Japan Memories Day 17: Sayonara Kinosaki, and We Meet Again Tokyo!

This is day 17 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 17, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 17, October 17th, 2017

I got up before 7 so I could go to an onsen before breakfast and checkout. I was tired, but an onsen is a great way to wake yourself up… after another excellent breakfast and a little chat with the owners, we were off. They gave us this lovely thank-you note!

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While leaving Kinosaki behind is hard, it also felt good to go back to Ikebukuro in a weird way. Our home-base. We are staying in the Tokyu Stay again for a couple of days before we will move again to the Sawanoya Ryokan in Ueno- the last home of our trip.

Dustin and I did a little shopping together, and later in the afternoon I stopped by the BL cafe- my new friend Tequila Queen (Yuri) was there and we shared our twitter accounts 😀 I tried a tequila sunrise (super yummy) and then another… and I ate a yummy bbq chahara dish. I met some new staff tonight as well, Kakeru and Mitako. Mitako and I sang This Is Halloween 🙂

 

Tomorrow is Day 18: Shibuya Scrambled Fashion, Revisiting Akiba, VAMPIRE CAFE and My Bloody Surprise!?!?!

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Japan Memories Day 16: Kinosaki Onsen Soak, Zen Temple, Crab Hotpot, and the World’s Best Risotto!

This is day 16 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 16, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 16, October 16th, 2017

This morning’s breakfast included rice, egg, soup, sausage. all kinds of tasty stuff. After breakfast I checked out the TV- lots of funny and cute shows and commercials (animal mating rituals! People and their pets! Infomercials! XD). 

Next, I went down to one of the other onsen in town- it was the most relaxing onsen yet. Goshono-Yu. Indoor and outdoor onsen with a waterfall, sauna, and a stone bench with flowing water and a footbath. I stayed and soaked for over an hour. The cascading bench and footbath provided the perfect spot to sit when the overwhelming heat of full immersion in the onsen became too much for me. 

Dustin and I had lunch at a local spot- my rice with crab was SCRUMPTIOUS.

Then we got delicious ice cream that I didn’t drop on the floor this time! Mine was a scoop of “burnt condensed milk” and a scoop of regular milk flavors. 

We went for a stroll around and found a gorgeous zen temple. In the back was a peaceful cemetery with waters flowing down the rockwork and many weathered stones. 

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Tonight’s dinner was crab hotpot- amazing. I think this area is known for their crab. Then the maid took all of the veggies and bits remaining in the broth out (she found the “Japanese pickle” I had added and thought it was funny- I guess you eat those separately and don’t flavour your soup with them!) She added rice and whipped egg to the remaining crab meat, making “Japanese risotto”. It was so good that I was sad that I was already so full and couldn’t enjoy more of it!

When another woman came to give us dessert (apple-pear matcha mochi) I told her that the risotto is the best, highest risotto, best in the world! She complimented my Japanese (so many compliments, but I know they are being kind- my Japanese is very basic. I want to learn more).

So, we had another soak in the private onsen, and I used their vibrating foot massager thing, and now we are just relaxing and getting ready to journey back to Tokyo tomorrow!

Tomorrow is day 17: Sayonara Kinosaki, and We Meet Again Tokyo!

Japan Memories Day 15: Kinosaki Straw Handicrafts and Impressive Autumn Festival!

This is day 15 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 15, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 15, October 15th, 2017

Breakfast is served in the banquet room between 8 and 8:30. Dustin had said to let him sleep as we’d assumed it would be buffet style like at Takaragawa, but when I saw how a table was set for 2 with an elaborate breakfast set, I went back downstairs and woke him up for it. It was delicious- grilled fish, rice, tamagoyaki, salad, soup, tofu… so much food!

After breakfast I reserved our onsen time and the woman at the desk brightened when I spoke in Japanese. It was a rainy, windy day, but we did some exploring around and found there was a festival for autumn happening. I asked a maid and she said it is called Danjiri (a cart pulling festival). Lots of men and boys were pushing these huge floats around in a display of a battle. There were 6 floats in all I think, carried by hand and heaved around. There were drummers inside!

