Sunday, September 28, 2014

BBQ - japanese style

Sachiko invited us to a barbeque! I was excited because I was going to have a first hand account of a BBQ - Japanese style. I expected the food to be different but Japanese people go all out for the one day excursion. Not sure if this is particular to family bbqs but tents, tables, chairs, portable canopies were unloaded.

 I must admit sitting in a nice fold-able chair and eating off a table is way more comfortable than sitting on the ground eating off a paper plate. Food included the usual beef, chicken, fish, yakisoba (noodles), rice balls.... Haha ok maybe not the usual fare we see in American BBQs. Definitely very Japanese with the rice!

first time I had fish at a BBQ
look closely at whats on the grill - a skillet and a tea kettle!
bbqing next to a pretty little stream
thanks for the invite sachiko!
I had a nice time sitting near the river and staring at all the towering trees. All the children were running around shooting each other with water guns and catching small turtles. BBQs a nice way to spend a Sunday. Gotta end the day as all excursions must end with a selfie :P

Monday, September 22, 2014

amanohashidate - the bridge to heaven

I love making lists so you can imagine I had quite a huge list of places I wanted to visit in Japan. Japan and I have the same mindset because you can literally see lists for everything and anything here. The top beefs in Japan, the best castles, the best nature spots, etc etc. One of them is known as the Three Views of Japan which lists the three most celebrated scenic sights of Japan and consists of Miyajima, Matsushima, and Amanohashidate. Ellen and I had the opportunity to visit the latter today and man does it live up to its reputation.

I'm sure everyone knows about Kyoto - famous for its geisha and its plethora of temples. However Kyoto Prefecture is also the location of Amanohashidate, though it is rather far from Kyoto city. Most tourists probably wouldn't make the trek out here if they are just doing a brief tour of Japan but I highly recommend it. So what is Amanohashidate?? 

amanohashidate view land
Amanohashidate which translates to "bridge to heaven" is a pine tree covered sandbar that stretches across Miyazu Bay. From the hills on either side of the sandbar, the sandbar looks like a path that connects heaven to earth. Looking at the above picture you might be like huh? just kind of looks like a bridge across water and nothing living up to the name of bridge to heaven. That is where matanozoki style comes in.

matanozoki style
Matanozoki style or rather looking between your legs is very popular here. There are platforms specifically for this and you'll see everyone doing it. So don't be shy and join in on the action! We can cross the sandbar by foot or by bike. I'm sure you can guess which way we chose...

biking between pine trees

It was cool to see pine trees growing directly on the sand. The bike ride was fun even though we got quite lost on the other side.

 Kasamatsu Park
From the opposite side the sandbar looks like the kanji for one. The view is definitely better from the side closest to the train station. If you don't have the time to make the trek across then I would stay on the other side and just wander a little onto the sandbar. Afterwards we grabbed the ferry back but the view wasn't great since we could only see a line of trees. So glad we could take the ferry since we were too tired to make the trek back to the station. There are a small sampling of shops on either end but unfortunately we didn't have time to browse due to the long train ride back to Aichi.

The Details
Access: Amanohashidate Station
I highly recommend getting the Amanohashidate Pass (One Day) - 1600 yen for foreigners only!
This area is serviced by the Kitakinki Tango Railway and the pass covers the train between Fukuchiyama and Amanohashidate. It also covers the chair life/cable car for Kasamatsu Park (the side where the sandbar looks like the kanji one). It includes a ticket to the sightseeing ferry and a two hour bicycle rental.

Amanohashidate View Land
Hours: Varies depending on the season but generally 9am-5pm (last sale at 4:30pm)
Chair life/cable car fees Roundtrip: Adult 850 yen - not covered by the Amanohashidate Pass
telephone: 0772-22-5304

Kasamatsu Park
Hours: Varies depending on the season but generally 8am-5pm (last sale at 4:30pm)
Chair life/cable car fees Roundtrip: Adult 660 yen - covered by the Amanohashidate Pass
telephone: 0772-27-0032

Sunday, September 21, 2014

thousand year old buildings at horyu-ji

Do you know that one of the oldest wooden structures in the entire world actually resides in Japan?!? Horyu-ji is located in Nara Prefecture and despite having gone to Nara many times to see the deer I never took the time to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

the kondo and the pagoda
Both of these buildings are pretty freaking old but the kondo was damaged by a fire so mostly its a reconstruction whilst the central pillar in the pagoda can be dated back to the year 600. Dang this building has survived for over a thousand years! In Japan I'm always reading about how all the original buildings have been burnt down by fires or destroyed one way or another so it's interesting to stand next to something so old.

a closer look at a century old wooden structure
I wanna say I was blown away by this temple but after seeing so many temples in Japan they all start to blend together. Besides being super old there wasn't anything particular about this temple complex that made it stand out in my mind. Aesthetically I've seen prettier temples or shrines with more unique features so if you are just visiting Japan I would recommend skipping this temple and just heading straight over to Nara where there are more things to do. Like feed the deer, get struck in the crotch by antlers and then proceed to be chased down by them.

side by side buildings built in two different time periods
late lunch - curry udon
followed by some parfaits - caramel, milk tea and yogurt (actual sour yogurt and not froyo - 870 yen)
Ended the day in Kyoto where we took more photo booth pics! One can never get too tired of these or can they...Went back to get some more delicious parfaits unfortunately mine was horrid! Ellen helped me ask them if it was yogurt or more like ice cream ala froyo and the server said the latter. However it was gross ass sour yogurt which totally ruined the whole parfait. Super disappointed!

The Details
Access: Horyuji Station and then a 20 min walk from the station or a 5 minute bus ride
Hours: 8am-5pm
Admission Fee: 1500 yen (freaking hefty - not worth it)
No closing dates
There are also volunteer guides who can show you around and tell you about the temple. The guides themselves are free but you would have to pay their entrance fee...

Karafuneya Coffee Sanjo Head Office
39 Daikokumachi, Kawaramachi Sanjo-dori Kudaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Hours: 9:00am-1:00am
Telephone: 075-254-8774