Heading to Turkey and Tanzania!

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Mrs. Selfish and I have been enjoying our time in San Francisco. We’ve seen the Golden Gate bridge from just about every possible angle. We’ve day-tripped to Sonoma, and Napa. We’ve even taken a few short weekend trips to Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Vancouver, and San Diego (trip reports coming soon!).

But with the pending United devaluation coming up, I decided it was time to burn through our United stash and slash a couple more items off our bucket list. So a few weeks ago I booked tickets to Istanbul, and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

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120,000 UA miles in business to Europe and Africa!

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Where’s the Wagyu Beef? At Maruni!

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During our first visit to Japan in 2009, Mr. Selfish and I feasted at Grill Miyata, which was located in Kyoto but is now closed, for the best wagyu beef ever. With the revelation that most “Kobe” or “wagyu” beef in the States is in fact just regular beef, we knew that we had to have it again while in Japan.

Wagyu is expensive, as it should be. The term refers to several breeds of cattle that are genetically predisposed to intense marbling and to producing a high percentage of unsaturated fat. This, of course, makes them extra tasty.

Mr. Selfish and I did some research online and decided to try Maruni (1-11-1, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-0004). It is a small yakiniku restaurant where they grill the meat right in front of you.

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THIS IS THE FUTURE: Tokyo Robots

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During our last visit to Tokyo, Mrs. Selfish and I spent a fair amount of time checking out the weird bits of Japan. We drank at the bizarro-Japanese DisneySea. We chased after lolita girls in Harijuku. We wandered around super nerdy Akihabara, and ultra trendy Shibuya. We even found Godzilla.

Amidst all of our nerdy wanderings, however, we somehow neglected robots. It was time to set things right.

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Good Eats in Tokyo: Yuian Izakaya and Jinnan Curry

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I love Japanese food. During our travel during the selfish year, Japanese food is the one cuisine of which I never got tired. Considering that we spent over forty days in Japan, that is quite a feat. Here are two tasty restaurants that we discovered during our last time in Tokyo.

Yuian Izakaya: A Great View and Good Food

Although Mr. Selfish and I are quite partial to the 35 Steps in Shibuya, we decided to give another izakaya a try. We found rave reviews for Yuian Izakaya (2-6-1 Shinjuku Sumitomo Building 52F) online and booked it for our last night in Tokyo. It is located in Shinjuku on the 52nd floor of an office building, which makes for great views during dinner.

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Relaxing in Roppongi

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Mr. Selfish and I always love visiting Tokyo. We usually stay in the areas of Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, and Harajuku. This time, we decided to go to the expat area – Roppongi.

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Pumping Iron at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

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Mrs. Selfish and I were originally planning on skipping Tokyo altogether, having gone there twice before. Unfortunately, I had some difficulty finding a business award flight from Tokyo to San Francisco. Availability was limited at the time I booked our tickets, so I opted to book economy, with the hopes that 2 business class awards would open up closer to our travel date.

After checking back every day for two months, I finally found 2 business class awards. Unfortunately, they were 4 days after our connecting flight from Okinawa. Fortunately, we love Tokyo.

Having had a wonderful 5 night stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo last May, I decided to book 3 nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. While I wasn’t surprised that the hotel was still amazing, I was surprised by who I ran into at the Park Hyatt’s gym – let me set the scene.

The Park Hyatt’s gym is small, especially the weight section, which can’t fit more than 6-8 people comfortably. Just check this puppy out:

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So it didn’t take me very long to realize that the hulking man doing bicep curls to my left was none other than the Governator himself, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. After a few awkward glances, I fell into my normal routine until the man left, without saying a word to him. After I told Mrs. Selfish what happened, she told me to wake up her up the following morning, should Arnold be at the gym a second time.

The second morning I woke up and bam!, there he was again. After a quick phone call, Mrs. Selfish arrived with camera in tow, so that we would have photographic evidence of our encounter with Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Behold!