We had coffee at a charming little local cafe (well, cafe au lait for me and a banana berry smoothie for Dustin) as well as some crab sandwiches. We also got some trinkets from some interesting shops, and visited a small museum about straw handicrafts that the area is known for- muguwara zaishi- it was very interesting. A skillful craft.

We watched a video showing all the work that goes into it, and it made us appreciate it a lot. I bought a few souvenirs from the museum: these are comparatively simple to the designs shown in the video and the ones we saw in the museum, but no less beautiful!

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We got ice cream at one of the shops, and while I was paying I dropped all of my ice cream (matcha soft-serve) on the floor T-T the lady was very nice about it and gave me another, though. 

At another shop a kind old man who laughed a lot and reminded me of my Grampy chatted with me about Halloween, the local festival, and straw handicrafts. He showed me some straw art hanging on the wall with a stork on it, and said “this bird… brings a baby!” with a knowing smile. We joked about my family wanting a baby, and when I said “aw heck, I’ll take it!” (the stork art) and told him “i’ll tease my husband with it!” he shook my shoulders playfully and thought it was great. I also picked out a teensy dog stuffie to buy and when he read the description tag he said “this cat called… Pagu” (it’s a pug). I told him that I have a pug-beagle dog at home that I miss very much! He also recommended this silk (?) postcard of Kinosaki, and I can’t say no to a cute old man!

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A local told me that the festival finale would be happening in the centre of town between the bridges, so I headed there before dinner. He told me I was very lucky to be in Kinosaki at the time of the autumn festival, as it was quite the sight to see. Very impressive displays with the man-lifted floats and drumming that continued into the night.

Dinner tonight was impressive again- crab, shrimp, beef, lots of little sides. Immaculately carved oranges for dessert. We tried the smaller onsen tonight. So relaxing. 

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Tomorrow is Day 16: Kinosaki Onsen Soak, Zen Temple, Crab Hotpot, and the World’s Best Risotto!

Japan Memories Day 14: Goodbye Kyoto, Hello Beautiful Kinosaki Onsen Town!

This is day 14 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 14, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 14, October 14th, 2017

Goodbye Kyoto. Today we head to Kinosaki. We hailed a taxi to Kyoto station where we ate some yummy ramen and saw some school bands playing (they were very good!)

 

 

The shinkansen to Kinosaki was nearly 2 hours long, with gorgeous views the entire way. Mountains, fields, cute little towns with gardens everywhere, paths leading up steep hills of intense greenery.

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When we arrived in the town station, a woman asked if we had a reservation at one of the ryokan. She pointed us in the direction of our ryokan, the Mikunia.

 

We checked in and were shown our room by a kind young man. We had a mixup over yukata (summer kimono to wear around the inn and town). I later found out he was telling me I could choose a coloured Yukata downstairs if I wanted an alternate colour to the standard grey yukata provided, but at the time I thought he was simply asking what colour I preferred, so I said “blue or pink would be great, thank you” in my best Japanese.

He brought me two lovely and elaborate yukata and said “one for today, one for tomorrow?” with a grin. Soon after though, the maids came in and were fretting over my yukata selections (not sure why, maybe the colours or patterns didn’t match the season?) and they took the blue one away, to which he began apologizing to me and I was like “oh, it’s ok! It’s ok!”

The maids were also concerned about Dustin’s yukata size (he’s a big guy) and we were trying to explain that he had bought a personal yukata in Kyoto and brought it with him. Then later, when I tried on my pretty pink yukata, a maid appeared and I showed her that my yukata was much too long for me. I didn’t realize that it was a different kind of yukata than the ones we wore in Takaragawa- this one was a fancier type, using two obi (sashes) to hold it up and customize the length.

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Once we figured out all of the yukata confusion, we had a stroll around the gorgeous town of Kinosaki- river with koi fish, bridges and trees, little shops, and footbaths.

