Kyoto, Japan 2017 – Day 11

041717

Woke up early to meet the gang at a train station to head to Arashiyama for the day. Cassie had been recommended this coffee place called %Arabica Kyoto % アラビカ京都 嵐山 (Japan, 〒616-8385 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Ukyō-ku, Sagatenryūji Susukinobabachō, 右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町3ー47) (Opens at 8AM). It was started by Kenneth Shoji and he bought a coffee farm in Hawaii and started a green bean trading company and became the sole-exporter of a Japanese roasting machine and became the distributor of one of the best espresso machines in the world. He then partnered up with a latte art champion, Junichi Yamaguchi and talented architect Masaki Kato to open % Arabica. I don’t drink coffee but aesthetically, I approved. My friends did line up and get coffee and they said it was really good. The actual Arashiyama location is really tiny and doesn’t really have seating inside (there is a booth you can rent per 30 minutes) but there are benches outside and you can sit by the river.

Once everyone had their morning coffee, we walked over to the Bamboo Forest. Along the way we kept seeing these vintage cars taking over the streets and whizzing by us as we darted to the bamboo forest. Apparently it was the annual Rally Nippon where classic cars are showcased on a 700-mile route or something similar to it as they took over the streets of Arashiyama and there was media coverage. They drove through the bamboo forest while we were there and to be honest, it ruined it for me. I have never been to this bamboo forest and yes it is more dense the further you go in but its also only 100m long. With such a small area but these vintage cars coming though, the exhaust from these cars smother you and at one point I started to cough and almost gag. The photos I’ve seen of the bamboo forest make it appear much larger than it is and we found it very difficult even though we went somewhat early to have a clear shot.

At this point, Karen & Chi decided they wanted to go into the villa garden while the rest of us (Cassie, Mike, Manwai & myself) opted to skip the garden and the temple to head to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. On our way to the park, we passed the small train station that had the kimono forest and took some photos. It is literally poles with real kimono fabrics in them that create a tunnel like the bamboo one but I think it would’ve been nicer to see at night as they do get illuminated. Back on our ways to Iwatayama Park – the park is 550y and it is a uphill climb to even get there. Be prepared. It is about 20 minutes uphill and yes there are benches along the way to rest. Once you arrive to the top, there are just monkeys everywhere. Take your photos but don’t get too close and I guess don’t look them in the eye as the signs keep telling us. There is a room you can enter and pay 100y for a bag of fruits you can then feed the monkeys . Yes you are in the cage while they are hanging from the wired windows of the human cage feeding them. There are park rangers around that the monkeys seem to respond to so everything is safe. We even saw a mother monkey who just gave birth 2 days earlier with her baby holding so tight to its mother. We spent a good while here and another perk – the view of the city was beautiful.

We hiked back down (another route back down but it does reconnect to the trail we started at the beginning) and walked back into town to meet Karen & Chi for lunch. Karen had chose a place called Otsuka STEAK おおつか (Japan, 〒616-8376 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Ukyō-ku, Sagatenryūji Setogawachō, 20−10). We arrived into this dead end of a suburban street to find a covered car park just filled with people and stools and a stand with a waiting list. We immediately put our name down and took a seat. A minute later, it started to pour. We commenced our sitting and waiting for a good hour and half playing would you rather and looking at the menu deciding what we wanted. This place is very popular and closes at 2PM or whenever they sell out.

When we finally got in, There are 3 large tables that are lowered where your feet hang in a lower area and of course seating at the bar. Each table can hold about 6 people. I ordered the 4A Waygu Beef (4200y) and it was delicious but didn’t compare to the hida steak we had a few days before. Still butter though.

Since it was raining, we went to see the owls (680y) and we got to pet them. Unlike the other location in Tokyo, we were unable to carry them. They were cute but I felt bad because they sleep during the day and one owl in particular in my photos looked incredibly sad. You pet them using only the bad of your hand and only on their head and backs. There was one that got nippy but hey, i would too if I have random people touching me.

