My first month in Japan was spent mostly eating peanut butter, bread and boiled eggs in an attempt to save money. Since then, I’ve made up for lost time, exploring an assortment of what IR…
Source: Tokyo Food Adventures
My first month in Japan was spent mostly eating peanut butter, bread and boiled eggs in an attempt to save money. Since then, I’ve made up for lost time, exploring an assortment of what IR…
Source: Tokyo Food Adventures
My first month in Japan was spent mostly eating peanut butter, bread and boiled eggs in an attempt to save money. Since then, I’ve made up for lost time, exploring an assortment of what I’m compiling together as the top restaurants and food to eat in Tokyo. I’ve had a great experience at all these places and recommend them to anyone who is living or plans to visit Tokyo in the future. From ramen and burgers, to light and fluffy dessert, don’t visit Tokyo without trying at least a few of these places.
Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Shinjuku 7-2-6
Named by Frommer’s as one of the top 6 Ramen joints in Tokyo, this place doesn’t disappoint. From the Ramen I’ve tried in Tokyo, this comes in at #1. Although you can expect a line out the door, this place is conveniently located about a 5 minute walk from the JR Shinjuku West Exit. The atmosphere inside is lively, fun and the red shirt waiters occasionally chant and yell to each other as they cook. With an extremely flavorful broth and tender pork, you can choose a variety of ramen such as tsukemen dipping noodles, and miso soup ramen.
2-14-3, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (10 min walk from JR Shinjuku Station South Exit)
If you want to taste the original, unique fish and chicken based flavors of this ‘dipping’ ramen, then this is the top place to visit. The chicken-based broth is creamy and thick and if you are bold, you can try their famous added ‘kick’ that includes extra fish power. All dishes come with an egg so it’s quite filling. As equally busy as Menya, expect the queue to wind outside. I arrived around 6:00 and managed to avoid the line. The noodles are slightly cold but the broth is warm, thick and very flavorful. Overall, a good experience and the # 1 dipping Ramen to try while in Tokyo.
1 Ichigayayakuojicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
This is a tiny family run ramen shop that was a bit more complicated to find since I searched for it from Shinjuku station, when instead, it’s about a 10 minute walk from Akebonobashi station on the shinjuku line. The place seats only about 7 people and is super cozy and small. The old gentlemen behind the counter looked pleased when I walked in and came running over to help translate the Japanese only vending machine. The noodles here are chewy and slightly curled which I learned is because the ramen is kneaded by hand. This keading enhances the chewiness and texture of the noodle. The broth is soy based and includes Chinese bamboo strips and slices of roast pork. Overall, this is a great place with a friendly owner and high quality ramen.
170-0002, 1 Chome-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima, Tokyo 170-0002
This is apparently the worlds first Michelin star ramen shop in Tokyo. It’s so famous and busy, the owners have a well organized method of serving customers. I arrived at 5:00 but had to leave a 1000 yen deposit, and then return during the allocated time several hours later when they reopened at 7:00. They give all the customers a time-card in exchange for the deposit that you get back when you return. Overall, I found the waiters less friendly and the vibe a bit quiet. No one spoke while I was there! But the ramen is high quality nonetheless. The vending machine was ‘Japanese only’ so I choose the cheapest one (1000 yen) which was a basic soy broth soba noodle without the egg. Again, this ramen includes tender roasted pork, and excellent soba noodles simmering in a soy based black truffle broth.
2-9-7 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
If you are looking for a spicier tasting Ramen, this is the place to go. It’s a challenging restaurant to find and you must walk about 15 minutes through a residential neighborhood near to Ikebukuro Station, but it’s worth the effort to find. This was one of my favorite ramen places from the list. You get a heaping plate of noodles that you can dip into their special thick and spicy broth and they make the noodles by hand with no MSG.
Maybe when you think of Tokyo, burgers don’t come to mind, but I found two places in particular that were equivalent to the best-tasting burgers in America.
Tokyo-to Shibuya-ku Yoyogi 5-64-7
This cute place is located outside of yoyogi park and has a cottage-like, hipster vibe with wooden benches and interesting art on the walls. They have a wide assortment of burgers such as avocado burgers, chili burgers and bacon cheeseburgers. This place even has an online delivery system and an English menu for easy access. Their beef is imported and they use fresh ingredients and sauces.
Tokyo-to Suginami-ku Koenji-kita 3-21-19
This is a unique burger joint run by a huge American guy who also speaks excellent Japanese. The restaurant is located in Koenji, hidden down a small alleyway. The shop is designed similar to a ramen restaurant with customers sitting around a table with the chefs cooking in the center. The owner fries the burgers himself while you sit around the counter. Interestingly, you can customize your own burger, choosing the bun, meat and toppings to your liking. I definitely recommend this shop as the burgers are very flavorful and tender with a melt in your mouth tangy mustard sauce.
