Tag Archives: travel

March 20 – April 3 | Japan: the food post

(I got a better phone with a better camera so my pictures don’t look quite so shit. Like usual, this isn’t everything we ate, but it’s fairly representative.)

konbini - 7i

Konbinis! Convenience stores in Japan are the second best thing (the best is the vending machines on literally every other block that sell ALL THE DRINKS). You can get trash food, you can get healthy food, you can get a proper meal put together without much effort. Kitchens are small and it’s more typical for people to eat out more often than cooking at home (my s/o’s tendency to pick up Subway on the way home instead of trying to make food at home suddenly makes more sense).

nabin

Oh my god I have missed Indian food so much since moving back to Montana. Nabin is a Sri Lankan place with delicious curry and naan and saffron rice and samosas and these little dumplings called “momos” (pictured). Since getting home, I’ve started making curries and rice. So good.

dominos

DOMINO’S IN JAPAN. The ingredients are better, the flavor combinations are to suit Japanese tastes (teriyaki chicken, chicken and corn with mayo, pork and roasted garlic) besides also offering more typical flavors (margherita, all meat), the option of 4 sections on a pizza is a standard thing, the pizza is cut into 12 instead of 8 and the pizzas are smaller.

conveyor sushi

I don’t know the name of the place but it was conveyor sushi! We went to see the new Tomb Raider (English with Japanese subs), then went to this conveyor sushi place so we could say we’d done it. Everyone I tell this story to is some degree of squicked out but I had no problems with any of the raw fish I ate, or any of the water I drank, or anything else. Either I got luck or food-handling standards are more strictly monitored over there (I know which one I bet it is).

sweet potato ice cream

In Kawagoe there was a soft serve stand selling sweet potato ice cream: it’s half orange and half purple sweet potato flavor (not that I noticed a difference in flavor, but I’m not super familiar with the flavors of different dessert-style sweet potatoes, so). After we got our ice cream we saw like 5 more of these stands, so it’s a popular thing.

rest stop

At the rest stop on the way back from the mountains, there were all kinds of little snacky vendors, and a Starbucks, and a couple of proper restaurants where you could get an actual meal. We opted for Starbucks and takoyaki, because I have this compulsion to eat trash. Takoyaki has this weird kind of texture where I wouldn’t order it for myself (because an order there had 8), but if someone was offering it around, I’d have 1.

gyoza place

Aaand speaking of eating trash: GYOZA. I was thoroughly schooled in some cultural aspects I wasn’t aware of, one of which is that gyoza and beer is considered kind of a garbage meal and something salary men have after work before stumbling home. Obviously we went to this amazing gyoza franchise place 3 different times at 2 different locations (both of them close to a train station, because smart real estate placement). I had karaage, and steak fried up with green peppers, and a kind of hot and sour beef sauce with tofu in it (not pictured, because I ate it before thinking to photograph)—this was on 3 separate visits, not all at once, and we always got the “sets” that come with an order of gyoza, rice, soup and pickled veg. Fucking delicious.

heartful bakery

Last one: Heartful Bread Bakery. This is a few blocks from my s/o’s parent’s house where we were staying and it’s where all the bread in the house was from. They even had Irish soda bread (but they didn’t know that’s what it was, it was labeled “fruit bread” or something and it was really good with butter on for breakfast). We walked over for breakfast one day before getting on a train and got the most delightful little assortment of things, plus a coffee from the vending machine outside.

vending machines

I lied. Vending machines. I will miss the vending machines most of all. *single sad tear*

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March 20 – April 3 | Japan

PSA: I have a passport now. (It’s like I’m an adult or something.)

First international trip: Japan. I don’t speak the language—other than knowing the difference between “domo” and “arigato“, which got me further than it had any right to—and I planned nothing. My s/o is from there, speaks well enough to get us around, and knows how the trains work.

