This weekend I took advantage of the strange situation in Tokyo. The state of emergency is over and things are starting to open. But people are still cautious about going out. But also, there’s no foreign tourists. So typical tourist spots are almost empty. Enjoy some photos of nearly empty Asakusa.
Coming soon, nearly empty photos of lunch in Marunouchi building (Tōkyō station) and then coffee in nearly empty Ginza.
Whenever there is a leak in the ceiling of a Japanese train station, I always see this elaborate contraption. It definitely beats the bucket-on-the-floor and/or “Caution Wet Floor” signs I’m used to from other places.
I recently published an update to my sideproject app, WaterMe. A user of the app requested I add Italian localization… so I just replied the email asking him if he wanted to help me do that. He was very helpful and now the app has Italian localization 🎊
It was fun working on this. I’m hoping more users want to help me add localization for their language in the future.
Quarantine dinner tonight
I know it’s not tasteful to post about going out right now but sorry I’m gonna do it 😋.
Today I went to Jojoen for 焼肉 (Yakiniku) lunch. It’s a fancy lunch for sure but it’s such a good lunch deal. Dinner here is ¥20,000+ but lunch is only about ¥4,000. The quality of the food is the same and it’s so delicious. This is generally a good tip for traveling in Japan. Look up the pricy famous restaurants and then go there for lunch instead of dinner; Usually a super good deal.
Also during the コロナ (Corona) situation, they’re taking super care. They fill the private rooms first, before the regular seats. I was going to say everything is spotless, but I’m sure that’s the same all the time, it’s Japan 😂. But yeah. It was as safe as could be. An almost empty, super clean, high end restaurant for lunch.
Slightly related, Shinjuku was a ghost town (photo below). I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s the busiest train station in the world. It’s always packed.
This might be my last 鍋 (nabe) of the season. Weather is starting to warm up 😔
夜桜 (Yozakura) (Night Sakura)
Sakura is pretty much over now. I think this will be my last post on it this year 😂
Whoa! I can’t believe everything has gone by so fast! Its been over a year and I’ve done so much. But I haven’t been posting about it! But I used my social distancing time to catch up. I made a bunch of new posts starting all the way back to the beginning of summer 2019.
I also have set up my phone so it will be easier to post more small updates more often. I plan to get more things online more often. But lets kick things off with links to all the catch up posts.
Yes I’m safe and yes I’m healthy. 新コロナウイルス (Shin koronauirusu) (New Corona Virus) has been a thing in Japan long before it hit Europe or America. Its definitely a big deal here. At my company we have been working from home since mid February. 東京 (Tōkyō) is not shut down like many other cities are… yet. But things are definitely slower. 小池さん (Koike-san) the Governor of Tokyo is now warning people to stay home or possibly face a total shutdown like the rest of the world.
But for now I am mostly taking care of my plants and working from home. You can see my work from home set up and view below. I occasionally go out, I just always avoid rush hour trains. If its not raining, I sometimes even ride my bike to the office. I always wear my mask and wash my hands. Most restaurants and shops have a bottle of hand sanitizer at the front and I also carry my own alcohol wipes just in case. In general, it has not been so bad here and I’m hoping that things are going to stay calm in Tokyo.
作並温泉 (Sakunami Onsen) is near 仙台市 (Sendai) in (宮城県) Miyagi Prefecture. Sendai is about a 2 hour train ride from 東京 (Tōkyō) via 新幹線 (Shinkansen). This Shinkansen is the newer, faster one compared with the one I took to 京都 (Kyōto). You can see this in the speedometer app screenshot 🤗.
This was another low budget overnight trip. My friend and I found half price Shinkansen tickets to Sendai. The 旅館 (Ryokan) (Japanese Style Inn) had cheap prices including dinner and breakfast. I think the total spent on the train and hotel was ¥20,000. One major advantage of this onsen over 万座温泉 (Manza Onsen) was that Sendai is a major city. So there is something to do other than sit in the onsen. I spent a few hours in Sendai as they are known for having cheaper, fresher fish for お寿司 (Sushi) and famous for 牛タン (Gyū tan) (Beef tongue). I definitely enjoyed the super fresh sushi 🍣😋.
The onsen itself was really nice. The only bath was large and outdoors. And, again, I was lucky enough to be there when it was snowing. There is something about the hot spring water and the steam and the snow and the cold air that is just magical and so relaxing. Also this bath is pretty unique. Its called 岩風呂 (Iwa furo), a natural stone bath. So instead of it being made from tile and wood, its made of stone. Its a little more rustic feeling.
Also, this trip happened right in the middle of Corona getting serious in Japan. It was probably a bad idea to go to place with a buffet dinner and breakfast, but, oh well 🤷♂️. I made it out alive and healthy. Things have definitely gotten more serious since then and now there’s no travel planned 😭.
横浜 (Yokohama) is where the main China Town is in 東京 (Tōkyō). Well technically its not in Tokyo. But its within commuting distance. Some friends and I went to go check out the Chinese New Years festivities. We had some good food and watched the dragons collect money from the local businesses. It felt pretty similar in size to the same celebration in San Francisco. We spent a few hours there and then went home. It was also the first days of the Corona virus. Japan had a few cases but it was nothing huge yet. But already people in Tokyo were starting to get worried.
One of the most popular New Years destinations in Tōkyō is 明治神宮 (Meiji Jingū Shrine). In 3 days around New Years the shrine gets 3 million visitors. I was a bit worried that it was going to be absolutely crazy, like fireworks were during the summer. But it was amazingly orderly and well organized. I arrived at around 11pm. I was in the main crowd when the drums for New Years played. I got to the actual shrine and threw my coin in around 12:45. After that were the typical Japanese festival foods. Also on New Years the trains ran all night so there was no fear of being left stranded. It was definitely a great way to ring in the new year.
Now that its winter again I wanted to go to a proper winter onsen with snow and everything. My friend and I found an amazing package deal for an overnight trip. It included 1 night, dinner, breakfast, and direct bus transport from and to Tokyo for ¥18,000.
万座温泉 (Manza Onsen) is in 群馬県 (Gunma Prefecture). Its pretty close to 草津温泉 (Kusatsu Onsen) that I visited earlier in the year. It was such a great trip. Such an easy way to get out of the city for 2 days. All I did was sit in relaxing hot spring water and watch the snow fall around me.
紅葉 (Kōyō) is when the leaves start to change before falling off in winter. Some of the trees turn beautiful shades of brown, orange, red, etc. This is almost as big a deal in Japan as 桜 (Sakura) when the cheery blossoms bloom. Its just the fall version of it.
I went to 京都 (Kyōto) for this and it was an incredible trip. It was my first time riding 新幹線 (Shinkansen), the bullet train. Its a “thing” to get 駅弁 (Ekiben) (train station bentō) before getting on the train. It was definitely a fun experience.
Kyōto is the old capital of Japan and its a vert different place than 東京 (Tōkyō). Its hard to describe, but maybe I can say its more “preserved.” There is a lot more emphasis on temples and shrines and parks and older stuff than in Tokyo.
But the star of the show was the Kōyō. The changing colors were so beautiful and the night displays were my favorite. Take a look at the photos below.
Also, I thought it was funny that for night displays of Sakura, there is a special name for it: 夜桜 (Yozakura). It basically just means night sakura. But for Kōyō, its just called ライトアップ (Laito Appu) or just saying Light Up in Japanese English. 🤷♂️