Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sayonnara Tokyo

Thursday was a beautiful day, spent mostly doing last minute shopping and packing. Mum and I managed to make one last dash to Omotesando where we stocked up on items from the 100 yen store and then on to Shibuya for a kimono-buying session. In the evening we had a nice Japanese-style meal at home - nabe, which is a hotpot-type meal where you cook chicken and vegetables in stock, in a clay pot on a stove on the table. It's a hearty, warming meal and a nice way to end a wonderful two week adventure with mum and dad.

The three of us flew back to London on friday morning, sad to say goodbye to Tokyo, but with happy memories of all the fab things we managed to pack into the two weeks. I will now be doing my regular work stint back in the UK, so mum and dad are not rid of me yet! I'll be back in Tokyo 12th May to begin my adventures there again.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Mum and dad's trip - Wednesday

We woke up to heavy rain, which rather affected our plans to head out on a boat to the island of Miyajima, something I had been really looking forward to. After a long, leisurely breakfast and decision-making on what to do instead, we decided to stay in Hiroshima and hit the cultural spots, starting with the Hiroshima Museum of Art. It is housed in a lovely modern building and has a wonderful selection of European art from the Impressionist era.

After a cup of tea at the museum, we slopped through the rain to Hiroshima castle, a stately, wooden structure surrounded by a moat. It was amazingly intricate in its structure and quite atmospheric in the rain.

We then slopped again through the relentless rain to the Hiroshima Prefecture Gallery of Art, another gorgeous modern building, with a beautiful selection of art and a stunning garden filled with juicy blossom trees. Their petals were so pale, they looked like snow.

We then just had enough time for a quick lunch at the museum, before we headed off to the station to catch the train back to Tokyo.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Mum and dad's trip - Tuesday

On tuesday morning we packed up our bags, checked out of the hotel and headed off on the next leg of our trip - Hiroshima. It was a two hour journey south and interesting to find ourselves in quite a different city to Kyoto. After dumping our bags at the hotel, we headed straight to a local restaurant for lunch and found a fab little place that served a type of ramen with pork and cabbage. We sat at the bar and were given paper bibs to catch the inevitable slops - it was scrumptious!

We then headed on to the Peace Park and the Atom Bomb Memorial Museum, just over the bridge. Needless to say, it was quite a moving experience, learning about the build up and events around the atom bombing in 1945, but one we felt it was needed to be done on a trip to Japan. It was quite upsetting to see how badly damaged the city and its people were, but amazing to see how a city rebuilt itself into what it is today. Afterwards, we walked along the river and took in the beautiful blossom trees that flanked each side.

After a much needed rest at the hotel, we headed out for food and to an okonomiyaki restaurant. There are many variations of okonomiyaki around Japan, and I have tried versions in Tokyo, but this one was different and included a pancake-like item. We sat at the bar and it was fab to watch the chef make his creation.

First he places a dollop of batter on the hot plate and spreads it out into a nice thin pancake shape.

Then he adds a massive pile of finely shredded cabbage, as well as your choice of toppings. I had seaweed, fish flakes, shrimp and pork.

The concoction is then flipped and pressed down hard onto the hot plate to help flatten it. At the same time he is frying a small pile of noodles. The pancake concoction is then slipped onto the frying noodles and then slipped to one side.

He then breaks an egg, spreads it out on the hot plate and fries it slightly before sliding the pancake concoction on top of it and then flipping it over.

The final touch is some gorgeous thick barbeque-type sauce slathered on with a big brush. It is then served to you on the hot plate in front of you, where you carve it up and serve yourself.

A merry time was had by all!

Mum and dad's trip - Monday

After a tasty breakfast at Starbucks, we headed off on the train to Inari to visit the Fushimi Inari shrine, a stunning place where you walk up through over 5,000 orange tori gates that wind their way through the hillside. The shrine is dedicated to the gods of rice, sake and business and many businesses and sake brewers pay to erect gateposts for good luck. It was a beautiful sunny day and a wonderful way to spend the morning - also a photographer's dream!

We then got a taxi to Kiyomizu temple near the Gion district, stopping for a bowl of green tea en route.

We also got to see some geisha girls shuffling down the street. Their kimonos were stunning.

The Kiyomizu temple is a famous temple and quite awesome, but not as appealing as others we've seen. There were still stunning views to see and some beautiful blossom trees set against the surrounding temples.

We then walked down through Sanenzaka and Ninenzaka, small narrow lanes running down from the temple, with gorgeous little shops and cafes on either side. We stopped at a coffee place for lunch and sat out in the garden. Then on to Gion where we had afternoon tea in a gorgeously minimalist tea house called Oku.

Despite oncoming rain, we then decided to head to the Bamboo forest at Arashiyama,  a beautiful area where there are avenues of bamboo at the foot of the surrounding hills. It was quite stunning, tall and tightly packed old bamboo, on the edge of a quaint town. We saw rickshaws being pulled along and then walked back through the forest to the station and back to the hotel. After a quick rest, we headed out for izakaya-style food which was much needed after a heavy day on the hoof!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Mum and dad's trip - Sunday

On sunday me, mum and dad headed off to Kyoto, getting the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo just after 10am and arriving in Kyoto just before 1pm. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we headed straight out to the Ginkaku-ji temple - the silver temple which isn't actually silver any more, but has rather stunning gardens which we wandered around in the afternoon sun. 

 This then lead us to the Pilospoher's Walk, a 45 minute stroll along a blossom-clad canal which a famous philosopher used to use for his morning meditation. This, like everyhwere else in Kyoto, was heaving with people, but still a lovely way to see the city and soak up the afternoon sun. It ended with the Nanzen-ji temple, a beatiful temple where we got to see monks performing a traditional service.

We headed back to the hotel for a well-needed rest, then headed off through the narrow lanes of Kyoto to Mimasuya, a restaurant overlooking the river where we had tempura and sashimi. 

 After dinner, we walked to Gion, the geisha district, where there is a beautiful river running past old geisha residences. The blossom was stunning in the evening light.