The Japanese Toilet Seat

Now, don’t get me started on the Japanese toilet seat!! 

Well, ok, I will anyway…..they are EVERYWHERE !!

NOT just in the fancy hotels, but in restaurants, train stations, bus stations, department stores, I read somewhere that 70% of Japanese HOMES have them too !

Now, it’s not JUST that they are heated and that in itself is a wonderful thing, the remarkable thing is that they have an inbuilt bidet with a little arm that pops out and sprays various bits ( does give you a fright if you are not expecting it ! ) AND the most elaborate ones even have a hot air dryer, so you never have to use toilet paper again ! Just think of how much you could save on toilet paper alone !

 

I noticed that they were for sale in the duty free department stores in Akihabara, ( electric town), I’m curious about how many tourists buy one to take home, could be very interesting explaining these to customs !

Nagano by Bullet

I got my Japan Rail Pass today which allows me to travel anywhere in Japan by rail so I wasted no time in jumping onto a bullet train, something I’ve been wanting to do since we arrived !

Where to go?

Well, it was a case of sticking a pin in a map and seeing what it lands on ! It landed on a city called Nagano, which I discovered was the host town of the 1998 Winter Olympics !

SO, right across Japan to the other side I go!

The bullet train is wonderful, it’ SO fast you almost feel you about to take off, I travelled about 260 kilometres in just under an hour and a half !

It’s very relaxing to just watch the world go by and the because you are going SO fast the scenery changes very quickly from the built up city scape to exotic countryside !

I didn’t stay in Nagano for very long, just an hour’s walk around then a quick turn around back on the bullet !!

Plenty of time to browse through the ‘train shop’ magazine, and look what I found:

Ian Poulter hat for
Japanese golfers ??
Much healthier train food than the
crisps and nuts we get in the UK !

Walking Tokyo

My day yesterday was spent….walking! With a few metro trips thrown in of course but I must have walked miles, just soaking up the atmosphere of the city !

I started off at the Imperial Palace Gardens, very peaceful and extreme well manicured as you might imagine ! Fell in love with the most beautiful, ancient wall hanging in one of the Palace art galleries, it’s not the best of photos but you can see how the white flowers blend in to the clouds perfectly !

After a looooong walk through the Tokyo National Garden, metro to Akihabara which is ‘electric city’ in Tokyo, full of the latest gadgets, robots etc, a geek heaven actually.

Another metro ride to an old part of the city for a peaceful walk along the river.

Quite a long day, but lots of fun !!

Tokyo Inner Fish Market

Visited the Tokyo Fish Market today, the Inner Market where tourists are not REALLY supposed to go. Missed the famous tuna auctions though, not surprising as they normally take place at 5 am  but there was still PLENTY going on.

It was fabulous to see a traditional part of Japanese daily life in much the way it has gone on for years and years !

Lots of photos below, went on after the market to a ‘sushi making’ lesson so watch out those at home , you will no doubt be my guinea pigs !

Mount Fuji and Volcanic Fissures

Mount Fuji and a visit to the Mount Komagatake Ropeway to the summit where volcanic gasses are leaking out of the mountainside creating ‘hot springs’. The smell of the gasses was incredibly strong, sulphur mostly although there were warning signs pointing out the dangers of the gasses for those with asthma, luckily we didn’t stay there too long.

One of my favourite photos is this one where you can just glimpse Mount Fuji through all the volcanic gasses.

The man in the photo is actually dunking a wire basket full of eggs so that they cook in the hot springs water, apparently the ‘older’ generation like to visit the hot springs to eat the eggs, believing it will give them another few years of life and health!

The eggs turn black in the water, hmmmm….just didn’t fancy eating one somehow !

 

First Authentic Japanese Sushi

We didn’t waste much time before trying out the ‘real thing’ in a sushi restaurant in Tokyo and have now  discovered just HOW different authentic sushi is to the ‘westernised’ version we have in the UK. There was NO ‘California’ roll, NO ‘Dragon’ roll, just pure sushi,basically LOTS and LOTS of totally raw fish.

I have to admit that my favourites in the UK are the California rolls with LOTS of soy sauce and wasabi but I must say that the ‘authentic’ sushi experience WAS fantastic !

So, the way it works is this…….

We sat at a long counter, as in the UK BUT, the main difference is we had our own chef ! Once we had ordered, our plates were laid out immaculately !

The chef then prepared each piece  of sushi in front of us and placed it precisely in the centre of the plate with a description of the fish and how it was prepared. Then, he stood back and waited for us to finish before preparing exquisitely,  the next piece !

