Monday, August 17, 2015

Pat and Ray visit Tokyo (2-9 August 2015) Part II

5 Aug 2015

Today we are headed out past Shinjuku to look for Japanese yarn. Unfortunately, the shop we went to had Japanese yarn, but the brand is one that Pat can easily find in the U.S. It wasn't a wasted trip though because it took us into a residential neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants. It was also good to get out of the business side of Tokyo for awhile.

Puppy Yarn near Shimokitazawa Station

We got back on the train and went to Shinjuku for at least 2 reasons:
  1. there are more yarn places there (Pat had them organized before we left Singapore;
  2. 34 years ago, I was there for 2 weeks, consulting with Nomura Securities, while working for Battelle Memorial Institute, and I wanted to see how things had changed and whether I would recognize anything.
Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station in Japan, serving an average of 3.6 million passengers a day (there are over 200 exits, which makes it even more confusing). When we got there, nothing looked familiar (as I kind of suspected - after all, 34 years is a long time). We wandered toward the area I thought should be the correct direction and I did recognize the Yodobashi Camera store, or at least the name. It is a large camera and electronics store. I think I may have actually bought something there at some point, but can't be sure.

As we were walking, nothing looked familiar. The area had certainly changed - lots of new, tall skyscrapers, hotels and government buildings. In one of the big government buildings, we found a Tourist Information center and picked up a couple of maps. Leaving the TI, I definitely recognized the Hyatt I had stayed in on my previous trips - it was known as the Century Hyatt then; now it's the Hyatt Regency.

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, the 2nd-tallest educational building in the world

Unfortunately, I led us in the wrong direction when trying to find the building I had worked in. The heat must have gotten to me. Finally, spotting the correct building on the map, we turned around, headed for the Nomura Building, stopped for a nondescript lunch, took some pictures and continued toward an area know as the Golden Gai, where I vaguely remembered seeing people playing Pachinko and an overall fun area.

Sign outside the Nomura Building

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pat and Ray visit Tokyo (2-9 Aug 2015) Part I

2 Aug 2015

We left our Singapore apartment at 4:50 AM to head to Changi Airport for our 6:50 AM flight to Tokyo. The flight was uneventful, as one always hopes. We landed at Narita (NRT) at about 2:30 PM.

The line to get through Immigration was horrendous. Probably the longest delay we ever experienced in our many travels - room was hot and humid and it took over an hour to get through and there was no apparent reason for it. Fortunately, picking up our luggage and getting through Customs was easy and fast.

Once outside Customs, we looked for, and found, a Citibank ATM. Then it was off to arrange transportation into Tokyo (the airport is about 50 miles outside of the city). We took the Narita Express train to Tokyo Station, where we took the Marunouchi Line (subway) to Akasaka-mitsuke Station.

Pat enjoying the Narita Express into Tokyo.
Great views of the rice paddies along the tracks.

Trying to get a ticket for the subway was a challenge, but we were aided by a friendly gentleman who showed us what to do. After that buying subway tickets was a breeze - we even stopped clicking on the English language button.

Arriving at the Akasaka-mitsuke Station, we exited to the main street, Sotobori-dori (love how that sounds). Looking across the street we saw our hotel - the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu - how convenient! Also saw a sign in same building as the hotel for the Beer Kitchen - looks like we found a place to stop after checking in.

Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu

Location of our hotel

Our first dinner in Tokyo was at the Beer Kitchen. Oh, so good!

Taps at Beer Kitchen

Yona Yona Real Ale

Hare no Hi Sennin

Very rich broth for the noodles. Much more attractive than this photo shows. And really yummy.

Pork skewer with a tasty sauce

Here are some of the notes about these beer, taken and modified from the beer menu:
  • Yona Yona Real Ale - unfiltered rich aroma and uncarbonated direct malt flavor. This hand-pumped ale shows bubbles to create a creamy head. 5.5% ALC and 36.5 IBU. Ray started off with this one.

  • Yona Yona Ale - Fragrant aroma and rich flavor. Our flagship ale. Golden amber color, fragrant citrus-like flavor of premium cascade hops, and well-balanced bitterness and sweetness. 5.5% ALC and 36.5 IBU. This was Pat's first choice and all time favorite.

  • Hare no Hi Sennin - Rich and mellow. Over 1/2 a year maturation makes this ale high-alcohol like wine. Strong in body, bitterness and sweetness. Recommended to emjoy relaxed using a wine glass or brandy glass. 8.5 % ALC and 68 IBU. Ray's second choice came in a brandy snifter to hold all that 8.5% ALCs in.

  • Zenryaku Konomi Nante Kiitenaize SORRY - Striking aroma of Yazu, unleashed with coarse salt. A session ale of serendipitous combination. The bursting aroma of salted Yazu and 2 different aroma hops (Cascade and Styrian Goldings) creates an unprecedented unique flavor. 4% ALC and 13 IBU. Pat tried this one after her bowl of yummy noodles.