2-26-20 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku
This is more of a light snack than a pancake, but I highly recommend visiting this little shop in Shimokitazawa. What makes these pancakes unique are their super fluffy, light and melt-in-your mouth texture. They are not heavy or overly filling which is a nice change. Although, I recommend visiting during the week otherwise you will have to wait in a mile long line seeing how this shop is very busy with young, college age students.
There is a small stall inside the Shinjuku station that sells these freshly baked, warm cheese tarts. They originated from Hokkaido and then branched into Tokyo. The texture of these cheese tarts are sublime. Not being too sweet, these tarts are warm and creamy on the inside with a perfect, crispy outer crust. If anything could draw me back to Tokyo, these would be it!
I have lived in 8 different cities, homes and countries since graduating from University and although some might think I should ‘settle’, there’s a pull to continue moving from location to location, not only because travelling is addictive, but it allows you to accumulate interesting stories and memories.
What I’ve realized from my life of travel is that taking risks is always better than playing it safe. Yes, you might end up in a bad location, isolated or with people you don’t get along with, but after you’ve left, you can look back and realize that the pros still out weight the cons. You have to take the good with the bad, and it’s better to have unique memories than no memories at all, even if things didn’t turn out ideal.
Most of the places I’ve lived have been good experiences. They were all so unique in their own ways, and although there were hardships and struggles, the people I met and the uniqueness of each place has made all the risks I took worthwhile.
Throughout all of these years, I was also able to travel around Asia/Europe creating life long memories. My next stop is Vietnam and India this summer followed by the next life change: Japan! I will most likely be teaching for 3 months with Westgate in Japan and will decide if I plan to stay in Japan and work at a University there or move on. It will be interesting how this next school/life/city compares to all the rest. Even though not every year was perfect, my advice is to take risks, go off to random places because in the end, you can go back and reflect on everything you did and experienced….Unique memories are better than no memories. Similarly, not stagnating in one place where you can’t grow is another reason why I’ve changed locations so often. But each risk has been worth it in the end. I don’t know how I fell into this strange lifestyle and it’s definitely not for everyone, but until I have a ‘reason’ to settle in one location, I think I will keep exploring as long as I can.
With exactly five weeks left in Shanghai before I depart on my summer travel adventures, (Vietnam and India!!) I would like to sum up my year, and the overall pros and cons of living in Shanghai. P…
Source: My year in Shanghai (pros/cons)
With exactly five weeks left in Shanghai before I depart on my summer travel adventures, (Vietnam and India!!) I would like to sum up my year, and the overall pros and cons of living in Shanghai.
There was literally nothing I couldn’t find in Shanghai!
Books/essay’s taught this year:
Beowulf, Paradise Lost, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Shakespeare Sonnets, William Wordsworth, Blake, Coleridge, essay’s from The Enlightenment period (Kant, Machiavelli ‘The Prince’, Francis Bacon, Rousseau ‘Solitary Walker” Descartes, Mary Wollstonecraft) Philosophies of Sartre and Nietzsche, Literary Theorist Judith Butler, The Scarlet Letter, Historical documents from The American Revolution, ‘Declaration of Independence’, US Constitution, The Color Purple, Slave Narratives, A Civil Disobedience by Thoreau, Transcendentalists and writings of Emerson, Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje, Walt Whitman ‘Leaves of Grass’, Frankenstein, A Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, Mrs. Dalloway and Modernism, Animal Farm, James Joyce ‘Dubliners’, On The Road, Death of a Salesman, The Invisible Man, Slaughterhouse Five, Collection of Modern Essay’s (Joan Didion, James Baldwin)
Overall, I made it a full year here and I’m surprised I even managed that! This is my sixth year/placement/school overseas now! I’ve lived and taught in six different cities and schools so I guess I’m bound to get a ‘dud’ sooner or later! But each year has been very different and this is also the highest amount of money I’ve made overseas so I guess with the money, comes more issues!
Now I’m off to either Oman or Japan and it should be interesting how this next location compares!
After almost 8 months in china, I’ve grown immune to the staring, the spitting on the street and the locals who think it perfectly fine to sneak in front of you in lines. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here 8 months, and while not too culturally different from Korea, I’ve noticed many differences in how I’m treated and my overall experiences.
1) There are more diverse teachers here compared to Korea. Teachers from Europe, the Philippines, Singapore, and India teach at my University. It’s a nice change to deviate from the standard “American teacher’ and his Korean wife.
