Onsen and Joypolis

Ivan and I had the breakfast at the hostel on Nov. 10, 2010.  It’s 300¥ per person for miso soup and two rice balls.  Lil Dave had two rice balls with bananas.  It’s tasty food.  Our room is small, but it’s cool since it’s traditional with the tatami mats for flooring. 

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You sleep on a futon on the floor.  Our room is meant for 3 people, so we had an extra duvet (comforter) and futon so it wasn’t as hard.  I checked out the garden.  One of the employees told us that there’s a hill of rocks.  The rocks were brought from Mount Fuji.  If you climb the rocks, you’ll get arrested.

For lunch, we walked to a katsu takeout place nearby.  Ivan and I each had chicken katsu.

We got the train to Odaiba.  Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay.  It’s filled with entertainment, businesses and shopping.  We saw the Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge.

We walked around the shopping mall Decks.  It was the first time that I spotted Japanese postcards.  I didn’t buy any since the postcards weren’t that good. 

We went to Odaiba Takoyaki Museum.  It’s centered around the octopus balls.  Although, it’s not really museum.  It consists of a food court selling octopus balls and a gift shop.  The balls come in different variations. 

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We got three different kinds: one that you dip in a sauce, salty and one topped with a spicy sauce and fish flakes.  The balls were very good.

We took the monorail to Palette Town. 

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I noticed Daikanransha, the big ferris wheel.  It’s not as big as the London Eye.  I like the pretty colors.  We walked to check out the shopping area.  I saw Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise.  Ivan bought a Hello Kitty treat which had chocolate and nuts inside of a pancake. 

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We walked inside the Paradise.  It’s filled with Hello Kitty themed shops, restaurants and arcade games. 

We walked to the onsen which is a Japanese hot springs.  It was a long walk to get to Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari.  We should have taken the monorail.  It’s alright though – exercise is a good thing.  There’s a dog spa next to the onsen.  Dogs can play in a pool of water and get washed. 

We went inside the onsen.  The price for the onsen was 1900¥ per person.  It was a discount from the regular price of 2900¥.  We walked to the next desk.  Here we got to choose our yukata.  There were 3 choices for men and 7 for women.  You also get to choose what color sash you want.  Lil Dave was disappointed that there were no monkey-sized yukatas. 

Ivan and I went to the dressing rooms.  We were given a brochure that tells you how to put on the yukata.  It said we should wear our underwear underneath.  But, we weren’t sure why since in the bath area you’re naked.  I was watching the other women to see what they did.  They were wearing their underwear underneath.  I put my clothes in my assigned locker.  I put the yukata on according to the directions.  Then, I walked to the meeting point to meet Ivan.  It’s a nice big area with shops and a food court. I was surprised that you could eat and drink beer at an onsen.  You walk around this area in your yukata.  So, it makes sense that you have underwear underneath your yukata.  Otherwise, if your yukata opens up, you won’t be flashing everybody.

The open bath areas are for men or women only.  Ivan said we should meet in 30 minutes then we’d head to the foot bath.

I walked into another dressing room.  I was given two towels: one bath sized towel and the other was a medium sized towel.  I took off my yukata and underwear and placed it in a locker.  I wrapped the big towel around me and started to walk to the bath area.  A lady stopped me and pointed to a sign that said No Big Towels allowed outside.  I thought this was really silly and stupid.  I had to use the medium sized towel.  It covered my private areas in the front.  So, I walked to the bathing area barely covered and feeling a bit self-conscious.  It doesn’t really matter though since everybody’s naked anyway.  I figure I’ll never see these women again.

There’s three small areas that are warm.  I saw a big pool that’s 40°C that can fit a lot of people.  There’s an area with showers where you sit down.  Also, there’s Kogane-no-Yu which water that is closer to the spring source.  I saw two saunas.  Outside, it’s the open-air bath area.  I saw two pools and then four big tubs that are good for one person.

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I met Ivan in the meeting area.  We got an ice cream cone filled with a mixture of vanilla and green tea ice cream.

