Day 7 in Japan: Bye Ryokan & Kyoto

Posted on 14-05-2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Short post because I didn’t take a heap of photos on this day :)  I swear I took some of Honganji Temple but I guess not.

Today we woke up early for our 8am Ryokan brekky!  It was a Japanese style breakfast with a few little bits and pieces – very yummy!  Then we checked out and received some free hankerchiefs from the Ryokan as souvenirs.

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Across from our Ryokan, like literally right outside our door — there was a huge temple called Honganji, which we found out was the largest wooden structure in the world!

We walked all the way to Shijo and to Nishiki market for sushi train and snacks.  As you guys probably know, I love Japanese Lucky Bags (fukubukuro) so we grabbed one of the sweet shop bags for $10.  It had so many random Japanese snacks – they were all decent tasting, most were very peculiar but none really stood out that much to me.  I should have taken a photo!  But I’m dumb and didn’t and now they’re all gone.

We should have walked to Gion after, but I was so dead I just wanted to go “home” (aka back to Shinsaibashi).  After dropping our stuff back at the apartment and reconvening with Isaac, it was time to have dinner in Shinsaibashi (the shopping street).

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We ate LOBSTER ROLLS!  They were delicious!  So much lobster, although they were quite pricey at 15 bucks per small roll.  And obviously, this wasn’t a Japanese meal LOL.  I don’t regret buying them at all though, they were delicious and who doesn’t love lobster?!

We had more dinner at some random yakitori place because Bryan was still hungry, but to my dismay it was a full smoking-allowed restaurant and I was dying the whole time because I don’t do well with smoke.

Afterwards we met up with Michael, Kathy & Nelson and went to the arcade!  No one won anything (LOL sadface).  Everyone wasted a lot of money, but it was pretty ~worth it~ anyway because arcades are all about having fun with friends.

We also had sushi for dinner at some fancy sushi place in Dotonburi.  It was really yummy, I finally tried otoro and fell in love with it.  FML why is it so expensive to get in Australia?!

Anyway, that’s all for now!  Thanks for reading c:


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Day 6 in Japan: Kyoto – Arashiyama

Today we went to Kyoto! We took the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto, then another train to Arashiyama with Bryan’s family.

I had been looking forward to Arashiyama for pretty much the entirety of the trip since I had heard a lot of great things about it from Bryan’s cousin who had just recently been.  I was so excited to ride a bicycle around to see the sights but… well, I kinda messed up.

I thought I could ride a bicycle, but turns out I can’t remember how LOL.  Not sure whether it was because these bicycles were really different to what I was used to, but LMAO.  Can’t believe I forgot how to ride a bike.  I was so sure I could!  We even rented bicycles but I had to return mine (luckily they gave us a refund for it). Sooo embarrassing, but oh well.  It was still a fun day out — we visited some temples, the Togetsu river & the Bamboo Forest before returning the bicycles.

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The bamboo forest is really serene, the air feels weirdly fresh!  The only thing is that it was quite crowded – not so bad that you can’t move but it is difficult to bring bicycles through and I wouldn’t recommend bringing them in next time.  It’s definitely a great experience though.

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Next was the Monkey Park which was the highlight for me!  We were greeted by a pretty red entrance:

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It was a surprisingly long walk up to the top of the mountain where the monkeys were.  If you’re planning to visit the Monkey Park, make sure you wear walking shoes and be prepared for a little hike – it is very much worth it though!  I was worried the monkeys would be mischievous but they were cute little angels, hahaha.

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The path up the mountain eventually branches off into different sections, but we chose the one that was a longer walk because Bryan’s dad had a feeling it would be a lot better or something.  I definitely recommend the longer path though – the view was breathtaking!  Picture spam time:

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The monkeys were so cute and so close too. There were baby ones which were adorable! I took a lot of pictures, and even fed some in the special little feeding enclosure. Bryan even got pushed by a monkey a little as it ran away

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Afterwards, we had lunch  at a random udon place.  Idk, I feel bad for saying it, but I’m already sick of udon/the benito/dashi flavour!  I actually find myself craving fries/chips and pasta more and more.  It was still yummy, but I’m missing the variety of Aussie food.

We then went back to the station and returned to Kyoto again, for Inari Shrine. It was pretty cool there, the thousand gates were impressive and we ate some shrine food — preserved strawberries (they tasted yummy like jam) and mochi.

