Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Land of the Rising Sun (Part 1)

We (my family & I) spent our first week of 2012 away from home.
Yes, we packed our bags and went off to Japan. It was a last minute decision. We had less than 3 weeks to prepare (getting visiting visa, accommodation, travelling plans, etc) before our departure. Since we prefer to travel “free & easy” (without any tour or travel assistance), most of the planning & organizing were my responsibility. Crazy as it could be, everything went well and we were on our way…..
Armed with these Japan Rail Pass, we set out to visit a number of places by ourselves.
Here, is an account of our adventure in Japan. Documented on a daily basis….
Day 1 :
Took a morning flight, and arrived Osaka, Japan around 3.45pm (local time). Once we got the JR Pass issued from the Japan Rail Office in Kansai Airport, we were good to go.
On board Haruka Ltd Express to Shin Osaka Having the entire car to ourselves to Shin Osaka
Took the Express train to Shin Osaka Station. Since we have the JR Pass, we could reserve our seats without any additional cost. (reserved seats are very expensive in Japan). We had the whole “car” to ourselves!
We had our first dinner in Shin Osaka Station before we headed to our hotel.
Freshened up and went into the street to hunt for food (again)…
My children were looking forward to these…..
10 -Takoyaki
Takoyaki (octopus balls)…
Savoured these from a stall near our Hotel…
It’s so good that we had it on both nights in Osaka.
Day 2 :
After a good rest, we were up early to visit Nara, old capital of Japan. Located less than 1 hour (by train) from Osaka, Nara is full of historic treasures and temples
.  We took a short walk to the Train Station in Shin Osaka and had our breakfast there.9 Soba for breakfast


12 The noodle stall in Shin Osaka station.Our soba breakfast from this interesting noodle stall in the Train station.
We ordered our meals using the vending machine and we ate our meals standing around the stall.
Boys having breakfast while standing in Shin Osaka Train Station

A very typical Japanese “fast food” stall at the train stations).
Deliciously wholesome meal. Great experience for the children.

Ching enjoying her bowl of noodle.
The weather was perfect… sunny with temperature of 8ºC.
Since it was the New Year, most Japanese would visit the temples and shrines to pray. The crowd at the temple was huge.
Kofukuji Temple. Nara Nara
Kofukuji Temple also know as the 5 storey Pagoda.
 Todaiji temple, Nara
The majestic Todaji Temple
kids praying in Todaiji Temple, Nara
We joined the Japanese to offer our prayers and their prayer practices.
Hong taking holy water in Todaiji Temple, Nara Howie taking holy water in Todaiji Temple, NaraSang taking holy water in Todaiji Temple, Nara Taking holy water in Todaiji Temple, Nara
Nara is also known as the city of deer.
There are many of them roaming around freely in the Park.
Deers in Nara park The Deer22 Sang in Nara Park
We too roamed this Nara Park.
We must have walked over 20 km.
Spent the whole day in Nara and had a brief stop in Osaka city before we returned to Shin Osaka.40 Nara parkStrolling along Nara ParkChing eating pikachu mini cakesNara Park
 Day 3 :
On Board Shinkansen to Kyoto
We checked out from the hotel in Shin Osaka and headed for Kyoto via Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train).
After checking into our Hotel, we took a stroll downtown towards the Gion district. The crowd heading towards the temple was even more than what we saw in Nara.
Walking around the vicinity of Karasuma, Kyoto
Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto  Yasaka Shrine (Yasakajinja)(八坂神社), also known as the Gion Shrine, is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District of Kyoto. The popular city shrine is famous for its Gion Matsuri, one of Japan's largest festivals.
Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto
Shinto Priest @ Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto
There was so much fanfare here, with rows of stalls selling local delights. Stall selling food @ Yasaka Shrine, KyotoThere were also ladies and men donning the traditional costume ie kimono  going to the temple. We also spotted a couple of geishas along the way. Too bad , I did not managed to take a picture of them.
Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto
Rice Mochi
The 4 flavours Rice Ball or Mochi from Gion, Kyoto.
From the gastronomic side, we had these for lunch in Gion….
lunch in Kyoto
We saw this very nice restaurant along the alley in the evening and decided to have our dinner there.
Jiwori, KyotoThe menu were all in Japanese but with the waiter speaking a splatter of English and us knowing a wee bit of Japanese, the dinner turned out fine. In fact it was awesome!
 Dinner Sashimi set Dinner Sashimi set     

The sashimi set …with the very fresh raw meat like tuna, salmon, octopus….yummy!!!!!!

Dinner  Sushi Set Another of our favourite… sushi (すし)
 Dinner - Oden Oden (おでん), a Japanese winter dish consisting of daikon radish, tofu, fish cakes stewed in a light soy-flavoured dashi broth. Very much like our local “ Yong Tau Foo”.
Dinner - KushikatsuKushikatsu (串カツ), a Japanese-style of deep-fried kebab.

 Dinner @ Jirowi, Kyoto Dinner @ Jirowi, Kyoto
@ Jirowi Restaurant…..see the menu is pasted on the wall in Japanese only…
After a very satisfying dinner, we strolled back to our Hotel. Tired after another day of walking… the cool temperature made our walking tour very pleasant as we do not perspire and tire easily.
to be continued…….

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