Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | January 18, 2014

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | August 6, 2013

My visit to Osaka: Welcome to Dotonburi!

IMG_1369After adventures in Tokyo and its surrounding districts (Ueno Park, Harajuku, Akihabara and Tsukiji fish market) we decided to really take advantage of our Japan Rail pass and use it to visit places outside of Neo Tokyo. So before our expedition to the land of the rising sun, we planned out our itinerary in Toronto by first getting our JR Pass. This pass is very important and useful in our cross-country trek through Japan and luckily it’s available in our country. I can’t stress that this pass is a must if you are planning on travelling in and around Japan as it will save you hundreds of dollars in rail ticket prices (warning: you can not get this pass in Japan, it is not available to the locals, only to foreigners and you have to purchase this pass in your own country). Just click on the link to the Japan Rail webpage. It’s basically an all-access-pass to anywhere Japan Rail trains travel. So you can travel from the northern point ofIMG_1144 Hokkaido to the very south of Kyushu. Now we didn’t go as far as Kyushu but we did travel to Osaka and Kyoto. Two places that were on our bucket list of places that we wanted to visit. Why Osaka and Kyoto? Well I heard about all the great foods that were available including a famous poisonous fish called Fugu that I secretly wanted to eat in Osaka. Kyoto was my girlfriend’s bucket list place because one of her customers at her work highly recommended the place. It was an ancient city that still held on to its past honourably and never let it go…I’ll get to our adventure in Kyoto in a later blog but first….Day 1 of 3: My visit to Osaka!

After checking into our quaint little hotel called Mitsukoshi Hotel in Osaka (reminder: all places in Japan are tiny so get used to it) we quickly asked the front desk to ask where’s it happening! Luckily I spoke japanese so we weren’t totally lost in translation (another thing we learned quickly…nobody spoke english -_-). They told us to head down the street and we would not miss “the happening place”. This area was basically their downtown core and tourist hotspot which had everything that one could ask for. It had food places galore, shopping areas, crazy neon signs, a river running through it with boat tours and tons of people to dodge and weave around! Welcome to Dotonbori!

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Okay quick history lesson (don’t worry I’ll KISS it…meaning I’ll Keep It Short Stupid). One of the principle tourist destinations of Osaka, this one street wonder ran parallel with the Dotonbori canal and was originally an entertainment district…whoa not that kind of entertainment. This place ran traditional kabuki theatres in the past…like back in the 1600’s but because of declining interests most were shut down or destroyed in WW2. Now the place is a foodie mecca with many crazy neon signed ramen shops, Osaka crab joints and western influenced restaurants. Along our walk through this fantastic town we also happened onto several of Dotonbori’s famous landmarks. The first famous one was the Glico Man.

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Originally built in 1935, this huge neon billboard showcasing an athlete on a blue track representing the Glico candy has been altered many times to represent the World Cup to the Olympics to their beloved baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers. During our 3 days here we ate at the next famous landmark, The Kani Doraku Crab.

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This huge animatronics crab which has moving legs and eye sockets, was built in 1960 and is in front of the restaurant called Kani Doraku which we had the pleasure of feasting on a 8 course meal of their famous and very tasty crab!

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The last landmark is the blowfish lantern of Zuboraya, this large inflated fish is positioned above the restaurant where I ate the famous poisonous Fugu…and lived to tell about it!

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Okay to be honest I was a little apprehensive to eat this poisonous fish so I tried the deep-fried version first…deep frying usually kills any and all poisons (I think?) so this part was easy…. its kinda like prepping your stomach for roller coasters. You start with the Viking Ship (it just sways) to the rickety old coaster with no loops and then you tackle the vomit inducing behemoth at the end.

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The deep-fried Fugu is the top image.

Surprisingly the deep-fried version was really tasty! Now after tackling that one, it was on to the raw or sashimi style. Gulp! No turning back now…as I ordered the dish I thought to myself that it would suck if I got sick or worse die eating this on my bucket list vacation but if I survived a Sky Jump in Macau, how hard is it to eat some damn fish? Okay a poisonous one that kills 6 Japanese people a year and the occasional daredevil tourist but still it’s a fish….

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As the server brought me this Japanese delicacy, I kid you not she had a grim look on her face as she bowed and served me the dish (probably thinking she better have 911 ready…) and then proceeded to wait to see if I would do it! Not much to look at, cut wafer thin, I guess to minimize the poisonous blow?