 

We were given a kaiseki shabu shabu meal in our room (SO DELICIOUS), after which the table was cleared and moved aside, and our futon set up on the tatami.

 

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We arrived a bit late so our onsen reservation for private soak was the last slot of the day (11pm) and I had to nap first as I was exhausted- but the wait was worth it. Dustin and I had the little onsen to ourselves and enjoyed soaking in the hot water together. The steam and heat prepares you for a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow is day 15: Kinosaki Straw Handicrafts and Impressive Autumn Festival!

Japan Memories Day 13: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Osaka BL Cafe, and Being Lost (Without a Care!)

This is day 13 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 13, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 13, October 13th, 2017

Dusty wanted to visit the Handicraft Centre in Kyoto (which I had already visited) so I set out on a solo adventure today.

I decided to walk to the Fushimi Inari Shrine first. It was raining, so I took a hotel umbrella. Walking the narrow streets of Kyoto with a bulky umbrella is not an easy task. I bumped a car, a boy on a bike, and a building before I got the hang of it. 

It was nearly an hour walk.  The quiet residential streets suddenly gave way to touristy shops and street vendors selling snacks and sweets. After partaking in some of these, I headed to the shrine.

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Fushimi Inari is definitely an impressive place, so I can see why it comes recommended so highly by travel books. Huge red tori gates layered along a winding path create the iconic look that tourists flock to. Wise looking fox statues stand guard.

Yet, a lot of the magic of the place was stunted for me by the masses of people blocking walkers by attempting to get the perfect selfie amidst the shuffle. I understand, it’s a special opportunity, but the result was that it was crowded to the extreme. I should have gotten up earlier and left the inn sooner if I wanted to beat the rush of people. However,  I really enjoyed going off the main path onto smaller, quieter trails that were MUCH quieter and just as lovely.

After Fushimi Inari I felt that I didn’t have it in me to go to Arashiyama, Nara, and the Golden Pavillion (the places I had originally planned) because I figured they would also be packed with people. So, I decided to go back to Osaka and explore. I visited a Loft store and I love their style philosophy of simple and basic yet good quality and chic items. I picked up a couple pairs of cute, affordable shoes. 

I visited a Super Potato and found a Diabolik Lovers game second-hand! By this point I was hungry and headed into the thick of Otaku Osaka, where I decided to be brave and visit… Theme Cafe #7 of the trip, the Osaka branch of Ikegaku BL Cafe!

The cafe was a bit hard to find (had to take an elevator to a 3rd floor of a nondescript building) and I lingered in the hallway for a moment looking up a restaurant phrase in my phrasebook. When I knocked and entered I think they had heard me in the hall because the staff were all sitting in perfectly arranged compositionally pleasing poses in the room! It was like I walked into a reverse-harem scene in an anime or something.

It became rather awkward because I was the only customer and, unlike the Ikebukuro branch, the staff barely spoke any English. I was the only visitor in the place for over an hour, so they were trying their best to entertain me as I anxiously picked at my curry rice which was shaped into a Mickey Mouse head. 

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Some conversation:

Me: “This (taxidermied) rabbit- I don’t know if it’s kawaii (cute) or kowai (scary)”

Staff: “The rabbit’s name is Christine”. 

Me: “Hi Christine! She’s beautiful.”

Staff “Christine is boy. Beautiful boy.”

One of the staff, who the others teased and called “big girly boy” had gorgeously manicured nails. They were impressive… I’ve never even had a manicure before ^-^’ 

We drew pictures on the napkins together. I drew Christine. They showed me some various ways to make hearts with your hands (thumbs and pointer fingers together, all fingers together, pointer and middle fingers together, 2 people’s hands together, over-head heart) and I invented a “Canada Style” heart with elbows together to form the bottom of the heart… (I made this up, but they liked it, and maybe it will spread? XD)

I got a Coupling Pocky before I left, which involved a scenario where the staff enacted out trying to read out the menu in English and arguing about the translations (I think!?) and of course ending in a tense Pocky battle of nosebleed proportions…

Before saying goodbye to Osaka, I checked out an arcade, Lashinbang, Animate, etc. I love how all of the Animate and Lashinbang stores have totally different inventory on different themes- it’s worth it to visit each one that you can, because you will find very unique types of selection at each one.

