On to Japan! We were sad to leave Korea as we still really liked the sites, food and people but we were excited to be going to Japan. We had a tight schedule so we got up with speed and efficiency. After a few rounds of the snooze button.
Previously we had been considering an early morning flight ‘oh we can make that no problem’. Fortunately we saw reason and booked one at midday which allowed us to be a little more relaxed. We remembered the sad sandwich which was all the food that was available after security so we made sure to have an extended brunch beforehand to keep us going <editor’s note – James got very excited by the soup in a bread bowl so he insisted we get one each rather than sharing>. Also claim some sweet sweet tax refund money for our glasses purchase (conveniently in JPY) <editor’s note – my reclaim was in JPY, James’ amount was much smaller so could only be refunded in USD>.
We got some snacks as well to finish off any remaining KRW change we had and also in case we got hungry.
In San went for her usual crisps, in this case unexpectedly she was lured into buying a small packet of super high quality crisps rather than the usual giant bag of flavoured foam and sawdust. I went for the intriguing ‘conch shaped snacks’ what they actually were was a mystery as no other description was given so I went for it (they tasted like extra sugary Frosties cereal so could be considered yet another extension of my breakfast) <editor’s note – my choice was clearly far superior to James’ and even he will admit it>.
On arrival we decided to dump our bags in the locker (no high tech options like Korea, only coin locker operated key jobbies… disappointing Japan we expecting better) so we could get straight into exploring.
We walked through Tennoji park then up to Nipponbashi and explored this little corner of geekdoom and electrical stores. Then on to Kuromon Ichiba Market for some snacks, everything was very expensive and high end (but delicious looking) we cracked and bought some squids on a stick <editor’s note – I suspect the prices haven’t increased, more that the weak is seriously weak still due to the Brexit vote>. We were passing the cheap Korean street food. Then we saw some cheap and tasty dango (similar to mochi but chewier and grilled with either a sweet and soy salty sauce or just sweet) and our spirits raised (I love dango so much) <editor’s note – plus at JPY 120, it was a good value filling skewer>.
The snacks would keep us going but after our lack of lunch we were hungry for more. So on to Dotonbori for food. There are so many great options, so we got some takoyaki (octopus filled pancake balls) while we waited. In San wanted ramen and I am always up for ramen so we went for the tastiest place we could find Ichiran Ramen (it also had the longest queue).
There was a 30 min queue so we were settling in for a long wait, when a member of staff came up to us and asked if we spoke Chinese and then when we said English she whipped out a sign (in English) explaining that there was a sister restaurant we could go to that was already the same and was much larger so less of a queue. As we had been considering whether or not it was worth checking out the other restaurant anyway we agreed. Importantly the new restaurant still has their most fun feature, you are served in an individual cubicle and your food arrives via a little curtain at the front. Added to this you order via a vending machine before you sit down and order extras via paper. So you don’t need to interact with anybody at any point even the people you go to the restaurant with, perfect! You also get to select exactly how rich/umami/firm you want your ramen to be. In San maxed out the garlic but put everything else to minimum, ‘I want something subtle’. She declared that there was an acceptable amount of garlic and that it was lucky that I didn’t have a garlic allergy or she would have chosen garlic over me. I take this to mean she enjoyed the ramen <editor’s note – James said that if I had a chocolate allergy which meant he couldn’t eat chocolate then he would choose chocolate over me>.
In San declared herself too full to eat anything else, I however had room for a cheeky melon bread I had seen that they were selling from a stall. It was really fresh, soft and crispy (of course In San suddenly had room for several bites. Nice. Then we went into a weird tax free shop that sold everything from plug converters (useful for us as we had entered for the intention of sourcing and purchasing this) to dyson vacuum cleaners and hello kitty rice scoops.
We had been resisting the UFO machines successfully but In San cracked. She was unsuccessful but I did not let her put all our life savings at risk and pulled her back from the brink <editor’s note – James agreed I could spend JPY 500 for 6 plays, I felt this was reasonable and did not try to pursuade him for more as even I understood our chances were low from watching the previous people try multiple times and not succeeding and it was clear they had spent much more than me>.
We had a relaxed first day and we are excited to explore more tomorrow.