Showing posts with label Narita. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Narita. Show all posts

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Eel be back

Narita city is famous for unagi. That means eel. Freshwater eel, to be exact.
Why eels in Narita? No idea.
Back in the olden days, supposedly, there were eels in Tonegawa (Tone river), but that must have been a long time ago.
These days Narita gets its eels by plane. Having the airport right there is a huge advantage, I'm sure.

On the main drag from the train station to Naritasan temple there are about 60 unagi restaurants. Some are big and famous, some are small, but all of them get their eels fresh.
How fresh?
Live fresh.

During our walk to the temple we passed by many unagi restaurants.
You can watch your fresh eels being turned into eel fillets right in front of your eyes.
Like this:

These guys work with the deadly efficiency of Terminators.
Grab a still moving eel.
Drive a spike through its head to secure it to the table.
Slice, clean, chop.

And the finished product, cooked and served, should look more or less like this:

image: wikipedia

I'm a big fan of grilled unagi. It's delicious. Eating unagi is easy.
What's hard is finding good unagi.
The stores here are flooded with cheap eels from China. And I admit it, I tried it. It tasted like garbage.

Most of the cheap unagi you can find at Japanese fast food joints is Chinese. Good unagi is pricey. And unlike cheap unagi, it actually tastes good.

So next time you have a long layover in Narita, catch the train to the city, and take a walk up the main street to the temple. And try some good unagi while you're there.

This photo was taken during my first visit to Narita city. Not on New Year's Eve. On a normal evening the whole place looked like after a zombie apocalypse.

Yes, eel be back. I can't wait to return to Narita city!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year's Eve at Naritasan Temple

A wise man (though in reality he's more of a wise guy) once said that information is like fresh fish. So with that in mind, I'm going to serve you now stuff that is a week old. Well, better late than never.
(you'll get your fresh fish in the next post, I promise!)

Naritasan temple is a very special temple to me. Sentimental reasons, you might say. And though I'm a fan of Buddhist temples in general, Naritasan will always have a very special place in my heart. It was a place where, once upon a time, one chapter of my life came to an abrupt end, and a new one began.

So when a chance to end the old year and welcome the new one at Naritasan presented itself I couldn't pass it up. I just couldn't. For old times sakes. To remember the good. And to forget the bad and the ugly.
And that's how on December 31st (can't believe it was just last week), I found myself, armed with my camera, walking very purposely (with a brief stop for some very potent Thai food) along the winding streets of Narita city.

This being the last day of the year, the streets were pretty crowded. It seemed the entire town (and parts of the neighboring prefectures) had exactly the same idea. I had not seen that many foreigners in 5 years in Tochigi as during that one evening in Narita. Amazing. Or not.

The temple, its formal name is Naritasan Kongo-o-in Shinshoji (it's the lead temple of the Chisan sect of Shingon Buddhism) was exactly as I remembered it. But this time it was all dressed up for New Year's Day festivities.

The lower courtyard was filled with stands selling everything from daruma dolls to sheep cell phone straps (yep, you got it, 2015 is the year of the sheep).

Because it was dark, the Nio figures were impossible to photograph. So here's my excuse to visit the temple yet again, this time during daytime. Ha! Crafty me!

I'm not going to bore you with the wiki details, if you're interested you can google them.
I'm just going to show you what it looked like.

The  cops were busy calibrating the spotlights in preparation for the midnight service and actually helped me capture this reflection of the three-storied pagoda.

And this is how it looked like in real life:

The plan was to go back to the hotel, take a rest, and then return for the midnight bell ringing. But as with all best laid plans, it didn't turn out that way. So here, yet another excuse for me to return to Naritasan. Awesome!

And the other side:

It's a quite odd feeling to walk around the temple grounds at night when the place is empty. But it felt even odder when despite the darkness, the temple was full of life.

And everything was brightly lit.

Of course I forgot my goshuin book, stupid me. To be at Naritasan on December 31st and not get a red temple stamp? Sacrilegious! No choice but to buy a brand new goshuin book. And guess what? They had it in pink and it matched my jacket exactly.

And here's the stamp:

I can't wait to return there. Soon I hope.

Happy new Year of the Sheep!!!

May it be a good one!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Please 2012, no funny stuff, OK?

After everything that happened last year (yes, 2011 is "last year" now), I didn't think it could possibly get any worse.
But at least in our household, 2012 started in a way that made me want to roll it up, pack it up and ask for refund. That kind of year I really don't need. And don't want.

As soon as we came home from Rinnoji and wanted to upload photos, Mr T's computer has crashed. As in "RIP" crashed. So instead of going to bed and getting ready for my flight in a few short hours, like a dutiful wife that I am, I stayed up, placed an order for a new laptop and started to process the photos myself. Sadly, while doing that, Firefox went tits up.