Next, we went to the foot bath which is located outside.  You’re supposed to walk along the bath area which is covered with smooth stones.  It’s supposed to stimulate the feet.  I don’t think so – it hurt me a little!  Some of the stones are pointy.  There are some that are more flat which feel a lot better.

I really like the onsen.  It’s different from other hot springs I’ve been to.  It’s cool that you can eat there as well.  There’s an option to stay overnight too.  They have a capsule hotel on the property.

We boarded the monorail headed back to Decks.  We got tickets for Joypolis.  It’s a Sega indoor theme park with tons of rides. It was pretty empty and the rides were really fun and new so we had a great time there. There was this one ‘ride’ where you had to run on a treadmill to power the character on the screen. The attendant actually made us go through a warm up before we went on the ride! Another one had us sat in a room in complete darkness wearing headphones while 3d sounds played in our ears….it was all in Japanese, but that just made it all the more scary not knowing at all what was being said! I just wanted to leave since it was sounded so creepy.  All the  rides were pretty entertaining..and the place was practically empty so we never had to line up for anything. Plus the people working there all seemed so happy and like they really loved their jobs! It’s funny how they say all the directions in Japanese even though they know we have no clue what they’re saying.

Afterwards, we got the train back to our hostel. There was a great bar nearby called the Worth 369 dining kitchen standing bar. It was a small place and we got some tasty tapas dishes with some wine before going back to the hostel nearby.

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Asakusa & Alice

Ivan said thanks to Kentaro on the morning of November 9, 2010.  We packed everything up and left his place.

We got the train to Iriya.  We walked to the hostel Toco.  It was noon.  We wanted to check in, but the hostel rules state that check-in is at 4 pm.  The room was clean, but they were really strict about the correct check-in time.  We thought this was really stupid.  We used the free wi-fi at the hostel.

We got a train to Asakusa.  We walked around the souvenir shops.  It’s a great area.

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Nakamise shopping arcade*

The Nakamise shopping arcade shops sell small good luck charms, key chains, lamps and chopsticks.  We also saw a nice temple there too.

We had lunch at a sushi conveyor belt place.  The plates range from 99¥ to 723¥.  We had a miso soup and a couple of plates of tasty sushi.

We walked around Asakusa a bit more.

We took the train back to the hostel.  Toco is a ryokan which is a traditional Japanese inn.  The rooms have tatami flooring and the rice paper sliding doors.  There’s also a garden and a pond filled with koi.

We took a train to Ginza.  We were going to Alice for dinner.  It’s an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant.  It’s located before the Hakuhinkan Toy Park on the 5th floor.  Look out for Fantasy Dining.

We were led to a dining room.  It had one table that was shaped like a big teacup.  The ceiling is filled with playing cards.  It’s really pretty inside.  The servers were dressed like Alice.  Our server brought out the menu in a box that opened up to reveal a box filled with a clock and menus.

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The main menu was one of the sides of the cool box.  We checked out the menu.  I noticed that the divider between the tables around us had playing card suits on them.  The coasters say Alice on them with a playing card suit.  If you want the server to come over, you have to ring a bell.  Ivan rang it really loud.

The bread came out with a card saying Eat Me. There is a cover charge for the bread.

The menu has many items that are themed to the characters of Alice.  There’s pies made to look like the Cheshire cat and appetizers in tea cups.  We ordered pizza with cheese, mayonnaise, chicken and fried potato, stew with chicken, eggplant and sausages in a tomato sauce.

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The pizza was supposed to look like a chessboard, but it didn’t really.  It didn’t have tomato sauce, but it tasted really good.  The stew wasn’t much.  The prices are reasonable, but the dishes aren’t that big.

We ordered dessert.

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It was the Tea Party with 3 different rolls shaped like the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and caterpillar uncle.  It came with a lot of cream.

I really enjoyed this theme restaurant.

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It’s very unique.  It would have been nice to see more Alice theming to the food though.  The food was average, but the decorations were great.  I wish Vegas had themed restaurants.  It’s a great concept and draws people in since it’s different.