Strangely, I had next to no experience of jet lag from Montana to Tokyo (unless the long stretch of time in airports and on planes where I had no idea what time or day it was is jet lag; if that’s it, then I had jet lag for like a day). In all fairness, my sleep schedule was proper fucked before we left, and there’s a 15-hour time difference, so it’s possible everything just lined up to mask my usual sleep disorders into looking like a normal sleeping pattern. Yeah. That sounds right.

downtown 1

We walked around Tokyo a lot, near the train station. There are temples (Buddhist) and shrines (Shinto) everywhere, which I like a lot in the same way that I like churches for the architecture and the sense of history.

sakura

It was sakura season. Turns out it only lasts for about 2 weeks between blooming, full bloom, and falling to clog all the streets and rivers, but it’s aesthetically pleasing enough to be considered worth the effort (?) and there are cherry trees basically everywhere.

kawagoya

Kawagoe dates back to the Edo period and it’s a huge tourism destination. They have places where you can rent kimonos and then walk around shopping and taking photos and learning history (we didn’t rent kimonos). I felt like less of an asshole taking pictures of everything because everyone else was doing it too.

harajuku

I fucking hated Harajuku. It was everything I loathe about big cities, all condensed into a couple of city blocks. That main section of the picture above? That goes all the way down the blocks, that many people, that tight together. I don’t regret going, but I wouldn’t go again, I guess is what I’m saying.

mountains

Towards the end of the trip, we went up to the mountains and stayed overnight at the most adorable little cabin (IT HAD BUNK BEDS WE SLEPT IN BUNK BEDS IT WAS THE BEST), then we went hiking the next day. There were a lot of little gazebos that had “Refuge Shelter” signs in front of them; I think I was probably missing something (like a door to some stairs to the actual shelter) because what I saw would not be sufficient refuge or shelter if the volcano went up.

3 of my favorite things:

favorites

Sesame milk (it tastes like halvah), a little shrine in the street, the volcano that could have killed us all but decided not to (thank you for letting us live, volcano, <3).

June 24 – 30 | Seattle: the food post

First thing: I didn’t photograph everything we ate, despite the fact that I’m (technically) a millennial (but I’m an old millennial, which is another post). Sometimes I don’t want to be “that one” when we go out, especially considering the circumstances of this trip, and also because I have a cheap phone so it’s not like the picture quality is good or anything—and I definitely don’t want to be the one whipping out a full-sized camera to photograph everything in a definitely not posed at all way that’s just flawlessly composed and incidentally aesthetically pleasing somehow. (Okay, I do kind of want that, but it conflicts with the whole “aspiring shut-in” thing I have going on.)

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Samurai Noodle

Samurai foods

Bamboo, nori, spicy rice, tofu | Gyoza | Shōyu ramen with pork, egg, fishcake, sprouts, green onion

Samurai Noodle is a tiny little ramen shop in the International District, with maybe 5 tables in the place. It survives because the food is amazing and because the kitchen also serves at the Uwajimaya food court.

Finding out that you can eat tofu chilled and sliced was kind of a revelation for me, even though that probably should have been obvious. S/o said the ramen at this place is the best they’ve had outside of Japan (and that recommendation comes from a not-Japanese person who grew up in Japan and spent enough of their life there to consider it home).

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Banh Town: Vietnamese Street Food

Banh Town

Banh Town sign | Spring rolls | 5-spice chicken banh with slaw (not pictured: Vietnamese coffee)

I love Vietnamese food. I love Vietnamese coffee. This place was so good.

I’ve been trying to replicate the flavors without being true to the recipes at all, and the closest I’ve gotten is (this is weird) spicy Italian sausage sliced over an Asian salad kit with lots of cilantro in it. Note that I’m really fucking lazy about food on the day-to-day, and also pretty broke lately, so I stick to what’s fast and cheap—but no takeaway because that is a garbage situation to get into. However. If there was anything like this place near where I live, I would be even more broke because I love this shit and I wouldn’t even try to resist.

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Ivar’s Fish Bar

Ivars Clams Aquarium

Sign | Clams & chips | Seattle aquarium banner

Ivar’s is this weird retroactive nostalgia food for me. I don’t remember going there as a kid, and I haven’t been there frequently, so I have no idea where the feeling comes from.

The first time I remember going was when I was in Seattle for the summer when I was 15, and I’ve gone every time I’ve been back since—secretly waiting for the day when one of those fat fucking seagulls (they feed on the greasy handouts of well-meaning tourists, with obvious consequences) mistakes a child’s fingers for french fries (BIRDEMIC 2: WATERFRONT BOOGALOO*).

