Worst and Best of Japan, Part 2

08.03.2011  |  Published in diary

Here it is! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! I am about to reveal my top 5 most awesome things about Japan (plus a few more bonus photos from the trip!). Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Butter Peanuts

The Japanese have a reputation for novelty foods and weird snacks, but for me, butter peanuts take the cake! What are butter peanuts, you ask? Well, they don’t taste anything like butter, but these Japanese peanuts are highly addictive. All convenience stores sell them (except for the Lawson in Omote-sando), and they don’t seem to be terribly popular. But I am pretty sure that I single-handedly consume enough to keep the butter peanut industry thriving. I haven’t been able to find these ANYWHERE in L.A. – help?!

2. Yaizu

When you’re caught up in the hustle and bustle (and smokiness – ick!) of Tokyo, it’s a refreshing thought to know that Yaizu is only a short bullet-train ride away. Sure, it’s a $130 round-trip on the shinkansen, but I’d say it’s worth it. Yaizu is Heday’s hometown, and his particular neighborhood is like a jungle. It’s green and hot and humid with snakes and bugs and fruit. I’m pretty sure there are monkeys and toucans too, but I didn’t see them. Heday and his friend Bongo (who has made an appearance on my blog before) know what’s poisonous and what’s not, so I was able to try my very first biwa! Sooo delicious, and fresh off the tree too!

3. Masurao

The Japanese know how to party. How do I know? I took a trip to Masurao, a VIP club that Heday and I got to experience only because our friend was a member. Expecting a classy joint with leather booths and wealthy businessmen drinking scotch on the rocks, I was shocked to find a fat, (almost) naked man in a red Spider-man mask dancing around the room. I would post a picture but I might get in trouble. We arrived sometime after 2:30 am and the party showed no signs of stopping. The waiters came by our table with multi-colored syringes and literally forced shots in our mouths (Heday spit his out). Masurao was truly an experience…

Anyway, here we are partying our absolute hardest singing our own song “Happy Lane” for the first time after finding it featured in the karaoke selections. Cool!

One woman was concerned to hear that bars in California close at 2:00 am. “Well, what do you do after THAT?” she asked. Umm, I go home?

4. Convenience Stores

Whether it’s the infectious musical jingle of a Family Mart or the urge to sample a new Japanese snack, I find it hard to walk by a convenience store without a reason to go inside. Some of my favorite items to buy are packaged leggings (cheaper and better than you’ll find in the US!), chocolate-covered almonds (they have dark chocolate now!), gummies, and of course butter peanuts. Currently Mini-Stop is my favorite due to their consistently solid selection of gummy candies and their delicious coffee-flavored soft serve.

5. Everyone is so ^&*%ing nice!

It’s like you’ve entered an episode of the Twilight Zone where everyone smiles, loves their job, and cares about each other. I have to admit I was a bit put off by this at first as any skeptical, look-out-for-myself foreigner might be. But it’s so genuine that I think we all could learn a little something from our friends across the Pacific.

It seriously boggles my mind how much more welcoming the customer service is in Japan than it is here in L.A. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying at a cheap hotel, eating at a restaurant, or simply asking for directions at a convenience store – the employees will go out of their way to serve you. And they don’t even work for tips; tipping is simply not a part of Japanese culture. The positive energy throughout the country, especially following the disaster in March, is truly inspiring. Go Japan!

BONUS! Enjoy my Fun-in-Japan photo diary below!

Heday in high heels:

Marimokkori, who is sort of a mascot for the Hokkaido prefecture. Still can’t decide if he’s cute, creepy, or a little of both:

(Below) Dread rocks, anyone?

A freakishly large sashimi boat. Heday is happier about this one than I am:

-And continuing on, a day at the zoo…

-Underneath that…I think I made this high schooler nervous when I sat next to him and started a conversation.

-Sapporo is pretty beautiful

-Also in Sapporo, a CLASSICAL MUSIC CAFE! Yes, you sit quietly and listen to classical music. Trust me, it’s way cooler than it sounds.

-And finally, Heday and I in our one-pieces with our favorite Shizuoka news broadcaster, Ishida-san.

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