JAPAN CHRONICLES: Kyoto Chapter

Posted on July 21, 2016

IMG_8312

This Kyoto post will be the last of  my Japan chronicles.  I will not be including our travel adventures in Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka.  I feel that I’m starting to overkill my Japan blog entries already  so I’ll write about another country next post, promise.

But I cannot NOT (yay double negative) include Kyoto because there are just so many cool things going on in that place.  Actually, I had this image of Kyoto being all historic and just shrines and temples everywhere,  so I was surprised that it’s actually a big city and quite cosmopolitan at that.  It’s a contradiction of both the old and modern blending together seamlessly. In other words, Kyoto is DOPE.

IMG_8357

Since there are so many things to do/see, you really need to plan ahead especially if you don’t have a lot of time.  Again, a little research and some extensive interrogation (annoying questions you ask locals) will help you a lot.  A few things you need to remember before you go temple/shrine hopping.

  1. The more popular the temple/shrine, the bigger the crowd (obviously) so expect long queues at the entrance and expect to compete photo op space with other tourists (i.e. families, tour groups) as well as locals that go with their friends and families.  Some locals go to these temples/shrines to pray or to give offering.  It is a holy place and many tourists/visitors like myself tend to forget that sometimes, so it is polite to observe courtesy at all times.
  2. Have some spare change/cash with you.  Some temples/shrines have an entrance fee.  They also sell some merchandise inside and there are many food stalls, souvenir shops at the entrance/exit of these temples. I can tell you now, the green tea ice cream and pork siomai I ate at  the Arashimaya station were amazing. I almost cried when I didn’t have enough change to buy another one.
IMG_8444 IMG_8446

3. Think of the season you’re going.  We went during the cherry blossom or sakura season, and that’s another reason for attracting large crowds.  Make sure to have a warm jacket or coat even during springtime or a light cardigan just in case it gets chilly.  If you don’t have issues bringing an umbrella, even better.

4. Once you’ve decided on the places you want to check out, then start mapping out your route.  Again research on how to best get there, some of these temples are within walking distance from each other so you want to avoid zigzagging and or missing out on another temple that’s just beside the temple you visited (even if it’s not on your list).  Believe me, after 4-5 temples, they all start to look the same lol.

Here are some of the temples/shrines we visited in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari Shrine or Fushimi Inari Taisha, probably one of the most iconic shrine in Kyoto and maybe the whole of Japan. It’s world famous  for its thousands of vermilion torii gates but to get a decent solo picture with these gates as backdrop is a challenge so I will be posting all the decent ones we’ve managed to take, considering the effort that we put into it. Oh, and Inari is said to be the God of Rice, so just another reason why I love love this shrine.

IMG_8255 image-4 image-5 IMG_8332
IMG_8338

Not sure what these are but they look pretty.

IMG_8352 image-2

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion) officially Rokuon-ji Temple.  This beautiful Buddhist temple manages to stay minimalistic even when it’s coated in gold.

IMG_8471 imageIMG_8472 IMG_8484 IMG_8486 image-3

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, you may skip this spot if you’re not interested in bamboos but amidst the soaring stalks of the largest member of the grass family and you’d think you’re being transported in another time.  It’s like being on a set film and some ninja’s are gonna start flying from one bamboo to another and start throwing shrunken at each other.  Yeah I watch too many movies/animes.

IMG_8366 IMG_8376

Tenryu-ji Temple or Tenryū Shiseizen-ji, the great thing is, the bamboo grove is just opposite to this beautiful Buddhist temple.  We spent some time admiring the garden and again took gazillion photos of the cherry blossoms because you can never have enough.

IMG_8378 2

This cute little birdy was showing off.

IMG_8405 IMG_8428 IMG_8433

Honen-in Temple, this would have to be one of my favourite temples because out of the many we’ve visited, it’s by far the simplest and the least popular.  It’s quite hard to explain. It’s walking distance from another popular temple Ginkakuji which we decided to skip.  It’s quite secluded and because it’s not as popular, there are less crowds and you have more time to appreciate the temple.