We walked around Ginza more.

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It’s such a beautiful place to walk in.  Although most of the shops are a bit too expensive for me.

* Nakamise picture from Iguide

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Ginza

On Nov. 8, 2010, Ivan, Lil Dave, Kentaro and I had lunch at a local place in Mejiro.  We had soba noodles in soup.  I had chicken while Ivan had fish.  Lil Dave had cold soba noodles with his chopped banana on top.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I took the train to Ginza.  This lovely upscale area is filled with fancy shops, department stores, restaurants and coffeehouses.  I saw many brands like Forever 21, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston.  It’s definitely the prettiest shopping area I’ve been to.  The buildings are very modern and look really new.

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We stopped by the Sony Building.  It contains many floors of Sony products.  It wasn’t really that exciting in there.  We did see some 3D tvs and 3D cameras.  I don’t think the 3D tvs will catch on.

We went inside the Apple store.  We checked out the new iPhones and the super small iPod Nanos.

We went to the Yamaha building.  There’s many floors filled with pianos, drums, guitars and sheet music.  Ivan played some songs on the pianos.

Next, we stopped by Hakuhinkan Toy Park.  The shop is filled with lots of cool toys like key chains shaped like sushi.  There’s also jokes, collector cards, playing cards and stuffed animals.  I bought a solar powered maiko that moves it’s head and body. 

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It’s really cute!  Lil Dave liked the banana pens and the monkey that moves it’s hand above a bowl you put money in.  It’s a nice toy shop to find unique toys in.

We took the train back to Mejiro.  We had dinner at D-Four Thai Restaurant.  We ordered paper rice with vegetables and shrimp, stirred fish with Thai herbs and chicken green curry.  Lil Dave had the chicken curry.  The food was so delicious! 

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Walking around Tokyo

Ivan, Lil Dave and I checked out of The B Ochanomizu hotel on November 7, 2010.  We stored our backpacks with the hotel.

We took the train to Iriya.  We met up with a group of couchsurfers.  It was a walking tour of Tokyo.  We met Yuki who was in charge of the tour. 

Our first stop was an open-air market.  It was similar to the one we saw yesterday.  There was a HUGE line to go to the shrine.  We checked out the numerous stalls selling good luck charms like the Kumade (bamboo rakes). 

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When somebody buys a charm, a few people start clapping and say something.  We think they’re celebrating that somebody actually bought an expensive charm.  It’s nice that there’s a big market to shop in, but I think they should sell more items other than the charms.

Ivan was hungry so we walked around the market and found many food stalls.  We got an okonomiyaki.  The line was long – which usually means the food is good.  It turned out to be a tasty okonomiyaki filled with vegetables, batter and egg.

We walked around more.  There was a short stop at a museum.  I just took a bathroom break there.

Next, we walked through Asakusa.  We saw a few pachinko parlors.

We walked even more stopping at an interesting shop.  It was filled with fake plastic food. 

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They looked kind of realistic and really cool.  You see these products outside many shops around Tokyo.  We even saw fake food USB sticks.

We said goodbye to Yuki.  We took a train back to the hotel.  We retrieved our backpacks and then got on a train headed to Mejiro.  Our feet were sooo tired from walking for hours.

We met up with Kentaro.  He’s a Japanese couchsurfer.  We walked to his apartment nearby.  We put our backpacks down.  We walked to a izakaya close by in Ikebukuro. 

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Kentaro ordered lots of Japanese food like fish, egg, yaki soba, rice cake in tofu, sashimi chicken with avocado and steamed vegetables.  The food was good.

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Crazy Cat Dancing

Ivan, Lil Dave and I took it easy on November 6, 2010. 

In the late afternoon, we went to Cat Cafe Calico in Shinjuku.  It’s a place where you can play with pedigree cats.  We ordered some food.  Ivan and I shared a chocolate cake.  I had a tea with milk while Ivan had a beer.  Lil Dave had banana bread.  Lil Dave tried to ride on the cats, but they didn’t like that.  I saw about 15 cats out.  Some of the cats didn’t like to be petted especially the Persian cats.  The Persian cats looked like they were crying.  A few of the cats were friendly. 

