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Day 20 - Tokyo, Japan

Here we are finally! Tokyo, Japan. I mean to tell you, it sure was the busiest place along our trip. Hundreds of people going this way and that. "You better not stand still," I told Ziggy. "You'll get run over." It seems everyone is in a hurry to be somewhere yesterday. But not us. Ever since Ziggy saw a special on cable tv's The Animal Planet, about The Ueno Zoo, she's been driving me crazy.

Ueno Zoological Gardens is the oldest zoo in Japan. Founded in 1882, it has grown over the years, expanded its area to 14.3 ha (35.2 acres) and been the flagship of the Japanese zoo world. Now it's home to over 2600 animals from 464 different species and provides visitors with learning experience about the diversity of animals as well as fun and enjoyment.

When we got there, the first animal she wanted to see was the Panda. While no one was allowed to get close to the Panda, Ziggy hopped the fence and had me take a picture when no one was looking. In its long history, Ueno Zoo has received numerous animals from abroad. In 1972, the first giant pandas arrived from China to Ueno Zoo.

Then, it was on to the penguins. Same thing, Ziggy hopped the fence and ran over to them real quick. Only they didn't care for that too much. They chased her around for 15 to 20 minutes. People were clapping and laughing and pointing at Ziggy. Even the Zoo's trainers and feeders were all there. I think they were rooting the penguins on. It seems, that because it's wintertime and the king penguins at the zoo were putting on weight, Ziggy was giving them some much needed exercise.

We walked around it seemed forever and saw all kinds of animals that day and had a great time but both of us were getting very hungry.

So, after the Zoo, we were told by some locals that Tokyo had something unique to offer. Food theme parks are a popular new theme park concept in Japan, with new parks popping up here and there every few months. So we went to Ikebukuro!

A food theme park specializes in one type of food or dish and gives the visitors the opportunity to taste various versions of that dish in one place. Unlike conventional theme parks, food theme parks are located indoors. Many are atmospherically decorated according to a specific epoch or fantasy theme.

Ya know, I always loved Sushi. Ziggys' never had it before and I knew she would love it so we went to one of the food themepark restaurants for what turned out to be an experience we'll never forget. She sat at the counter like an old pro.

I can't really give you a recipe for Sushi because it is an art to make.
But here's a little history.

The History of SUSHI

We can trace sushi's origin back to the 4th century BC in Southeast Asia. As a preserved food, the salted fish, fermented with rice, was an important source of protein. The cleaned and gutted fish were kept in rice so that the natural fermentation of the rice helped preserve the fish. This type of sushi is called nare-zushi, and was taken out of storage after a couple of months of fermentation, and then only the fish was consumed while the rice was discarded.

Over time, it spread throughout China, and later, around the 8th century AD, in the Heian period, it was introduced into Japan. Since Japanese preferred to eat rice together with fish, the sushi, called seisei-zushi, became popular at the end of Muromachi period. This type of sushi was consumed while the fish was still partly raw and the rice had not lost its flavor. In this way, sushi became more of a cuisine rather than a way to preserve food.

In the 1980s, in the wake of increased health consciousness, sushi, one of the healthiest meals around, has gotten much more attention; consequently, sushi bars have increased in the United States. With the introduction of sushi machines, which combines the mass production of sushi with the delicate skills used by sushi chefs, making and selling sushi has become more accessible to countries all over the world.

I could tell that Ziggy was full as I was full and a bit tired so we decided to get to the airport to go to Honolulu. Ziggy told me she had a surprise once we got there. It was a stop-over and I told her we didn't have a whole lot of time play around. But I did promise her we would spend a lttle time at the beach. Tokyo is just as beautiful at night as it is in the day. Don't ya think?

What was Ziggys surprise? I've never seen her so secretive. Like I said, this was a stop-over before we left for Mexico City. What could be? Or, knowing Ziggy, who could it be?

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