2) I don’t get the same feeling of animosity that many Koreans gave off towards foreigners. In Korea there is more a sense of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. There is more solidarity and Korean pride. They are homogenous overall as a country whereas in China there is more diversity. China is obviously a large country and depending what region you live, you will meet very different people. My experience overall is that the Chinese people are friendlier and more welcoming and inviting towards foreigners. Through-out the 8 months here I’ve been invited into so many local homes. I never experienced this once in the four years I lived in Korea.
3) There is no plastic surgery obsession here in China. I don’t have to see school girls giggling and looking in their hand mirrors constantly. No women with short miniskirts and heels with their butt cheeks hanging out. Women are more down to earth and natural, at least in the province where I live.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed and done more in the 8 months I’ve been in China than the entire past year I lived in Korea. Of course there are pros and cons. The city I live in is ugly and polluted. The buildings are old and crumbling. This city itself is probably one of the ugliest places I’ve lived so far in my overseas travels. The campus itself is nice and green, but venturing out too far, makes you wish you had simply stayed inside. Other than large shopping malls and a corner pizza hut, there’s not much to do. But it’s easy to tutor and save extra money and as a result, I’ve been invited to dinners, homes and gatherings which has made up for the lackluster city life. And below is a picture of the beautiful campus:
The highlights of my year were the excellent students. I’ve never taught such well-mannered, genuine, nice graduate-level students in my life and may never again come across students like this. My University accepts the very best graduate students in the country and so I’m teaching the top 5% whose families are often farmers or not well-off. Very rarely have I met an arrogant or spoiled student here.
Another highlight has been the great local families I’ve had the pleasure of meeting who have invited me into their homes and helped me with the language barrier. I got to visit a beautiful lake in the country side of Hefei with a Danish-Chinese family I’ve been tutoring these past few months.
What also made this year unique was raising my first kitten. I broke down and bought an 8 week old kitten at an outdoor pet market. I’ve successfully spayed and raised her to the age of 6 months and for my first ever cat, I can honestly say I’ve done a great job taking care of her.
Just recently I was hired to teach Literature and writing at an International High School in Shanghai! It was exciting to get this position. Not only will I be living in one of the largest cities in China, but I’ll be teaching English Literature courses for the first time overseas. Other than when I taught “Children’s Literature” in the English department at SCH, Korea, this will be my first time teaching Literature. I’m curious what the year will bring and excited to live in a more lively and modern city.
Overall, I’m glad I returned overseas. I got closure on some parts of my life and feel I’ve grown and progressed as a person through-out my year here. My constant travelling has provided me with a unique and enriching lifestyle and I’m looking forward to my year in Shanghai!
It’s hard to believe I’ve been in China for one month so far. Things have fallen into place perfectly since arriving here which reaffirms my decision to start travelling again. There is a tight-knit family atmosphere among the teachers who are a mix of different ages (young and old). I’ve made several Chinese friends that I see on a daily basis and who have helped me greatly with getting around (going to the bank..etc) The management at my University is fantastic as are the students. We have a great secretary who helps out the foreigners and he is prompt and efficient at his job. For example, I had a problem with my TV not working, and he came running over to my apartment in 10 minutes to fix it!! The students are great. They are very enthusiastic in class. The University where I work “University of Science and Technology of China” is ranked in the top 5 Universities in China. I teach graduate-level students who are very bright and well-behaved and have so far been a pleasure to teach. I teach about 2-3 hours a day. Two large classes and several work-shop style classes with about 12 students. The work-shop classes are based on different themes (drug use, stress, job interview) and a few philosophical type topics (Can marriage last a life-time?, Can money buy happiness?). The classes are mostly conversation based and the goal is to get the students talking about these various topics from anywhere from an hour to two hours. Classes do not run longer than two hours.
I’ve also had great luck getting private tutoring on the side since I only work 10 hours a week. I’ve been teaching private lessons one on one with two very cute 4 year olds. The parents have been taking me out to fancy dinners after our sessions on top of the extra money. I have found everyone in this city to be very hospitable and friendly. Hefei, although not yet a well known city, is one of the fastest developing cities in China and new building and shopping plazas are constantly popping up.
Some highlights so far: I tried pole dancing at a private studio. Took latin dance classes on campus, saw a musical with travelling performers singing songs from all the famous musicals (Mamma Mia..etc). Overall, I’m very happy I came to China. I know some people may have thought it’s time to ‘settle’ in one place, but I find that when you travel, you connect on a deeper level with such a diverse group of people. There’s something about travelling that makes people gravitate to one another and this social lifestyle is not the same when you stay in one place. Also, many teachers have ‘settled’ here in Hefei, started families and have been in China for 18 + years. So settling down could happen anywhere in the world if you find a place that suits you!
