The show goes on!


Dear subscribers, frequent and new visitors, since moving to Seoul, I have been working hard on my new blog, and today I´m proud to announce that the day of announcement has finally arrived:

The new blog can be found here: Seoul To Speak (don´t forget to subscribe!)

While the new blog focuses partly on my experiences in Seoul and various travels around South-Korea, I have some good news. Since I still travel to Japan from time to time, I have decided to merge "Let´s Tokyo" into the sidebar of my new
website. Consider it the spiritual successor of this blog.

I still have a lot of Japan-related topics and memories to share. Older posts from this blog will also be restored
little by little into glorious HiDPI for those of you with retina-ready displays.

Thanks so much to everyone who has supported and commented on this blog since it´s early days.


Seoul log. Pancakes & Travel

You want an American style breakfast in Seoul? Well, apparently this is as close as it gets. Some people rave that Suji's in Itaewon will give you the true brunch experience, but having visited there myself, I couldn't disagree more. It's overpriced and the french 
toast were dry as the desert. Looking on the menu at Travel Maker, I'm pretty sure their french toast won't make much of a 
culinary statement either, but at least they're cheap, so I can justify the compromises on quality, some of which I will 
mention further on.

I will go straight to the point for those who don't wish to read on. For anyone on a budget, this place will satisfy your cravings, 

and I even went as far as to have my breakfast there confirmed to be legit by Americans. I'm not an American, 
so my verdicts are solely based on personal experience and preferences.

To be frank, I have already picked out my favourite french toast and pancake place around these surroundings,

same goes for coffee, but none come close to the cheap fare of Travel Maker.

I pick a booth, minutes later a Korean ajumma (old lady with hair-do like a soccer) brazenly walks inside the establishment and drops a pamphlet at the counter, turns around and exits again. And that's how they roll in Seoul, so glad no one tried to sell me something this time. People here knock on doors, shove you stuff on the street (I'm sure it's not an act of kindness or sudden generosity) 

or turn into a free-styling version of the shopping channel right inside the subway car, to everyone's apparent dismay.

Back to the topic of breakfast.

Once upon a time here was a waitress..except, the tables weren't being waited? I was however passed a glass of water by the owner, but, who's role is what in here? From endless of diner experiences through a television, it seems to me that the average American, once having parked his/her rear end in a booth, isn't in tune with the idea of standing up again and go order over the counter. 

To each their own, I don't have anything against putting my stuff down, then go pay up in advance, it just feels like a strange 
thing to do inside a diner enviroment? I like the idea of paying first, however, despite the fact that adding items over the 
course of the meal would require me to repeatedly leave the table, (and burn calories while at it!).

For instance, many dining establishments in Japan will just slip you a tab on which they put down further requests. 

This is however based on the widescale principle of trust that the Japanese customer will actually pay. 
I can see how this system wouldn't work out in a lot of other countries, perhaps even where I'm from. 

Sometimes I do wonder how entrepreneurs around the world seem so unable to replicate something as common

as a true diner experience? I used to bike past a place in Tokyo every now and then, which looked pretty much
like as one would expected any diner to be, but upon researching the menu, it was way off the mark. 
Am I perhaps expecting too much?

Back to today's experience and speaking of expectations, perhaps I expected too much thinking that someone would come along with a "cuppa java". You know, that cheap coffee in a glass pot which a tired mother-of-two waitress carries around while adressing customers with honey or sugar, etc, haha. I am joking here, there's no need to bring me coffee, thank you very much.


The bacon was fried stiff. Fyi, that's not a good thing, unless I was planning on grinding it down to bits and sprinkle on the pancake, which I assure wasn't on my agenda with this overcooked strip. Also, my plate was (for some perhaps a blessing) lacking any 

kind of greens. Come on, put a couple of cherry tomatoes next to my scrambled eggs and I might've been more forgiving 
with the bacon failure. I'm picturing this scenario, Darth Vader is given overcooked bacon, he gets mad and unleashes 
his dark powers on whoever is responsible. That's kinda how I felt, too.

Moving on, I'm not entirely sure the pancakes were homemade (for this price, perhaps I shouldn't expect them to be). 

They looked a bit orphaned, resting on a separate plate, instead of participating in the feast. 
Also, the syrup-dispenser didn't dispense in the abundant manner it should. 
In a country where maple syrup is quite pricey, I'm not entirely sure that was a co-incidence.

I noticed that a lot of Americans go to Travel Maker, which should vouch somewhat for the food being served here is the real deal, and could imagine myself slipping into a booth here now and then, despite what I had today didn't truly fit my definition 

of comfort food.

