Category: Culture

The Tokyo Experience That Gives You Culture, Food, And A Good Lesson For Life

rangetsu sukiyaki tokyo japan

What most of us look for when visiting a new place is a local, authentic experience that feels like we’re the first outsider to discover. The best place to find this intersection of culinary culture is to ask a few locals, “where do you eat?” In Tokyo, that’s exactly what I did, which lead me to Rangetsu to try sukiyaki – and you should too.

Misleading Exterior

The polished but humble entrance to Rangetsu is almost too fancy; the kind of decor that leads one to believe you’re paying more for ambiance than good food. But a few steps into the tight hallways of Rangetsu hits you immediately with the sense you’re entering somewhere special. The waiter, in suit and tie, asks for your order – sukiyaki of course – and seats you in a tiny room, sharply closing the curtain behind him.

Contemplating Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki, a lesser know Japanese dish, is a meal of vegetables, noodles, and thinly sliced beef mixed with raw egg served in generally that order. Typically sukiyaki is a winter meal, but Rangetsu serves sukiyaki year-round. Once the curtain has been closed, the silence of your contemplation will be broken by the clicks of the curtain rings as they’re pulled open again. This time, a woman wearing traditional Japanese attire with under heavy makeup takes your drink order, then promptly leaves.

rangetsu tokyo

Your drinks arrive, food order given, and there you are again. Piece by piece, moment by moment, sip by sip, the meal at Rangetsu is reflective of the general Japanese dining experience. Colorful, coordinated, proportional and very much in moderation.

Hot Potting

Every time the waitress comes into your little room, something is cooked in front of you in a small hot pot. The noodles are one course, as is the soup, then vegetables, finally beef with raw egg. Everything is tasty. The kind of quality that makes you notice things like the flavor of individual green beans you normally wouldn’t on most plates. Portions are just enough food to be satisfying leaving ample room for respectable amounts of saki.

The dining culture in Japan is certainly quality over quantity over time and Rangetsu is the manifestation of it all.

sukiyaki

Prices at Rangestu aren’t as high as most places in Ginza, Tokyo’s version of Time Square, but not cheap either. (Despite Tokyo dropping out of the top 10 most expensive cities last year.) A sukiyaki dinner, the full experience, is around $75 but only half that at lunch time.

Sukiyaki at Rangetsu is an event – vaguely like ordering a lomito in Santiago or drinking raki like a Turk – where the meal itself is an ingredient of conversation, reflection, and enjoyment.  Not something to be rushed or overlooked, after a warm sukiyaki then final sip of tea, in the future you might occasionally take a slower bite at your next lunch. Try to feel the flavors as they’re absorbed by different parts of your tongue. Appreciate the next cup of coffee on your way to work or otherwise find the peaceful moment that lies in every food, one of several lessons the sukiyaki at Rangetsu hopefully leaves you with.

What To See And Do In Asuncion, Paraguay

asuncion paraguay

Asuncion is the capital city of a country I’ve described as affectionately weird – one of the reasons you should travel to Paraguay. Oddities aside, there are plenty of tangible experiences in Asuncion that make it an interesting trip, even if it’s a short one from the few nearby cities with direct flights.

Here’s how to explore Asuncion and embrace its culture, history, and yes, weirdness.

On The Edge

Asuncion is a city with pockets of activity and areas of isolation with such large contrast, you can feel like you’re in a big, bustling city or ghost town, all within a few blocks. To begin, for accommodation, I recommend avoiding the hotels but rather checking out the many Airbnbs just around the city center. They’re nearly all gated, with pools, and large living space for well under $50 a night.

Buses and transportation are crowded but easy enough to manage with some guidance from your Airbnb owner. The first place you’ll want to go is Lido Bar for lunch. Lido Bar serves a variety of Paraguayan staples to Asuncion’s middle class before or between the workday. To best avoid the crowds, arrive at 1pm and then order caldo de pescado (fish soup) and an empanada to go with it. Don’t expect much English to be spoken by staff but if you use Pimsleur 2-4 weeks before your trip, you’ll have no problem asking for the daily specials in Spanish.

lido bar

Right around the corner is Cafe Consulado; a calm, borderline-hipster cafe where you can hang out, recharge, then plan your next move.