We took the JR to Kyoto station and that is where our night ended. Kyoto station is so large in size and the main area reminded us of Eatons Centre in Toronto but on a different scale. We were looking at the dessert floor in CUBE for so long with its free samples and we all got enticed to purchase snacks and gifts. So good but so deadly. We ended up in Aeon mall and shopped some more. It got late and by 9PM we were looking for somewhere to have dinner. We ended up eating at the station – Sushi no Musasahi (Japan, 〒600-8214 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Higashishiokoji Takakuracho, 8−3 京都駅八条口構内アスティロード) – (JR Kyoto 8-jo south entrance) conveyor belt sushi – 146y a plate – I ate 11 plates – 1550y – the conveyor belt sushi in Shimokitazawa was still better and you could also order off a iPad. No Musashi would just make certain things and when we asked about unary they said eventually it will make it onto the belt (but they never made more of the unagi). We tried the melon shake at McDonalds – worst thing I consumed this whole trip – don’t do it. We got turned around in the station and ended up walking in the rain the same route we took when we arrived in Kyoto hoping to catch the bus home but we couldn’t figure out where the bus stop was so we hopped in a cab to take us the rest of the way.

Osaka, Japan 2012 – Day 10

10/03/12

The moment I met Mr Yano, I knew it was a good choice to stay at this hostel. He is about 60 years old and runs J-Hoppers – Osaka. He is quite the character and his laugh is mesmerizing.

He has a few english phrases he likes to say:

-It’s ok.

-Very cheap, get drunk.

-Oh my gawd!

-Oh it’s a happy time

J-Hopper offers local city walks or adventures with Mr Yano and other staff each day of the week. The event in particular for that day was a citywalk and dressing in a traditional kimono led by Mr Yano. There was a group of 13 and we took the train to Temma station (120¥) where Tenjinbashisuji – the longest street of stores is hold. It takes about an hour to just walk through but beware of people riding their bikes along pedestrians. We had people from Washington, Australia, Holland, Korea and people teaching in Korea with us on this walkabout. Mr Yano stopped by a few places that have cheap drinks as well as the brick wall that still is standing after 100 years. The little shops are family owned and showed us a store with a mother and her daughter selling sweets and other confections in which they live above the store.

Mr Yano took us to Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (600¥) where they have a replica of the 1830’s samurai house / village that we are able to walk through and also try on kimonos. There are staff members who get you dressed in traditional kimonos and give you accessories like a purse and you trade in your footwear for wooden sandals. You get tucked in real tight then they take a rope-like cloth and strap it around you like a corset before taking another long red cloth and end it off with a bow. After you are fully dressed, you are allowed to wander the perimeters the replica village (for about 30 minutes) to get a feel for what life was like back then. To add to the realism, you are also walking in wooden sandals so your steps are small and slower. It was a great experience and the kimonos were beautiful.

When we returned into our regular clothing, Mr Yano took us for conveyor belt sushi 130¥ a plate (very cheap). It was so good! Each plate that comes around are categorized by a colour which let you know how much each plate costs. When you sit down, you can grab a tea cup and then to your left, there are 2 little bottles with matcha green tea powder and another tea powder. You need to open the bottle of tea powder and shake twice into your cup and add water from the tap in front of you. We separated from the group after lunch and walked the rest of Tenjinbashisuji before coming upon a temple called Osaka Tenmangu. It is the most famous of all the many tenjin shrines located throughout Japan.  There is a fountain at the front of every temple that we watched the locals use. It is proper etiquette to use the water fountain to purify oneself before entering. First you start by filling the cup/ladle with water, pour some on your left hand then your right before pouring a little bit in your left hand taking a sip and spit it out.

After the temple we returned to Umeda & Osaka station to shop at Daimaru Umeda where on the 10th to 12th floor held Tokyu Hands which sells pretty much everything. Jack of all trades type of store with some products only the Japanese can think of.  Also on the 13th floor was Uniqlo and a visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Pokemon Center. We continued onto Hankyu Street to find my favourite store – Don Quixote which sells cheap and comical things as well as an assortment of Japanese candies and snacks. To say the least, I left with a bag full of candies to last me a lifetime. Every Wednesday at J-Hoppers, Mr Yano runs a walking day tour and offers to take whomeever for a Izakaya dinner at night. Every Friday is international drinking night. We just made it back in time to join the group for dinner. It was a group of 6 guys and Mr Yano. Max was originally from Rochester, New York but works for a bank in China for the past 5 years.  Chris is from Scotland who will continue onward to Cairns, Australia after Japan. Felix and Philip are from Quebec – one is a Sound Technician and the other is a Social Worker and finally Dominic and David from the UK who are lawyers but working for a bank. It was a great night with good company and good food. We had sukiyaki, pork cutlet, dumplings and of course beer and sake! Sake can be served multiples ways – served cold or served hot. Ended the night off stargazing on our hostels rooftop.