I also found it odd hearing an American asking when they plan on changing the menu. What is there to change on a menu that already has the entire arsenal of typical breakfast items, other than perhaps the quality or presentation? 

My instant reaction was that perhaps HE needed a change, and go get some perspective 
instead of hanging around the same place every day.

Cereal and oatmeal would add a nice touch though, wouldn't it? = )

Through the power of Instagram, I managed to ask a few Americans how genuine my breakfast seemed to them, and the general response was that it seemed pretty legit, though 2 out of 3 persons said it needed more bacon. 

One Japanese quickly pointed out on what had been on my mind as soon as the plate landed on my table, 
namely that my precious bacon had been fried into the texture of a piece charcoal. 

I've had my share of bacon, and believe me, the definition of crisp today either got lost in translation, or some misfortunate event had taken place in the kitchen that morning. Unacceptable. You see, when you serve something really bad, it's not just the
establishment's reputation that takes a hit, or the competence of whoever cooked it, it's also kinda insulting 
to the customer, expecting us to eat it.

I'm also feeling a bit confused about the identity of Travel Maker, is it supposed to be a travel cafe or an attempt at a diner? I'm not staying in Seoul as a tourist, I'm just the average Swedish occupant who happens to want some pancakes. 

Would I be harassed with questions and suggestions upon entering this cafe?

My girlfriend mentions the word travel-cafe every now and then but I never got a grasp on that whole concept. 

If it's supposed to be a hub where you can hang out and discuss travel and get great advice from locals, 
and some great world map spread over the wall with notes or anecdotes written by fellow travellers, 
that's great. 

But I failed to catch any clear concept upon stepping through the door. I went past Travel Maker about a week ago, it was closed during that time, with a note on the door saying that they were on a trip to the US, for research purposes. That sounds pretty commited, but if there's some changes to be made, I'd kept the place closed for another day or two and implemented 
those changes first. Have they learned anything new? How about a new menu showcasing those changes? 

After all, most of us read the basic changelog before upgrading our smartphones, why couldn't it apply to other things in life as well?

Girlfriend 2.1

Updated English vocabulary.
PMS moodswings disable option in General Settings.
New hairstyle.

If you're a foreigner, either too lost or incapable of finding your own way around a city/country, is a cafe owner the person 

you'd put the fate of your entire trip in? Sure, he can give a few pointers, but I'd rather he focused on management, 
and pushing out the orders. Imo.

Ask the hotel staff, fellow backpackers or catch the man on the street.
If I'm really desperate, I usually find either a patron or study up
before going somewhere.

On the point of travel, I've been to some really random places around Japan over the years, and surprisingly still managed to run into foreign tourists. Like Chichibu in Japan, or even the Ise Jingu In Mie-prefecture, where I witnessed an American mom trying to force-feed her 5-year old kid a bowl of curry udon, while he was protesting loudly. There's nothing other than local food in that area, 

perhaps the could've shoved him an icecream, but that's about it.

Point is, how did they even know about this place? It's not exactly like taking a Shinkansen straight to Kyoto. Also, let's face the facts that there's something extremely discriminating about websites in Japan that promote regions, daytrips, attractions etc. You start off with the English version and there's some text, one or two photos, but once you hit the Japanese version, the Adobe Flash engine goes on overdrive and explodes into a full-fledged orgy of information on every single attraction, special-packages for tours, 

lodging, etc.

I can understand there's a major gap in the information towards foreigners, for several reasons. Perhaps a somewhat far fetched reason being that they want to keep these places free from annoying tourists. Believe me, with the charge for a single night 

at some of the top ryokan spas around Japan, they don't need to go that extra effort to cater any foreign tourists.

Another reason would be that foreign customers are few (due to shitty/deliberately poor promotion) or are assumed not to understand many of the local customs. Having to offer everything from English staff, guides, menus, etc, would be too much of an effort. I read some travel reviews where typically Americans (listed) complain that the staff wouldn't speak English, believe me, they have no obligation to do so. Not to leave out all the small bars or eateries around Japan, and certainly in Tokyo, where you are surrounded 

by platters on the walls, or simply a handwritten slip describing the menu.

Don't bother asking these places for an English translation. Bring a Japanese friend to handle everything, and be sure to send that Japanese friend first through the door wherever you go, unless you're able to speak Japanese to some extent. I get around

on what I know, but those handwritten menus..I'm almost certain that even for a Japanese local, 
it can be difficult at times reading those.


THE People by KISHIN. Konstrunda.

Finally, the weekend is here!

These past few weeks here in Tokyo have not been merciful on me. I have mostly been trying to keep up in class and learning new Kanjis at an incredible rate, with the exception of a few adventures that I will write about in the following posts.

