Bike trip to Chofu / yakiniku dinner

Our last full day in Japan! Time has come again already to try to get some last things done.

Starting with another run, and while warmer, 0 ˚C is still pretty cold, but the rising sun turned everything very beautiful. Did the Gojira / TOHO round again.

Ritsu had some errands to run, so I planned for J and myself to take the bicycles and ride all the way to Chofu, 5km away, where we checked out a new Bic Camera store and briefly met with Ritsu & her mom.

Julius got to play with computer setups, gacha machines and random dogs.

On our way we also discovered that our favorite mayonnaise maker Kewpie has an office building along the way.

The afternoon was occupied with packing and for dinner we had one last family outing to a yakiniku place in Sengawa, lots of tasty meats and fun burning it ourselves right at the table.

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Stronger Earthquake

One quake was not enough this time, we got another one, this one it felt quite stronger, since it was very close by.

Just before 1AM, we were already sleeping, but my bladder had woken me up just 20 minutes before that, so I was still pretty awake when the shaking occurred. This time I could here stuff in the kitchen cabinets rattling around, but nothing broke. Ritsu felt it, too, but Julius slept through it.

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Return from Kusatsu / Bakatare #5

One thing we could not do last time we were in Kusatsu was go and watch the bath house show, in which some singers / dancers show the old style way the hot water was moved around to get to lower heat levels.

Back in 2015, they were rebuilding that show bath house, but there are some older videos on YouTube, showing that it pretty much looked the same.

But here is now my own little 1 minute video, taken from the top balcony for better view.

There was also the promise of audience participation and Ritsu did her best to usher Julius in the right direction so that he would get his turn. This is the best shot I got from this:

But somehow it did not work out / he was overlooked. According to Ritsu the lady she talked to ignored him after she heard that he does not speak Japanese.

Mama Bear complained later to one of the employees there and received the lowest possible bow of shame and apology, but not much else.

So we enjoyed the blue sky, cold air and just walked it off.

And another foot bath for R&J, same spot as 3 winters ago:

Although lunch time, we were still pretty full from breakfast and just some onigiri for the bus trip would do. The hotel shuttled us to the bus terminal and at 2PM we boarded our comfy Highway Express Bus for our return trip.

Once back in Shinjuku we decided to have one last bowl of Bakatare ramen, so off to Sengawa we took the train.

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Breakfast / Snow run at -6˚C

We all slept very well, got up for a quick hot bath and then went in our PJs / robes to have breakfast:

More delectable bites served on pretty plates / bowls / things … this time tofu with mushroom and greens was the table heated dish, while there was also a nice big piece of grilled salmon, some egg tartlet, salad, pickles … YUM!

As beautiful as this winter wonderland is, it is slippery and not easy to run. But after this lavish dinner last night (and this very nice breakfast), I really wanted to get my daily run in and I had found a nice loop on Strava.

Little did I know that the temperature was -6˚C. It felt cold, yes, but only later did I check just how low it was.

But overall it was ok, I am actually surprised about my pace on this run, often it felt like I had to carefully tip-toe over icy patches or jump to the side to make space for cars.

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Kusatsu dinner

Coming back in from the cold, it was time for our first rounds of hot baths (sorry, no pictures of this, by now they have big signs all over that one shall not bring their phones into the onsen area, which I totally understand.)

And then soon it was time for dinner, which was a feast!

Unlike other places we had stayed before, dinner was not served in the room, nor in a private dining room, but in a communal / restaurant style dining hall, which was nice as well.

There was a bit of everything: grilled fish, beef, sashimi, chicken, soup .. you name it. All arranged super pretty.

The only thing Julius really objected to was the snail, which was actually also very yummy.

 

 

 

 

I felt like one more walk after dinner to see the ‘illumination’ of the center hot spring area, which was mainly one big light changing the color of the steam from white, to yellow, to purple, to blue and then again to white.

Nicely tired, well fed, travelled and bathed out, we lounged in our futons and watched some song contest on TV and then all slept very well.

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Udon lunch in Kusatsu

After checking in (but rooms not ready yet), we walked around to look for food. we had our mind set on some hot udon soup and found a promising place quite quickly.

Here they serve a local kind of very broad udon noodle, which still cooks for 5 minutes in its broth at the table, hence they come with a 5 minute sand timer.

All very nice and tasty.

 

After lunch we walked around a bit more, exploring again the center hot spring area with all its steamy glory.

…before we headed back to our hotel and got into our beautiful, traditional Japanese room.

 

I really wanted to get some more running in, taking advantage of the colder climate and the wonderful winter air.

But the road conditions proofed to be quite a challenge. And since I already had done a morning run, I was ok with only 15 minutes this time.

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We are going on a trip

Since we are going on a trip today, I had to do my morning run before sunrise today.
But totally worth it once the sun came up and revealed the wonderful blue sky.

We got packed and out of the house on time, took the train to Shinjuku and found our bus at the brand new bus terminal there.

And soon we were off towards the mountains:

Which later turned into slightly SNOWY mountains!

There was ample time for naps and general dozing off on our 4h ride.

Buses are just so well organized in Japan and a very pleasant way to get from A to B. Ritsu had booked the tickets (with seat assignments!) already several weeks ago.

The scenery around us turned more snowy as the bus slowly climbed up.

One stop about an hour before our final destination was Ikaho, where we spent a few nights 2 winters ago. And we could not only see the ‘famous’ stair case, but also snow falling!

As we continued getting higher up into the mountains, the road conditions got more challenging.