Then, the bus for the airport was late. Not by much, but by enough to force Mr to admit that if it came to that, he'd have to drive me to the airport. Or, as he said "you could just stay home". True, I could. But I didn't. The bus eventually showed up.

I had an upset stomach, had to run to the toilet every five minutes and was seriously considering going back home. It was not a fun ride to the airport, trust me.

Once at the airport, the ground shook. Not by much, but by enough to prompt Mr to call me and see if everything was OK. Apparently, the earthquake was strong enough to knock down our standing mirror. The mirror broke and the pieces scratched our almost brand new floor.

And how does that ancient superstition go? That a broken mirror brings seven years of bad luck or somesuch? What about a mirror that breaks on New Year's Day? No, wait! Don't tell me. I don't want to know.

Even though Korean Air sent me a message asking me to be at the airport earlier than the usual 2 hours, the airport was rather empty.

There were New Year's decorations here and there.

And a couple of foreigners standing in front of this display, debated loudly its intended purpose:

to be continued...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Night at U-City Hotel in Narita

I have a bad case of lazy and that's a fact. My laziness has been lovingly cultivated for almost 40 years now, and I am proud to announce that it has reached epic proportions. If it doesn't need to be done - I don't do it.

But, to be fair and honest, what needs to be done, I do. And do so with frightening efficiency. That again only proves that I'm lazy - I'd rather do it once and properly, so it won't have to be done again.

My lazy habits also extend to commutes and travel. Being lazy, I hate to rush. I'd rather leave early and be wherever I need to be early than hurry later. I hate to speed, run and take the stairs. Unless, of course, I am chasing a mikoshi procession - then all bets are off.

And because I am so lazy, it is only now that I am getting off my increasingly fatter and fatter ass (hey, it's winter, it's cold and I need all the extra padding I can get!) and continuing with the "Yo! Look at me! I went to Malaysia!" report. And today I'll cover the getting to the airport bit. At this speed (told you I didn't like to rush) we'll finish blogging about the whole trip by next December. I hope.

So yes, the airport. The oh-so-lovely terminal 2 at Narita. My flight was leaving early in the morning. Well, not really, but for me 9AM is early in the morning. That, and the fact that we live quite a distance away is enough for me to cancel just about any trip. Flight at 9AM? That means I'd have to leave Utsunomiya on the first bus to Narita. And that is at what? 4:30AM? Oh bleep that. I'd rather not go.

And then there's the excitement of making it to the airport on time. I don't know about you, but I'm getting way too old for this "excitement, adventure and really wild things" crap. I haven't experienced the first bus myself, but people say it usually gets to Narita on time. But I betcha my next paycheck that with me on it, the bloody bus would get there 5 hours late and I'd miss my flight. How do I know that? It's happened. More than once. True, it wasn't the first bus of the day that time, but hey, there is nothing that stops it from getting stuck in the mother-of-all-traffic jams on the expressway at 6AM. And trust me, when I'm on it, it will.

So what I normally do is to book a hotel somewhere nearby the airport and leave a day early. And that's exactly what we did last December.

My hotel requirements are simple: it has to be cheap and provide a complimentary airport shuttle. And it has to be cheap. With a non-smoking room. And it has to be cheap.

Luckily for me, my mister is a master at finding just such places. And in December, he booked me into the U-City Hotel in Narita. For all of 3000 yen a night.

 No worries, there's an elevator if you can't handle the steps.

I've been reading the reviews this hotel got on a few random hotel search sites and can't believe just how dumb some folks can be. Seriously, those people are ridiculous. If they wanted five-star quality, they should have stayed at the Hilton. At the U-City Hotel you get exactly what 3000 yen will buy you - a room to sleep in, a clean bathroom, a free airport shuttle, free internet and plenty of feeding options nearby. And oh yeah, it's within walking distance (very short walking distance, you could crawl there on broken knees, if you had to) from both train stations: JR and Keisei Narita. And some people still complain that there were stains on the carpet in their room! That's what them shrink-wrapped slippers are for, you moron!

I liked the U-City Hotel Narita and will definitely consider it again. Unless, of course, my ever so resourceful mister find something cheaper. LOL!

Here's my room, for 3000 yen a night I didn't care if it had a dead body stashed in the closet.

The internet was of the plug-in kind, but it was fast and stable. The kettle for boiling water could have been bigger, but then again, the designers didn't expect me to stay there. The heat was on and it was working - the room was deliciously warm. My room faced the street but wasn't noisy at all. It was clearly non-smoking, there was no funny smell in the air. I checked the bed for bedbugs, there were none. So who cares if the carpet was stained? Just wear the damn slippers!

This photo was taken from the plaza by the station. The hotel is on the left. Told you it was close!

Don't believe me? Here's a train:

And that's how I beat my lazy. Get up at 6:30AM (instead of at 3:30), roll down the stairs for the 7-something shuttle, and be certain I will not miss my flight. I think 3000 yen for this peace of mind is definitely worth it. Carpet stains and all.