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Mr. Schwarzenegger was in town promoting his new movie, Escape Plan, and was a guest at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Though he seemed like he had a packed day, he still took the time to pose for a picture with us, which was pretty cool. Though I never saw him outside of the gym itself, I did see his Japanese bodyguard on several more occasions.

Anyway, back to the hotel itself.

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Nago Food: So Much Taco Rice, So Little Time

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As I’ve gone over previously, Okinawan cuisine is quite different from the food in the rest of Japan. Even though I knew this coming in, nothing could prepare me for the Okinawan fascination with tacos. In fact, taco rice, which is taco flavored beef served on a bed of rice, is a typical school lunch meal. Mr. Selfish and I, of course, had to try it for the sake of posterity.

King Tacos: The Originator of Taco Rice

Even though Mr. Selfish and I didn’t really enjoy the Kin Kannon-do Temple, we rather relished the idea of eating at King Tacos, the originator of taco rice, which is located nearby in Kin.

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We ordered a taco platter, as well as the traditional taco rice with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and salsa. As odd as it sounds, I found it pretty tasty and definitely a bit like comfort food (even though I had never had it before). I mean – I love rice and I love tacos. Why not combine it? If you’re in Kin, I would definitely check out Taco Kings!

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Nago’s Noteworthy Sights – Part II

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For our second day in Nago, Mrs. Selfish and I decided to tour the area northwest of Nago. Okinawa is home to many ruins, beautiful beaches, and bizarre tourist attractions – so I knew we’d have a good time.

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium at the Ocean Expo Park

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the third largest aquarium in the world, after the Dubai Mall Aquarium, and the Georgia Aquarium.

The aquarium itself is located in Okinawa’s Ocean Expo park, which is a large (and free) park. The park is pretty massive, just check out the map.

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We had a lot of fun wandering around the expo park, which was filled with playful gardens, animal shows, and beaches.

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The aquarium costs 1800 yen ($18) for adults, and 600 yen ($6) for children. While the cost is a wee bit higher than I’d like, there’s no doubt it’s a great aquarium.

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Nago’s Noteworthy Sights – Part I

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Mr. Selfish and I spent two days in the Nago area of Okinawa. As a subtropical area, Nago has its fair share of beautiful beaches. However, since we were visiting during winter, we didn’t know how much there would be to do in the area. Fortunately, there are numerous noteworthy sights in the Nago area. Today, I’ll go over the sights south of Nago, and tomorrow, Mr. Selfish will go over the sights north of Nago.

Cape Manzamo: Beautiful and Accessible

Cape Manzamo is a scenic rock formation near Onna Village, which is on the way to Nago. It faces the East China Sea and is a popular viewing spot for sunset. Mr. Selfish and I didn’t visit during sunset but we found it beautiful nonetheless.

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Staying at the Luxurious Ritz-Carlton Okinawa

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After packing up the car, Mrs. Selfish and I drove an hour north from Naha to our next stay, the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa. This was our first Ritz-Carlton stay, so I was a little unsure what to expect.

Golden chandeliers? Martini-fueled Bentleys? Diamond-encrusted butlers?

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While it didn’t have any of these things, the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa still managed to ooze luxury.

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Nom Nom: Eating in Naha

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Due to the strong Chinese and American influences and the tropical climate in Okinawa, Okinawa cuisine is unlike typical Japanese cuisine. We didn’t really see much sushi, ramen, or curry around. Nevertheless, Mr. Selfish and I enjoyed the eclectic food in Okinawa – from the pork belly to the soba to the chanpuru.  Here are some of the yummy bites we had in and around Naha.

Blue Seal Ice Cream: Born in America, Raised in Okinawa

Even though Blue Seal was conceived Stateside, it was brought to Okinawa in 1948 along with the American soldiers. It wasn’t until 1976 that Blue Seal opened stores outside of the American bases and on the island proper. I enjoy Blue Seal’s tagline – “Born in America, Raised in Okinawa.”