IMG_8582 IMG_8544 IMG_8574 IMG_8567

Philosopher’s Walk or Philosopher’s Path – This two kilometre’s path is prettiest in April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.  It’s almost like a fairytale.  The path begins around Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion).

image-3 IMG_8536

There are still plenty of places I want to explore in Kyoto but that will have to wait until I make my way back.  Here’s wishing that will happen soon.

Love lots,

Geri

 

 

 

IMG_8207

JAPAN CHRONICLES: Mt. Fuji Chapter

Posted on June 10, 2016

I may have fallen in love with Tokyo but the most memorable leg of my Japan trip was our short visit to the Mt. Fuji area.

IMG_8190

The trip that almost didn’t happen because:

1.) The Mt. Fuji area is not covered by Japan Rail Pass

2.) We didn’t have enough time.

I was being ambitious trying to cover as many places as I can in a short period but I am glad I followed my guts because Mt. Fuji was ah-maze-ball.

image-2

Bye bye Tokyo!

The plan was to leave Tokyo early in the morning but our stomachs got in the way (note: grumpy when hungry) and we ended up  missing the latest morning bus and reached Yamanaka late in the afternoon (3-4 hours travel).  We also had to wait for our hotel service bus to pick us up from the station. While waiting to be picked up in the cold it also started to rain. Luckily, the service bus arrived before we got drenched. From the station it took another 15-20 minutes to reach the hotel which was situated up the hill/mountain.  I originally planned to go sight seeing once we’ve checked in but the rain got stronger and since we were all worn out, we decided to stay in.  The hotel had prepared some yukata’s (kimono)  for us to use and I even got my mom to try one on.

IMG_8175

Turning Japanese

image-4 image-3

After dinner, I heard my cousin screaming from the balcony. I was like what’s going ? Turned out it just started snowing.  You see, it was my mom and cousin’s first time to see/experience snow so they were so excited. My cousin wished to see snow but I told her that since it’s already spring in Japan it won’t snow anymore but her pure simple wish was granted and I was so happy for her.

image

Once the snow excitement settled down, we decided to try the hotel’s onsen or rotten-buro (outdoor hot springs).  Mom did not come with us, she didn’t like the idea of being naked in front of other people even if they’re all women.  You can tell I got that prudish trait from her. I love that my first onset experience was in this beautiful outdoor hot spring in the middle of the night and it was snowing at the same time.  The contrast of the snow falling on my skin with the warmth of the hot spring was such a relaxing almost ethereal feeling.  Quite the opposite of my hammam experience in Morocco, although they have similar bathing concept, hammam was more invasive.  We tried other onsens afterwards but the one in Hotel Mt. Fuji was still the best.

The following morning, we had yet another wonderful surprise.  I was aware that the hotel had some rooms that have views of Mount Fuji and we realised that we actually got one of those rooms.  We didn’t see Mt. Fuji summit the day before because the fog covered the view.  It was all dark and gloomy the previous afternoon but it was blindingly bright white the morning after.

IMG_8187   image-6 IMG_8193 image-3
image-5

Go big or go home right? I am a certified glutton.

After our buffet breakfast, we set out to the hotel gardens where you get an even better view of Mt. Fuji and yes it was truly majestic and beautiful.

IMG_8199 IMG_8227 IMG_8221 13405486_10153763736428247_936851013_o IMG_8174 IMG_8219 IMG_8226

Our Mt. Fuji adventure was definitely short and sweet.  Both my cousin and I are planning to go back soon and stay longer. It was so bitin, we were not ready to leave yet but our next destination was calling.

IMG_8207

Next stop: Kyoto.

 

 

 

 

image copy 2

JAPAN CHRONICLES: Tokyo Chapter

Posted on April 20, 2016

So late last month, I finally got around to visiting one of my must see places to travel before I die.

The land of the rising sun.

Japan.

image 3

Now I kinda regret why I waited this long. I mean, I have always been a fan of anything Japanese. I think I had this notion that Japan is super expensive and that I won’t be able to afford going there, but I’m so glad that I made the jump. It’s worth every cent. What made this trip even more special was that I got to share this amazing experience with my mom and my cousin.

Our first stop was Tokyo.

