Tuesday, December 31, 2013

fam bam - arashiyama

Continuing with the animal theme, we headed over to Arashiyama in Kyoto to visit the Iwatayama Monkey Park.

I definitely recommend buying some food to feed the monkeys. Go for the apples! Some other people bought the peanuts and they were totally ignored for our delicious apples. Prior to going to Arashiyama we grabbed some food at Kyoto Station.

The boyfriend of the person who took our picture took a picture of us with his own camera. That was super awkard... Did anyone else know about these steps at the station?? If you head all the way to the top there are a whole bunch of food options and a Ramen Village where you can pose as a ramen chef. Another noodle soup dish meal...

I'm cooking a spoon :P
Walking across the Togetsukyo Bridge, you'll be able to reach the touristy shopping area of Arashiyama. Here you'll find the Randen Arashiyama Station where you can find the Kimono Forest which features yuzen a type of kimono dying.

these tubes light up at night making it even prettier
While shopping my brother bought a samurai umbrella. We wanted him to pose like a samurai in the Sagano Bamboo Forest but all we got was this...

Unfortunately the samurai umbrella was too long to fit inside their checked luggage and couldn't be brought on the plane as a carry on. He had to leave it at the airport and when I called Lost and Found at the airport they said they didn't have it. We took the bus here from Kyoto Station which took a long time. I should really look into alternative transportation to this area because the bus isn't very efficient or even considerably cheaper. While waiting for the bus to head back to the station, we managed to document the fact that three of us wore the same colored pants - this was not coordinated!

The bus never came! Not sure if it's due to the holiday but buses going to Arashiyama were still working but none were going in the opposite direction. We finally ended up walking to the Hankyu Arashiyama Station and just caught a train directly back to Osaka where we grabbed dinner at a izakaya, a Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food.

family minds think alike - we color coordinated without meaning to
To read about my previous visit to the monkey park click here.

The Details
Arashiyama Area - UPDATED APRIL 2014
Bus line # 11, #28, and #93 go to this area but only #28 goes all the way to the Kyoto Main Station. As of March 22nd 2014 the Kyoto One Day Bus Pass is also valid in the Arashiyama Area!
If you are based in Osaka (like we were) I recommend taking the Hankyu line from Umeda Station to Arashiyama (Hankyu) Station. Lowest fare is 390 yen and will take around 1 hour.

JR pass holders:
Access: Sagaarashiyama Station from Kyoto Station - JR line
Ticket: 230 yen

Iwatayama Monkey Park
8 Arashiyama Genrokuyama-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 616-0007, Japan
tel: 075-872-0950
hours: spring & summer: 9:00am-5:00pm, winter: 9:00am-4:00pm
entrance fee: adult: 550 yen, child: 250 yen, under 4 years old free

Monday, December 30, 2013

fam bam - kyoto

After a late start to the day we finally arrived in the Higashiyama Area in Kyoto. This area is famous for geisha sightings and Kiyomizudera Temple. Kiyomizudera is currently undergoing renovation right now so some of the buildings are wrapped up. We didn't enter the temple because my family has no interest in it. We spent most of our time in the area in front of Kiyomizudera eating samples and shopping. This area is one of my favorite places in Japan, I love all the old timey architecture and atmosphere. Only downside are all the other tourists.

cheesing in front of the deva gate of Kiyomizudera
Between my brother and my sister Evo, it's almost impossible to get a decent picture of all of us. Blink blink blink. No one really appreciated the architecture of this place so after doing some shopping we walked to the nearby Gion District to grab some lunch.

another family portrait this time giving me the realization of how I look identical to my dad...
Had a hard time finding someplace to eat because of all the picky eaters in my family. Have eaten so many noodle based dishes in the last few days because that is the only thing people seem to agree on. After a late lunch we took the bus to Tofukuji stop and then we walked from there to Fushimi Inari Shrine. I would not recommend doing it this way because there isn't any signage in English and the roads around here can be quite confusing. I would say that it took around a 20-30 minute walk to get to Fushimi. I was getting worried because the sun was setting and I wanted my family to have a chance to take some pictures and actually see the famous torii in daylight.

fam model walks through the torii
Fushimi Inari at night is a little freaky with only lanterns lighting the way and creepy dark forests just on the other side of the torii. Also hard to take pictures - hate having to use flash. Since we had bought the one day bus pass we took the #5 bus back to Kyoto Station, the only bus line that connects Kyoto Station to Fushimi Inari. I strongly recommend taking the train here rather then the bus, which is infrequent.

To read about my previous visits to Kyoto click here or for my prior trip to Fushimi Inari where I included more information about the shrine click here.

The Details
Kiyomizudera Temple
Hours: open everyday 6:00am - 5:30/6:30pm depending on the season
Admission: 300 yen for adults or 400 yen for special night events
Access: Take bus #100 or #206 (be careful there are two #206 buses one goes in a clockwise direction and the other counterclockwise the trip can take 15 minutes or over an hour and a half if you go in the wrong direction) to Gojozaka (recommended) or Kiyomizu-michi stop. From the bus stop it will be around a 10 minute uphill walk.
Bus Fee: 220 yen flat rate or 500 yen for a one day bus pass

Fushimi Inari Shrine
No closing hours and admission is free
website (Japanese only)
Access: Inari Station - strongly recommend taking the JR Nara Local Line here from Kyoto Station takes 5 minutes and costs 140 yen. A train departs from Kyoto Station every 15-20 minutes. The Inari Station exits directly across from the shrine.