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With my gf taking photos and filming this moment, I mustered up the courage and ate the poisonous Fugu! The verdict? Not bad, not much of any flavour other than the soya sauce and wasabi. There was a slight tingling sensation on my tongue. I was told it was the poison, more likely the wasabi but tasty none the less. Would I recommend it? Sure why not…to be honest I think it’s all in the mind. I don’t think they would serve this stuff if it was really deadly…what kind of business would you have if your customers kept dying? Still it was a bit of a rush leading up to it so if you want to “cheat death” and debunk the myth this is an interesting challenge!

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I asked my gf if she wanted to try some? Her answer, “no I don’t want to die”. Nice.

So after snacking on death and more sight-seeing we started our food odyssey by IMG_1213trying some of Osaka’s famous Takoyaki. This tasty street food staple are doughy balls filled with big chunks of tender octopus and baked in these metal Takoyaki pans. After each battered ball is carefully cooked (there is a technique to making these) they’re coated with a sweet Worcestershire type sauce, some japanese mayo and sprinkled with bonito fish flakes (optional). Yum and soooo delicious! Warning these puppies are molten hot so let it cool before you pop them in your mouth or you will be jumping around and tearing up as it scorches the inside of your mouth. Trust me I know…

Up next…Osaka style ramen. What makes this ramen different from say…Tokyo or Kyoto style? Well I had to find out so I hit the coolest looking ramen joint in Dotonbori that I could find and voila I got to taste some of the best ramen in town. Well the first thing I noticed was the texture of the noodles, firm and slightly chewy but thinner than the ones in Tokyo. Also the broth is more opaque, very rich and bold as it is laced with pork fat. It’s a tough call but I prefer the Osaka style ramen to the Tokyo one. It’s the pork fat that kills it!

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Mine is the one with the incredibly flavourful thin slices of roasted pork! The perfectly coddled egg is a nice option too!

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We ended our first day in Osaka by jumping on a boat and having a tour around the place. This allowed our stomachs to rest and digest the Takoyaki, crab, Fugu and ramen we consumed that day. I recommend the boat tour, there is only one company that does it so you can’t miss them. It was nice to see the wacky buildings and structures that align this narrow canal and the first day proved to be an exciting one.

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Hmmm…the Rose Lips Hotel!? Yikes! Lost in translation (The Rose Petal Hotel?) or perhaps its a love hotel and the name suits it then.

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Up next…My Day Visit to Kyoto: Welcome to Old School!

Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | June 25, 2013

The World’s Largest Fish Market: Welcome to Tsukiji

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Ever wonder what goes on at a fish market? How about the world’s largest? I sure didn’t but I 20130623-014555.jpgkept reading about it in several travel guides so my curiosity got the better of me. However before I went I did some research on the Net and checked out some interesting documentaries about the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market or The Tsukiji Fish Market as the locals call it. This massive market that was built in 1923 after The Great Kanto earthquake leveled the Nihonbashi fishmarket and relocated to the Tsukiji district. The unique complex houses an inner market (jonai shijo) which is the licenced wholesale market, auction area and where the general chaos happens. The outer market (jogai-shijo) has many retail shops that sell everything from bamboo kitchen utensils to groceries to exotic teas. Also located in this area are the tiny food stalls that are famous for their “sushi breakfast”. I’ll get to my experience on that later on in this post but first…

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The market opens at 3am and the seafood starts arriving from around the world by boat, train, truck and airplane and does not let up until 9 or 10am. I was told that if you arrive at 5am a select few could witness the live auction that takes place in the inner market. Normally this area is off limits to tourists as they generally tend to get in the way ofIMG_0652 some serious bidding and have over the years become a nuisance to the merchants. Bids for the 300 Ibs tuna can go high and hard and I guess having screaming kids, flashing bulbs going off and chatter can be annoying. I forgoed this opportunity as I could not get my ass out of bed earlier IMG_0627than 8am so I managed to explore the place well after the chaos had ended. Still there was plenty to snap pictures of and I did get to speak to some exhausted merchants and fishermen (in Japanese as no one speaks any english at these places). They told me that they have traded their wares for years at this location but soon this whole operation will move to Toyosu, Koto as this market sits on some pretty expensive property and the Japanes government wants to use this land for other purposes. Construction is scheduled to be complete by 2014. Well at least I got a chance to check this place out before it moved on as it has some great history and no doubt has been an thriving part of the Japanese culture.IMG_0614

