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Hanging On: It’s Just Different Here

Hanging On: It’s Just Different Here...

Maybe this happens all the time in cities with subways… but in Tokyo, the trains run on time. That means they leave the station with the doors closed, regardless of what’s hanging outside the door. In this case, the young lady’s handbag, which she clung to for the ride between stations.
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Everything including the Kitchen Sink: It’s Just Different Here

Everything including the Kitchen Sink: It’s Just Different Here...

OK, so I know there’s been a lot of concern about H1N1 throughout the world.  Hand sanitizer as a hotel guest welcome sign is the new “in”.  However, we never thought the Japanese would take it to such lengths.  This interesting platform necessity was spotted in Matsumoto JR train station.   We really couldn’t figure out who would use it and when.
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Kurabu – Eating Well in Obuse

One of our guides in Tokyo had been recommending we visit Obuse for years and on this latest trip we finally got a chance to go to this small town near Nagano. One of the best parts of our day was lunch at Kurabu, the robata-like restaurant operated by the folks who also run the local sake factory, Mashuchi.  The Club (kurabu) got its name because it was built in an old section (bu) of the brewery (kura), and serves the traditional “yori-tsuki” style cooking that the brewers enjoy. The “yori-tsuki” was a place where the brewers could quickly gather for breaks or meals between shifts. Every day rice is washed and steamed in an old-fashioned wood-burning oven. The seasonal foods cooked over wood and charcoal can be enjoyed with sake straight from the brewery.  The sauce served with the grilled beef was one of the best soy sauces I’ve ever had.   Here’s a video to give you a feel for the...
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A Little Trashy: It’s Just Different Here

A Little Trashy: It’s Just Different Here...

I can hardly write this one up without going into paroxysms of laughter.   In a hotel to be unnamed, we encountered the world’s smallest trashcans, if they weren’t so entirely useless, they’d be cute.  These were on the floor and I think may have held a Q-tip or two, but not much more.
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Lost in Translation

Everyone has their own little personal quirks and one of mine is that I habitually misplace things. Traveling only exacerbates the issue, since being on the move means that it’s even more difficult to track everything. On my most recent trip to Japan I lost not fewer than five separate items – and I’ve got four back! Japan is amazing that way – three of the lost items were rather simple for this efficient and incredibly honest society – a blanket left at a ryokan was takybbined to my final hotel, a sheaf of papers dropped (yes, I was so tired I just dropped them as I walked around a hotel resort property and didn’t notice for 15 minutes) was found and sent directly back to my address in the US and at least one bag left in a store was exactly where I left it when I returned. My favorite hair clip, alas, is probably never going to be seen again. But the most incredible (to an American) “return” was the lost CD case. We finally figured out that we’d lost the case of movie CD’s on the last morning when we couldn’t find it after repacking all the bags the previous night. Calls to all 5 previous hotels yielded nothing – but did get us a second call back from the Four Seasons to let us know they’d checked everywhere even though we’d been there 4 nights previously. We doubted our memories – maybe we hadn’t packed it. We hoped we’d left it in the room in Matsumoto; one of the only hotels without enough English to check ourselves, so we were having a colleague call when they had a moment. We headed to the airport – really hoping we’d just for forgotten it at home. In a last act of desperation, we asked at the American Airlines check-in counter to see if we’d left it on the plane on our inbound trip 7 days previously – we described the case and its contents and the lovely lady at the counter called it in. We left, went through a little hoo-ha at security check (note to self: do NOT try to take sake on board with you – it’s LIQUID!) and arrived at the lounge to await our flight. Where, when we checked in, they handed us the missing CD case!!! Found on the plane when we came in! Maybe this happens all the time in the US and we just don’t hear about it. Yeah, right… a CD case with a new copy of “The Hangover” is left on a plane and 7 days later you return to the check-in counter at the airport and they locate said item and have it delivered to the club or departure gate so that it arrives before you do. So, at least in Japan, my personal quirk doesn’t create quite so many problems for me – items are rarely lost – only understanding in...