The Other Side Of Quiet

For some reason that wasn’t apparent to me, the government in Asuncion has created the Bohemian neighborhood of Loma San Jeronimo. It’s lined with colorful buildings with small shops, eateries, bars, and snack stalls. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are closed and as nice as the area is, it’s bizarrely quiet. Fun for photos, Loma San Jeronimo is worth a visit – just don’t trust Google Maps (offline or not) to get you there. Google will send you somewhere nearby but a part of town don’t you definitely don’t want to be in.

loma san jeronimo

Museo del Barro

Museums can be boring, especially after you’ve been to more than a few during your travels. Museo del Barro (also practically empty) though is a detailed look at Paraguay’s indigenous heritage, bloody history, and the contemporary society born of it. You can check the hours as well as updated entry fees on their website.

Runners, walkers, and nature lovers from here it’s a long walk or quick bus ride to Parque de la Salud. The park is an oasis of Asuncion: clean, green, and quiet. There are joggers, walking families, and the enclosed park is well secured so you can explore without worry. Personally, Parque de la Salud was one of my favorite places in Asuncion.

mercado 4 asuncion

On the way back to the bustle of Asuncion’s hidden city life, Mercado 4 is the world famous for its knockoff electronics. I saw fake iPhones so close to the original, unless you’re a tech enthusiast, they’re very difficult to distinguish. Mercado 4 is a fun stroll though Paraguay’s booming counterfeiting economy; highlighting just how off the international grid Asuncion is.

Outside there’s plenty of barbecue with friendly locals who don’t mind a side of conversation with their pork. Now all of a sudden you’re feeling small town again in Asuncion, an a la carte travel experience.

The Best Falafel In The World Is In The Middle Of A Decade-Old Sibling Feud

This is the story of two brothers in Beirut, Lebanon, who haven’t spoken in since 2006, when they’re split up their father’s famous falafel shop. (Falafel is a simple dish of fried chickpeas, often wrapped in pita bread.) The two sons of Mustapha Sahyoun, Fuad and Zuheir, inherited the shop in 1992 but due to a dispute they won’t discuss, in 2006, Fuad opened his falafel shop right next door. Both of these shops are considered some of the best falafel in the world; though which is better is something of a local rivalry in itself.

I visited the Sahyoun falafel shops during a visit to Beirut and you learn more about the story in the video here.

Pimsleur Is The Best Way To Quickly Learn A Language Before Your Next Trip

conor mcgregor candle

The answer I can give without hesitation to the question, “what’s the best way to learn a new language before a trip,” is use Pimsleur. People ask me a lot about language learning, with two important caveats. The first being they’re traveling soon (short time to learn) and they need to be able to communicate with people (not necessarily translate names of random objects).

After booking flights, hotels, planning what to pack, language learning is usually a last that-would-be-nice-touch most never get around to. Pimsleur is the fastest way to learn another language at a conversational level if you’ve got 30 minutes a day and a few weeks to practice.

Quickly Conversational

The majority of language courses are designed to teach you a language with the aim to become fluent – an undertaking that often takes years. You’ll learn a lot of words that won’t be immediately useful which is why most travelers bounce around language tutorials and courses so broadly, you end up with nothing once you arrive at your destination. (English it will have to be then!)

pimsleurPimsleur Spanish Conversational Course – Level 1 Lessons 1-16

buy from amazon

The Pimsleur Language Program works differently. Basically, the 30 minute audio-only courses piece together seemingly random sounds with oddly specific visualizations over 10-20 lessons. At the end you’ll be surprisingly able to hold a conversation in that language.

How Pimsleur Works

Pimsleur is incredibly efficient. For example, you listen to one lesson on your commute. Pimsleur notes two important things: you’ll need to repeat what it tells you to repeat out loud and not do more than one lesson a day. A typical lesson is you saying some random sounds, then imaging e.g. a red bird on top of a house. Pimsleur is designed like Pulp Fiction, it’s all out of order at first, but as you go on the lessons start connecting.

gmc jeep interior

The main drawback of Pimsleur is it won’t help you read or write in another language. Pimsleur is audio only, designed to get you talking with people at soon as possible. Pimsleur gives you the mechanics of a given language making you usefully conversational – and if you want to expand beyond that – a solid structure upon which you can add vocabulary and more advanced grammar.