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The cafe has big selection of manga books and a Wii.  We played with the cats for an hour.  It’s a great idea since most people don’t have pets in Tokyo.  There were many pretty cats at the cafe.  I really liked the munchkin cats.  They have short stubby legs.  I think catss are cute, but they looked pissed off most of the time.

Next, we walked around Shinjuku.  We walked along the street filled with food stalls.  The chicken yakitori was too expensive at 500¥ per stick.  Ivan and I shared a pancake filled with beans.  We walked further onto a smaller street and saw food stalls for the locals.  We got chicken yakitori there for 200¥ a piece.  Afterwards we walked more and we came upon an open-air market at a temple.  It was filled with stalls selling good luck charms and food stalls.  The charms range from small to really big in size.  There was a big line to ring the bells.

ibnana

We also shared a chocolate covered banana.  Lil Dave tried to get one without the chocolate – the lady just thought he was nuts.    

We got on the train headed to Minato.  We found the restaurant Kagaya.  Ivan had looked up weird restaurants on the internet.  He read that the owner was very crazy.  The restaurant was mostly filled up.  The owner Mark wanted to be called Master.  He placed hot towels on a cartoon robot and sang The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars).  Then, he made the robot move towards us so we can retrieve the towels. 

When you order your drinks.  Master asks what style you want it in.  There’s different options like America, England, China, Spain and France.  Ivan picked England.  One table picked China.  The Master came out in yellow Chinese outfit and did kung fu moves around the room. 

We ordered sake.  Ivan’s glass shook when he drank.  It was hard for him to actually get a drink.  Mine burped when I placed it on the table.  England style was a puppet show with a frog named Jack.  At the end, Jack asked if we wanted to meet his brother Dick.  Everybody said yes.  The Master jumped out dressed in a frog suit and had a smaller frog on top of his nether region. 

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It was really funny!

We were ready to order dinner.  I had to sing the choice I made which was a light version at 1050¥.  The food isn’t much.  It’s more about the experience.

Another group came.  They picked France.  The Master came out looking like a French artist.  He drew a picture of one of the girls.  It was actually pretty good. 

The Master is hilarious.  We wished we spoke Japanese because he kept talking to the other patrons.  Ivan thought it was really funny that he looked so normal and then the next second he starts doing something crazy.  This is a definite MUST DO if you’re ever in Tokyo.  It was a great unique experience that I’ll remember.  The address to Kagaya is Hanasada Building B1F, 15-12, Shinbashi 2-Chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo.

We got a taxi to Roppongi.  We went to Motown House.  It was fun dancing the night away.

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Akihabara & Roppongi

Ivan, Lil Dave and I checked out the Metropolitan Hotel on November 5, 2010.

We got the train to Akasaka.  We went to The B Akasaka hotel.  It turned out to be the wrong hotel, but same hotel chain.  So, we jumped into a cab.  The cab’s doors are automated.  The cab driver presses a lever and it opens the door.

We checked in to The B Ochanomizu Hotel.  It’s located in Ochanomizu.  Our room has the same layout as the last hotel except it’s smaller.  There are Japanese toilets in the bathroom.  You can use Spray or Bidet.  It washes you. You pick the water pressure and when to stop the water flow.  The water can be way too warm.

Ivan’s battery charger for his laptop broke in Las Vegas.  So, we walked to Akihabara in search of a new one.  The stores had battery chargers, but only for different Asus laptop models.

Japan is filled with so many vending machines.  The machines have beverages like coffee, water and soups.  We saw lots in Akihabara.  We got a hot sweet corn drink.  Lil Dave really enjoyed the banana flavored milk.  We also tried a tasty hot tomato basil soup.  The Akihabara area isn’t that big.  I pictured that it would have lots more blocks of electronic stores.  There were a few big stores that sold everything like DVDs, computers to phone accessories.  But, there were plenty of smaller shops that sold things like electronic or computer parts.

