyaki is Japanese comfort food at its best, and a clear violation of the typical refined image of Japanese food. It’s a savoury pancake filled with any number of things (but usually cabbage and pork) and topped with fish flakes, dried seaweed, mayonnaise and a Worcester-style sauce. It’s also a lot of fun: I got to do the grilling and flipping myself on the hot plate!
Of course, what trip to Japan would be complete without some karaoke. After our meal, my clients insisted on taking us to do some karaoke, claiming it was an absolute must when in Japan. I was expecting a bar-type place that had one karaoke system with everyone waiting their turn to get on the stage and go for it. I was very wrong. The karaoke place was a huge building with around ten floors. Each floor had about 4/5 different pods that you booked out. Our group went into one pod and in there you can sing your heart out to any number of Japanese or English/American songs, order food and enjoy your own personal bar service. Unfortunately, my voice is nowhere near good enough to sing but as I did not want to be rude I did end up doing 1 song on my own, and joining in a few group ones. Everyone seemed to really go for it, despite their singing capabilities - it was good fun!
Despite going to Japan on a business, work-related trip, I had a great time and feel I got to experience things more typically Japanese that I may not have been able to if I had gone on my own. Japan is a beautiful place and I will be sure to get back there one day for a trip of my own.