Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hiroshima

Here's my trip to Hiroshima in a nutshell:



My room. Cute, but the chick in the bed next to me snores.



Tempura udon from this weird serve yourself kind of udon cafeteria. Order your noodles, choose your toppings, pay and then pump soup broth from a dispenser. It was surprisingly good! (¥445)



Went to the peace museum on August 5th. Heart wrenching displays like this, Hiroshima before the bomb.



And Hiroshima after.
It's really too much to try and take in. I didn't look at everything but I tried. Afterwards I took a 40 minute tram ride to the inland sea and then a ferry to Miyajima to see this very famous site:



The island is full of deer. You can smell them as soon as you get off the ferry. They are very comfortable (a little TOO comfortable) with humans, I saw one eating a map while a flash was going off in it's face.



This morning I got to peace park right before 8:15 in time to hear the bells being rung to commemorate the exact time the bomb was dropped. Thousands of people from all over the world bowed their heads and prayed silently. Later I saw each and every one of them at the mall.



I have to say, there is something about being here that makes it much easier to imagine what nuclear devastation really is. You feel chills thinking that in the time it took for those bells to ring this city and 100,000 people vanished. You start imagining every person in the park incinerated in a flash. I mean, I knew coming here would be heavy but it just really hits home. I don't know how to explain it, it's hard to believe there are trees growing again and kids playing at the site of so much destruction. I watched the beginning of the lanterns being floated down the river:



And then had dinner, check out what I got from the super market for ¥300!



Soba, yam tempura and tekka maki.

Then I went back to peace park and saw the real lantern floating thing and it was amazing!






Now im in bed with my brand new earplugs. Leaving for Kyoto in the morning.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dining in Kyoto


Kyoto is the place that I knew long ago that I would splurge a little on food. I had planned to treat myself to a ¥10000 kaiseki meal but the owner of my guesthouse said that they don't usually serve kaiseki for parties of one. Kaiseki is elaborate, full course Japanese dining and requires specialized shopping for the ingredients of your meal so naturally, nobody wants to go to the trouble for one person. Anyway, I found some good suggestions in some guide books and tried some local Kyoto specialties. Yesterday I had omen noodles which are similar to udon but served with a selection of vegetables and crushed sesame seeds on the side. It was great, and exactly what I needed after walking around all morning. I found the restaurant completely by chance, just as I was minutes away from a low blood sugar meltdown.



Soup and noodles served separately, add noodles and veg and sesame to the soup to taste. Comes with a little dish of kinpira gobo (burdock root salad). (¥1100)

Today after visiting the zen rock garden at ryoan-ji temple I was feeling anything but zen. It was tourist hell in there. Unsupervised children running around, every other person counting the rocks out loud as there are 15 rocks but only 14 are ever visible at one time. Probably the least enjoyable thing I have done in Kyoto. Anyway, as you walk through the rest of the temple grounds you come upon a Yudofuya, a buddhist tofu restaurant where they serve one thing, boiled tofu.
I had been wanting to try some so I stopped in and seriously, if you are in Kyoto I would say skip the rock garden and just go to the Yudofuya. It was very serene, in it's own little garden, and there were no tourists from anywhere but Japan. (and one from Canada).



The restaurant.



The thing they put your pot of tofu on.



The yudofu. You ladle this into a bowl with soy sauce, ginger, green onions and sesame and make a kind of tofu soup. It may not sound like much but it's delicious! It's great quality silken tofu, better than anything I've had at home. (¥1500)

This being my last night in Kyoto, I wanted to treat myself to a nice dinner so I took a recommendation from my room mate's guide book and ended up at Ikumatsu. The book correctly states that the décor is nothing to write home about but the food is a very good value. Here's what I had:



Surprise box. What's in there?



All of this. Simmered veg and fish, broiled salmon, chicken stuffed with veg, edamame, wakame seaweed, sardine, fish cake, omelet, tofu, some kind of gingery fish in the little white dish, squid and other unidentified sashimi.



Then tempura, rice, miso soup and pickles.



I ordered a little bottle of saké too and all this came to ¥2840. Definitely a good value. It's been hard because there is just so much food to choose from here so if you are indecisive like me, you could spend all day trying to pick a place. Leaving for Nagano tomorrow where it will be back to my ¥1500 per day budget.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kyoto!

I've been in Japan for almost two weeks but I'm finally seeing Japan for the first time. Wow! When I was in Tokyo I was reminded of other cities but here in Kyoto you could only be in Japan! The guesthouse where I am staying is down a tiny, narrow alley just off a street where geisha are out shopping. My room has walls made out of rice paper and perfect, artful décor! I'm in Japan-o-phile heaven! Of course, I'm in the very touristy area of Gion but there's nowhere I'd rather be staying. My guesthouse houses 10 guests and I have two female room mates who are nice, not loud and not annoying at all. I think I totally lucked out and someone might have to pack up my stuff and ship it over here.






My room.



One of the sweet innkeepers.



Geisha.



My neighborhood.



Fireworks that were so amazing it made me jump up and down and clap my hands.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More food!


Here's some pics from "the kitchen of Kanazawa" the Omi-cho market.



The grilled fish place.



Another grilled fish place.



The shellfish place.



The fish place.
There's also the crab place, the oyster place, the seaweed place, some vegetable places, sweets and, pretty much everything.

Saigawa


This morning I rented a bike and rode about 10km along the Sai River to the sea of Japan. As expected the seaside was nothing to write home about (the usual, garbage everywhere and a family with loud watersport toys barbqueing and smoking cigarettes) but the bike ride was great! I passed industrial areas, rice fields, wetlands and an old fishing village which I guess is technically part of Kanazawa but feels a million miles and a thousand years away.





The Saigawa






The sea of Japan






My feet in the sea of Japan.







My lunch (¥473) eaten by a big Shinto shrine..
(that big roll is wrapped in some kind of bread instead of nori!)





And followed by..






Watermelon flavor with chocolate "seeds"!

After that big ride I went back to Kanazawa and the 21st century museum of contemporary art. Saw this...












And this..





It's a labrynth made from salt.
Sorry I forgot the artists names. I'll look them up later.
Earlier I went to a gallery and saw a great photo exhibit by Kayo Ume.

By the time I was done at the museum I was pooped and starving so I had this..






(¥500) tempura and rice, cold soba and pickles. And then I went to a sento that was so hot I only stayed half an hour. Now I am in the lobby of my hotel, sunburned and drinking an Asahi. Did I mention it was super hot out? Good thing I live in the desert or I might actually notice!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Food!

You may have noticed that I have been eating a lot of packaged foods and there's a couple of reasons for this. Number one is that I am on a strict budget. My original food budget of ¥2500 per day got whittled down to ¥1500 after I exchanged my $ and didn't get as much ¥ as I expected. Also, it can be so much easier to walk into a grocery store and buy what you want than to try and figure out a Japanese menu. So far my ¥1500 budget is working. For example today:
Rice to go with pickles and miso I bought yesterday ¥158
Udon soup in a restaurant ¥530
Sushi bento from department store food court ¥525
mochi snack ¥84
That's ¥1397.
Don't worry, I'm still going to splurge on a ¥10000 kaiseki meal in Kyoto but I'm counting every yen until then!






Food court O-nigiri! What a selection!






Food court sashimi. So cheap!

My dinner/ part of tomorrow's breakfast on ¥525! Check out those rolls wrapped with greens instead of nori!






Post From My iPhone

Kenroku-en garden


Today I visited one of the most famous gardens in Japan. It was lovely, this town is lovely, the weather was lovely. I also went to an old samurai neighborhood and a geisha zone. Kanazawa provides a loop bus that stops near all the main attractions but I actually wound up walking most of it. Here's some pics from the garden.





And a shrine



And samurai town



and my lunch



And some plums out in front of a house.



From My iPhone

Kanazawa


Aya booked me a hotel in Kanazawa and while it's not the four seasons it's pretty good for $35 a night! It's 3 blocks from the station and has wi-fi in the lobby!



Unlike in Tokyo I also get my own bathroom!






-- Post From My iPhone