Attack of the Tangs!

How to begin? So many things have happened since the last blog post in Japan and stateside. It’s hard to concentrate on writing a travel blog when some alarming things are happening back home. Feel free to shoot us emails or Facebook messages for some one-on-one discussion.

Blog-wise, I had two of my sisters and my mom and her Hong Kong best friends visit in between September and October. With my sisters, we hit up all the sightseeing spots in Tokyo, a couple in Kyoto and Osaka. We ate nice things, and snacked A LOT. I can’t even keep up with the snacking anymore! I felt it was a great bonding experience and I learned a lot. At times it was stressful to play tourist guide, but looking back I can laugh at the experiences. Since Zach and I have written about many of the sites we toured through, I’ve made a nice google map of all the places we went.

Taking care of my mom and her four friends was amusing.  Basically it was like traveling with five moms and going through all sorts of “Oh, mom” moments at once. With my mom and friends it was almost the complete opposite of my sisters’ trip, like eating $5 bento chains and $1 sushi boat spots, and a lot of taking it easy. Here are a couple of funny incidents, dialogue translated from Cantonese:

  1. In their hotel room, one auntie telling another, “Shh! Don’t be so loud or people will think we’re Mainlanders!”
  2. “Wow this restaurant is so cheap!” Next moment, “This food is no good. This tan-tan men has no flavor.”
  3. On two occasions, going to restaurants was a slight mess. One person would walk away to look at the food display, one hadn’t decided, another was calling the waiter over already, and the aunt that walked away had called another waiter to order!
  4. There were numerous moments where I just “…” when they were asking about a location since they would say the Cantonese reading for the Japanese names. Example: 上野 is read as Ueno (oo-eh-no) in Japanese or read in Cantonese it’s Seung-Yeh.
  5. In the middle of walking in the street, the aunts ask “Do you want ______?”

    choose your answer: a.) a banana

     b.) grapes

    c.) bread

    This must be an Asian thing to carry fruits and pastries with you in your bag as you travel since my sisters did this as well!

  6. When one of the aunties was standing in the middle of the street in Chinatown trying to take a picture as a truck was waiting for her to move:

Me: “Aiya, why does she have to do that?!”

My mom: “She’s like that, let’s just pretend we don’t know her.”

7. Auntie: “Thank your boyfriend for us for showing us around.”

     My mom: “What about thanking my daughter?”

8. We are in front of a temple taking pictures of Tokyo Tower. One aunt is taking a picture of another and she goes into Asian photographer acrobatics mode. My mom takes a picture of the scene and they all laugh about it like teenagers.

9. The best moment is when Zach and I brought my mom and one of the aunties to a grill-your-own seafood spot, which was a switch from their usual $5 bento. I got to order and they seemed to really enjoy the food. AND I was able to win the money fight! Win win win!

Comparing the two trips, I realized a lot of things. As a senior person, it’s a little harder to get around Tokyo. There’s a lot of walking and it can get bad if you don’t have the knees for it. I would do my best to find an elevator or a stair case but a lot of the time we’d have to walk even further to find those. It’s a huge problem especially for Olympics 2020. I think that’s where a tour bus wins!

Eating-wise was a bit harder with the senior ladies surprisingly, with some being super picky and others being pre-diabetic. I wondered a lot if my siblings and I were like that too growing up! I suppose we were! While having diabetes in Japan is slightly more difficult, there’s definitely options, like soba noodles, shabu shabu, korean food, and yakiniku (bbq). I would say trying to be vegetarian here is even more difficult than managing your blood sugar.

While I can’t quite put my finger on it, I feel there was different treatment from the locals depending on who I was with. When I was with my mom and her friends, people seemed more grumpy or maybe less tolerant of bad behavior from Asian-Asians? When I was with my sisters and heard we were American-accented Asians, they seemed more polite or willing to giggle at our mistakes. With my mom and the aunts, there was an old guy that got really upset for getting bumped into by one of the aunts. While it could have been plain old racism, it could have been due to any of the following factors as well: people of the same age needing to compete to get in the store, that he was an older guy and thought ladies need to give respect to older guys, that he was done being at a crowded-ass festival, or he just really wanted some candy from the store. Hard to have a concrete conclusion but the moral is don’t mess with old guys and that Tsukijii Market is full of grumpy people that hate tourists.

I also realized I missed shopping with ladies, and the social aspect of it. With girls, it’s easy to look at silly things together, and that there’s someone to discuss whether to purchase something or not (“This is so cute!” “But wait it’s $60.” “So I should get it?” “Hmm I don’t know.” “But maybe it’s cheaper at the other stall!” “You’re right, I can use it the next time I do           occasion. I’m going to get it!”). I also really missed sharing nice food with my family and was glad to share some of the tastiest stuff with them. I think they will be back for more!