Day 11: An earthquake, and Ramen Museum fury

Trip Start Nov 23, 2011
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13
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Trip End Dec 15, 2011


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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Saturday, December 3, 2011

I learn't a valuable life lesson first thing this morning. 

Never wake your wife with the phrase "Hey Sweet! Wake up! We're having an earthquake!". 

I woke up this morning, shortly before 6am (after getting to bed at 1am), to the sound of the blinds and coat hangers on the clothes rack banging. Quickly I jumped out of bed wondering why someone was in our hotel room stealing all of our coathangers, and thats when I noticed the floor of the hotel shaking under my feet. As I shook off my sleep-haze, I realised I wasn't dreaming or imagining it, and the room was actually shaking. We were having a small earthquake. COOL!  

Veronica didn't think so. I can't understand why. It was very minor, and was over just as suddenly as it began, but it was a really interesting and unique way to start the day. According to USGS (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/usc000716d.php) it was a magnitude 5.3 quake, which occurred at 8:55pm GMT, or 5:55am Japan time. 

For future reference, I wont be mentioning any further earthquakes that I notice to Veronica. Especially if she is sleeping at the time.
 
After the impromptu craziness yesterday, today we planned a welcome day of rest (and clothes washing). 

Waking my wife with news of an in-progress earthquake was just the first of several dumb things I did today. Second was my decision to visit the Shin-Yokohama ramen museum (http://www.raumen.co.jp/ramen/). So much expectation. So much disappointment. If you are ever thinking of going to the ramen museum, my first piece of advice is don't. If you absolutely must ignore my first piece of advice, my second piece of advice is don't go on Saturday, and don't go at around lunchtime. 

My first clue to abandon the visit *should have been* the traffic conductors directing traffic at either end of the street. But no...I'm far to dumb to join the dots. So we continued. and joined the long queue, which was clue number 2 that I should have turned back. Nope...again, I'm too dumb. After paying 800 yen (~ $8) just for the privilege of entering we wandered through the crowds. The entryway was filled with walls of memorabilia, explaining the ramens of different regions, the ingredients, etc. Basically more information about ramen than any normal person would ever need. There was also a giant slot car racing track set up for some reason. The presence of the slot cars made absolutely no sense to me, and kind of destroyed the whole "museum" feel before it had even began. 

I needn't have worried about the experience being ruined however, because the masses of people, and the stupid layout of the "museum" managed to achieve that without any problem whatsoever. The museum is apparently designed to mimic Tokyo in the 1950s. Some would call this quaint. After a few minutes of frustratingly pushing past people, standing in poorly ventilated and cramped corners with 40 other people, and not actually achieving anything for my $8 entry fee, I was calling it dark, crowded and stupid. I somehow doubt 1950's Tokyo had bright green neon exit signs, velvet ropes outside of each restaurant, and 300 businessmen on mobile phones impatiently pushing past each other all jostling for a place to eat.

All of this I could have handled. The crowds, the dumb layout and the sad attempt at a nostalgic theme park. The thing that bothered me the most is the repeated English prompt on the pamphlets and signs asking "which ramen do you prefer?", prompting you to try ramen from each store representing a different district of Japan. The reason this made me mad was the 40 minute wait to get a table at each restaurant. How is anyone supposed to decide which ramen they prefer when it is a 45 minute wait to get one bowl. When I can get (mostly) good quality ramen on every street corner in a matter of minutes, there is absolutely no way I am going to stand around in a hot, dank hallway in a queue with 50 other disgruntled and impatient Japanese businessmen waiting for a bowl of noodles, regardless of how good they are. 

Displeased, I pushed my way through the slow moving crowd, heading for the door. I probably shoved and elbowed a few more people a little harder than I should have, but I wasn't happy at the time.

Out into the fresh air, and 800 yen lighter, we went in search of somewhere else where it was actually possible to get something to eat in under and hour. We wandered around and finally decided that since we'd never tried a First Kitchen restaurant (http://www.first-kitchen.co.jp/) in either Japan trip, that we'd give it a go today. This turned out to be my second dumb mistake for the day, however in my defence the restaurant was packed and the menu looked pretty good. For the 2nd time in one day I experienced buyers remorse. I got a burger which was about the smallest burger I've ever had. It was like a bacon hamburger, only a lot smaller. Wasn't cheap either. Veronica had some kind of pasta which tasted almost as good as one of the microwave pasta and sauce packets you can get for a dollar at your local supermarket. Almost as good.

First kitchen, last time. On a positive note though we did find a Belgian waffle place with really awesome waffles for afternoon tea.

Some rest time in the hotel, then down to the station for dinner. The weather now, although overcast, is at least 10 degrees warmer than it has been in the last few days. Tonight was T-shirt weather. 

When we got to the restaurants at the station, we were intent on trying something else, so we investigated the menus of all of the other restaurants, before finally giving up and going to Coco curry again, the only thing we could all agree on. 

After looking at the news for today, I've realised that today is the opening day of the Tokyo motor show (back on Odaiba funnily enough). I've got between now and tomorrow morning at around 10am to make Veronica understand why going to the Motor Show is a good thing.
 
One parting thought for the day: Dear Shin-Yokohama ramen museum, I want my 800 yen back. 
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