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After touring the place and getting thoroughly saturated in fish guts and sea water we decided to head out to the outer market to try the famous “sushi breakfast” at one of those tiny food stalls. Which one to choose from? They’re so many…well we used my gf’s simple technique of looking for the biggest line as usually those don’t disappoint (usually…flashes of the Gundam Cafe fiasco started to pop into my head). Luckily for us IMG_0636this super tiny restaurant with a gigantic lineup did not disappoint. The menu was pretty simple as they had about 12 items which consisted of various combinations of ultra fresh toro (that’s tuna), sake (that’s salmon), uni (yellow guts of the prickly sea urchin), yellow tail, fresh raw oysters and deep fried jumbo prawns. I chose the salmon and uni combo and my gf got the salmon and tuna combo and we also ordered 2 jumbo prawns. The presenation was very pretty andIMG_0739 the sashimi cuts of the seafood were amazing. So fresh with a hint of sea water but the best thing was the jumbo prawns. Lightly breaded in japanese panko bread crumbs and gently fried in oil, these plump babies were the best deep fried shrimp I have ever tasted…period. I would easily grab those again if I ever come back there! Oh on a side note, a very humorous thing happened at the restaurant. A couple of Korean tourists ordered the raw oysters but I guess one of them never anticipated the texture in their mouth because he suddenly bolted from his seat and took off outside with his mouth covered and never returned. Smiling awkwardly his buddy caually paid the bill and walked out looking for him. Good thing we didn’t order the oysters as they were humongus and I could see myself gaging on them too.

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Traditional sushi breakfast

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Biggest prawns I’ve ever ate.

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After gorging on seafood and barely hitting the noon hour we decided to look around at the local shops for a bit and then head out to Ginza for some afternoon tea and cake. Japan has become famous for their killer pasteries and my girlfriend was dying to try some of them. I have to admit they were quite good and can be additive. Everything the Japanese make seems to be cute, pretty and very delicious. Let’s just say we eat our fair share and then some! Here is a small sample of what we ate during our trip…please don’t judge as we couldn’t help ourselves….

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Honey Brick Toast Japanese style!

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Up next, my two day unbelievable excursion via Japan Rail to Osaka and Kyoto where I was luckily enough to witness the cherry blossom again!

Please let me know what your thoughts are on this and any other blog post on my site! Any feed back would be much appreciated.

Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | June 14, 2013

My Visit To Akihabara: Anime, Maid Cafés and the Otaku!

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excuse me Miss? Where is your café?

IMG_0717Well this is a first. I heard about this area in Tokyo for years and  kept seeing it on the internet (not always good) and such when I was growing up but I never got to see it in person. Well that all changed when I made sure to check out Akihabara on my travels through Tokyo and Japan. “Field of Autumn Leaves” is the english translation of the place…not much trees but plenty of lights and electronic gadgets as you can purchase new and used electronics of every kind throughout this district as Akihabara is also known as The Electric Town. Unfortunately this area was also hit hard by a dark moment in its history. My gf wasn’t too thrilled when she learned that back in 2008 a mentally disturbed gentleman with a butcher’s knife drove into that part of the city and pretty much ploughed into people and started stabbing them. I found that disturbing but undaunted I convinced her that it was a long time ago and things have changed. For one no vehicles are allowed during the weekend. They block out all main roads going in and out of that district.  Back then that part of town was always considered kinda shady however with the help of the local merchants and the public generally embracing anime, the tourists came back. Now the place is thriving and it has undeniably become part of Japanese culture today. It also helped that I told her I wouldn’t go into any of those strange Maid Cafés buuuuutt I did manage to get us into another type of cafe…well there wasn’t any young girls in maid outfits being subservient however this café had been built to resemble a spaceship from the popular anime series called Gundam. Say hello to the Gundam Café!

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I always seem to have a soft spot for visiting weird and wacky restaurants, to the chagrin of my girlfriend, whenever I travel. Remember  the lovely Modern Toilet restaurant in Taiwan or perhaps the equally wacky Billy Goat’s Tavern in Chicago? I can’t help it, it makes the trip more enjoyable AND memorable! Well it started off great as a huge lineup was already forming when we found the place and my anticipation was killing me as I waited nearly an hour to get in to the place.

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This is what greeted us at the door.

Unfortunately after being seated and served by a normal, albeit dressed in some type of commander’s uniformed waitress, I just didn’t find the food exciting nor tasty in this joint. It seemed to me that this place was all hype and it showed as the only thing interesting was the Café of Lait with a neat design on it (that’s Haro, a robot sidekick from the series) and the futuristic decor.

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Sadly I would avoid this place unless you are a die-hard fan of the anime. Well it wasn’t all bad as I managed to grab a cool souvenir for a friend of mine, who happens to love that series. I give you the Gundam Saber Chopsticks…only a fan could love this!