Now, with regard to the wasabli and soy sauce that I usually plaster my sushi with, he VERY delicately painted on a thin coating of soy sauce on some pieces  with a tiny smidgeon of wasabi on others, with a very firm suggestion as he arranged them on our plates, ‘NO extra soy sauce with this !

It WAS a very special meal and I ate fish I’d barely even heard off, even raw king crab. VERY tasty actually!

This sushi restaurant was recommended to us by our hotel as being on of the most authentic where ‘all the locals’ go , it was a great recommendation although she did omit to mention that it is virtually impossible to find. We walked in circles trying to find it and at one point must have  looked SO lost , poring over a street map which was half in Japanese,  that one lovely Japanese man virtually ripped the map out of my hands with his enthusiasm in wanting to help!

This was just one more example of how incredibly helpful and friendly the japanese people are. It was only a few minutes earlier that one man had gently pointed out that my shoelace was undone, before bowing and quietly going on his way!

Eventually,we found the restaurant with the help of another lovely Japanese man, who, once he had pointed us in what he THOUGHT was the right direction, came RUNNING to find us to tell us he’d made a mistake and led us by the hand until he’d found it for us.

Not ENTIRELY our fault we couldn’t find it as we had been expecting a little restaurant at floor level, this one was on the 6th floor of a building with the sign in tiny Japanese writing so no wonder we had been going round in silly circles !

Anyway, to cut a LONG story short, it was a great find and lots of fun !

Cheetahs on the Mara

We spent such a long time admiring these two cheetahs, it was almost like they were posing for the cameras, relaxed and happy in the sunshine, it was as though we didn’t exist. Such incredibly beautiful animals and just one more species to add the the incredible list of animals we were seeing each day, cheetahs,leopard,elephants,water buffalo,wildebeest,zebras, lions,ostrich,giraffe,warthogs,hippos, gazelle and antelopes GALORE and that’s just the animals, have’t even  STARTED on the birds yet!

Thrilled to Bits today!

Considering that the Olympic Games are in  the UK,  my own country  of residence this year,  it has been virtually impossible to get tickets for the Olympic games.

I applied for Olympic games tickets last year, and was unsuccessful in the ballot. Today the Olympics ticket Website offered those who were not successful in the 1st series of applications to reapply for Olympic Games tickets.

I tried first to get tickets for athletics, I did try and get Olympic tickets for the athletics final day which, due to the amount of people who would probably be trying to buy tickets for the Olympics, was probably not a good idea. I kept trying and trying but still got the message nothing available, then I tried for rhythmic gymnastics and diving in the hope that I would get to see Tom Daley compete and although there were diving tickets available, at £350 for each ticket for 1 hours competition I thought it probably was not worth our while.

However, I did attempt to get Olympic tickets for the Grand Prix freestyle dressage in the equestrian arena in Greenwich and much to my surprise, I was successful !!

So, now I have 2 tickets for the Grand Prix freestyle dressage event which also includes the victory ceremony. I’m so excited about this and hope to go with my daughter, so at least we will get to experience the Olympic atmosphere even though we probably will not be able to move in London because I’m sure the London transport is going to be jammed up during the Olympic Games.

Totilas, the prancing black stallion.

For those who don’t know me, during the 15 years that we lived in Bahrain, Middle East, a huge part of our lives was spent competing in equestrian events, mostly show jumping and  dressage.

I’m looking forward to spending a memorable day at the Olympics with my daughter, knowing that it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

This is a link to the Olympic Games schedule.

 

 Interflora UK

A Stroll By The Dubai Creek

Spice Souk, DubaiToday was a very special day spent with my son, doing the ‘tourist’ thing in Dubai.

We started with a trip to the viewing gallery on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa Tower. VERY IMPRESSIVE !

Very well managed, well organised and quite spectacular when you get to the top, nowhere near as scary as I thought. As a person who is ‘not that fond of heights’ it was a case of ‘Feeling The Fear and Doing It Anyway’
( There’s a great book by that name by the way, one of my classic reads)

We followed this with lunch at the Dubai Creek Golf Club followed by a lovely stroll through the old traditional gold souks and the spice market. I LOVE the spice market, the aromas are diverse and fragrant and for me, SO reminiscent of my years spent living in Bahrain.

A lovely day, for me, a day  truly ‘lived’ !

Spot The Skyscraper

Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai A few different aspects of the Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai.

It’s a bit ‘tongue in cheek’ really, the ‘spot the skyscraper’ title, just a bit of fun as the area I was walking in was dominated by the amazing Burj Khalifa Tower, great for photography!