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At around 3pm we said our goodbyes to Bryan’s family, and Bryan and I headed off to our Ryokan in Kyoto: Ryokan Izuyasu!  It was sooo lovely there, such a Japanese experience — like what you see in anime and TV with a tatami filled room, the most awesome heated toilets & tea. We were given yukatas, and the place had three communal onsens that you could basically reserve for your room (no need to book the onsen ahead of time though).  Too bad my camera ran out of battery by the time we got there, so I couldn’t take any HQ pics – but I took on my iPhone.

I love how peaceful it is here! The walk here was only 10 mins from Kyoto station (a straight path from the exit near to Century Hotel Kyoto), and it was a little scary because the streets seem so colourless compared to Tokyo and even Osaka, but the Ryokan stands out with it’s traditional decor.

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We were greeted with sugar snacks and tea, and our room has it’s own private garden. Ahh, it’s beautiful. Breakfast is included with the room price, so I am looking forward to that tomorrow.

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[Grabbed this pic of our room from their website, just so you can get a better idea of what it looks like:]

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After getting settled, we went to Kyoto Station for a bit of shopping and bought some white choco covered strawberries from Muji and a caramel bamkuhen (it’s a rolly layer cake). We had tea in our room with the little cakes, and relaxed for the afternoon.

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We didn’t book dinner at the Ryokan, so we went out to Kyoto station to grab a bite to eat. We had monjayaki, a specialty of Kyoto in terms of okonomiyaki.  I was craving beef, so we had some of that — although I wasn’t that big a fan of it because it tasted just like basic Aussie beef (I may even go so far as to say I prefer the beef we have at home!  Lesson learnt: don’t order regular beef in Japan again when there are so many other foods to try).  We also had an okonomiyaki of course – we ordered a pork one, and it was tasty.

My legs were dead by then, so soon after we went home and used the private onsen!

I find it pretty gross using the same water as everyone else tbh… I don’t know if I could deal with a public onsen. I loved the temperature and everything though, it’s very relaxing. We wore our yukatas (traditional clothing) and went to bed with what Bryan calls “cloud” blankets — very soft and puffy blankets.  Looking forward to tomorrow!


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Day 4: Traveling to Osaka

Posted on 19-01-2016 | Tags: , , ,

Note:  Hi guys!  Today’s post will be relatively uneventful because we spent most of the day traveling to Osaka on the Shinkansen (bullet train).  Hope you still enjoy this mostly text-based post!

Today we had to travel to Osaka!  We would be meeting up with Bryan’s family here.  We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station and got to our awesome apartment.  It’s SO COOL LOL.

The floors are heated, the toilet has a sink on top and the seat is heated, and the entire bathroom is the shower/clothes dryer and there’s a TV inside wtf.  I’ve never been in such an awesome apartment before:

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We met our host/host’s employee, Hide, who wants to move to Spain soon.  He was really nice with great English skills and told us about how to do stuff in the house.  He looks really young but was actually 35!

Outside our apartment is a little takoyaki joint and it was SO GOOD.  No wonder people love takoyaki.  I was wary of it, because octopus balls sound meh and I’m not even a fan of octopus, but it isn’t actually very fishy tasting at all – it was just as good, if not better than the one I had in Tokyo

Here are some pictures of the sights around Shinsaibashi and our apartment.  It’s Christmas day, so the lights are gorgeous!

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We then went to Daimaru, which is a Japanese department store chain (like Myer or DJ’s), to try some food.  Since I wasn’t feeling great, I didn’t want to risk eating the delicious sushi train Bryan and his family were having.

I ended up eating at some pasta joint WHICH TURNED OUT AWESOME AND DELICIOUS.  I had a snow crab spaghetti and a yummy yuzu mousse which was super yum.  I know, I feel bad because I ate something that isn’t really Japanese but I regret nothing.  Soz my pics are crap, I only took phone ones.
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After that, we ended up in Shinsaibashi shopping area.  Oh my gosh the shops there are crazy!  There are so many, a whole street of just shops and I really enjoyed it.

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I got some Sanrio Tsum Tsums (stackable plush toys) of Hello Kitty and Gudetama.  They’re so cute idc that they were $5 each.

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We followed Isaac, Bryan’s brother, who was on a quest to get Nike Ultraboost in black or white, but to no avail.  Tomorrow I want to go back to look at the makeup/beauty stores and GU (the cheapo Uniqlo).