Really, the theme of this blog is setting goals and following your dreams. So far, every bold or risk-taking move I’ve made in life, has turned out well. (Going to NYC, the four years I spent in South Korea, and now China). Right now my two biggest goals is to become yoga certified in India this summer. I enjoy giving myself small goals that I can achieve. I always wanted to do a yoga headstand and this summer I achieved it. Now, it’s a goal to do a perfect front split. While I might not manage it completely, I’ve gotten pretty close to achieving this goal, which I thought was almost impossible! I’ve always wanted to be flexible and to gracefully go into a perfect split. I guess the point is that life is more interesting when you set these kinds of goals to achieve. After the yoga certification, my next goal is to have a job lined up in Shanghai at another top University so I can experience living in the largest city in China! As for following your dreams, I enjoy doing things that create surreal or dream-like experiences and the more dream-like the experience, the better. I believe this is why I adapt so well to other countries. I hope to spend two years in China and then I would like to head to Oman. The Middle east will definitely be a culture shock but it’s a place I would like to try teaching. After Oman, I hope to teach somewhere in Europe while opening a yoga studio where I can teach during the day and teach yoga at night. Overall, I developed this ‘five-year’ plan while in Toronto and it’s a plan that became more clear and exciting for me, the more I contemplated it. Although I’m only beginning the first year, I’m confident I made the right choice to continue travelling. It definitely makes life more enriching, rewarding and interesting.
Attempting to cross the street in China is not easy. Motorbikes run through every red light, cars and buses barrel towards the pedestrians with no sign of stopping. Meanwhile, people will step into traffic from every direction with the continuous drone of honking horns as background noise. Pretty chaotic.
‘Chaotic’ would describe my first few days in China. By the time I went to bed my second night, ten roaches had been killed by my neighbor. Then, I woke up horribly jet-lagged at 5:00 am to the sound of something shuffling and scurrying along the floor, which I later discovered had been a rat. I probably would have been on a plane back home had my director not moved me into a swanky, brand new (clean) apartment the very next day! I’m now in a fantastic six bedroom apartment ( along with three air-conditioning units) and a nice kitchen/bathroom.
The next calamity occurred when I was unpacking in my new apartment. I was ripping the string off one of my boxes with a knife, when suddenly it cut into my thumb almost to the bone and I had to be rushed to the hospital! All on my third day in China. The hospital’s here in China are extremely over-crowded and I remember running through the corriders with my director, holding a flimsy kleenix around my thumb as we ran in and out of elevators that didn’t work! I managed to see a doctor who cleaned the wound, put a bandage over it, gave me an antibiotic shot in the butt and sent me on my way! Now, most likely I will be stuck with a permanant scar/memory of my first week in China.
Although there are similaries to Korea, (spitting on the street, open-grated sewages, humid/hot weather), there are many differences. When I step outside the University gate, almost every head turns to stare at me. And they aren’t exactly subtle. One man on a motorbike skidded to a stop in the middle of the road to stare, his mouth hanging open. The language barrier is much more extreme here. Simply ordering a latte at Starbucks produces blank stares! There are also stray animals, mostly cats and dogs, roaming everywhere. Today, I saw a stray dog cross the busy road and I held my breath as it nearly missed getting hit! The people here are very different from Korea. The women are not dressed up in heels, skirts and makeup 24/7. Overall, the women are more down to earth and ‘natural’ and I have connected and made friends with several Chinese already.
For some reason, I hear the sound of fireworks/fire-crackers going off every night from my bedroom window, horns a constant, distant hum. I live on the campus which is full of trees, ponds and parks! An array of young students, along with many students dressed in green, army uniforms, rush around the grounds. Apparently, these are freshmen who need to fulfill one semester of mandatory army training. Sometimes in the morning, I’ll see groups of them marching and chanting with painted faces.
One big highlight of the week was getting invited Salsa dancing. When you think about China, “salsa” dancing doesn’t come to mind, yet there I was on my 5th day, dancing with a Spanish guy at the local Salsa club. This Monday, I will be attempting a pole dancing class.
Overall, what I’m discovering through travel is that change is good. And sometimes you need to ‘make an extreme or bold’ move (like travelling across the world) to have unique and different experiences. Risk is mostly good and you need to learn to accept the good with the bad. For every ‘negative’ experience, there will be something positive, that makes it all worthwhile in the end.