Sunday, September 29, 2013

rafting and cliff jumping

Went river rafting for the first time ever with Adventure Spirit Rafting. For a person who doesn't exercise I was able to paddle for hours. Yay me!

I prefer sitting in the back because its less work...

There was so much paddling involved! In my head I just thought you paddled every once in awhile during calm waters or something to keep moving - I was so wrong. We had to paddle a lot during calm waters (super draining - hated that part) and would have to paddle furiously while going down rapids to avoid sinking the raft! Sometimes they would deliberately make us hit rocks so that we would bounce off of them and spin around. Super fun!

We would also do this thing, called surfing, where we would go against the river right after a rapid and basically surf on the wave created by the rapid. Series of pictures depicting our surfing skills below:

about to surf
hated my spot - got the brunt of the wave
progression of getting swallowed by water
made it!
You see how Dani, the girl next to me is reaching for me, it's because shes trying to atone for the fact that she let me fall out of the boat the other time we surfed. We have to wedge our feet into the raft to prevent us from falling out so I was literally dangling out of the boat for what seemed like an eternity (maybe more like 15 seconds). The whole time Dani just watched as I was flailing around trying to haul myself back in. Tsk tsk.

I really enjoyed rafting and you get super soaked from not only surfing but being pushed into the water by others and to enjoy pee breaks. Kidding kidding.. :P

We even got a chance to jump off a cliff! The height wasn't that high but when I got up there I was super nervous. In movies, people make it look so easy but I was getting such fluttery feelings in my stomach. I might have forgot how to jump or any of the instructions I was suppose to follow. Like jump straight down! TMI: really hurt my butthole with this jump - water ouch! Would love to do this again when the season starts again!

Photos courtesy of Adventure Spirit Rafting
Price: 10,000 yen for a full day of rafting including lunch and a trip to an onsen after

Monday, September 23, 2013

kobe day 2: nankinmachi

The second day in Kobe was spent shopping and eating in Nankinmachi, Kobe's Chinatown. The area was developed by Chinese merchants who settled in the area after Kobe Port was opened to foreign trade. I have never seen so many red buildings in my life - quite a contrast to the brown of Japanese buildings. This Chinatown is pretty small being only a couple of blocks long but it was jam packed with restaurants and food stalls!

Unique Kit Kat flavors I found at a store in the covered arcade near Nankinmachi. Flavors include roasted green tea flavor (I didn't like them) and baked yatsuhashi, a souvenir sweet popular in Kyoto. Baked yatsuhashi tastes like a cinnamon cracker and this Kit Kat was delicious, I think even better than the original yatsuhashi. Next up was a zongzi, glutinous rice wrapped in a leaf. Seeing one reminded me of the ones my grandmother would make at home. Wasn't as good as my grandmothers of course but not bad. The last dish of the day was what I thought was shaved snow and I was so excited to get my hands on some but it turned out to be slices of mango covered in condensed milk. Sliced mango was a delightful surprise but all the condensed milk made it too sweet. Not pictured was a pearl milk tea drink that I ordered in Mandarin! The milk tea was not good, so disappointing, can't wait to go back to Taiwan to drink my weight in milk tea. So cool to know that actual Chinese speakers live in this area but dang my Chinese is so shitty that it was embarrassing to use. Might as well just let Alanna use her Japanese to get things done. 

that gate is way more impressive than the one back in SF

The Details
Access: 5 min walk south of Motomachi Station or a 10 min walk southwest of Sannomiya Station

Sunday, September 22, 2013

a weekend in kobe: day 1

Went down to Kobe for the weekend and the first thing we did was eat Kobe Beef of course! There was a nice restaurant called Ryu-en located in Kobe Port which had a nice view of the water and served delicious Kobe beef for cheap!
so freaking delicious!
great views of the waterfront
There are two large shopping complexes located here and after wandering around looking at various stores we caught the City Loop Bus to Kitano. On the bus Jeremy, a friend of ours, got yelled at by the tour guide for talking too loudly. Turns out right over Jeremy's head there was a be quiet sign. Hahaha! Kitano is the city district where many foreign diplomats and merchants settled down in after Kobe Port was opened to foreign trade. Because of this many of the houses located in Kitano are built in a foreign style and are open to the public as museums.

I liked seeing all the foreign styled houses but unfortunately each house costs a couple hundred yen to enter. No one was that interested in paying to enter them so we just admired the houses from the outside. Afterwards we rode the Shin-Kobe Ropeway up to the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens which offers a spectacular view of Kobe.

grabbed some delicious Turkish food while wearing cute costumes!

Then came a night of purikura (photo booth pics), Super Mario Kart arcade version (where I totally won a game!) and karaoke till the wee hours. I was surprised to win at a game of Mario Kart cause usually I drive right off that stinking rainbow road. The trick is to let everyone go ahead in the beginning and then right at the end toss a whole bunch of boxes and stuff at them so then you zoom ahead. Mwhahaha!

Thanks to Kei and Jeremy for showing us around their awesome city! They are the best karaoke partners. Can't believe I'd been in Japan for so long and this was the first time I've gone karaoking. We sang so much that we totally lost our voices the next day.

The Details
City Loop Bus
-stops at all the major tourist stops
Prices: 250 yen for one ride or 650 yen for a one day pass
the subway was also really convenient

Japan Guide website has all the hours and admission fees for each house

Shin-Kobe Ropeway
Hours: Daytime - 9:30am to 5:15pm Evening - 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Fares:  Daytime - Adults: 1,400 yen round trip, 900 yen one way  Children: 900 yen (RT), 450 yen
Evening - Adults: 800 yen for both  Children: 500 yen for both

Monday, September 9, 2013

fruit picking: grape edition

I love going fruit picking especially since I don't really get the chance to do it that often while living in the city. One of my favorite fruits are grapes: especially black grapes. Unfortunately grapes here are so expensive as is every other fruit in Japan. A single bunch of grapes can cost 500-600 yen! Seriously wtf $5-$6 for grapes and not even bags and bags of grapes but just a couple of them! Man I miss Chinatown in SF where I could buy a bag of grapes weighing a pound or so for $1.

I chose Naganeyaman Vineyard because it was convenient to get to and because the vineyard provided us with mats, scissors, bowls and ice. Kyoho grapes are popular and they are of a slip-skin variety: meaning the skin just pops right off! I've never seen skin come off grapes so easily before.

my roomie Alanna and I with our 3rd or 4th bunch of grapes

The vineyard was so different from vineyards I see in movies. Instead of growing the grapes in rows they had the grapes growing in a canopy which made it hard for me to walk since I had to duck my head or risk hitting my head on the hanging grapes. The canopy provided a nice shade from the hot sun and all of the grapes were wrapped in white bags. It was so nice and relaxing to just sit there enjoying the scenery, eating grapes and talking. Between the both of us we ate around 10 bunches of grapes! Mwhahaha gotta get our moneys worth!

The Details
Naganeyaman Vineyard
Access: Take the JR Line to Obu Station (大府). From there a taxi will take you to the location in 5 minutes. Taxi will cost 900-1000 yen one way.
Price: 1400 yen for adults (200 yen discount by filling out this form here)

I highly recommend the Nagoya Calendar and Podcast for anyone who lives in the area and are looking for things to do!