 


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Day 3 in Japan: Asakusa & Skytree

Posted on 18-01-2016 | Tags: ,

Bryan and I headed to Shinjuku for a bit of camera shopping, but didn’t really find any good deals on lenses I wanted.  There wasn’t much to do there (well, we weren’t very well researched on Shinjuku so we didn’t know what else to do), so we went home and had had Smoky Texas curry with beef brisket and pork belly for lunch as “take out”.  YUM.

We then went to Asakusa, where we viewed the giant golden radish… at least I think it’s a radish LOL.

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After looking at the sights, we stopped for Turkish Ice Cream at a small little place on the way to Sensoji Temple!  I saw people make it on TV, it is very different to normal ice cream in that it is quite stringy because of some special ingredient they put inside and the way they stretch the cream.  I think if you enjoy like mochi or similar, you will enjoy it.  I liked it a lot!day3-05

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We then walked go Sensoji temple:

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Inside the entrance of the temple, there’s a “Shopping street” called Nakamise Dori.  It’s basically a whole street dedicated to shops and souvenirs.  You walk down the street to reach the temple at the end.

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We ate some street food on the way to the temple, including ‘dango’ which was probably my favourite street food because I really love peanuts and glutinous rice/mochi and this had both!

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We also had delicious melon bread (melon pan)!  It’s so hard to show how delicious it was in the picture, but it was super soft inside and I thought it would be really melon-flavoured, but it wasn’t really.  It was SO good, fresh is so much better especially compared to the store-bought ones from various cafes.day3-10

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At the end of the street, we reached the temple and did all the typical stuff, like get our fortunes for the year told, lit incense and I also stupidly stuffed up doing the the water cleansing thingy at the fountain LOL embarassing.

To get our “fortunes” we had to shake around this container with lots of sticks inside that are numbered, then open a draw with the corresponding number.  I got 14, my favourite number!  I was pretty surprised – maybe I am a little superstitious about things like lucky numbers (like Bryan and my anniversary is on the 22nd of Feb, and we legit always get placed on table 22 in restaurants etc).  Anyway, Bryan got bad luck on his fortune :(   I got “good fortune in the future”.

Apparently if you get bad luck (it has a special symbol on it), you are supposed to hang it up so that you don’t take the bad luck with you.

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From Asakusa, we took a quick train to Tokyo Skytree on the Tobu line:

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At the Skytree shopping area, it was pretty similar to Tokyo Station — so I suppose the initial “wow” of Tokyo Station wore off a bit and perhaps we saw it with rose coloured glasses after all.

 

Oh well, shopping at the Skytree was okay – I got an awesome deal on this Uniqlo Heat-tech coat for only ~$20AUD (incl. tax).  I’m super happy with it!  You guys will see it in my next few blog posts.

Also, did I mention that today was Christmas eve?  I really love Japan’s lighting and decorations:

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We were lucky to catch the Christmas light show!  It was really pretty, although we didn’t visit the top of the tower or anything because the line was sooo long.  I think the light show was very similar to Melbourne’s one on the town hall – just a projection really:

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Afterwards, we went back into the shops to grab dinner and saw these beautiful sugar sculptures:day3-53

Finally, the search for dinner!  I really like the model food most shops have at the front.  Australia should get on it!

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We finally decided on Udon noodles for dinner, I got a tempura set while Bryan just got the normal set. :)  It wasn’t bad but I was feeling a bit unwell this day, perhaps I ate something bad the day before?

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Anyway, see you in the next post!


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Day 2 in Japan: Tokyo, Imperial East Garden, Ginza & Akihabara

Posted on 12-01-2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Today we woke up early and headed to Tokyo Station.  We had Shinkasen’s to book and I stumbled upon a really interesting thing online.  You don’t often hear or see about Tokyo station, but it is awesome if you love food and kawaii Japan.  It’s my highlight so far!

I think we just randomly passed a makeup store in the station and I was SO pleased that they had some early Fukubukuro’s (Lucky Bags ie. my raison d’etre) — I got the K-palette bag. Although the bag contents was revealed in the advertising, which took away some of the fun, it also guaranteed value.

