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Archive for the ‘kyoto’ Category

backlog : 2010.05.23

my final day in kyoto during my weekend trip to kansai alone was spent in a small town called 鞍馬 kurama, about 40 minutes away from the main city of kyoto! it was not a very wise move, seeing as it was a city nestled in a quiet, somber mountain area, not to mention it was raining the whole day with strong wind gusts D: but there was nothing i can do because i’ve already planned on going to 鞍馬寺 kuramadera. i had also planned to visit mount hiei as well but i gave up because it was simply impossible.

mount kurama : the home of king of the tengu, who taught swordsmanship to minamoto no yoshitsune. it’s on the border of two prefectures, kyoto and shiga, and being a mountain town, it’s pretty boring and there’s nothing actually “touristy” here, unless…

you like huge, giant tengu goblins 🙂 hiro does! incidentally, this particular statue was featured in a t no arashi corner hahah!

the demons and spritis of kurama are considered some of the most famous in the country

entrance to kurama temple, which is famous for its long winding paths of red and white bonbori lanterns

it was raining too hard and the ground was too dangerous to trek up on foot so i opted for the cable car!

the winding stone-paved path towards the main hall. you can see how eerie it was D: summer it’s this cold and misty?

main hall of the temple

🙂 where i was, with only a summer cotton tunic and a really thin cardigan. an unforgettable experience!

some of the cutest wishing plates i’ve ever seen!

coming down from the temple 🙂 in the beginning, i was tempted to trek through the jungle all the way towards 貴船神社 kifune jinja but i couldn’t even see 5 steps in front of me due to the mist and there was this moment where something hit my mind : “crap, if i get lost in here NOBODY WOULD EVER KNOW AND I WOULD MISS MY BUS BACK TO TOKYO HENCE MISSING CLASS AND I COULD DIE IN HERE AND MY BODY WOULD ONLY BE FOUND 10 WEEKS LATER OMG WHAT DO I DO!!!”

but as luck would have had it, halfway through a small area in the jungle heading towards kifune jinja my feet got caught by a huge confusing tangle of tree roots in a area that was apparently named 魔王階段 devil steps o____o;; it was at this time that i met a group of extremely nice japanese ladies (and one man) who gathered a few times each year to go on trips together! they were really worried about me because i was all alone in the heavy rain and wind in the jungle and they said that if i joined them it would bring the number of people in the group to 12, which was a nice even number hahah!

they even treated me to lunch! 😀 i had matsutake udon *O* SO DELICIOUS!

the nicest people i’ve ever met!!! they were so kind to me, some of them gave me their name cards and one of them gave me her phone number, telling me to call her if i ever go to okinawa! the nice guy (who speaks excellent english and travels around a lot) lives in odaiba apparently and he actually invited me for coffee when we were both back in tokyo but with becki‘s arrival and all there was no time. too bad, really, because i would have loved to meet him once more!

after that, i parted ways with them as they were going to kifune jinja and i opted to go try my luck at the cable car station to go to mount hiei, but we all know how that ended up 😦 the rain and wind was too strong that the cable cars were temporarily suspended and there was no knowing when they’d restart, and the people at the ticket counter told me to come again another time because the temple closes at 4:30pm anyway…

so i made my wet, tired way back to kyoto and treated myself to a nice, nice dinner since it was such a miserable day for me. i had kyoto cuisine at a really posh looking restaurant called がんこ ganko at the train station that was a lot cheaper than it looked from the outside! i ordered the やわらぎ子鍋 yawaragi konabe set (2079円) ♪

pork shabu shabu to warm myself up after a long, rainy day in the mountains with no raincoat on! it really was a surprise i didn’t fall sick 😀

the whole set was so beautifully presented, it was such a shame to eat it! it was really affordable for such great food at a nice japanese restaurant that i couldn’t resist!!! i can’t wait to go back to kyoto again so i can try the other stuff on the menu with teddy >w< he would swoon and never ever be able to look at japanese food the same again hahah!


backlog : 2010.05.21

my day in 京都 kyoto after my maiko photoshoot 🙂 it was really sunny, i was sweating a lot :O i’ve been to kyoto many times but i would never get bored of this place. just as i thought, my heart belongs in kansai!