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Blue Seal ice cream is creamy (supposedly the way Americans like it), but the flavors are distinctly Okinawan. In particular, Beni-imo, which is purple sweet potato, is quite popular.

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Mr. Selfish and I tried a variety of flavors. I really liked Beni-imo and Ube (sweet purple yam), and Mr. Selfish loved that you could have scoop ice cream with softserve on top. I highly recommend Blue Seal if you visit Naha. Mr. Selfish and I probably went three times during our four days in Okinawa.

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Navigating Naha: Shuri Castle, Shikinaen Garden, and Higa Distillery

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Mr. Selfish and I had originally planned to visit Okinawa to go diving. Unfortunately, when we were there, the wind was too strong, and our dive trip was cancelled. Fortunately, Okinawa has many diverse lovely sights to behold. Here are the sights that we visited in Naha.

Shuri Castle: The Palace of Ryūkyū Kingdom

Shuri Castle was the official palace of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, which ruled the islands that currently make up Okinawa from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The castle is made out of wood and burned down multiple times. The last time it burned down was in 1945 after an American battleship shelled it for three days during WWII. In 1992, Shuri Castle was reconstructed.

The grounds are quite extensive, and it is free to wander around.

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Heading to Okinawa: 2 Nights at the Doubletree Naha

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After leaving Fukuoka, Mrs. Selfish and I boarded a Japan Airlines flight to Naha, Okinawa, Japan’s southern most prefecture. Okinawa is often called the Hawaii of Japan, and for good reason. The weather is warm and tropical, and the traditions and food are completely different from mainland Japan.

Up until the late 1800’s, Okinawa was known as the Ryūkyū Kingdom, and was a tributary of both China and Japan. As such, Okinawa has its own unique blend of Japanese and Chinese traditions and food that make it distinct from mainland Japan. Okinawan architecture is unique, and beautiful.

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They also have a huge American military presence, which further adds to the flavor of Okinawa. Wandering across this small island, you’ll notice an American influence on all sorts of foods – from Okinawan ice cream, to taco dogs and taco rice. Continue reading

Satiating Our Sushi Lust in Fukuoka at Uotoku

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Ever since feasting on the freshest and best sushi we’ve ever had in Kanazawa at Otomezushi, Mr. Selfish and I have been a bit shy to eat sushi. It’s all relative, and we know that most sushi won’t stack up to Otomezushi. We’ve mostly stuck to eating rolls instead of actual sushi since you don’t have to be as concerned with freshness.

On our trip back to Japan, we figured that we would get our fill of  sushi. We had read rave reviews of a sushi restaurant named Uotoku (17-14-1 Imaizumi 1-chome, Chuo-ku) in Fukuoka, particularly about the sushi chef who had worked in Hong Kong and New York. We made a reservation for lunch, which is always cheaper for sushi, and had high hopes for sushi.

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We opted for the chef’s selection and gave him a budget of about $35 USD per person. It’s always a good idea to trust the chef to choose the freshest and best sushi of the day.

The first item served was snail. I wasn’t really expecting it, but it was pretty good and tender. Mr. Selfish and I each received two snails and a toothpick to pry them out.

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The Selfish Guide to a Ramen Run in Fukuoka, Japan

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Mr. Selfish and I remember the days when we were ramen newbies and could genuinely enjoy most ramen bowls. Those days are long gone, and we’re now ramen snobs. It was bound to happen. If you keep eating something over and over again, you start to develop a palate for it. Unfortunately, once this happens, your discerning palate knows when a ramen bowl isn’t up to snuff.

So when we decided to come back to Fukuoka for a couple of nights, we knew that we had to do a ramen run. Fukuoka is, after all, where tonkotsu ramen originated.

Shin Shin: Good Broth but a Little Fatty on the Pork

Mr. Selfish and I had added Shin Shin to our Google map during our first trip to Fukuoka back in April. We didn’t make it there but had read from many sources that it had some of the best ramen in Fukuoka. We made sure to go to Shin Shin this time around.

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