It was 1800 JPY for the bag with 3/4 makeup pieces inside – incl. one eyeliner which you guys know I LOVE.  The eyeliner is normally 1050 JPY which made the bag really good value bc it had a mascara, a mascara cleanser and a face pact.  I also picked up an awesome Sailor Moon eyeliner which I have wanted ever since I saw that it existed. ❤️❤️

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Anyway the real gems of Tokyo Station are at the Yaesu exit of Tokyo station. Any Yaesu exit will do, as they all pretty much join up.  This part of the station, known as Tokyo’s 1st Avenue, is full of awesome things.

There is a “street” inside called “Kitchen Street” and another called Ramen Street, where (you guessed it), it is basically an indoor street full of ramen and other food!  We visited the street a little too early and everything was closed, so I would suggest coming a bit before 11am so that you can beat the crowds to the restaurant that catches your eye.  We managed to find one place open, an okonomiyaki place with to-die-for octopus balls (Takoyaki).

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Takoyaki!  I didn’t think I was a fan of octopus, but these are so yummy and soft on the inside.  It doesn’t even have that much of a fishy taste :D  These were special as you are supposed to have them in the soup provided!

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Above is a slice of the yummy okonomiyaki!  There are different types, some with noodles inside (Kansai/Osaka Okonomiyaki) and other ones like this.  I think this one was my favourite.

If you keep wandering around, towards the central Yaesu exit, there is another “street” in Tokyo Station called Character St!  Omg, it is my heaven LOL.  Rilakumma and Hello Kitty stores, and most importantly, a popup GUDETAMA store!  So Gudetama is an egg character that looks really funny hahah. It is Bryan and my new favourite character!

In the store, they were playing the Gudetama song:

I’m kinda regretting not getting the 3000JPY hoodie now, I got a t-shirt that matches Bryan for 1600JPY.  Here’s a pic of the shirt at the cafe we went to later in the day:

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He got a squeezy toy, which is pretty gross ’cause you squeeze this egg and a gooey looking Gudetama character comes out LOL.  I think he gave it away though, so I don’t have a picture, but here’s someone else’s photo of it (which I stitched together):

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When we got a little hungrier, we decided to try some “premium” cream puffs from Beard Papa!  The premium ones are a lot nicer than the normal ones actually, but I think they are only limited edition or something because I didn’t find these again in Shinjuku (the next day).  They’re really yummy and I definitely recommend trying them!

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We got lost looking for Imperial East Garden!  It was a bit confusing which exit to take to get there… (hover the pics for details)

Bryan posing on the way to the Garden.

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day2-10  We look scary with our face masks on! We were very cautious of getting sick on the crowded trains in the first few days, but ended up giving up later LOL

When we finally got to the Garden, we weren’t allowed in because it was the Emperor’s birthday, so they were having some official event instead! :(  At least we were able to take photos outside:

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There was some festival thing going on, which we briefly checked out:

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Huge line of cars for the East Garden event!

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Even though we couldn’t get in, the walk ended up okay because we managed to find a cute little garden, Hibiya Park.

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Then we walked to Ginza and dropped into Freshness Burger, which is a chain burger joint.  I was super surprised with the quality, it was really yummy.  Bryan and I both had Wagyu beef burgers

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Although it was yummy, we should have explored Ginza more because the street had awesome food!  Such a waste, since neither of us was hungry

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We later went to Akihabara to enjoy the anime goodness, but we got a bit lost because we didn’t take the JR line like Bryan did the last time he went to Japan.  It’s pretty crazy there!  One moment it looks like a normal station, the next it is anime paradise.  It is SO shocking because the change is so sudden.  Akiba was a bit overwhelming for me because the anime section was so busy and pushy and crowded.  As much as I love anime, I can’t say I enjoyed it that much but I think it would be very fun with a group of friends.

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We found the Animate store, a huge anime store where Bryan bought another anime fukubukuro!  I may post a video about it later :D  We ate at the themed cafe at the top, too bad we didn’t know what the anime was.  I was so sad I missed the Umaru cafe :(  I also got a blood nose in this cafe, which was very awkward as I had to rush out to the toilets to get tissues.  So annoying!

We ended up getting a parfait thing, and Bryan got a coffee.  The parfait had little bits of mochi in it, which I love hehehe.

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They did a little performance thing where we have to play paper, scissors, rock and Bryan almost won.  Anyway, that’s all for now!  I am exhausted editing all the photos LOL.  See you tomorrow


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