Today's rainy afternoon was spent at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku, where famed photographer Kishin Shinoyama is currently having an exhibit called "The People by KISHIN". Around 120 selected pictures were on display, that according to the venue's description online, demonstrates "the power of photography".

Each room had it's own theme, starting off with "GOD", which featured photographies of passed away celebrities. The other themes were anything from nudity to portraits of people who were affected by the recent tsunami disaster..

One of the photos that struck me the most was the group photo of a Yakuza-family, it reminded me of the time I had a bath in Osaka, with a Yakuza-member sitting next to me, haha. While on the topic, I recently learned that the most powerful Yakuza-organisation actually resides in Kobe, a short stretch from Osaka.

Despite the painstakingly expensive entrance fee (800 yen) for a rather short experience, it was still enjoyable, and visiting the museum shop compensated as well. Got myself a nice "Murakami" vinyl-sticker to decorate my laptop : )

Chichibu 日帰り旅行


Freshly arrived back in Tokyo from hot-spring heaven Hakone, I didn't feel like going home just yet. Instead I kept going north and ended up in the mountains of Chichibu, Saitama. After a small curry-soba meal at the station, I followed everyone else to Hitsuji Yama Park (Sheep Mountain Park?) to view a sea of blossom, arranged in a beautiful pattern across the field.

After enjoying the view of both the arranged flowers and the mountain backdrop, I walked across the field to a nearby market, selling sakura-flavoured mochi and many other things. I bought myself and a friend some "omiyage" and took a slow stroll back to the station.. A nice little excursion, best enjoyed with a loved one or good friend. For me, I actually enjoyed being there on my own
this time. People are always friendly and talkative.

If you don't mind a long trip, please enjoy enjoy a visit to Chichibu's Hitsuji Koen. Ps. Welcome to visit my Instagram for more photos, username is andipanda_




Or "A Gentle Breeze In The Wind" as it's called in English makes me wanna whisk back to a childhood somewhere in the outskirts of Japan as well, and the soundtrack of this fictional would-be life of mine would be accompanied by the ambient sounds of the 
late Rei Harakami..

I would be that "kakkoi" transfer from another city, meet my first love. She would fix the button on my jacket, and I would put it over her shoulders on a cold autumn day. We would find security in each other, sometimes without even using any words. Often, she would take my hand, and I would never ask why.

We would take trips together along an ocean railway, feeling securely that if so the entire world turned against us, we would always have each other..looking outside that window and not necessary to say, we find ourself gazing in the same direction...at some random cloud that's been abandoned by it's flock, or taken an unusual shape. The sky hides infinity in the blue daylight, and the reflection of the sun against the ocean glitters like stars, making it seem like the world has been turned upside down.. 

Looking at the infinity beyond the horizon of the ocean really makes you wonder what's on the other side, doesn't it? You know that eventually the waves will touch shore, but somewhere in between there's a place we can only imagine..

When I was younger I found myself swimming far out in the ocean..perhaps I was expecting to find something, or simply liked the feeling of my feet leaving the ground and be afloat..unknowing what's down below in that cold, dark blue..

I have my doubts at times, that I will find myself live to be old man someday. But hope that I get a chance to gather more memories to look back on. One of the fondest, being a recent one..

I remember the sight of my love leaving the tatami-room and walk outside on the garden terrace..she sat down and let her legs rest freely over the garden..I joined her and we crossed our feet and watched silently this beautiful view in front of us..


Sleep Rhytm

I've been some worried about my own condition lately, constantly tired, some pains as well..not to mention my rapidly increasing loss of motivation when it comes to studies and trying to pursue some kind of life in this country.

I might actually find myself leaving these islands sooner than expected.

Anyways, the other day we took an afternoon refuge in a small teahouse I had discovered some months ago..was surprised to find the charming backstreet entrance closed today. Entering from there increases the sensation of this being a place that few know of, although I suspect it's quite known among other Tokyo citizens.

For some reason, places where I can take my shoes off, lean against the wall and rub my socks against the texture of 
tatami-mats makes me feel incredibly relaxed..

In case you find yourself coming here alone, there's a few seats facing a quiet little garden. Perfect for those moments 
of solitude perhaps everyone needs at times.

We had quite a splurge, ordering homemade Ginger Ale, Mango-soymilk, coffee-rollcake and a beautiful cheesecake. What truly makes this place special however is ordering the tea-set, which includes a small preparation ceremony. 
Bring a date, and he/she will most likely be impressed.


Little Bird

Little bird have you got a key?
Unlock the lock inside of me
Where will you go?

Good morning bird, good nightingale
I took a deep breath
And caught a long wind