Target For Travelers

Pimsleur has been used by aid and relief organizations to linguistically prepare their staff and volunteers in a short amount of time. (The company donated their Haitian Creole courses after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for instance). The United States military has also distributed Pimsleur for troops in Afghanistan.

The efficiency of Pimsleur is what makes it so beneficial for travelers interested in learning usable parts of a language in a short time. I’ve found 2-6 weeks and 30 minutes a day (4-5 days a week) is enough to be able to hold a respectable conversation in a foreign language. All you have to do is listen to the audio file (or CD) and repeat as it instructs.

Somehow Pimsleur hacks your memory to install a new language. I wasn’t paid to write this (I legally have to disclose paid reviews) but I can’t say enough good things about Pimsleur. The lessons you learn are also extremely durable – I recall lessons from nearly 10 years ago. You’ll just have to give yourself the time to finish the lessons. Since Pimsleur courses aren’t structured in a conventional way, the more dots it will connect the longer you continue. And it’s not a long or expensive journey. The first entire lesson of Turkish is a total of 8 hours, costing just $40, for example.

Obviously, the more time you have the more of a language you can learn, using these other tools, adding some colorful curses to your vocabulary as well.

Visit With Klingons Who Are In Stockholm To Promote Tourism To Their Home World

A delegation from the Klingon Empire has arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, for a cultural exchange in order to promote tourism to Qo’noS, their home planet. The “Visit Qo’noS” event is being held at the Turteatern through March 24th and when I found out, I booked booked plane tickets immediately. You can see part of the show in the video above and if you’re in Stockholm, watch until the end of the video for a small gift.

Exchanging Culture With Klingons

There was plenty of blood wine, opera, as well as a demonstration of stereotypes Klingons have about humans and vice versa. From their outside perspective, it seems the Klingons have also picked up on some less-than-stellar cultural integration happening on Earth today.

klingons stockholm turteatern

The Visit Qo’noS show is funny, incredibly performed, and very entertaining. I can’t imagine any Trekkie not enjoying the Klingons but even if you’re only casually aware of Star Trek, the Visit Qo’noS event will be one of the most interesting tourism promotions you’ll ever attend.

klingon tourism stockholm sweden

How To Visit Qo’noS

Visit Qo’noS runs about an hour and fifteen minutes, with several shows per week beginning at 7pm. Turteatern is located right next to the Kärrtorp metro stop on the green line (end station Skarpnäck). You can get tickets for Visit Qo’noS here, check out the Visit Qo’noS tourism site here, and learn how to visit the Klingon Empire with honor (without losing your life). Qapla!

Where You Can Find The Original Starship Enterprise

Star Trek Starship Enterprise Studio Model air and space

For over 40 years, the original USS Enterprise from the first Star Trek series had been sitting under plastic in a basement of the Smithsonian Institute. Paramount Studios donated the model in 1974 to the National Collection in Washington D.C., 5 years after Star Trek was canceled, as a novelty. Out of the public eye it remained until 2016, when the restored Enterprise model was unveiled at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek at an event I attended.

The unveiling of the restored Enterprise, which is the one that was used on the show during filming, kicked off a series of evening and late night events at the Air and Space Museum. You can see all of the upcoming night events here and the Udvar Hazy Center (where there’s a real spaceship) has them occasionally as well.

It’s unlikely Paramount, when they donated the Enterprise, anticipated the success of Star Wars (yes, Wars) in 1977, which spurred the creation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture two years later. Since then there have been 13 movies and with the premier of Star Trek Discovery earlier this week, 6 Trek TV series. Fortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the curators of the National Air and Space Museum are Trekkies who held on to the model Enterprise even when it looked like the show had gone extinct.

In case you were wondering, the starship Enterprise model is made of wood, about 1.8 meters (6 feet) long, weighing around 124 kilograms (275 pounds). The Enterprise model is currently on display at the Air and Space Museum – in my opinion one of the top 3 museums in the world – well worth a visit, Trekkie or not.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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The Tokyo Experience That Gives You Culture, Food, And A Good Lesson For Life

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