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After subjecting ourselves to the nerdiverse of Tokyo for a couple of hours we though we should attempt our lunch at a normal restaurant that isn’t showcasing anything “hentai”, that’s perverted in Japanese. Surprisingly we found one in Akihabara that didn’t have pictures of maids on the store front and was pretty tasty.

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This restaurant was a fusion of Japanese and western cuisines with a little twist. For example my choice was a deconstructed hamburger on a sizzling hot plate. I remember my mom making something like this when I was a kid and it tasted just as good! A great tasting burger consisting of  good ground Kobe beef minus the bun, pretty decent fries and you pour on the gravy. My girlfriend had a seafood penne which she said was good (that’s the most I can get out of her when she critiques her foods) yet she goes gaga for Japanese cakes, go figure.

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So in the end I was happy that I got to check out a place that I always wanted to go and convince my girlfriend to wander the streets with me and really take in a place that is both weird yet magical at the same time. Would I recommend a visit to this part of town? Hells ya. It’s not often you can witness a sub culture so open like this…it is quite fascinating and I’ll guarantee you will be shocked and amused but it will never be dull, that’s Akihabara for you. 

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On to the next adventure: Wha? Sushi breakfast? Oh I gotta try that!!

Please leave a comment or like it if you found this article interesting! Any feedback would be much appreciated! Cheers!

Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | May 30, 2013

Welcome to crazy town: Harajuku and all it’s glory

IMG_0499If there is a place that is the complete opposite of what you think of Japanese society is in general, then look no further than this place! Welcome to Harajuku. It is a place that is swarming with fashionistas to school girls in uniforms (both normal and Sailor Moon versions) to tourist and it gets mad crazy during the weekends.

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As we hopped off the station at Harajuku you are immediately bombarded with bodies walking in multiple directions either heading to the Meiji Shrine, high-end shopping at Omotesando Hills or people watching at Harajuku. We tackled the less crowded one first (not by much) which was the Meiji Shrine. As you enter the giant gates and begin walking IMG_0406 down the pebble path towards the temple we started to notice something…it got quieter and quieter as we walked further into the oasis of ancient trees and foliage that were sent from other parts of Japan. It was as if the rows of trees were acting like a sound barrier and it pretty much blocked out all the traffic and chaos that was going on just outside of us. It was incredible to see all those lush and dense trees, stone bridges and small shrines that would pop up along our journey.

IMG_0299As we approached the entrance to the shrine we managed to witness a rare moment. A traditional Shinto japanese wedding was being conducted and we got to view this magnificent ceremony as they paraded around the grounds. The bride and groom were dressed in traditional wedding outfits as they walked with the wedding party to the shrine to perform the wedding vows. Hmmm, I guess George Lucas borrowed this look for Star Wars. What do you think?

IMG_0465 IMG_0321 After the free wedding spectacle we made our way to the central sanctuary and paid our respects to the emperor. The shrine grounds was vast with pockets of areas to sit and view the stunning craftsmanship of the structures and generally have a moment of peace. You can also write prayers and good wishes on wooden plaques, think of it as an old school status update. IMG_0476 IMG_0302 IMG_0484 After getting our Zen on and feeling a bit hungry, we decided to grab some lunch at Harajuku. After a quick crossing of a bridge we landed smack dab into what can only be described as a mashup of anime meets fashionista meets plastic food mecca. This area was packed with all walks of life, some were the usual suspects, tourists and locals but then we met these strange kats…

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With our bellies crying out for some nourishment, we started to wander to find something to satisfy our hungry and lo and behold, it appeared before us….a sign if you will…well more like a giant all-you-can-eat plastic food display. It was so beautiful and tacky that we could not pass it up!

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…and reality. Not quite like the plastic display unfortunately but still tasty.

Now fully stuffed with carbs we though a good way to digest this mega meal was to do some  shopping and luckily such a place existed just a couple of blocks from us. This district was IMG_1445called Omotesando and it is a wonderful place to shop for souvenirs, have a coffee or tea and just chill.  There was also a mall there called Omotesando Hills and it was a great place to hang as it had a nice coffee shop. The one thing that I quickly noticed over here was that the Japanese are amazing at making delicious cakes and small treats. Yes they make great electronics and cars and that’s a given but man who knew they can also make pastries as good as anyone around the world. We must have eaten at least a dozen cafes and we could not get enough of them. Even at a 7-11,(I KNOW! In a future post I’ll explain my love of the place) they had these baked sweet breads filled with a chocolate ganache that were so good I stuffed a bunch into my suitcase. Seriously though it’s freaking addictive.

