MonthJuly 2014

Ise

This is my last post from my trip to Asia, where we took a day trip from Nagoya to a town, known for its Shinto shrines, called Ise.

Unlike Shinto shrines in other places, these ones are quite simple in their architecture.

These people were trying to “listen” to the tree. I thought stethoscopes were needed to do that. Anyway, that tree trunk was huge.

Random chicken on the road. Doesn’t seem to be afraid of people.

And of course, lunch! Ise is famous for its udon, so that’s what we had at a restaurant called Ise Udon Okunoya. My lunch also came with a rice bowl with sashimi from local fish.

And I also had one piece of sushi that costed ¥1,000 (~$10). The main ingredient: Matsuzaka beef, a kind of beef that rivals even Kobe beef in quality. The beef is very soft and tender. When I put it in my mouth, I felt it melting apart by itself. $10 well spent.

Oharaimachi is a street with many traditional buildings and restaurants. There also lots of shops that sell different types of sake, and local foods for tourists.

Played this game where I shot a gun that shot out a small cork at towers of candies. Whatever I knocked down, I got to keep. Went home with a bag of candy 🙂

Links to photo albums: here

Nagoya

Next stop, Nagoya! Or as the train announcer says, “次は名古屋です!”

As usual, food was the goal. Miso-Katsu, a kind of Japanese schnitzel with with miso sauce, is a specialty of Nagoya. Yabaton was the name of the restaurant and it is one of the most famous places in Nagoya for Miso-Katsu.

Nagoya also has the largest planetarium in the world at the Nagoya City Science Museum. And they have palm trees! We went to the planetarium show too, and they showed us how various constellations and planets looked in space, but unforunately, all the explanations were in Japanese. Still, it is worth a visit for those who enjoy stargazing.

Some crazy stuff they were able to do with bubbles too.

And I found the dome and helix fossils. I just need to go to the lab in Cinnarbar Island… Now I am wondering if the museum people put those two fossils together on purpose.

I wanted to walk inside this tornado so badly.

Another specialty of Nagoya is Hitsumabushi, which is grilled eel on rice. Probably many non-Asians may think that this is weird to eat, but regardless it is very very good, but expensive. According to the local culture, there is a “standard” way to eat this. First is to eat a quarter of it as is. Second, is to add various spices like green onion, and wasabi to it and eat another quarter. Third is to mix it with the given broth and eat another quarter of it. Lastly, it is to eat the last quarter with the favoured method of the three.

In the downtown district of Sakae, I saw a Ferris wheel attached to the side of the building. I should get one for my house too.

Not sure if this is a thing in Nagoya, but someone had the great idea of mixing melon in their spaghetti batter. Step 1: Make spaghetti with melon batter. Step 2: Add whipped cream. Step 3: ???. Step 4: Profit! Apparently, the kiwi one was better, according to a friend.

Another speciality of Nagoya is Tebasaki, Nagoya-style fried chicken wings. I believe it is deep fried with a coating of sweet soy sauce. It tasted okay, I guess.

Not exactly a specialty of Nagoya, but this is raspberry Kit Kat. It is not good. Don’t try it.

As expected, epic food often makes appearances in my travelling 🙂

Links to photo albums:

Universal Studios Japan

The last time I went to Universal Studios was in California when I was 12. It was nice coming back years later and seeing the same rides that I had such fond memories of as a child. Even though this one is in Osaka, it felt like it took the best rides from the one in California (at least from 10 years ago) and put them in Japan. Warning: lot’s of spoilers for the rides!

Back to the Future is definitely one of my favourite movies and since USJ had this ride there, I had to go (even if I saw it as a kid). It was a motion simulator ride where everyone sat in a Delorean that shook as the car traveled through time to places like Hill Valley in 2015 and eras like the time of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the dialogue was all in Japanese!

The Delorean outside the ride definitely attracted a lot of attention too.

Parts of the park was designed to look like an American city, but with one big difference: the streets are much cleaner in Japan. Part of this pseudo-American town was a recreation of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

The big gate into Jurassic park with the vegetation was a really nice touch too.

They really did a good job in making people feel like they were actually there – complete with a 10,000V electric fence, a broken jeep and raptors.

The Jurassic Park ride was really awesome too. As the roller coaster passes the destroyed gate and electric fence, dinosaurs begin to appear, and they are screaming and roaring. The acid spraying dinosaurs spray water at the visitors, and of course at the end, the almighty T-Rex appears as the roller coaster goes through a steep drop into the water, making a huge splash. I was soaked at the end of the ride.