the bus stopped at a rest area on the way to kyoto at night, and i saw this on the shelves 😀 so amusing!!! also, did you know that they have memorial stamps at highway rest areas too? oh japan you amuse me…

walking up 清水坂 kiyomizuzaka 🙂

as you can see, it was really sunny. i should have brought sunscreen along…

i caught a bee! it took me a few tries to get it though, because it was moving around so restlessly

a studio ghibli merchandise store at 三年坂 sannenzaka. i feel like buying so many things…

a cute maltese outside a store, waiting for its owner to finish shopping

obligatory self-photo, the moment i find a reflective surface >w<

a common sight in kyoto

on the way to 嵐山 arashiyama. i took the bus because then i can look at the scenery fly past me outside the windows, instead of staring into the dark subway tunnels

finally, after a long bus ride! 🙂 it’s so beautiful!

the original bridge was made from wood, and even now they’ve still kept to the original design

hiro enjoying the cool wind by the riverbank

another common sight in kyoto : rickshaw pullers

the original wooden beams under the bridge were replaced with iron but the original design was kept

fresh maple leaves. arashiyama is very famous for autumn foliage, and there are maple leaves everywhere you look! i must come again in autumn next time – my favourite season is autumn! ♥

and finally, the bamboo forest path i’ve been wanting to go for such a long time! ♥

they’re really straight and tall :O i tried knocking on one and my knuckles went red 😀

it’s really a tranquil place, and you can barely hear the sounds from the streets, except from the occasional rattle from the trains nearby

it’s a good thing i went on a weekday, though, as it would probably be filled with people on the weekends

野宮神社 nonomiya shrine along the bamboo forest path.

imperial princesses who served at ise shrine first resided here for 3 years to purify themselves, before taken in a procession to ise.

nonomiya shrine has also appeared in the tale of genji, noh stories and waka poems

i know we’re supposed to read the kanji from top to bottom, but i can’t help reading it left to right…

i realized i have this sort of fascination with railroads

a really mysterious looking bamboo bridge in the middle of the bamboo forest

finally, a reflective surface in arashiyama!

after emerging from the depths of the bamboo forest, i walked back towards the river just in time to catch the sunset

so beautiful! the water surface was really calm and pretty too, despite the quick flow of water

i walked a little closer along the river bank and was overcome with the beauty of it

i had dinner at a restaurant nearby since i was starving and the bus back to gion wasn’t going to come around anytime soon 🙂 when you think about kyoto, it’s got to be kyoto cuisine! the set was supposed to come with a chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), but they ran out of it so they replaced it with agedashi tofu

a close-up of my favourite : sashimi! ♥ ♥ ♥

i took the last bus from arashiyama back to the station and back to the hostel 🙂 it’s a really cute and homey place, and they have a whiteboard at the lobby to tell you how the weather will be like the next day

and they have cute handwritten signs all over the place 🙂 there were a lot of photos on the walls, of people who used to stay there. it was interesting! maybe i should send them mine as well…

i finally came back from my weekend trip to kyoto >w< it was quite tiring but well worth the time!

i've been to kyoto a few times in the past but my main purpose in going down this time was to do my maiko photoshoot. i’ve been wanting to do it for a really long time now, but there wasn’t enough time and now that i don’t have classes on friday, i finally have the chance to go on short weekend trips!

i’ve had my sights set on studio shiki ever since i stumbled upon the site, and i am really glad i went with it in the end! the staff were very professional and helpful, and it wasn’t as tiring or troublesome experience as some people who have been through say it was – rather, it was quite relaxing and felt more like a spa treatment to me hahah!

i chose the mini outdoor photography plan 🙂 it costs 16,000円 but upon arrival, they took one look at my hair and asked me if i was willing to pay an extra 2,100円 to use part of my own hair, which would look more natural. i agreed because i’ve seen photos of people with wigs that looked way too obvious in their photos 😀

it was a really sunny day so i was worried about how the photos would turn out, but they were really nice!

i chose a more traditional and mature kimono because i originally wanted a red one, and the closest they had to red was pink, which had a modern motif… so in the end i went with this one! darker colours were really pretty too, especially the blue, green or purple… i had a REALLY hard time making up my mind!

it was really hard not to smile really wide, because we’re not supposed to show any teeth!

maiko, otherwise known as apprentice geisha (or geiko as they are called in kyoto), are well-known for their distinctively flashy darari obi, which literally means “dangling obi. apprentice maiko, on the other hand, wear their obi in the same way but at half the length.

the white make-up is very distinctive as well, especially around the nape of the neck. it is painted in such a way to create the illusion of a mask, by leaving a thin line of bare skin around the face.

it was really good that i went on a weekday as well, because it means less crowds and people that would get in the way hahah!

the mysterious thing was… it was really hot and sunny but i wasn’t sweating AT ALL :O WHY??

can you see where my real hair was used, and where the wig is?