We wanted to check out a maid cafe.  There are maids dressed up in the street who hand out brochures.  It’s funny though.  Ivan asked one directions and she wasn’t even sure how to get there.  The brochures have a map but it’s written in Japanese.

We went to the Maid Cafe and Animation Studio.  There was lots of people there.  A few guys were dressed up which I believed were patrons.  I saw one guy dressed up as Vash from the anime Trigun.  But, he had a gray wig on and not blonde.  The servers are dressed as maids or schoolgirls.  We thought the servers would interact more with you.  One server brought us our pricey shrimp pilaf.  Then, she said she would do maid magic.  She made us hold our hands in a heart and put it to the right then the middle and then the left.  It was supposed to make the food taste better.  Alas, it didn’t.  It was just plain rice with little shrimps.

At one point, three employees dubbed their voices over an anime scene.  It was in Japanese so we had no clue what they were saying.  They did the SAME anime scene three times.  I think once would have been best.  The maid cafe wasn’t very interesting.  The beer was 1500¥ ($18.45) which is a rip-off.  I think if you want to pay a lot money for food and drink while being served by a cute maid then go.  Otherwise, don’t bother. It’s really not worth it.  I wasn’t able to pictures in the cafe. You can pay 500¥ to take a picture with a maid.

We stopped by @Home Cafe which is listed in the Lonely Planet.  They charge even more.  It’s 700¥ per person for an entrance fee.  Then, each person must purchase one item on the menu.

We walked around Akihabara more.  I noticed lots of stores selling anime and manga, but unfortunately it’s all in Japanese.

I saw lots of capsule machines.  These machines sell toys in round capsules.  The toys are based on characters from anime, video games, a few American cartoons and manga. I bought two: a Hellsing bust and a One Piece keychain.  The prices range from 100¥ to 500¥ ($1-$6).  The toys seem to be better quality than American vending machine toys.

We went back to the hotel to chill for awhile.

We got a train to Roppongi.

ropp

Ivan really wanted to find some chicken yakitori.  We walked around to find a place.  Lonely Planet Japan says that you can yakitori at restaurants that have a red lantern outside.

We found a locals place with the red lantern outside.  It was really smoky inside though.  I dislike smoking in any restaurant.  We ordered chicken yakitori, cod and rice ball with salmon.  Ivan got a smooth Kirin beer while I had a shochu with green tea.  Lil Dave got lots of banana yakitori and banana tea.  The chicken yakitori was 250¥ ($3) per piece.  It’s pricey but it did come with a lot of chicken on each skewer.  I liked the locals place.  It was nice to sit among the locals.  It’s cheaper and you get the authentic Japanese experience.  You don’t have to look hard here for a locals place –  because there’s not many tourists here hence there’s not many tourists restaurants.

As we walked around, we stumbled across a pet shop which sold really, really expensive pets. We assumed they must have been pedigrees as they were just stupidly expensive. They even had a baby monkey for sale for 800,000¥ ($9800).

bbmnk

Lil Dave wanted to buy the cute monkey. There were also plenty of puppy dogs that were a couple of thousand each also. I think its the kind of place that people go into to look at the pets and go ‘Oooh, aren’t they cute?’ but nobody actually buys anything from there…

We tried to find a regular bar to have a drink in but they all seemed quite expensive. Eventually we found one where a friendly barman served us up some Umesyu liquor…. made with plums.

j&iv

It was quite tasty and we sat upstairs and watched the craziness down below.

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Exploring Shibuya & Shinjuku

Our bed is pretty hard like most beds as I’ve read from hotel reviews.  But, we got a lot of much needed rest.  Ivan, Lil Dave and I walked to the Standing Sushi Bar on Nov. 4, 2010.  We had a few pieces of sushi and a bowl of miso soup.

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Ivan thinks the rice tastes much better here in Japan.  I agree.