Alas after a long day and eventful day we settled for what else…tea and some more of Tokyo’s finest cakes! Tune in for my next adventure, My Visit To Akihabara: Anime, Maid Cafes and the Otaku. Cheers!

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I must say I have always wanted to witness the cherry blossoms in Japan and this year I made it come true, not once but twice!! You see I was planning to see this beautiful moment in Tokyo, Ueno Park to be precise and I am happy to say mission accomplished. The bonus was that on my travels around Japan I got to see the cherry blossoms bloom again in Kyoto. Personally I found Kyoto’s cherry blossom flowers much more beautiful as they were a bright pink (Tokyo’s were white) and jumped out at you against the dark bark of the trees from which they were blooming from. See for yourself. What do you think?

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Cherry blossoms in Ueno Park Tokyo

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Cherry blossoms in Gion, Kyoto

After a gruelling 15 hours on a plane we stumbled to our hotel and after a quick shower,  getting accustomed to the climate (quite cool) and time zone shift (practically a reversal in time from Canada), we managed to hit the town and grab some dinner. We hit a restaurant that is one part udon noodle shop and one part bar with a live band. Also what attracted us to this place was the fantastic IMG_0187IMG_0188IMG_0190IMG_0197

PLASTIC displays of their food. You see in Japan they love to show off their foods in plastic form and it works! Seeing what they offer draws huge lineups and they backed it up with some of the most tastiest udon noodles I’ve had in a long time. After scouring the menu, luckily they had one in english, we got a table and begin to slurp up some fresh, slightly chewy udon noodles and a broth to kill for. After a stroll around our hotel to digest this late meal and trying desperately to beat the onset of jet lag, we couldn’t hold if off any longer and passed out in the hotel with cherry blossoms dancing in our heads.

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The next day we decided to tackle the Tokyo Metro (it is a daunting map of squiggly lines that seem to run in all directions) to get to our destination, as walking would have killed us. With the help of Fodor’s guide we managed to find Ueno station and from there we could walk to Ueno Park. I won’t say much as I will let the photos do the talking for a bit but no photo can do justice to what I witnessed with my own eyes that day. You MUST try to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom festival, that is all…

IMG_0227IMG_0282IMG_0302IMG_0301 IMG_0317 IMG_0321 IMG_0328Once you get into the park there are many interesting things to do other than observing the Cherry blossoms. You may be asking yourself what pray tell can pry your eyes away from those beautiful cherry blossoms? Why food of course!  There are food stalls everywhere and just like any trip that I’ve been on, food has been an integral part of my experience and Ueno Park did not disappoint.

IMG_0265IMG_0262IMG_0259IMG_0218We immediately got a whiff of BBQ’d squid which we made a bee line to it and it was really good. Plump, moist and very tender these delicious rings disappeared as quickly as we ordered it! We also grabbed some Takoyaki, which are tender morsels of octopus placed in a doughy batter ball and cooked in egg cartoon looking hot plates. Delish!  There were other great things to eat like roasted corn, yaki soba (noodles cooked on a flat top grill with a sweet soya sauce flavour), every kind of meat on a stick (Izakya style) which was a crowd favourite.

Once fully gorged on street food we started to waddle over to a bench to relax but then we noticed in the distance a huge crowd of people were surrounding something. Never to back away from such things the curiosity got the better of us so we walked over to check it out. To our surprise we saw something that we had never seen before….cats in a tree. Yes I said it, cats in a tree. I couldn’t understand it but apparently this is common around the city of Tokyo?! These cats were in a tree in Ueno Park but they have been spotted in Ginza and Shibuya on top of road signs. I kid you not. How do I know this? I actually saw this in our guide-book. Who’s cats are these and why are they chilling in a tree in the middle of a park? So odd but strangely something I would expect in Tokyo….

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Stay tuned for my next post on: My visit to Harajuku: Welcome to crazy town!

Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | February 16, 2013

Hong Kong Adventures Year 3!