I forgot how awesome Terminator 3D was when I was a kid. It was cool to see Terminators at the side of the theatre light up and start shooting things. Even cooler was when the screen showed Arnold riding a motorcycle and then having a real motorcycle come out of the screen and appear on stage fighting another actor playing T-1000.

At the Jaws ride, naturally there’d be a large shark on display right outside of it. The ride took visitors on a boat ride as the shark attacks. The boat driver, wielding a shotgun, begins to defend the passengers. Lots of splashing, with a fiery ending.

Because it is Japan, there has to be cute stuff and that is Snoopy. There aren’t many things cooler than flying Snoopy’s.

If people like old school American-style diners, they have that here too!

Definitely worth a visit if one is willing to spend 7000 yen. I certainly enjoyed reliving the same things I saw when I was a kid as an adult and it gave me quite a huge feeling of nostalgia.

Links to more photos: here

Osaka

In Osaka, we began by visiting the famous shopping and food areas like Shinsaibashi, Dotonbori, and Namba. I wasn’t really there to shop so we mostly walked through the shopping streets. I’m also told that at night it is not very enjoyable walking through this area alone as there are many shady characters trying to get “business”.

The best food we ate in Osaka was definitely Yakiniku at a place called Sora (空), which means “sky”. Pieces of pre-marinated meats are cooked on the grill, and everything was delicious.

Even though we were not in Hiroshima, we got to eat Okonomiyaki again. This time, there was a grill at our table and a server at the restaurant cooked it for us while we watched.

Osaka is also famous for deep fried skewers using different foods like chicken, squid, and veggies. The skewers are served with a special sauce and according to the local culture, double-dipping is highly frowned upon. We at this at a famous Japanese skewer restaurant called Daruma (だるま) with some friends in Osaka. My personal favourite was the kind with intestines.

Osaka Castle is another well known landmark in the city. Since the many wars that the castle has been involved in since its construction in the 16th century, the castle has now been restored and the inside has been converted into a museum with a rooftop observation deck.

We also visited the Osaka Science Museum. It was full of interactive exhibits that taught various concepts in the natural sciences, like magnetism, sound, air drag, and chemical reactions. The best exhibit was definitely the one on nuclear fission.

Takoyaki, another one of Osaka’s local delicacies, was also something we had to try. The ball is made of a batter and inside it, there are bits of octopus meat, and the entire thing is cooked in a special Takoyaki grill. After it is cooked, Takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise is added. It is interesting to eat since the outer shell is quite soft, but the octopus is not. The sauce also adds some sweetness to the flavour.

While I was no stranger to Takoyaki since I have had it previously, we got to try a kind that used egg for the outer shell rather than the batter. It was definitely new and special, but I have to say the regular kind was way better.

We also stumbled onto a restaurant called the “International Beer Museum” that had different beers from around the world on tap. It had been a long time since I had a Helles, so that’s what I got. I also realized that I haven’t been posting much about Japanese beer and the reason is that it is quite easy to get the same name brands in Vancouver (with the exception of Suntory Premium Malt’s) and they taste the same too!

I also didn’t think I’d be able to eat Currywurst in Japan either. Needed way more sauce though, but I understand that kind of sauce is probably hard to come by in Japan.

And I also didn’t think I’d see an Asian person wearing Lederhosen either.

Links to photo albums:

Kyoto and Arashiyama/Sagano

Arashiyama and Sagano

Visiting Arashiyama and Sagano just outside of Kyoto was probably one of the best parts of the trip. We rented bikes and leisurely biked around the area looking at the natural scenery.

And biked through a forest of bamboo.

Passing by ponds with water lilies.

And hiked up a mountain while listening with Pokemon walking music.

To see monkeys at the top.

And also to be rewarded with a mountain-top view of Kyoto.

Kyoto

In Kyoto, our trip was much more cultural, when we visited the Kinkakuji (金閣寺), a temple with gold-plated exterior walls. It is by a small lake, so one can see a clear reflection of the temple in the water.

In downtown Kyoto, we stumbled upon the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine. The entrance was illuminated by beautifully lit lanterns.

In the Higashiyama District (if I recall correctly), we saw more of the traditional architecture. Many shops here sell small trinket items and ceramics for tourists and was definitely a huge shift from the modern Japanese metropolis.

Our accommodations was quite traditional as well, complete with sliding doors, floor mats made of bamboo and futons.

Links to more photos:

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