We took a train to Shibuya.  Ivan read about a place for all you can eat sushi in his Lonely Planet Japan.  We went to Hina Sushi.  But, the price was 4 times the price that was listed in the guide book.  We decided to find something else to eat.

Ivan thought the plastic food in the display out front of one restaurant looked good.  The prices were reasonable.  We were seated at a table with a teppan (iron hotplate).  Ivan figured out that it was Okonomiyaki (which means cook what you like).  We ordered vegetables and salmon.  Each bowl comes with the vegetables, egg and batter.  We had no clue what to do so we asked the waiter to help out.  He mixed all the ingredients in the bowl.  I did the same with the salmon bowl.  Then, he placed the mixture on the teppan in a circular form.  He said we should cook it for 5 minutes on each side.  The vegetable one was good, but the salmon was tastier since it had an extra sauce.

We walked around.  Ivan need a new power lead for his laptop.  We couldn’t find the right one though.

Ivan found a cheap place for a haircut at a barber shop.  It was ¥1200.

We took a train to Shinjuku.  I wanted to visit Don Quijote.  It’s a variety shop that sells fake bags like Louis Vuitton, plastic Christmas trees, Paris Hilton hair brushes, clothes and sex toys.  I thought it would be a lot cheaper.  It definitely had lots of weird novelty items though.  Lil Dave found banana cushions.

We got a train back to Shibuya.  We walked along the famous Shibuya Crossing.

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We went in search of Bio Cafe which is a vegetarian restaurant.  It was pretty pricey though.  So, we walked around to find another place.  We saw a sign that said ¥200.  I saw also that they had Old Style Dining.  We went down to check it out.  Ivan asked if they served shōchū.  The man said Hai (yes).  So, we decided to try the shōchū.  It’s an alcohol distilled from different things like potatoes.  We each got one that was distilled from sweet potatoes.  It doesn’t have much flavor but it’s very strong.  We got a broiled mackarel.  Ivan saw raw whale meat on the menu so we got that as well.

whlmeat

It was really tasty!  Lil Dave had yaki soba with bananas.  We got another shochu – this time one distilled from barley.  Our dinner was ended with a dessert of tasty brown sugar fava beans.  It was a great meal.  I noticed outside that under the Japanese name of the restaurant it said Bakumatsu Sakaba.  The place is located on Udagawa-cho across from Adores.

We took the train back to Ikeukuro.  We walked back to the hotel.   I have noticed throughout the day that the women like to wear tights with jean shorts or skirts.  They really love to wear boots as well.  We also saw men with shoulder length hair and some with spiky hair.  I can’t wait to see more fashion like cosplay and gothic Lolita.

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Off to Japan

Hello!  It’s Jennifer here.  Ivan and I are going traveling again with our monkey Lil Dave.  Hope you enjoy our adventures.  Read more about us on the About page.

We woke up early on November 2, 2010 in Las Vegas.  We were staying at a hotel for our last night in Vegas.  We all hopped into a taxi to the airport.

The plane left at 8:20 am headed to Los Angeles.  It was a very short 45 minute flight. 

We grabbed breakfast at Chili’s.  We got on the plane at 12:20 pm.  It was time to fly to Tokyo, Japan.

Ivan and I had only slept about 3 hours.  So, we got 6 hours of sleep on the plane.  We really needed it!

The plane arrived at Narita Airport at 4 pm on Nov. 3, 2010.  The flight was 11 1/2 hours long.  It went by pretty quick.

Ivan booked a bus to our hotel.  It took us an hour and a half to get to the Metropolitan Hotel in Ikebukuro.

We were starving so we walked around to find a place to eat.  We had tasty ramen soup for dinner.  Then we had a few pieces of sushi at the Standing Sushi Bar.  The food was very reasonable.  We stopped by a pachinko parlor.  Everything’s in Japanese so we didn’t know how to play or what you win.  I read on the internet that you get prizes. 

We walked back to the hotel.  The hotel gives you cotton yukatas to wear – they’re quite comfy. 

yukata

Ivan, Lil Dave and I were really tired.. so it was time for bed.

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