Kyoto and Himeji

After Miyajima, we headed off to Kyoto.  We spent about 4 days in Kyoto and half a day in Himeji.

Our first morning in Kyoto was spent trying to find a way to get to Himeji as there had been an earthquake early in the morning. Some train lines were suspended. We felt the earthquake while asleep in bed! The building we were in was shaking! We didn’t know it was an earthquake then as we were so tired and went back to bed!! It was only later in the morning when I received a message from my Japanese friend that I found out it was really an earthquake!

Luckily the lines started running again within a few hours so we were able to go to Himeji to meet my friends. I stayed with them when I was an exchange student at Himeji Uni in 1999!! We didn’t visit Himeji Castle this time as it is under restoration until March 2015. We walked around Himeji city center and did some souvenir shopping.

I really like Kyoto. Not just because I can say Ookini all the time (Thank you in Kansai dialect  but also because there are so many wonderful things to see. Like the Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Heian Shrine and Geishas and Maiko in Gion.

Speaking of Geisha and Maiko, I realised that you could now pay and dress up as one and walk around the Kiyomizu Temple area!! I was very excited when I saw some ‘Maiko’ but then realised that they just tourists playing dress up! Tsk! But I got some nice photos though.

I was also very lucky to see some real Geisha and Maiko in Gion. We were just walking along, minding our business, when out of an orange coloured sky, flash! bam! alakazam! Wonderful geisha came by! (Did you see what I was doing there? haha!) Then I heard snap! snap! snap! I turned around and saw a few Japanese men with large lenses snapping away! Some of them even presented photos they have taken of the Geisha to her. I took some pictures too and thought they must be “Geisha Spotting”. It was only after I posted the pictures on facebook that I realised they were famous!

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Geiko Kyouka and Maiko Satsuki.

Maiko Mikako

Maiko Mikako

We also enjoyed eating in Kyoto. We discovered Musashi sushi located at the basement of Kyoto Station. (It is opposite Macdonald’s ).  136 yen for each plate of sushi! We had 34 plates between the two of us!

Dinner at Musashi Sushi

Musashi Sushi

We had 34 plates in total!

We had 34 plates between the two of us!!

We also had some awesome shoyu ramen at Dai-ichi Asahi Ramen near Kyoto station. We had to queue up every time we were there as it is so popular. The service was quick but jovial. Every time a customer leaves, they would all say “OOKINI!!” which means thank you in Kansai dialect. They open from 5am to 2am! Yes!  5 AM to 2 AM! On their website they put the opening hours as 05:00 to 26:00!! haha! You can even order the ramen online. They only deliver in Japan of course!

Dai-ichi Asahi Ramen – Kyoto

We also discovered Ichiran Ramen in Kyoto. Unlike Dai-ichi Asahi, they are a big chain with shops all over the country and they serve tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. I love tonkotsu ramen! The atmosphere in Ichiran is also very different from that in Dai-ichi Asahi. Firstly, you will need to get a coupon from the vending machine and choose whatever extra topping you want eg. egg, spring onions, garlic, vinegar, tenderness of the noodle etc. While waiting for the table or while at the table, you will be giving a form to choose whether you want your ramen to have a strong or light flavour, if you want garlic or not or how oily you want it to be. Most of the seats at Ichiran ramen are counter seats. There is also a divider between the seats so you won’t be able to see the person next to you. You can remove the divider too if you want. Also, because of how the way it is set up, I never got to see the face of the waiter/waitress unless I pressed the buzzer to call them over.

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Besides enjoying good food and spotting beautiful Geishas, we also managed to see some Cherry Blossoms in full bloom! We missed the peak by about a week! We saw a few here and there but didn’t think much of it. We saw the full bloom Sakura by chance. We were walking past Kyoto Gyoen National Park and decided to go in as we were really tired and needed a rest. (It was another half an hour walk back to our hotel!!). After a rest (Ali had a nap for 20min!!), we walked around the park and saw this:

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Sakura!

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I was so happy to finally see them in full bloom, UP CLOSE! Aren’t they beautiful?

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Categories: Culture, Japan, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Eighty-One

I have just discovered that if my father were still alive, he would be 81 years old this year! So old!

My mother had me when she was 38. I am now 36… My father died 36 years ago… He died of cancer when I was 7 months old.

Besides being almost aborted (!!!!!), someone also tried to get my mum to sell me off to a childless rich couple!

I suppose this woman was looking out for my mother… and also a big fat commission. It was hard for my mother because besides me she also had to look after my two older sisters. Fortunately, my mum declined the offer!

I don’t know much about my father but my mum would make out like he is a really strict and fierce person. He also has a good sense of humour …so I guess I am just like him? hehe

Categories: Family, Life | Leave a comment

First Stop: Miyajima

The last few days have been a bit depressing for us.

After spending about 14 wonderful days in Japan, it’s back to work… BOOO!!! Well that will fund the next trip..

Anyway…

Our first stop in Japan was Miyajima Island.  It is famous for the giant torii gate and I’m sure you have seen it at some point when you read about Japan.

You can access Miyajima by taking the JR line to Miyajima-guchi station and then take a ferry to the island. There are two companies running the ferry – JR and Matsudai. If you have a JR pass, you won’t need to pay for the JR ferry – which was what we did!

Before we headed over to the island, we decided to have lunch at Ueno Anago Meshi. It is only a couple of minutes aways from the JR Miyajima-guchi station, right next to the underpass (opposite the train station). Anago is conger eel (salt water eel). Anago meshi is conger eel served on top of rice. I love unagi (fresh water eel) and I have tried anago once in Singapore and wasn’t too keen on it as it is different from what I normally have (unagi). I decided to try Anago meshi anyway as it is one of the famous dishes in Miyajima. We have also read many good reviews about it so we were really excited.

We were at Ueno Anago Meshi just after lunch time and it wasn’t so busy so we didn’t have to wait long for a table. While waiting for one, a Japanese family came in and the daughter was so excited. She was telling her mum that this restaurant is famous and it was featured on a tv prog.

When I had my first bite of Ueno’s Anago Meshi, I can understand why it is so popular! It was delicious!  I’m not good at describing tastes so I’ll let my picture do the talking:

Anago Meshi

First meal in Japan: Anago Meshi from Ueno Anago Meshi Restaurant.

After a satisfying meal, we headed off to Miyajima.  The tide was out and the torii gate looks different from what I usually see on the internet. The weather was quite hazy too so I didn’t take any good pictures from the ferry.

Here are some pics I’ve taken of the torii gate from Miyajima.

The tide is out

Otorii gate of Itsukushima Shrine

We stayed overnight at Momijiso Ryokan so was lucky to see the torii gate ‘floating’ the next day.

The family running Momijiso Ryokan was very friendly. The food was good and the room was clean. It’s along the path to Momijidani Park. Our room has a very good view of the path and the koi pond. Occasionally we would see a few dear walking along the path!

Besides Itsukushima Shrine, we also explored Daisho-in. It was very peaceful walking around the shrine and temple. We also saw a few couples taking wedding photos with the torii gate at the background. How very romantic.

We wished we had stayed longer in Miyajima. Maybe next time…

I’ll end this post (abruptly) with some photos taken in Miyajima. You can see more on my flickr site here.
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Categories: Culture, Japan, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Back!

I am back from Japan!

The 14 days have flown past way too quickly for me! I’ll be back at work tomorrow so that is depressing! My friend told me the only way to not feel too depressed is to start planning for the next holiday! haha!!

I have spent the day emailing friends to thank them for their hospitality and writing reviews on Tripadvisor because I know if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it..ever!!

I’ll post more about my trip soon! Stay tuned!

Categories: Japan, Travel | Leave a comment

10 days!

10 days to Japan!

Woohoo!

Everything’s almost sorted now.

  • JR Pass – check.
  • Accommodation – check.
  • Mobile internet – check. We have decided to rent a pocket wifi from http://www.japan-wireless.com I will let you know how it is when I’m back.
  • Studio Ghibli tickets – check.

We have already decided what we’re going to do in Kyoto. We’ve been there before but not to Arashiyama. So we’re going to do that. We will definitely be going to Kiyomizudera.

It’s just Tokyo now…left to plan. I want to go to a Maid Cafe at Akiba!

The best thing about this trip will be meeting my friends. It will be good to see them again!!

Ok back to more planning….

Categories: Culture, Japan, Travel | 1 Comment

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