Shibuya Coffee

Flying home this evening so today is really just seeing a few last things and then the plane waiting game. Surprisingly cooler here today, probably the coolest we have had, only 20c

We headed over to Shibuya where we found some great coffee. Unlike at home the great ones all seem to be hidden in backstreets well away from the main shops.

So if you are in Shibuya get yourself over to Streamer Coffee for a decent brew.

Possibly our last ride this trip on the Tokyo Yamanote line (although we are taking the NE’X back to the airport)

Train on another JR line about to go past us

Past Shinagawa the train virtually empties on the loop up to Tokyo

The Shibuya crossing not as busy as normal this morning.

Cash, Credit and IC cards

Coming to Japan? Bring cash….

It’s amazing that a country that can have high speed 4g reception in remote mountains, can invent a remote controlled commode that washes your nether regions in ways previously thought unimaginable hasn’t yet caught on to the tap and pay band wagon like the rest of the world.

So far the only places I’ve used my credit card has been to pay for hotels, buying a kitchen knife and a book. All food, entires and all other incidentals have been cash. The other annoying thing about using a credit card is that you are asked to sign every time you use it.

I’ve seen so many “cash only signs here”, even in places I would have naturally thought credit cards would be accepted.

When coming here I’d recommend bringing a few thousand yen in cash to have on hand (¥35,000 would be a good start).

Where to withdraw cash if you run out ? The best place seems to be 7-11 stores that have international ATMs. 7-11 stores are everywhere. They will only dispense multiples of ¥10,000 and charge about ¥140

There is one exception to the cash rule and it’s a little shining light. The IC card you use on trains (like Sydney’s Opal and London’s Oyster card) can be used at some vending machines and some shops near stations).

The main one you will see available in Tokyo is SUICA and the other in Tokyo is PASMO. It doesn’t matter which one you get as they are interchangeable. The other great thing about IC cards here is they work nationally. The SUICA card I bought in Tokyo works in Kyoto and Hiroshima.

I was also able to transfer my SUICA card onto my IPhone wallet so I can just tap my phone and replenish it from my Apple Pay linked HSBC global debit card. At the moment it seems on SUICA card can do this.

Here is what my SUICA card looks like in my Apple Wallet. I can see it balance at anytime and a history of trips. It will be great when Sydney’s Opal card has this.

(Unlike standard Apple Pay, you don’t need to face or finger authenticate on the phone, you just tap your phone like you would a card)

Tsunami of Aussies

A whole group of my friends were in Japan at the same time so we all caught up for drinks at Mixology near Tokyo Station. An amazing little bar that does some unique cocktails. They have one that tastes like Tom Yum soup.

I had a Thai style spicy Pina Colada

And how could I resist and Apple and Newton!

Some other interesting options too :-

after a few drinks Daryl found us a great restaurant for dinner

A few post dinner drinks. The light shining directly down makes them look rather potent

Karaksa Tokyo Grand Opening

I’d booked this hotel for our last night in Japan via booking.com, it just appeared as an option online, it was close to the station and available for a great rate.

We show up and find out it’s actually it’s grand opening day. We were one of the first guests to check in, everything is absolutely brand new.

The rooms are a fantastic size and it’s one of the few hotels I’ve stayed at in Japan that has a proper shower, not one of those stand in the bath jobbies that are all the go here.

The only downside is it doesn’t have an Onsen. Two weeks ago my care factor on that was completely zero, but having tried them, I’ll always be seeking out hotels with great Onsen for the next trip to Japan

The hotel even has a free coffee machine

After checking in, decided to head back to Kappabashi for another look around. If you are heading there the closest metro station would be Tawaramachi on the Ginza line.

I do love the Ginza subway line, everything is gold coloured. Insert Austin Powers Gold Member movie quote here….

Back to Kappabashi for some more stuff.

We just grabbed a sandwich from 7-11 for lunch. I couldn’t not try blueberry and cream cheese just once. Nicer than it sounds ! (No Matcha or Benito flakes so I’m happy!)

Magnetic Coffee and Random Japanness

Had coffee this morning from the same place I had yesterday’s Vietnamese coffee. Hot coffee wasn’t fantastic, just machine made. Essentially I paid ¥330 ($AU4.50) for a coffee that’s not as good as Nespresso. At least it’s the cheapest coffee I’ve purchased here.

The hotel had magnetically activated water. It’s technology from Japan so it must be good right? I checked but they don’t supply almonds.

Yesterday was the day for Hello Kitty. We saw a second Hello Kitty train at Shin-Osaka.

Coffee is expensive in Japan, but one thing that isn’t ? Ice cream. Pretty much everywhere you can get a Cornetto for ¥150 (AU$2). Bottled water is just as cheap, it’s ¥110 on average for a bottle. Sometimes ¥100 and not seen it over ¥140. The Japanese must actually realise it’s just bottled tap water.

7-11 have a wide variety of sandwiches, this one looked a little on the odd side, blueberries and cream cheese. On the plus side I’m sure it’s not sprinkled with seaweed seasoning, Benito shavings or Matcha.

In Kyoto, I saw a place sampling fiery chilli chips. I tried one, ooooh they are super hot. Luckily I had some water with me that day. After a packet of those I think anyone would welcome those Toto bottom washing toilets once these pass your system.

Oh Deer, it’s dinner time

Nara is a small place by Japanese standards and the Main Street leading up to the Deer park and 500 odd temples (well it feels like that many) has a surprising variety of food options.

Your standard Japanese style restaurants, a few Italian places, a German restaurant, an Indian restaurant and even an Indian curry van. The two things I haven’t seen that surprises me is the “Irish pub” and a venison restaurant, but maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough.

Curry if you’re in a hurry

Curry if you’re only in a bit of a hurry. We settled on this place. Great value, huge curry meal and a beer for ¥1452 (about AU$18). It does taste way better than it looks.

After dinner had another look in the supermarket just opposite the hotel. Found this in the snacks section. So what do you think? The people’s favourite 747-400 flavour, or the bigger, bolder A380 flavour? I’m going with Zero… flavour

If the Matcha isle is the supermarket equivalent of hell, I just found heaven. An isle dedicated to kewpie (and kewpie like) mayonnaise. It’s a verified scientific fact that Japan makes the best mayonnaise in the world.

But does it really need two lots of packaging. And they will put it in a plastic bag when they have sold it to you.

As much as Tully’s coffee isn’t setting the barista world on fire with their choice of roasted beans or dedication to perfection on their milk pouring methods, I’ll give them one thing from my breakfast today, not a single item of plastic was given to me with this meal. I think that is actually a first here.

Our hotel at night. It’s a “Dormy Inn”. I’d read that they were a really good value chain across Japan. I’d booked one and didn’t even know. I’ve got to say the Onsen is sensational. For obvious reasons I can’t take pictures in there to show you, otherwise I might be showing you the inside of a Japanese prison cell.

This is the Main Street up to the deer park with all the restaurants.

A Matcha made in hell

If there is one thing I certainly won’t miss about Japan it’s Matcha. It’s basically powdered green tea and it’s used to flavour almost everything here. It’s more ubiquitous than chocolate.

I personally can’t stand it. In its pure powdered form it’s dry and bitter. I had some on a green tea pudding a week ago in Kyoto and had to get a chocolate thick shake just to get the horrid taste out of my mouth

Here is the pudding. Looks nice, tastes foul. The actual green tea pudding under the powder wasn’t too bad but the powder, omfg ick.

The supermarket shelf from hell

I’m not sure all the sugar in the world could improve this ghastly creation.