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Kevin’s

Homemade

Lavender lemonade | Salad, salmon, shrimp | Arabella (not food)

The best meal I had might have been the night I stayed over with my dad (but I admit my bias). I took a box of mochi because mochi is good, and we had dinner and lavender lemonade and went on a walk around the neighborhood. And I got to spend some quality time with his cat, trying not to get bitten (she is a bitey demoness).

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I love you, Seattle. See you again someday soon. <3

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*Someone with connections please pitch that to The Asylum for me, and let them know I can have the script written within 24 hours. ;P

June 24 – 30 | Seattle*

This trip was planned super last-minute, we booked tickets less than 2 weeks before leaving, and I kind of forgot to tell anyone I was going except for my dad.**

We took Amtrak, and the thing no one ever mentions in Amtrak reviews is that their seats are awful: they have the idea of a cushion on there somewhere, but it’s nowhere near as good as it needs to be for a 12 or 14 hour trip. We got the cheap seats, nothing fancy, so maybe that was the problem, but it would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t been sleeping most of the time. But. Sleeping on a moving train for 10 hours seriously wrecked up my back and neck, so it’s a lesser-of-2-evils kind of situation there.

Downtown Cafe Dragon

Downtown | Zeitgeist Cafe | Dragon in the International District

After getting to the King Street station, we went to Zeitgeist Cafe and got some necessary coffee, then we went to s/o’s sister’s house where we were staying.

The reason for the trip was a sort of get together for s/o’s family. I got to meet everyone, and spend most of the week with a lot more people than I’m normally comfortable around, but everyone was so kind and genuine—and they all hug like boa constrictors. ;D I don’t know why I was okay the whole time, but whatever it was, I need to find out how to replicate that not-fucked-up mental state for future crowded situations.

Bellevue x3

Intersection of Bellevue St, Bellevue Pl and Bellevue Ave E

I also got to spend some time with my dad, which I don’t do enough of. I took my current favorite movie of all time (The Last Days on Mars), and we watched that and had a nice chill evening, featuring delicious food my dad made.

S/o and I had a lot of time on our own to walk around the city. We went to the International District and got Asian snacks (Pocky and mochi for me: give me all the mochi please).

The last thing we did before leaving, and the only thing that had been planned in advance, was a walk from my dad’s place down to the waterfront for some delicious greasy salty goodness from Ivar’s**** and a trip to the Seattle Aquarium.***** We were going to take a bus down, but decided to cross the bridge to where it would be easier to catch a bus going the right way, then we realized we were already halfway to the waterfront anyway so might as well walk the rest of the way.

Ivars Clams Aquarium

Ivar’s Fish Bar | Clams and chips | Seattle Aquarium Banner

My favorite parts of the aquarium are the deep water/coral parts (obviously). The undersea dome is cool, but I can take or leave it. Same with the otters and seals and almost everything else. We spent an absolutely embarrassing amount of time crouched on our knees at the dwarf cuttlefish tank (it’s a tank near the floor, probably for children). I also love the acrylic ring full of moon jellies, and probably took about 70 pictures of them (oops).

Blue Jellies Cuttlefish White Jellies

Moon Jellies | Dwarf Cuttlefish | Some Kind of White Jellies

The train back was another overnight train, and the seats were as terrible as before (why, Amtrak? Seriously fucking why?), but the view of the Cascades before the sun went down was almost enough to make up for it. Almost.******

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*Apologies for the photo quality in this post (and all my posts?). I didn’t think to take a camera (because quickly-planned), and my phone is cheap garbage because I don’t care about owning an expensive phone.
**He lives in Seattle, so he got a heads up a couple days in advance.***
***I wish I was as spontaneous as this makes me sound.
****OhmygodIvar’s *drool*
*****I realize there’s a joke in there somewhere about going to an aquarium with a belly full of fish, but I’m too lazy to go looking for it, and nothing clever is immediately obvious to me.
******To clarify: I don’t hate Amtrak. I can almost guarantee I’ll take Amtrak again in the near future, I’m just really disappointed with their seats and it’s something worth knowing about/planning for in advance.