But our bus kept moving steadily and we marveled at some of the cars having 10cm and more of snow on their roofs.

Finally, just around noon, we arrived at our destination in Kusatsu, where we spend 2 nights 3 winters ago, and again, it was a total winter wonderland!

Instead of calling our hotel for bus pick up from station, we set out to walk that bit. Stretching our legs after roughly 4 hours sitting.

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Hatsumode & Takoyaki

Like in previous years, we went to Omiya Hachiman for hatsumode. Unlike last year, the lining up was mercifully short (maybe because it was so cold!)

Or maybe because we came earlier that last year. Which also explains why we weren’t super hungry yet and only shared one portion of takoyaki.

Julius had some extra fun buying his own bottle of Lamone and trying his luck at a basic ball throw game.

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Lots of running instead of public transport today

Not planned like this, but this turned out to be a rather commute / run heavy day.

Maybe because my morning run was rather ‘meh’. Somehow my earbuds did not charge correctly over night and I found myself without music … and it was freezing cold … hence I just puttered around for 25 minutes.

But next thing was going to meet up with Utachan at Eifukucho station, like in the past, and then go to Hatsumode. Last year I walked the distance of 7km, this time I decided to run this, with some extra dry clothing in my backpack.

And after that the plan was to take the train to Kichijoji, another 6km away, which I spontaneously also decided to run. Against quite some wind.

Once arrived there I went to Uniqlo to get a cheap fleece jacket to have a new, dry layer of clothing.

When it was time to get home, I did not feel like running anymore, but still, I preferred walking those 5km over taking the bus (and indeed, I arrived home before R&J)

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Not too much going on today.

Since I ran long and fast yesterday, it was time for a break and doing a slow, shorter jog with Ritsu, which we combined with a stop at a shrine we discovered recently to do our first new years prayers.

For lunch we went to Ritsu’s parents house to celebrate Obachan’s birthday with some pizza 😉 Somehow I totally forgot to take any pictures.

In the evening we explored some new food options. (I walked, while R&J took the bikes)

There is a cluster of restaurants along one running route Ritsu and I came by a few days ago and from those we picked ‘Ringer Hut’, a cute fast-food-ish noodle place specializing on Nagasaki style champon noodle dishes which come topped with a heap of vegetables

They are so proud of their veggies that they clearly mark the amount in the menu. In my case it was 360gr, even for the smaller version.

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Tamagawa Family Adventure

Since I enjoyed running along the riverbanks of Tamagawa so much, I wanted to share this awesome location with the family. We took a train and 3 stations later we were just 5 minutes from the river.

The general idea was that I run 30 minutes one way and then come back, while R&J can stroll casually along the water, enjoy the scenery … so that after exactly 1h we would meet again at the same spot.

The running conditions were awesome!

Not too cold, I was actually wearing shorts on this run. I had a set of warm clothing in my backpack (first time I ran with a backpack!) for after-run. The path along the river is in great conditions and seems to go one endlessly (some markings reveal that it seems to be a stretch over 50km!)

No traffic lights, no cross streets, other runners and bikers all behaving well, no reason to slow down!

Very pleased with my end results (5K in 20m03s and 10K in 42m23s), I could have added another 5K easily, but I was at the agreed time at the agreed spot …

In the meantime, R&J found dogs to play with and leafs … and a shrine to ring in the New Years.

Only snag was that this shrine was half an hour away from our meeting point …

So, I changed into my warm clothing, as I started to get cold after I had stopped running and turned to a more gentle jog to eventually catch up with them.

After missing each other somewhere in the middle, I turned around and found them closer to the water. Happily reunited we made our way back to the train station.

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Happy New Year!

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End of year food:

One last ramen of 2017

And New Year’s Eve sushi!

Not to forget the traditional soba noodle soup as last meal of the year. This time with duck meat!

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New Year’s Eve morning run with Gojira!

Did my usual TOHO round, but this time I actually looped around the studio complex and for the first time I ran past the main gate!

And there I found a nice (albeit not too big) Gojira statue and this huge mural of the Seven Samurai. Very cool.

This Sunday morning way more runners were out, even though the weather was gray and murky (and COOOOOLD). But this added some ‘racing fun’ to my run and I came out at an overall nice pace.

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Of Steaks & Owls

Starting the day with a quick 8km in 40 minutes run (and yoga for Ritsu, while Julius slept in very long) we then took our very sweet time to get ready to all go together to Akihabara to check out a new flea market.

Initially there was some discourse about who is going and Ritsu needed some extra cheering up, evident in this wonderful photo:

It was already rather late for lunch. On our last visit I had noticed that steak houses seem to be the latest fashion in Akihabara, most of them offereing some kind of ‘dry aging beef’ and a 1000¥ lunch special.

We ended up at “Meat Winery” (ミートワイナリー 秋葉原店), which is 2 floors up from a Maid Café, so, typical Akiba neighborhood stuff.

It was quite crowded and apparently all Japanese patrons, but they also had their menu in English.

 

Service was a bit busy, but nice, and the food came astonishingly quickly (as in ‘did they actually have to to cook this?’) and was overall very tasty … I would really have loved some thick cut fries with this. Rice with steak is just a bit weird. Veggies was limited to some corn and onion. (There is a side salad on the menu for 180¥). And no idea why we all got a chicken drumstick on top of everything 😉

We briefly checked out that flea market, which was rather small compared to the Moutainai market we had visited in Akihabara on several occasions before.

And Julius had seen a sign for an ‘Owl Café’, which had very much peaked his interest! And mama was game to go with him, and here are her pictures / captions!

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