Well it looks like I’m off to Hong Kong as well as Japan this April. This will be my 3rd time visiting this amazing metropolis which I can’t seem to get enough of it! It’s become my home away from home. After spending 2 weeks in Tokyo we grab a 5 hour flight from Narita airport and land in Hong Kong on April 11th and then we chill for another 10 days.

hong kong harborThis time around we plan on visiting places I didn’t quite get to the last 2 times but  I will also be going back to my favourites like riding the Star Ferry or going up to the Peak. I just love doing both of these because it’s just about relaxing and enjoying the view. The ferry ride seems insignificant to the locals who use this form of transportation every day but for visitors like myself, it feels like time stops and everything goes into cruise control. Seeing the Hong Kong skyline is awesome but it’s even more spectacular if you can ride it during the night. The colours reflecting of the water and bouncing into your eyes is quite199912_10150122216277197_558811_n extraordinary and should not be missed. Bonus there is a laser light show every night at 8pm! When I visit the Peak we just grab a table at the outdoor patio, grab a snack and people watch or absorb the great view of the sky line and harbour for hours. It’s breath-taking and totally relaxing at the same time. I can’t get enough of those places and if you are EVER in  Hong Kong those two places are a must. No need to goto the wax museum or eat at those touristy places but if you haven’t been…well go at least once ; )

As for new and exciting places to go, I recently watched a TV show called Layover: Hong Kong by Anthony Bourdain and he visited an island off the coast of  Hong Kong called Lama Island. Apparently they have great beaches (yes I said beaches) and seafood restaurants. So naturally I will definitely check it out! My  last trip we went to Sai Kung district for some fresh seafood (you can literally pick your dinner lobster lunchfrom giant tanks in front of you) and it was the best seafood I have ever tasted so I’m hoping for the same taste thrill once I get to Lama Island. Also on that show Mr. Bourdain visited the cheapest 1 Michelin star restaurant inIMG_20121216_130639 the world called Tim Ho Wan and they do nothing but dim sum and according to the locals they do it better than everyone else….sold! Well for all the Canadian expats that will read this I will be trying to track down a shop that serves coffee and bagels from a popular coffee chain in Canada called Tim Horton’s. Now bagels and coffee for breakfast in Hong Kong is probably a new and unusual thing for them but that’s what I love about this city. These people love to experiment with their food and are willing to line up for hours just to sample it (check out Japan’s  Butao noodle shop and you will know what I mean when I say they are not afraid to line up!) Oh and one more thing I’ve always wanted to do was to take the Ding Ding Tram (a streetcar system that’s been around since 1904) from one end of the city to the other. It’s super cheap as a one way fare is like 50 cents (CDN)! The best part is you can sit, high above in a double decker and watch the citizens of Hong Kong rush through life at break neck speeds and all the while marvel at the sights, smells and sounds of this megacity at your leisure.

As Confucius once said: “A path to ultimate enlightenment is through Hong Kong…” okay I made that up but you get the picture, Hong Kong is a place to Live It and Love It! Now that statement was from the tourism board of Hong Kong for real! Stay tuned folks as my adventure begins in 2 days!!!!

Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | February 13, 2013

First Bucket List moment of 2013 close at hand!

2010-05-20_0028This has been in the plans for 2 years now. My bucket list moment of 2013 has finally come true. We have finally booked a flight to Tokyo Japan to witness the cherry blossom festival. If you have been following me for a while I had this goal set back in 2012 but my plans were dashed when a combination of vacation timing at work and sky-high prices caused me to put this goal on hold….but I’m happy to say the stars have lined together and my window of opportunity to travel has arrived for the end of March!  You’re probably thinking what’s the big deal, there are plenty of places to see cherry blossoms like in Washington DC, Vancouver and even Toronto Canada. I’ve seen them bloom at both Canadian cities (I hear Washington is beautiful too) but I wanted to see this where it originated. Plus I heard they have awesome “viewing” festivals and parties celebrating this spring time ritual in Japan. Unfortunately this is only the first hurdle on my journey to witness this in my parents homeland (they immigrated from Tokyo and Kyoto respectively).  The second hurdle you see is that these flowers only bloom for one week and that window of witnessing this magical moment is hard to predict. If the weather during the months before is relatively mild, cherry blossom trees will open early, around the end of March. If it was a cold winter, the blossom will bloom later, in April. Crossing fingers, I hope we picked the right week. I was told by my relatives that once in Tokyo there are many parks to see these flowers but they say the best and most popular places are Ueno Park in upper central Tokyo, Meguro River, Shinjuku Gyoen (bonus our hotel is situated near there!) and the Imperial Palace. I will be there for 10 days so I plan to go to as many places as I can!

Once my gf and I arrive I’m hoping we are smack dab in the middle of the cherry blossom festivities. I can’t wait to see all the unique and wonderful smells, tastes, sounds and sights of Tokyo during this traditional ceremony. I have seen pictures of geisha’s walking around Asakusa with the streets lined with cherry blossom petals that appear as if pink snow had fallen and blanked the district or Ueno park packed with families having “viewing picnics” or parties! I can’t wait!

Sometimes well laid plans may not go as planned but I have other goals that I wanted to achieve while I’m in  Tokyo too. Here are a few that came to mind:

1. Visit the Hachiko bronze statue outside of Shinjuku station. Why this statue? I recentlyhachiko200505-41 watched a movie that was based on this famous dog in Japan and it was very touching. Later on I read the true story of a very loyal and faithful dog named Hachiko, a Japanese Akita, who every morning would walk with his master, Dr. Ueno to the train station at Shinjuku and return home with him every night. Haha this is sounding like a fairy tale but it’s true! One day Dr. Ueno died of a stroke at work and did not return home. However Hachiko would continue to wait for his master to return to the train station. Rain nor winter storms would not deter this dog and he would wait patiently for the doctor everyday for 10 years! The citizens of Tokyo would start to notice that this big white dog would be waiting and soon people were feeding him, bringing him to the vet whenever he was sick and generally looking out for him until he, sadly, passed away. Truly an awe-inspiring tale of man’s best friend so I gotta check it out.

2.  Take a ride up the Tokyo Tower: Unfortunately this tower has no jump off point like in the Macau Tower. It resembles the Eiffel Tower of Paris but on a smaller scale. Regardless it is a good vantage point to see all of Tokyo so I’m heading there for the view. Strange…I never went here before.

Jyun and Nancy's HK trip 4323. Visit the majestic Meiji Shrine: This Shinto shrine is one of the more famous shrines in Tokyo and was completed in 1926 but was subsequently destroyed during the Tokyo air raids of WWII. It was built for the Emperor Meiji and his wife Shoken to dedicate their defining spirits, this vast shrine was rebuilt in 1958 and was enveloped in a forest stretching over 700,000 sq. meters with over 120,000 trees of 365 different species that were donated and planted from around Japan. I have been here before but it’s tradition for me to visit and pay my respect to the japanese history and culture so I’m there!

4. Witness a traditional tea ceremony. I will have to look this up and figure out where they still do this. It is a lost art but I think in some parts in Tokyo they still practice this tradition.

5. Visit the awesome spectacle that is a Japanese baseball game: I would love to visit a ballgiants_2006logo park in Tokyo. I know for a fact that the Japanese are baseball fanatics and to see the Tokyo Giants (the New York Yankees of Japan) would be an awesome experience!

6. Take a picture with a Geisha: Not sure if they appreciate being photographed with tourists but I’ll ask my relatives if that’s even possible. As a backup, pictures with a zany characters at Harajuku on a Sunday. This will be a fun goal!

7. Eat, eat and eat some more! I know Tokyo will have the best types of foods of all kinds but there are a few types that I want to experience. One is to eat in an old school ramen hut. The ones that are lined down an alley way and when you enter you hear shouts of welcome in japanese – “irashaimasen!” and another is a traditional “shabu shabu” place. This type of dining is enjoyed by dipping raw food whether it’s thin strips of wagyu beef, silky soft tofu or fresh vibrant vegetables in a daisho (seaweed) broth and letting it cook slowly until tender. Super healthy and really delicious. Trust me when I say this will be an eating trip with unexpected surprises and tons of new and interesting culinary delights!!!

8. Eat at a crazy themed restaurant (see I told you : P): I have researched this and there are some wacky places to visit. A couple of places that could be interesting are The Ninja Cafe or the Gundam Cafe either way it will be an experience for sure.

9. If I have time I would like to visit as many silly places that just define Japanese wackiness and insane culture. For example there is a the world’s shortest escalator at a mall called the Moor, a gigantic copper cuckoo clock designed by the anime legend Hayao Miyazaki or possibly stay a night in one of those famous tube hotels.

10. Lastly I would like to see if I can spend sometime with my relatives. It’s been a very long time since I have seen my aunts, uncles and cousins so that would be really awesome to connect again. I was just a teenager the last time I came for a visit and it would be a shame if I didn’t get to see them.

Well I hope I can achieve some if not all of these goals so that my trip to Japan will be a great moment in my life. I’m sure it will be a once in a life time experience and I will record and capture it all on this blog and my facebook page (like it if you can!) Cheers everyone!

Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | January 26, 2013

Pressing It Forward: Raider Origins. A Friends Dream

“A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell.