the wind was blowing at the right time! the special raised sandals that maiko wear are called okobo officially, but in kyoto they are also called pokkuri from the sound that they make on the stone pavements when walking. a lot of people have been warned that it is really hard to walk while wearing them, but it was fairly easy for me 🙂

a close-up. i wish i could smile in a happier way but there was no way i can do that without showing any teeth… oh well.

one of my favourite shots 🙂

when i look at close-up photos like these, i feel really glad that i opted for the half-wig… it looks so natural!!!

the mini plan includes 30 photos taken outdoors. the full outdoor plan comes with 60 photos, but it was more expensive so in the end i chose this one! there are cheaper studio photography plans as well, but i figured outdoor shots will be better since it would look more natural 🙂

being a kimono lover, it was a really fun experience, and i must admit that i am now addicted! i am really tempted to do it again!!! i highly suggest this for anyone with a bit of money and time to spare in kyoto… it’s truly a wonderful experience!

i’ve been putting this off for way too long hahah! it’s difficult trying to narrow down the amount of photos to use in my blog =w= but here you go, the first day in kyoto! we took the night bus from shinjuku and arrived in kyoto the next morning. it was actually snowing the night we left so it was a good thing i decided not to bring along the suitcase or it would have been soaked >w<

breakfast at the only place open at 7 in the morning – starbucks! a donut and hot soy latte for me =w=

we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and because we could only check-in at 3pm, we decided to explore first, even though it was drizzling… it was colder than tokyo!!

🙂 my passport is useful

first stop : 金閣寺 kinkakuji, the golden pavillion

next stop : 二条城 nijo castle. it’s pricey 😦 600円 per entry… but the inside was really pretty *O* the paintings on the walls, ceilings and sliding doors are breathtaking! i want to live there and spend my day sitting around in luxurious silk kimono

it stopped raining for a bit when we were here

i was glad the sun came out because i could finally take this photo!

it’s been a while since i’ve seen blue skies! all my kyoto photos were really gloomy… overcast skies and dark clouds!

we made full use of the town busses! i think it was probably the most i’ve ever been on a bus in a single day :p

contrasts. outsiders and locals. and dark skies hahah!

katsudon for lunch

third stop : 清水寺 kiyomizu-dera. coming to all these places reminds me of my beloved nehs!

more dark skies. but at least it stopped raining.

10 points to anyone who knew the real reason why i took this photo! >w<

yes i do!

we went to 祇園 gion after checking in… it was REALLY cold by then!!!

fourth stop : 八坂神社 yasaka jinja.

the lanterns were all lit up, with all the geisha and maiko‘s names painted on them >w<

the gion crest/emblem on the lanterns in gion advertising the annual 祇園をどり gion odori – three circles connected on a vertical line!

being a wednesday night, gion was really quiet!

i want to live in kyoto!

our awesome dinner!!! we found this place by chance after receiving a flyer on the streets >w< kyoto vegetables in my sukiyaki!!! it came with rice as well – extra helpings are free of charge 🙂

on the way back to the hotel. i fell down the stairs trying to take a photo of the posters hahah!!! so embarassing…

the next day, we went to 伏見稲荷大社 fushimi inari shrine! i wanted to go all the way up because i was expecting something up there…

took the train there after leaving out bags in a coin locker at the train station

^o^ i can’t get enough of this place!

at the purification fountain. for foreigners who might take it as a drinking fountain :O

the view from halfway up the mountain 🙂

the top! you can see all the moss >w<

i was so disappointed when we reached the top T_T

the only thing up there is another shrine not unlike all the other shrines on the way up…

so we went back down again hahah!

at least it was warm! i was sweating! it was good exercise but was really tough =w=;; shows how unfit i am!

i thought it would be cold so i brought two parkas, but my fears were unfounded -_-;; it was really hot!!!

>w< hi!

and from here, allow me to fangirl XD i couldn't help it!!! it was right in front of my face so i couldn't ignore it :p

this one was really unexpected >w<

it’s a bit sad that i couldn’t complete the whole set ;w;

we wanted to go to arashiyama as well initially but there wasn’t much time left so we left kyoto after leaving fushimi inari.

next stop : osaka!!!

i’ve heard of a pub crawl but… haha i’ve told myself i must try ramen in each place i possibly can go, and here we go 😀 in the 4 weeks i’ve been in japan, we ate ramen 5 times 😀 one of the shops we visited twice because a) it’s so damn good, and b) it’s just 10 minutes away from where we were living.

