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Day 4 (Jan. 18/20) – Last moments in Tokyo

I’m always surprised, despite their reputation for being healthy and long-lived, how the Japanese can pretty much batter and deep fry anything. The first time I was here, I discovered kushiage – meat and vegetables on a stick that are battered and deep fried. This morning, I tried croquettes – battered and deep fried balls of stuff (mostly potato). Very similar to the taro ones at dim sum.

One of these is snow crab and one of them is braised meat. Both deep fried goodness for breakfast!

I had time to kill before heading out to the airport so I hung out around Shinjuku station. One thing the Japanese seem to love are their giant department stores. Along the lines of the Bay downtown but each tower a different store. 12-stories of retail with a couple floors of sit-down restaurants at the top and a basement floor of food takeout. And even here, in your basic department store, there are fountain pens.

When nerds collide! Star Wars fountain pens.

The area right around Shinjuku station is packed with stores, pachinko arcades, restaurants and the obligatory neon. But the beauty of Japanese cities are the hidden, surprise gems. Take a “wrong” turn and you end up down an alley, reminiscent of old Japan.

An alley I found while wandering near Shinjuku station.

Flying out of Tokyo, I encountered these self-serve baggage check machines. You put your baggage into the cubby. The machine weighs it, prints out a baggage tag that you attach to your luggage and then issues you a claim check for pick up at the other end. A front cover slides down over the cubby and your luggage disappears. Why am I so fascinated by mundane things 🙂

When Skynet takes over, these machines will just start eating us.

Asahikawa was quite the contrast to Tokyo. Much smaller, but I guess all cities everywhere are smaller compared to Tokyo, and colder. When I was in Tokyo, the weather was kind of mild, anywhere between a couple of degrees Celsius all the way up to 10 degrees. I checked my weather app when we landed and it was -10 C, feeling like -17. Nothing to do tonight but get to the hotel and hunker down.

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