l'isle joyeuse

Posts Tagged ‘travel

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!


i haven’t been updating my blog in a very long time due to a lot of reasons. one of it being university, with all the end-of-semester reports and assignments to be finished. another reason would be captain who is an awesome travel buddy >w< too many things to do, so little time!

i'll update my blog properly on each and every place i've went in the past few weeks when all this madness is over, but for now, here is a short update on what i've been up to, hiro-style.









almost two more weeks before i leave the wonderful land of the rising sun and return to my tropical island! i shall miss this place dearly 😦 *starts planning future trips back here to japan*

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!

yesterday i took the train to 群馬県 gunma prefecture 🙂 it was a really long journey but not as expensive as expected, plus the weather was really good. it was really hot for spring – it really felt like i was back home again!!!

waseda –> [tozai line] –> otemachi –> [chiyoda line] –> kita-senju –> [tobu isesaki line] –> tatebayashi –> [tobu kiryu] –> akagi

gunma is filled with mountains, rice paddy fields and cars – gunma has the highest proportion of car owners among all prefectures in Japan

it feels really refreshing to see all the green, compared to the concrete jungle that is tokyo. it soothes the soul somewhat

川俣 kawamata town. from tokyo, the train passes through 埼玉県 saitama prefecture before going into 群馬県 gunma prefecture and this was the first gunma station!

so pretty!

reporting in from gunma! trivia : gunma was the backdrop for one of my favourite anime series, initial d!

gunma is surrounded by mountains all around! oh if only i had a car i would be able to go to the mountains and look at the hairpin courses with the leftover tyre tracks…

hiro is excited – after a really, REALLY long train ride(s), we’ve finally reached 赤城 akagi, home of the akagi red suns!

my first time seeing a white post box! :O according to the kanji, it’s for “harmful post” @_@;;

gas station 😀 initial d fans might get it

really sunny… i was sweating @_@;;

a lot of tyre tracks :O akagi youngsters, where are you?!

a lot of sports cars in akagi! but most of the time they were too fast for me to take any photos D:

taken from the middle of the railroad crossing

after exploring akagi for a bit, i gave up on looking for ways to get to the mountains because it’s too far and i definitely need a car to get there

the trains on the way to gunma were full of old folks, but on the way back to 館林 tatebayashi, there was nearly nobody on the trains!

a scenery that caught my eye. the train doors opened, and a gust of cool wind blew through – a perfect moment… i felt like getting off the train at that very moment

i got off at 館林 tatebayashi and saw something amusing 😀

… and something disturbing…

there was a flower festival in tatebayashi so the whole town was decorated with flowers

gunma is filled with lots of greenery!

also, there was a carp streamer exhibition along the 鶴生田川 tsuruuda river, which is one of the main rivers in the prefecture

there were thousands of them along the river! the big ones along the riverbank had drawings on them by local students, they were really colourful!

beautiful… i want to be a boy too!

i found an opening by the riverbank and sneaked in to take this shot

i really like this one – the grandmother was carrying her grandson on her back and the both of them were looking up at the carp streamers in silence in the afternoon sun

the poster says that it’s japan‘s best carp streamer exhibition, and i agree!

a boy looking around for his father… this is what happens when you get too absorbed looking at the carp streamers! 😀

my favourite shot of the day, probably. it’s so hard to capture children because they move around so fast, but i love photographing children. they have a really wide variety of expressions!

nice cars in gunma! the only places i can catch them would be when they stop at the traffic lights, because they’re super fast!!!

another one 😀 it’s amazing how young kids here in gunma here can afford nice cars :O

and i end my post today with a shot of a skyline 🙂 the kids that were driving it parked it at the roadside and went to a cafe nearby to have gelato

finally, i’ve gotten off my lazy butt to finish the last part of my travelog from my kansai trip hahah!!!

you know you’re in osaka when you start seeing biliken around you

osaka, where the old shitamachi (downtown) spirit lingers on

i need to try pufferfish sashimi the next time i go to osaka

😀 osaka castle on the manhole covers

osaka, the land of weird, quirky novelty souvenirs

one of the seedier looking alleys in shinsekai

hiro with crusty old tsuutenkaku tower

comparison of my feet with biliken‘s

knitted yarn biliken o_o;;

then we headed off to good old daruma for some mouth-watering kushikatsu

the guy who was cooking in front of us

japanese liquor, anyone? there were people already half-drunk at 12pm lol!

osaka‘s famous local specialty – kushikatsu

the ukiyo-e gallery at hozenji alley… so nostalgic!

vibrant colors

hahah! the glasses look odd on me (which is how it’s supposed to be) but on azrie they look like his normal glasses lmao XD

glico man!!!

this sign was very amusing to me lol

people lining up to enter the store for a sale. osaka people love cheap bargains

musk melon icecream tastes wonderful

>w< so happy!

an unexpected find!!! an idol shop in the depths of namba!!! *O* i went in, lured by the arashi posters… but was bombarded with wall to wall of kanjani8 photos hahah

after that we went to my host family’s place for dinner >w<

i miss okaasan’s cooking!!! *o*

we had sakura mochi with matcha after dinner

after that, they sent us to the train station by car >w< i also took a bath before leaving, to warm myself up.

and that was our exhausting trip in kyoto and osaka hahah!

the aquarium deserves a post of its own! >w<

the banners and flags lead the way to the aquarium! ^o^

kansai version of odaiba hahah!!!

the tile mural at the aquarium was really pretty!


free entrance for hiro!

the normal entrance fee for an adult is 2000円 but we took advantage of the after-5 pair ticket offer of 3700円 for two people! >w< i met up with alicia as well!

japanese otters!


so adorable!

chatting in tortoise speak

the pacific ocean tank is the largest tank in the aquarium – 9 meters deep and 54,000 tons of water, with an overall area of 620 square meters!

the star of the aquarium, kai-kun! the huge but adorable whale shark >w< i can watch him swim around forever…

i love aquariums. there’s something soothing to the soul about water for me 🙂 my childhood dream was to be a marine biologist but alas, i have no brains for maths and biology. so there goes my dream hahah!

hiro is amazed at the size of the creatures in the aquarium!

huge stingray behind him!


hiro loves aquariums too!

a popular dating spot for couples!

a romantic place to have a date, if only there are no other 1392 couples all around as well hahah

they look like tetrapods :p

i love jellyfishes!

i wish i had a better camera. i want one as a pet! they look so dreamy!

we love reflective surfaces for it allows us to camwhore

it was fun!! i want to come again!!!

this really struck a chord in me

how true

osaka water XD it’s even named in kansai-ben! “ほんまや honmaya” is the kansai equivalent of “本当だ hontou da,” meaning “really” or “truly.”

when we came out, the whale sharks were all lit up!

we went to get dinner at kuishinbo yokocho! if you’re in osaka, it’s got to be this!

okonomiyaki!!! i had cheese and mochi with meat!



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"

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