Joined May 2016 Message
  • Day19

    Mob scene in Kyoto

    July 16, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Our apartment is a block off Shijo-dori so we wandered down the road to Yakasa shrine where street food vendors have encamped for Gion Matsuri. We arrived on Yoiyoiyoiyama (3 nights before the big parade of 12 ton-ish floats). Friday is yoiyoiyam and Saturday is yoiyama. Since it is a long holiday weekend in Japan (Monday is Umi no hi - Marine Holiday), it seems that 1/3 of Japan and many many tourists are also here for the festivities. It's hot and humid, but as we wandered around, the temperature was dropping and the breeze helped cool things off. Since I'm still feeling crappy, we will try to go slow on Friday.Read more

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  • Day19


    July 16, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    I had signed up for a Nara Free Guide to show us around Nara Park. We met up with Satoru-san after having breakfast at french-style bakery near Kintetsu Nara station. The bakery has been around since the 50s and was really good. Then off to meet our guide, who happened to be super-fit and seemed ready to run us into the ground. He was very nice and slowed down once he realized we would be blocks behind him. He took us up to the prefecture government building for a nice view. We could see all of the temples we would be visiting from there and they seemed pretty far. There were lots of deer lining the way to our first stop - Todaiji. After that, it was blur of temples and shrines. We finally sat down around 2 for lunch at a diner in Naramachi. Then on to Kyoto.Read more

  • Day16


    July 13, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We left Hiroshima on Tuesday morning and headed to Koyasan via Osaka. The ride there included a cable car ride up the side of a mountain. We ended up in a lush green mountain setting with 1,000 year old trees and over 50 temple inns. Our temple inn was Shojoshin, which is right next to the famous cemetery with plenty of important historical figures who are hoping to get a free ride with Kukai aka Kobo Daishi -- the founder of the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism. The temple stay "experience" includes a vegetarian kaiseki dinner and a morning ceremony before breakfast (also part of the stay). Both meals were very good, with only a few weird things thrown in. We sat in the hot tub after dinner, then walked through the cemetery up to Kobo Daishi's mausoleum. The whole place has a strong spiritual ambience even if you're not inclined to believe any of it like me. There is a kind of tranquility that is hard to describe. On Wednesday morning we walked to the Kongojubi temple - the head Shingon temple. It claims the largest rock garden in Japan and also has some national treasures many consisting of paintings on the sliding doors. As we were getting ready to leave, we encountered some kind of ceremony involving some high priests and a bunch of others priests including one of the priests from our temple inn who had helped conduct the morning service. We have no clue what was going on, but a little kid was carrying what looked like a sacred tablet -- not the Moses kind but more like an ipad (it was shiny and about 1/3 inch thick). We headed back down the mountain afterwards to get to Nara. Koyasan seemed a little overrun with western tourists. I think the Japanese visitors come during other times of the year.Read more

  • Day15

    On to Hiroshima

    July 12, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Heart shape (fish farm?) in the rice field on our way from Uno Port to Chayamachi (Sunday). We left Naoshima around 1 and headed to Hiroshima. This departure was a couple hours earlier than planned so we were way ahead of our reservation on the Shinkansen from Okayama. We boarded a nonreserved car and got into Hiroshima about 4:30 and checked into the Hotel Granvia attached to the shinkansen station. This hotel was great for many reasons. We went to the hotel's Japanese restaurant where we each had different multi-course meals. Mine included sashimi, soup, corn rice, tempura, a bunch of mystery small plates (most edible), tsukemono, grilled fish, and a fig dessert. Since Monday was supposed to be raining, we decided to ride the tram out to Miyajimaguchi. I was feeling pretty good by then, so I made the big mistake of eating a choco-match donut. That donut stayed with me the whole day, ugh, so that by the end of the day I was again feeling crappy. The ropeway on Miyajima was not operating, so we walked around Utsukushima and up to the Dainsho-ji on Mt. Misen. The temple had two amazing sand paintings and a pitch black underground passageway with barely illuminated pictures of assorted gods. You had to keep your hand on the smooth wood wall to guide yourself through the passage. We had to make an emergency visit to the dentist for Laura's now-traditional vacation episode. The staff at the hotel were great despite my limited toddler vocabulary. And, we managed to communicate with the dentist enough too. All is well now, but no more shellfish for us -- she suspects the oyster shell dislodged the crown.Read more

  • Day15


    July 12, 2016 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Nyaoshima - Cat Cafe across the garden from Minshuku Oyaji no Umi. We stayed one night and appeared to be the only guests on a Sunday night. We were able to do a load of laundry here. The cat cafe had four cats -- one really old cat -- same age as Victor (18) was outside meowing very loudly and 3 more inside. She also had a little old dachshund. I was still recovering from the food poisoning - but able to eat breakfast in Kanazawa and this grilled musubi in dashi for dinner. I credit that dinner for getting me back to near normal. We had breakfast at Nyaoshima before going off on our tour of the Chichu Museum, an amazing space to view Monet and the James Turrell installation. The latter is hard to describe -- but more like a color/light/space experience. We criss crossed the island to see the James Bond museum on the Miyanoura port side (red pumpkin side). The Bond museum is all part of the island's efforts to get someone to make a movie there...wish them luck... it would be a a good spot.Read more

  • Day12

    Takayama and Kanazawa

    July 9, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    We stayed in a temple hostel in Takayama -- Zenkoji in a huge private tatami room. Since we got there early, we went to see the big floats and some of the old town first. I went to sleep once we checked in and Victor and Laura went out for their Hida beef sukiyaki. The following morning (Friday), Victor stayed in the room to watch Full House reruns on his tablet and Laura & I strolled around the 2 morning markets. The sellers had a lot of pickled stuff, which we sampled and lamented we cannot bring home. The Takayama thing is sarubobo, little red dolls. Victor got a bento box in the shape of sarubobo. We headed to Kanazawa on the train instead of taking the bus as planned because I was feeling crummy. The hotel in Kanazawa was really nice and had an onsen. So while Victor & Laura strolled Kenrokuen (one of the top 3 gardens in Japan) and went to the contemporary art museum, I went to the onsen and then slept. In the morning (Sat.) I was feeling slightly better and even hungry. We had nice Japanese breakfast buffet. Laura tried the Natto -- blech. I skipped all raw and went for grilled fish, oden, and tsukemono. Victor had miso, oden, tamago, beef stew, octopus, cheese tofu (yech), and swordfish plus gohan. I tried the beef stew -- which the sign said they cooked for 16 hours. It was really tender and tasty. We are on the first leg of our train trip to Naoshima as we cross back from the Japan Sea side to the Pacific. I am skiipping lunch today, but Laura and Victor ate sushi bento -- the kind that has vinegared mackerel and other fish wrapped up in leaves. Since I'm feeling about 75% now, I am hoping to be able to eat some hiyashi somen in Naoshima.Read more

  • Day11


    July 8, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Took this picture before we left Tokyo of the decorations up for Tanabata. Many towns celebrate it in August for some reason unknown to me. We are long gone from Tokyo. And now in Kanazawa. I'm spending tonight trying to figure out transferring photos from my camera while I recover from food poisoning. I think the clam rice onigiri on the train from Machida to Matsumoto did me in. I am starting to feel a little better after nearly 48 hours. Missed out on the Hida beef in Takayama and will skip the fresh seafood tonight.😞 (That's the suspect onigiri on the far right.)Read more

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