Can also take the #5 bus from Kyoto Station, travel which is included in the one day bus pass. It was hard to locate the bus stop near the shrine because it wasn't near the shrine or the surrounding shopping area. In order to reach the bus stop upon exiting the shrine make a right and walk down the street (away from the JR Inari Station). As soon as you see a kind of busy intersection make a left down the hill (away from the direction of the shrine). If you pass the Fushimi Inari Station serviced by the Keihan Line (another alternative) then you're going in the right direction. Cross the tracks and keep walking downhill, you'll still see shops and such along the way. Keep going until the shops end and you'll eventually hit a busy intersection where the bus stop will be located. I have included the bus schedule for the #5 bus heading back towards Kyoto Station below. A bus comes once an hour...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

fam bam - a day in nara

During the New Year Holiday (shogatsu), my family came to visit me in Japan! Unlike America where New Years is all about partying and the count down - in Japan it's a family event so how appropriate that I got to spend this holiday with my family. Both my sisters got sick so they spent the whole day in the hotel while the healthy ones went to Nara.

As I will soon learn it will be very hard to get a good family photo because my brother has a knack for blinking right when the photo is taken....

Everyone loved feeding the deer. My brother wanted to take so many pictures with the deer but would get all scared and flinch away from them. Scaredy cat!

we look so alike - its freaky!
i recommend the sugar and the chili senbei - the chili one is super hot
Grabbed some freshly made senbei (rice crackers) from a stall located on the path to Tōdai-ji. Walked through the covered shopping arcade located near the train station until I saw Edogawa, a restaurant that specialized in unagi (eel) - my favorite Japanese meal!

great atmosphere with a decent price for unagi
unadon - grilled unagi on rice for 1890 yen
I shall end this post as I started it....

For more detailed information about Nara check out my previous posts here.

The Details
Nara Park
Access: Kintetsu Nara Station - Kintetsu Line (other lines also stop here like Hankyu, etc)
Take Exit 3 at the train station and walk up the hill for several minutes.

Tōdai-ji - Daibutsuden
hours: 8:00‒16:30(Nov. to Feb.) 8:00‒17:00(Mar.)7:30‒17:30(Apr. to Sept.) 7:30‒17:00(Oct.)
admission: 500 yen

43, Shimomikadocho, Nara-shi, Nara, 630
tel: 0742-20-4400
photos and menu
Access: From Kintetsu Nara Station Exit 3 head pass the fountain and take a right into the covered shopping arcade. Walk to the end of the shopping arcade and Edogawa is located on your left.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

fruit picking: mikan edition

Another round of fruit picking! This time mikans which are kind of a cross between an orange and a tangerine. Typically I see mikans being sold in supermarkets more than I see oranges. Haven't had an orange since I've been in Japan. Can't recall seeing oranges... Are there even oranges in Japan?!?

first thing first: take pics with mikan

picking mikans is a lot harder than picking grapes

Mikan picking season is usually from October to December. Today was the second to last day to pick mikans at this farm and so we had to look long and hard to find some good mikans. The mikan farm provided us with a mat and a bucket. We also got to take a bag of mikans home. We picked these huge ass mikans and only manage to fit 4-5 in a bag. We looked at some of the Japanese families who were there and they had all picked tangerine sized mikans and managed to fit like 20 or so of them in a bag! Didn't really matter tho because we picked more than our bags could hold and we just threw them in our purses.

I had a really nice time just chilling with Ellen, chatting and eating mikans. The only downside is that there is a pig farm nearby so the whole area smelled like manure. Couldn't really just lounge around taking our time since the smell was so off putting :(

The Details
Utsumi Fruits Mura
Access: Utsumi Station - Meitetsu Line
(If you give them a call they will happily pick you up from the train station for free)
Tel: 0569-62-2430 (Japanese only)
Fee: 1100 yen for adults, 900 yen for children
They only charged us 1000 yen though  - not sure why...

Monday, December 2, 2013

leaf licking adventures: jakko-in temple

Leaf licking is what Alanna calls it when people go around taking pictures of leaves. Leaf licking is a very popular thing to do in Japan during the autumn season. I didn't get what the deal was about leaves because leaves are leaves but when I saw postcards of the leaves in Japan, I was like I NEED TO GO SEE THEM FOR MYSELF! Unlike San Francisco where the leaves stay green all year round, the ones in Japan are a myriad of colors. A very popular spot in the area to view autumn leaves is at Jakko-in Temple in Inuyama - recommended to me by a student. Jakko-in is famous for its maple leaves and they even have a maple leaf festival in November just so people can come and look at the leaves.

The leaves were beautiful. I really liked the contrast in color between the red, orange, yellow and green leaves. This temple also has some really good snow and cherry blossom scenes, can't wait to go back and check it out! The views along the Kiso River were also very picturesque and it was so relaxing to be able to walk around just taking pictures and marveling at the beautiful scenery.

Edit: Apparently Alanna calls it leaf LOOKING but I heard it as leaf licking...I've been calling it leaf licking ever since! Oh well too late to change it now. New term leaf licking - the hobby of chasing after leaves to take pictures of them :D

The Details
Jakko-in Temple
Access: Inuyamayuen - Meitetsu Line
From the train station its about a 20 minute walk to the temple. From the only train station exit head across the parking lot until you hit Kiso River. Facing Kiso River turn right and walk along the river (away from the bridge). There is a walking path adjacent to the river. The entrance to the temple is marked by stone lanterns (if you reach a tunnel then you have gone too far). From there you will end up walking uphill and then up a lot of stairs to reach the actual temple structures.
website (Japanese only - I just use google translate)