1. まこと屋 makoto-ya

first, the best ramen in the world (so far) 😀 a small modern-looking shop called まこと屋 makoto-ya, about 10 minutes away on bike from where we were living in osaka. the first time we ate here, it was a really late lunch, and we just popped into the shop on the first day we set foot on japanese soil. knowing that the first ramen shop we enter would give us the first impression, we were a bit dubious but our fears were soon set to rest.

they had a clear menu with nice photos and prices were not exceedingly expensive. for a set of a bowl of ramen plus one side dish (e.g. gyoza, fried rice, etc.), Y800 seems to be a well-worth-it price (to me at least). plus, one good thing about restaurants and shops in japan is that they always serve iced water/green tea for absolutely no charge at all 😀

their ramen has a tinge of spiciness i can’t quite put my finger onto. it’s not exactly chilli-like, but it’s a bit like chilli-oil? (ginger?) i’m not really sure but it’s not so spicy to the extent of me not being able to eat it 😀

my set comes with a bowl of white rice so in the end when i’m done with the ramen, i poured the soup all over my rice and ate it. BLISS! rice and soup never tasted SO good. i could just eat rice and soup and be happy.

2. たから屋 takara-ya

next is a really old-looking shop in kyoto, called たから屋 takara-ya. with counters surrounding a steamy kitchen area and a warm “irrashai~!” every time the sliding door opens and closes, one could feel how the shop still retains a traditional and nostalgic atmosphere.

the only downside for anyone who can’t read japanese is perhaps the all-japanese menu. no pictures at all. hahah! all they had was this white menu on the side of the wall where we sat down, with horizontal japanese characters followed by the price of the food. man was it a headache even for us… (reading downwards is NOT one of my specialties) the price is about the same, Y800 for one set.

their ramen is a bit more on the salty side as compared to the shop above 😀 none of the spiciness but it was not bad at all 😀 though the pork was a little less delicious than makoto-ya 😀

my set comes with a plate of chicken karaage <3<3<3 now this, is orgasmic *O* simply wonderful! i couldn't move after finishing both the chicken and the ramen D: haha

3. 嵐 arashi

okay, i only entered this shop because of the name of the shop XD XD XD ahahaha… but we were shopping in aeon at that time and were all really hungry for lunch. being a big shopping mall, this shop was probably the cheapest we could find, since every other shop had food that were priced from Y1000 onwards.

ordering was easy because the menu had pictures 🙂 i ordered the basic ramen which was priced at Y620. the ramen was not all that great, but i loved the soup. it probably sounds disgusting if i describe it, but the soup has little flecks of fats from the pork used to make the soup! WHICH. WAS. OMG. WOW.

😀 nori was soggy from the soup. i love it that i can order ramen without the things i like in japan >▽<

4. 天下一品 tenka ippin

finally we have a famous ramen chain-store called 天下一品 tenka ippin. i guess it could be like the yoshinoya of ramen? 😀 hahah it’s everywhere! we went to one of the shops in kyoto (gion area) and i swear within that small square of gion there were TWO of them. why would anyone need two similar shops in the same place befuddles me. we were recommended to come to this shop by someone we met in the center, who insisted that tenka ippin was the place for ramen with rich and thick soup, claiming that the ramen there was “beri beri kotteri!” (kotteri meaning thick/rich, when talking about liquids/soup)

and boy was he right 😀 the soup was so thick that i couldn’t see the ramen… the pork served together with the ramen is cha siu style >▽<

the most delicious gyoza in the world ❤ (ordered separately)

the menu was a bit confusing because there are no pictures but then again… you could just tell them "ramen" and be done with it i suppose. BUT! the most amazing thing happened when we were just about done with our food. a french couple came in and had no idea how to order, and they didn't know english (only basic words like ramen and sake? and whiskey lol) so we had some fun helping them order. in the end the staff was so grateful and glad we were there to help them with the foreign customers that they offered us a "サービス service." in japan, this is what they call a bonus, extra or a freebie.

we received one each! warm and fluffy! it was my first time eating something like this so i didn’t know what it was, so once i bit into it…

OMG *O* i died and came back to earth again, i kid you not… this is a warm/heated dessert called “ごまだんご goma dango” (black sesame dango) 😀 i don’t usually like black sesame but this one was so awesome 😀 it’s salty on the outside (the crispy brown part) and sweet on the inside ❤ i want to eat this again 😀

verdict : you can enter any ramen shop in japan, ANYWHERE and be reassured that it will taste really, REALLY good.
i miss japan 😦 i want to eat dango, damnit.


slice-of-life entries of my life in japan as an exchange student :) feel free to comment... they're my daily pieces of happiness!

to read my travel posts, please click on "voyages"

thank you for dropping by, and have a nice day ♥

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