We were supposed to meet my cousin at Haneda airport the same day.   She was flying from the Philippines, but unfortunately got illegally detained in South Korea airport due to some lost in translation problems with the immigration officer. To make the long story short, we ended up having to buy another flight from Korea to Japan just so they’d release her and give her passport back. All this was happening while we’re still at the airport and I was thinking that this was not a good way to start our trip. For some reason I was totally zen like. I think because I was with my mom and if I show her that I’m worried or panicking, she’ll probably lose the plot. Then again, deep inside that was just me refusing to let anything ruin our trip.

We ended up arriving at our hotel past midnight already. I wanted to try all the quirky accommodations in Japan so I booked this capsule hotel. I didn’t tell my mom we were staying at this kind of place, so her reaction was kinda funny when she found out. At first she didn’t like it but once she saw the bathroom she changed her mind. I have to say, it was definitely a fun experience.

image-3 3

Works for lil people like me, but might not work for people who are claustrophobic.

We stayed in Shinjuku area and our hotel was just walking distance from the main train station so going from one place to another was pretty easy. Actually when you look at Tokyo’s subway/railway map, it looks really crazy and overwhelming but it’s actually one of the easiest to navigate. I only ever got lost once (but I won’t be sharing that story here).

I didn’t want to do major sightseeing without my cousin and luckily I scheduled our first day in Tokyo to mostly just checking out popular shopping areas. Mom and I ended up going to Ginza and Shibuya and decided to start our food and shopping trip.

image

My fake attempt at cooking okonomiyaki

 

image-2 2

I scheduled to meet with one of my Japanese friends in Shibuya and I don’t know how we found each other from amongst the crazy crowd but I’m glad we did because I had no idea where to find this ramen place that I researched.

image-4

That infamous Shibuya crossing.

image-6

If you can’t beat them, join them right?

Here’s the deal. I have a strange relationship with noodles. I only ever eat instant noodles, and even when it is instant, it has to be a particular kind of noodle and I have to cook it myself or I won’t eat it because I’m weird like that. But ever since I got hooked to watching Naruto, I’ve developed this craving to eat ramen, like a proper ramen, and not just in any place, it has to be in Japan. So I ended up researching this hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Kiraku Ramen Noodle Place, that’s been serving ramen for over five decades apparently.

image-2

Anyway,  I’m so glad I got to share my first ramen experience with Satomi and my mom.  I didn’t like the noodle because it was too thick for my liking but the broth was delicious and the pork was really tender and tasty. It was a massive serving though and well worth the price.

Satomi took us to a couple of shops in Shibuya afterwards and I was basically restraining myself from buying all the cute stuff that was staring back at me, pleading for me to buy them.

The struggle was definitely real.

Later on that night, after saying our goodbyes to Satomi, Mom and I went back to the airport to pick up my cousin. Her eyes were still pretty swollen from all the crying but all the stress disappeared when we got reunited. I knew in my heart that things will just work out in Japan, and it did.

image-10

The next day, after badmouthing Koreans because of what happened to my cousin, we ended up eating at a Korean BBQ in Shinjuku. Lol!

image 2

Oh and I timed this trip for when these pretty flowers are in full bloom.

image copy 2.jpg

Sakura (Cherry blossoms) viewing at the Imperial Palace.

It’s like a typical but not-so-typical scene in Japan.  I find Japanese women so dainty and graceful, especially when they’re wearing yukata (kimono). image-8

Our hotel was also just walking distance to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.  Aside from the sakura’s, I was also enthralled seeing a traditional Japanese garden for the first time.  I’ve always liked bonsai’s (I actually grow one) so to see a bunch of them was quite lovely. I felt very much at peace.

image-4 image-7

A trip to Tokyo is not complete without checking Akihabara (well for me anyway).  You see I’m what some people will call an Otaku haha.  I know I’m way too old to still be obsessed with anime’s and manga’s but I don’t give a flying kick.  I will forever be a fan.   So I basically lost my shit when I was checking out the shops in Akihabara. I was so excited I got lost going back to the hotel.

image-5

My happy place.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy a lot of stuff because they don’t have any subtitled/dubbed (anime) or english translations (manga) versions.  I bought two magazines as souvenirs though.

I wanted to stay longer in Tokyo but alas, we had to move on to our next destination, and so our Tokyo trip ends and our Mt. Fuji adventure begins next chapter.

image-3

See ya.

Geri xoxo

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers