A Thousand Twinkling Lights

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the time that we went to Eikanji in Kyoto to view the Autumn leaves. Well the day didn’t end their. After leaving Eikando, just as it started to get dark, we met a couple of other friends, and headed into the city centre. Completely different from the temples that almost surround all of Kyoto, the city centre is full of people, noise and lights. Large parts of the city are shonnenkai, which are like normal streets with shops and resataurants, but covered with a roof. Sort of half way inside and half way out.

This time, we went to a part of Kyoto that I had never been to. We were going to the Kyoto Tower, near Kyoto Station. Standing over 100 meters tall, it pierces the Kyoto skyline, taller than any other building in the city. It’s distinctive shape and bright orange and white colouring make it stand out, an is visible from many other vantage points around the city.
The tower was completed in 1964 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. There is no real purpose for the building except as a tourist attraction. As Kyoto has strict rules on construction, it stands out of the skyline clearly, towering over everything around it. This has cause much controversy, with many people believing it to be too modern for Kyoto, once being called “a stake in the heart of the city”.

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960087_10152120833777139_702758106_nKyoto Tower, photo courtesy of Bettina
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So up we went to the observation deck. It was a clear night, incredibly clear, a sea of lights around us, ringed by mountains. An orange moon rose above the Kiyomizudera temple. Atop the tower, at all angles are free-to-use telescopes. It was such a clear night, that the feint white glow of the illuminated Osaka Castle, some 25 miles away, could be seen.

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Night lights
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As long time readers of this blog might be starting to realise, I love views from high places, be it the countryside or the city, night or day. Of course Kyoto Tower was no different. These kind of places are very serene, and I could stare out of the views for hours. Which I often have.

But unfortunately, the peace could not last. As has happened several times to me here in Japan. We were attacked. Attacked by a noisy, moving hoard. Surrounding us, shouting and lights flashing at us. They came out of no where.

They were school kids.4

See, I have a theory about this. School groups will go to some famous tourist site, such as the Kyoto Tower (similar events have happened to me at Kinkakuji and Nara). But it seems these groups are never there to see the sight itself. I believe they are taken to these places with the instructions to find a foreigner, and talk to them in English. We did feel sort of like celebrities, with photos being taken and people asking for autographs.

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towerUs and the kids. Photo by Bettina
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To see more of my photos from atop the Kyoto Tower, look here.

You can also follow me on twitter or like me on facebook.

The Curse of the Byrom Family

OoOoOoOoOoOohhh. No, not that kind of curse. A much milder one, but still incredibly annoying. My family’s curse only applies to tourist attractions.

For years now, it has been a frequent theme on my family’s travels to go to see some site, and to arrive there, only to find it is closed, or under renovation, or some other reason why we can’t see this place.

The earliest memory I have of this was in Holland. We were in Holland during the foot and mouth epidemic in the UK. As such, after travelling to a park, we were refused entry, in case we brought foot and mouth with us.

My parents have spoken many other times about going somewhere and it being closed or being rebuilt. I personally have a few on my travels as well:

  • A temple in Ueno Park in Tokyo. It looked great, brightly coloured. I was taking photos of course. As I got closer, I realised it was covered in a giant tent, painted to look like the temple, as it was being restored.
  • Several of the halls at Kiyomizudera were covered in huge tents and scaffolds, every time I have been there.
  • In Kobe, I wanted to visit the earthquake museum. I walked miles on a rainy Thursday, only to find out that it is closed on Thursdays.
  • One of the large temple halls in Nara, is tented and under reconstruction from 2010 until 2018!

 

I hope, somehow, this curse will be broken, and we can actually see the things that we travel and hope to see.

Kiyomizudera

I’ve been to Kiyomizudera several times now, at least three that I can think of. It is, simply, one of my favourite places in Kyoto. The fresh mountain air, the wind in the trees, and a view of the bustling city below, making you feel sort of removed from the rest of the world. It would be a very good place to simply sit, and think, to clear your mind.

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Lush green, an angry sky
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If it wasn’t for the tourists.
Like so many other beautiful places in Japan, it is constantly rammed with tourists from all over the world, destroying any calming notions you had about the temple, and instead you become infuriated as you shuffle through the crowd of loud, ignorant, boisterous tourists. Thank God for headphones.

But enough about the tourists. Back to the happy place. Kiyomizudera, meaning Pure Water Temple is nestled in the trees of Otowa Mountain, of the eastern mountains (Higashiyama), propped on huge wooden stilts sits the main temple building. The temple was founded in 798AD, and it’s current buildings were constructed in 1633. Its name comes from a waterfall above the temple, which waters trickle through the grounds. Like many of the other historic places in Japan, Kiyomizudera is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (bringing my total to around 25). The temple grounds feature a few main sites, as well as many smaller ones, and several shrines withing as well.

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IMG_0685Matsubara-dori, the road leading up to the temple is always packed with people. It is lined with traditional souvenir shops and some restaurants.
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe niōmon gate, present at every Buddhist temple in Japan. Inside, the temple gate is guarded by two demons. Behind, a three-storied pagoda can be seen.
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The Main Hall (Hondo) and stage of Kiyomizudera. It is built upon huge, 12-meter high keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) pillars. The drop is 13 meters, and the saying “to jump of the stage at Kiyomizu”, similar to the English “take the plunge” comes from here. Those that survive the drop are said to have one wish granted. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), two hundred and thirty four jumps were recorded, with 85% of people surviving. Of course this is now banned.
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78The Otowa Waterfall. After making a prayer, it is believed that if you drink water from one of the three streams, you will be granted longetivy, love or knowledge. Though it seems that no one knows which is which.
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Despite my griping at the tourists, Kiyomizudera is definitely a lovely place to visit, especially I imagine in the Autumn when the leaves change. For only ¥300, the view is spectacular, and the buildings are beautiful. There are some other buildings in the complex, but I have not seen them because, as is the curse of my family, they were under rennovation.

Definitely check it out if you can. You can see more photos of Kiyomizudera here, here and here.

Hiroshima Pt. 2

Read part one here

So, after leaving the Peace Park, on a dreary day drizzling with rain, I headed back to the hostel for a long needed shower. I checked in, and found out that there were very few people in the hostel at the time, with it being late January, a very off-peak time.

Having had my shower, I headed into the lounge, grabbed a beer from the vending machine indoors, and sat down to see who was around. It was pretty quiet, just an American, some Argentinians, and of course a couple of Australians as well.

With nothing going on at the hostel, I decided to go visit my old friend Bom, at his bar in downtown Hiroshima: Koba. I had been to Koba 2 years before with some other people I had met in Hiroshima, and had had Bom and his staff as friends on facebook ever since. The place was exactly as I remember, friendly staff and customers. I grabbed a seat at the bar, started chatting to some other customers, ordered a beer and shook off the night cold.

The next day started off quite groggy, but with it being my last day in Hiroshima, I was determined to go out as soon as I could. Thankfully, it had stopped raining by now, and the sun was out. I packed my camera, and jumped on one of the Hiroshima trams, headed for Miyajima.

Hiroshima does not have a subway system like most Japanese cities do. Instead, it has a wide system of trams, running alongside the normal roads. It’s cheap, and as it’s above ground, you get to see the city as you travel. I remember the first time I went to Hiroshima, I was very annoyed, because the tram to my hostel passed the Atomic Bomb Dome. I didn’t want to see it in passing and by accident, but when I could see it properly.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHiroshima Tram
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It takes quite a while to get to Miyajima Station by tram, about an hour or so. The trams don’t move very fast and have to stop for traffic in the cities. However, a large portion of the route follows the coast, with some very beautiful views of the Seto Inland Sea. The ride is peaceful and relaxing, trundling down streets and through neighbourhoods on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was quiet, as it always is on trains in Japan, and it wasn’t crowded, a welcome relief from the crammed trains I am used to around Osaka. And, as always when on local lines, I was stared down for the whole journey by an elderly Japanese woman.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATram Window
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IMG_1393Rainbow on the Waves
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Being an island, there is no land link. Once you get off at Miyajima Station, you have to take a ferry to get to the island. There are two companies working here, JR West and Matsudai Miyajima. A return ticket to the island is very cheap, and the ride across doesn’t take very long at all. The area is famous for oysters, and as you pass over the waves, you can see many small oyster farms dotted in the sea. Coming closer to the island, you get your first glimpse of the famous torii, the red gates famous in shrines in Japan.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGates of Itsukushima
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Though it is now commonly called Miyajima, after the small town on the island, the island is actually called Itsukushima. The shrine on the island was founded in the 6th Century, and it’s current layout is around 900 years old. The gate and the shrine itself are both in the sea. The island is considered sacred, so in the past commoners weren’t allowed to step foot on the island itself, thus the shrine built on stilts. It still has such religious significance that since 1878 no deaths or births are allowed on the island, with pregnant women close to giving birth, elderly and terminally-ill people all being sent to the mainland.

Disembarking from the ferry and walking out of the ticket hall brings you out onto a paved road, a view of traditional style houses and scattered pine trees. The streets are lined by stone lanterns, and tourists and families roam the streets, usually followed by a new companion…
Deer. There are deer all over the island. In Shinto, they are considered messengers to the gods, and are thus sacred. The deer have become so used to tourists and people in general, they freely roam the streets, follow people around and generally pester you for food. They have no problem with having their photographs taken or with being stroked by visitors, and I have never seen one run away.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACute, bold. Deer
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After strolling along the beach, and popping into some of the souvenir shops, I eventually got to the shrine itself. It’s a big, red structure, made of wood and set on stilts, stretching into the sea (or the beach at low-tide). Thankfully, it was fairly quiet when I was there, and I could take a slower pace to walk along the wooden walkways. The first time I went to Itsukushima, I stumbled upon a traditional Japanese wedding. Unfortunately, I was not as lucky this time, but I still think it is a beautiful shrine. One of the most famous sites in Japan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the three top sites in Japan, officially.

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After seeing the main shrine, and the connected Buddhist temple, I decided to head up the mountain. The first time I had come to Itsukushima, I had walked up the mountain. But that was Summer, and I had much more time. This time, I decided to take the “ropeway” to the top, a two part journey via cable cars to the top of the mountain. I was slightly dubious about it, hearing that it was fairly expensive and not worthwhile. They were wrong. The view from the cable car was amazing, looking over the mountains, forests and the Seto Inland Sea.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMt. Misen Ropeway
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I had always been told that there are monkeys at the top of the mountain, and indeed there are signs about the monkeys there. Yet everytime that I have been there, I haven’t seen a single monkey! However, I wasn’t there for the monkeys. I was there for the view. The view from the top of that mountain, on that island, in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea, is one of the best views I have ever seen, the  setting sun reflecting off the sea, fishing boats as tiny specks in the water, and slowly the lights of dozens of tiny fishing villages appear up and the down the coast. Neither my photos nor my words can explain that view.

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I would have liked to have spent more time atop the mountain, but the last cableway down was fast approaching, and I didn’t to get stuck at the top and have to walk down in the dark. From what I remember, the path isn’t particularly a safe one. Upon heading back to the main town, I took a gentle stroll around the streets before heading back to the ferry terminal, my adventures in Hiroshima at an end.

Almost. I woke up on Monday morning at 11am. My coach was at 10:40am. Oops. With no other choice, and having to get back to Hirakata before I had work in the evening, I went and bought myself a ticket for the bullet train. The bullet trains are impressive looking things, close to duck-faced. Though it is an experience to ride them, I don’t enjoy the journey itself. As Japan is so mountainous, they carved the tracks under the mountains. The constant change in pressure, and constant ear-popping is not something I enjoy.

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You can view all the photos from my trip to Hiroshima on my flickr page.

Hiroshima Pt. 1

02/25/14

About a month ago, back when I was still teaching regularly, I was sat at home thinking to myself “It’s been a month now that we’ve been on winter break, and I haven’t done anything. I haven’t even left Kansai since being here.” So, I rather impulsively decided to take a trip to Hiroshima. I booked my tickets and accommodation just two days before I left.

After finishing work on the Friday, I left Hirakata and headed to Umeda to catch a night bus with Willer Express for the 6 and a half hour drive to Hiroshima. I made a mistake. In an attempt to help myself sleep, I downed a couple of beers before boarding. Once on board, I realised that not only was only I not tired, but now I needed to pee. And there was no toilet on board. Thank God that we stopped at service stations every hour or two.

Anyway, the coach arrived at around 6.30AM on Saturday morning. It was still dark outside, and was a pretty cold day. I had about 9 hours to burn until I could check into the hostel, so I started to walk, unsure of what or where I was really going.

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IMG_1387Hiroshima river at dawn
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          With no where to go, I decided to sleep off a few hours in an internet cafe, and wake up when I could check in. Internet cafes are fairly cheap ways to find a place to stay for a few hours or even a night. You pay your fee, and you have your own booth, with a reclining chair that flattens verticle, a computer and a locker. There are vending machines, thousands of magazines and comics, and even showers!

          After napping in my dark, quiet booth for a few hours, I woke up and headed out into Hiroshima, feeling a little more refreshed than I had on arrival. I still had a couple of hours until I could check in, so I made my way to the Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Park.

Now, this is my second time in Hiroshima, so I new what to expect at the park. It is a both beautiful and haunting place. The Atomic Bomb Dome (Gembaku Domu in Japanese) is on of the few surviving buildings left from the bombing in 1945, most being destroyed in the original bomb, and many more destroyed in the following years to make way for the rebuilding of the city.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome
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The building itself was built in 1915, and was the Hiroshima Prefectural Promotion Hall. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a haunting reminder of the war.

In the Peace Memorial Park are various sculptures and shrines for different groups affected by the bombing, such as the Children’s Peace Monument, in memory of children killed by the bomb, and the Cenotaph for Korean victims, in memory of the 400,000 Korean forced labourers killed in the bombing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChildren’s Peace Monument
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACenotaph for Korean Victims
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All over the park you can see millions and millions of origami paper cranes. This stemmed from one girl, Sadako Sasaki. She was two years old when the bomb dropped. By the time she was twelve, she had been diagnosed with leukemia, caused by atomic radiation and given only a year to live. She learnt of a Japanese story that tells that anyone that folds 1,000 cranes is granted a wish. She began folding cranes, and went beyond until her death in October 1955. Since then, people all over the world have donated paper cranes memorial to her and other victims of the bomb.

IMG_1388Brightly coloured cranes
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There is also the Memorial Cenotaph and Peace Flame. The Peace Flame has been kept alight since 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear weapons have been destroyed.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMemorial Cenotaph and Peace Flame
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Though I had seen the museum before, I decided to go in again. It stands in two, box-like buildings, connected by a long enclosed walkway, separating two distinct parts of the museum. It reminds me of an old 70s school or university. To enter the museum costs a tiny ¥50, so there is no reason not to go in, except perhaps if you have a sensitive stomach.
The exhibits inside are hard to explain, and I decided not to take photographs inside. The first half of the museum is focused on the history, the lead up to the bombing and Hiroshima’s role in the war. It also includes copies of the hundreds of letters sent by the mayors of Hiroshima to various people in politics, lobbying for a ban on nuclear weapons.
The second half of the museum is the hard hitting part. Away from the history and politics, it tells the story of those ordinary people affected by the bomb. It features artefacts found after the bombing, such as the blood stained school uniforms of young children. Each piece also has the story of the owner of the items, what happened, what they were doing, how they were identified.
It shows the effects on ordinary objects, such as glass bottles fused together by the intense heat, or roof tiles that had bubbled and melted. It also shows the after effects of radiation, what happened to those who survived the blast but later succumbed to radiation poisoning or cancer. They said for days after the bomb, it rained black rain on Hiroshima, highly dangerous and radioactive.

Hiroshima is a beautiful city with a horrid scar on it, and it is hard to describe really what it is like without seeing it for yourself, and without going to the museum.

Next time, a much happier and peaceful side of Hiroshima: Miyajima Island. You can read about it here.

Autumn Leaves

23/02/2014

This post has been a long long time coming, as have many others, because it takes me a long time to get around to writing about things. Considering I’m writing about Autumn when it’s nearly spring (though I still have things to write about from Summer).

Anyway, back on a sunny Thursday afternoon in late November (21/11), Bettina and I (again) took a train to Kyoto. We were headed for the Eikando temple in east Kyoto.

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East Kyoto Map
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We were very lucky, despite being quite a cold day, it was incredibly sunny. However, seeing as it was late in the year, it would get dark very quickly. By the time we arrived at the temple, the sun was already going down.

The temple’s full name is Shujuraigousan Muryojuin Zenrin-ji. It was founded in 863AD, and is the head temple of the Jodo-shu Seizan Zenrin-ji sect of Buddhism. Of course of the centuries that buildings have been rebuilt, but it is still a very pretty place.

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The road to the temple
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After getting off the train at Keage, there was a bit of a walk. But this was actually very nice, down old streets and many other temples, and some expensive looking traditional inns as well. Seeing the Autumn leaves is an annual event in Japan, so hundreds of tourists milled around the area, some with bulky cameras and big back packs, others dressed in traditional kimono. We could see the mountains from the road, a mixture of greens, yellows oranges and reds.

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Gate at Nanzen-ji
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Of course, most temperate countries in the world have the same annual changing of the colour of leaves, and nobody really takes any notice of it. In Japan, it becomes part of the weather on TV, showing where the leaves had changed so far, predicting when it will be where.

Being a little while back now, my memory isn’t so clear, but as far as I can remember, it cost ¥1000 to get in, which is a little more pricey than some of the other temples in Kyoto. However, I was happy to go there, as it is one of the few large temples in Kyoto I hadn’t been to yet.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATemple and red leaves
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Though it was busy within the temple, it was still incredibly pretty, with a tall pagoda half way up a mountain, with a gorgeous view of Kyoto, and a large koi pond, surrounded by red leafed trees. See below for the photos, or here for all the photos from November.

Conveyor belt sushi @ Kappazushi

16/02/14

Last weekend (Saturday 9th), Bettina and I decided to head out for sushi. Not far from where we live, maybe a 10-minute cycle ride, is a chain restaurant called Kappasushi (かっぱ寿司). Kappasushi is a cheap but good conveyor-belt sushi chain here in Japan.

In Japanese, 回転寿司/かいてんずし/kaitenzushi is the word used for conveyor belt sushi (lit. go around sushi). The nearest kaitenzushi restaurant to me is a chain restaurant called Kappasushi (a kappa is an amphibious creature from Japanese folklore, sort of like a turtle-man-monster).

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Kappazushi

Kappasushi
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With most dishes costing only ¥105, you can get quite a lot of food for a fairly low price. Before I had even taken off my jacket, Bettina had already grabbed herself 4 plates from the conveyor. I myself started with some prawn nigiri  (the kind of sushi with a block of rice and then a topping, usually fish), followed by salmon and tuna:

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Prawn nigiri
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Most people would in the West would have already been to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant before, such as Yo! Sushi in the UK, so the conveyors won’t be much of a surprise to you. But one thing that many conveyor belt sushi restaurants have in Japan that I haven’t seen in England are the sushi trains.

Of course, anywhere you eat sushi, you can order specific items from the menu from your waiter or waitress. But in Japan, they do away with the hassle of human contact. Instead, every table has a touch screen menu, where you simply choose what you want and push “order”. Then once your order is ready, a small yellow train shoots along above the conveyor belt, stopping at your table, ready to eat.

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Sushi train
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Being so affordable, over a dozen plates cost me only around ¥1900 (a little over £11). For a quick, easy and tasty meal, I’d recommend one of Japan’s hundreds of conveyor belt sushi restaurants.

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McDonald’s Japan’s New “American Vintage ’50s”

From the start of January this year, McDonald’s Japan has started selling a new series of burgers inspired by America in the past. Right now we have the “American Vintage ’50s” series, which will be followed by meals inspired from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

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So last week, during a short break between my classes, I dropped into the local McDonald’s for a quick bite to eat. Seeing they had these new burgers being promoted, I thought I should give it a try, and I had high expectations, remembering the American series that we had back in England a couple of years ago.

I picked the “Diner Double Beef (ダイナーダブルベーフ/daina daburu bi-fu)” set, the burger of which you can see on the left of the picture above. The “set” as they are called in Japan, or meal as we would call it, cost ¥770, which is of course the burger, a drink and a box of fries with cheese sauce and “bacon topping”. So not much more expensive that a usual set in McDonald’s Japan.

Once I’d found a seat, I opened up the fries, and squirted on the “cheese”. It was not cheese. It was some plastic tasting, foul smelling imitation cheese, and the “bacon topping” did not help the flavour either. The idea is a brilliant one, cheese covered chips from McDonald’s, but the execution is terrible. From now on, I will be wary of anything in Japan called cheese, as well as “cheese” from any American company.

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It seems I am not the only one who didn’t enjoy the chips, as shown in this article by RocketNews24.

The burger itself was average at best. Two beef burgers, a fried egg and onion, with a black pepper sauce. The burgers were pappy, the sauce has a strange chemical taste to it and the egg was tasteless. But the black pepper sauce at least gave it some flavour.

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It’s safe to say that I won’t be eating that particular burger again. However, I’ll still be keeping my eye out for the next in the series, especially as I’ve read in the past about tasty looking burgers coming out of McDonald’s Japan.

Food Recap

06/01/14

So I want to get into writing more about food for my time here in Japan, and so far I have largely neglected writing about it (despite having an entire blog dedicated to it). I often completely forget to take photos of the food I’m eating, usually because I’m so desperate to get stuck in! But there are a few photos I have taken, so I present them to you here:

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IMG_0544This one is from back in September, from a restaurant called Daikichi. It is exactly what it looks like: grilled chicken. Grilled chicken, called yakitori in Japan, is incredibly popular here. This is of course just a simple chicken wing, but you can get all sorts of chicken, from breast, to skin, to heart and liver. My favourite is probably the heart, is has a very rich flavour.

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This one I wrote about a while ago. Very simple: orange sorbet and coca-cola. Seems like a very strange thing to have really, and not very Japanese. To read the full story, go here.

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This one is pretty cool. When two friends and I went to the Osaka Aquarium, we found this kind of restaurant. Imagine a place that, for about Y2000, gives you all you can eat for 90 minutes. Everything is on a big buffet. But, nothing is cooked. WHAT?! No, it’s not a sushi/sashimi place. As you can see in the picture above, you take the raw food to your table, cover it in batter and breadcrumbs, then deep-fry it in your own, private fryer. It tasted great, but after 4 or 5 plates of deep-fried meat and vegetables, the oil in your belly starts to build up! Still, if you’re in Japan and have done all the other big foods, don’t miss this one.

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Okonomiyaki. I always find it hard to explain what okonomiyaki is to someone that’s never had it before. Split the word in two and his is the literal meaning: okonomi is whatever-you-like, and yaki is grilled. Here’s wikipedia’s explanation of my local kind of okonomiyaki:

Kansai- or Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the predominant version of the dish, found throughout most of Japan. The batter is made of flour, grated nagaimo (a type of yam), water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, meat (generally thin pork belly, often mistaken for bacon), octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, mochi or cheese.

I’ve had these several times in Japan, and they’re always good. And so filling! In fact, just around the corner from my apartment is a pretty good okonomiyaki restaurant. (Sorry for the bad photo, this one was an “action shot” as I was so hungry at this point, I couldn’t wait”.

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Another DIY meal. Aaah, yakiniku. Literally “grilled meat”. At this place, like before, you pay for a set time, 90 minutes, and then its as much as you can eat. You can get vegetables and the like, but the main attraction is the meat. Unlimited beef, chicken, pork! As long as you finish it all. And you cook it on your own little flame grill like the one above! Cook it to your own personal taste, dip in a bit of sauce and you’re sorted!

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Yakisoba. I bet you can remember what yaki means by now, right? If not: yaki is grilled, and soba is the kind of noodle you can see above, made from buckwheat. The one above is a mixed yakisoba, with egg, octopus, prawns, chicken, pork and cabbage. One of my favourite Japanese dishes, yet oh so simple! This one was bought at the same time as the okonomiyaki above. For the story of when we went to get these dishes, look here.

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Ramen. I’ve put these two together as they’re practically the same, just with slightly different sauce/soup. Ramen was originally a Chinese style of noodle, but now is more commonly associated with Japan. Every broke university student has eaten ramen at one point or another. But this is the proper way to eat them. The top is miso ramen, ramen with miso soup, mixed vegetables and pork. The bottom photo is shiyou ramen, or salt soup ramen. That doesn’t sound appetizing, but trust me, it is. It isn’t overpoweringly salty, yet brings out the flavours of the other ingredients.

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Sorry for the terrible photo on this one, I was struggling to keep this down. This thing here, I really didn’t like. I can’t remember it’s name, my friend (an English girl) ordered them. She loved them. I am really really not a fan of raw, cold, slimy sea snails.

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Beer. It had to come in here somewhere. Now, I used to absolutely love Japanese beer. It is still good stuff. But after only drinking Japanese beer for 5 months, it’s getting boring. Anyway, not the point. This beer here is not a good beer, it’s just big and cheap. That there is bigger than my head, and costs Y280 (under £2). The glass on the left is a little under a pint. A much tastier beer is something from the Minoh brand, which has various different beers including Pilsner, IPA, Stout and Weissen.

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And that’s some of the food I’ve been eating so far. From this time on, I’m going to try much harder to remember to photograph my food, and write about it on here. If there is anything you think I should try, let me know!

No forced pick-ups

27/12/2013

Recently I was looking into a club in Osaka that a friend from England wants to go to. He simply wanted to know what sort of dress code they have, and if he should bring smart shoes. However, while looking through the various rules that they have (some seem ridiculous, such as “no cameras”, while others should be common sense, such as “no molesting” or “don’t drink and drive”), I found one that made me raise an eyebrow. The Japanese is 強引ナンパ禁止 / ごういん・ナンパ・きんし / gouin nanpa kinshi, seen below. which translates literally as “no forced pick-ups”. 強引/ごういん/gouin means “strong”, “pushy” or “forceful”. ナンパ/nanpa has many meanings, including playboy or social story, but in this context means “picking up girls”

keep dress code

 This translates literally as “no forced pick-ups”. 強引/ごういん/gouin means “strong”, “pushy” or “forceful”. ナンパ/nanpa has many meanings, including playboy or social story, but in this context means “picking up girls”, and 禁止 /きんし/kinshi means “ban”. So strong pick-ups are banned.

But what does that mean exactly?

I did some searching, first my simple searching the phrase. The first website that came up was the one I had already found it. After that was a series of English to Japanese translations. So from what I can gather, it simply means “don’t be aggressive in your pursuit of a girl”. Seems this is only restricted to men doing it, you never know, stranger things have happened. 

 

Now, it seems like a smart rule. But I have seen stranger things. I remember the first time I was in Japan two years ago. A few friends and I went to a bar in Nara. It was a nice place with a good atmosphere. But on the front of the menu was one rule “No picking up guys or gals”. For one, it just sounds strange using “guys and gals” at all. Secondly, the fact that it was only written in English, and no Japanese equivalent, as if it was directed at foreigners.

But aside from that, the very fact that a bar at all would ban this. I can see how this would have benefits and create a relaxed atmosphere, but I don’t think it is the establishments place to outright ban this sort of thing. Say a man and a woman start talking in a normal way. Who decides whether someone is getting picked up? What if someone wanted to meet someone else?

 

Everyday I still find things that I find strange in this country…