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on the left – director Jerome Kruin

This year I wrote down that I would focus on trying to pay it forward as much as possible and be true to the 26 Acts of Kindness that I wrote in a previous post. So here’s the story…a good friend of mine named Jerome Kruin, who use to work for me as a projectionist, a very talented and charismatic person, is now pursuing a huge project that one day will become a reality for him. To get his project off the ground he will need some support so I am blogging about this so that I can spread the word and get his Facebook page noticed. The description and everything you need to know about it is available at the official Raider Origins page and if you like what you see…well then like it of course! You can also get your quick fix by following them on Twitter at twitter.com/raiderorigins, Instagram at instagram/raiderorigins or see the making of and behind the scene footage on Youtube.  I’m calling this Pressing It Forward! Hopefully my fellow WordPress followers can check it out and see for yourself the creativity and determination of his dream project come to fruition.

Good luck my friend! Cheers Jyun.

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Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | January 7, 2013

A 2012 Photoblog in Review! Jyunbug-style!

While I did not garner the attention of a certain Korean fellow with a catchy tune and crazy dance style in 2012, my year was just a fun and I would not go back and change a thing! As I look back at all the things I’ve done, it helps that I’ve been able to capture it all in my blog and Facebook page. I can look back and honestly say, it was a fantastic year and I had a blast! What’s even better is that it looks like 2013 could be full of challenging and unforgettable moments and I can’t wait for it to begin…

Visited Taiwan

Visited Taiwan

Ice Palace in CityPlaza Mall

Bucket List moment: skated in a shopping mall – CityPlaza Hong Kong

lobster lunch

Bucket list moment: Ate at a Michelin Star seafood restaurant called Cheun Kee Seafood restaurant in Sai Kung, Hong Kong

hong kong harbor

Visited Hong Kong

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The famous Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago!

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My kinda town: Chi-Town

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Noodle in a bag?! – Tsim Sha Tsui area

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My thrill of 2012! Macau SkyTower Sky Jump!

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World-famous Portuguese tarts from Lord Stow’s Bakery in Macau, China

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The Queens Head at a Geopark in Yehliu, Taiwan.

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The streets of Macau, China

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Meeting good people along the journey through Taiwan…in a cab.

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Our cool hosts Angela and Roger from Taiwan…

good friends

Good times in Hong Kong…

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…with good friends!

I loves my poo!

I loves my poo!

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Top 10 Places To Eat in the World Before You Die: Modern Toilet

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Meeting the locals at Ocean Park, Hong Kong

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Outdoor aqua theatre with a view of the ocean – Ocean Park Hong Kong!

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Saying hello to an old friend at The Avenue of Stars – Hong Kong

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Wrestling with an alligator! Just joking…it’s fake.

2012 was also a culinary journey that opened my mind to so many different cuisines and cultures!

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BBQ squid on a stick!

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Often duplicated but never replicated. The nectar of the gods – Taiwanese Bubble Tea.

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Dinner plate sized deep-fried chicken cutlets!

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Pizza in a cone!

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Hong Kong Tea Time – noodles in a bowl at Tsuen Wan

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Famous Portuguese pork cutlet on a bun – Macau, China

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Perfume Dance Cafe’s most popular cake – Brick Toast!. Taipei, Taiwan

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Portello’s beef sandwich and cheese ravioli – Chicago

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Vietnamese Pho at Joyee in Chinatown Chicago

Sushi train

Sushi on a conveyor belt!

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Temple Street Night Market food – Jordan, Hong Kong

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Japanese Tako Balls (octopus morsels deep-fried) and fresh sashimi.

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Crazy Themed restaurant: Charlie Brown Cafe

Beef curry and football shaped rice

Beef Curry on rice! – Shinjuku Tokyo

Chicken wing at Fairwood Restaurant

Chicken wing of a stick – Fairwood restaurant

fresh shrimp with head and legs

Fresh shrimp – just caught off the coast that morning and served that afternoon! – TST open street market

japanese cuisine

BBQ eel on rice with all the japanese fixings! – Shibuya, Tokyo

mango shaved ice

Mango shaved Ice Taiwanese style!

honeymoon dessert

Strange but ultimately sweet desserts in Hong Kong

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Crazy Themed Restaurants: Baby Cafe (Angelababy supermodel)

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Surprisingly one of the best airline meals I’ve ever had. Beef with Asparagus. Shout out to Cathay Pacific, they treat you well.

As you can see for me 2012 was an awesome year. I managed to achieve a lot of goals, fulfill some bucket list moments and eat some tasty stuff which will be hard to top but I will try to better myself in all aspects of life in 2013. So here’s to better moments to come and wishing everyone a prosperous and joyful New Year! Cheers!

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