Then, heading back to Kyoto, I got TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY lost in the Osaka station. I finally found my train after getting help from several kind security staff… I got confused on the train as well, missing my stop and having to backtrack. Then I got off the train and unknowingly walked in the complete OPPOSITE direction that I intended for a bit!

Well, I made it back eventually, and getting lost is part of the fun of traveling 🙂 I feel very safe in Japan too, so I wasn’t worried (though my feet were killing me by the end of the night!)

Tomorrow is Day 14: Goodbye Kyoto, Hello Beautiful Kinosaki Onsen Town!

 

Japan Memories Day 12: Universal Studios Japan!

This is day 12 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 12, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 12, October 12th, 2017

Today Dusty and I went to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. The Osaka main station is huge and confusing, but we made it eventually >.< For Universal Studios, we pretty much had interest in one place only- HARRY POTTER WORLD!

 

As we navigated our way around, there were special Halloween touches everywhere. I really loved Hello Kitty’s special Halloween outfit!

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The first thing we did was head to the HP area and get something to eat at the Three Broomsticks. It was overpriced (just like the one in Florida! haha) but it was fun to eat pumpkin pasties and drink butterbeer! We got the special Halloween Feast. 

 

After that, we went to the Hogwarts Walk. The other attractions were packed with huge lineups that didn’t look very fun, so this was the only HP “ride” that we did, but it was also fun to just look around at all the cool recognizable sights- Hogsmeade, Zonkos, Honeydukes, etc. The Hogwarts Walk was very dark, but it was cool to see Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione and Ron speaking Japanese!

I bought some Hogwarts robes and a wand (willow). It’s official now- I’M A HUFFLEPUFF!!!

 

When we finished with HP stuff, I rode the Flying Dinosaur rollercoaster (Jurassic Park). The lineup was massive but I took the singles line and got on fast while Dusty took a break. It was very fun, but over so fast!

When we were just about ready to leave, there was a Halloween parade- Sesame Street, Hello Kitty, Minions and Peanuts characters all decked out in their Halloween best.

Check out the bat dudes on rollerskates!!! The song they played on repeat a billion times will be stuck in our heads forever- it’s like pure adrenaline…. it takes you to the world beyonnnnddd…

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Before leaving we got some tasty sushi and desserts at another conveyor restaurant with a super cute sign.

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Tomorrow is day 13: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Osaka BL Cafe, and Being Lost (Without a Care!)

Japan Memories Day 11: World’s Smallest Museum of Ukiyoe, Boar Temple, & Exploring In Kyoto!

This is day 11 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 11, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 11, October 11, 2017

On my morning stroll I happened upon “The World’s Smallest Museum of Ukiyoe”, which I was hoping to visit (I didn’t realize it was just around the corner from the inn!). 

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Mr. Ichimura was sitting outside and invited me in. He told me to call him Ojiisan (Grandfather). The “museum” is the entry hall of his home. In these cramped quarters his magnificent prints lay scattered over the counter and the entrance floor where he sits. He showed me a few of the woodblocks he uses for his printmaking. (I counted at least 8 pieces for Hokusai’s wave!) 

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Ojiisan is a sweet old man. Between my basic Japanese and his basic English, we were able to discuss a little bit about his craft. He told me that some prints use watercolour, and some use oil. He discussed how Ukiyoe is an old tradition, how gradation of inks is important, and how a man visiting from London designed his English signage oustide: it reads “I open when I wake up and close when I must go to sleep. When I’ve had enough, the store is closed.” We agreed that it is quite funny!

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He was very humble, wanting me to understand that his part in Ukiyoe is in the printing of the inks only- he does not carve or design. Yet, the printings are impressive feats of many different layers, each of which must be pressed exactly in alignment, and featuring lovely gradation of colours.

As we were discussing and I was preparing to pay for some prints, a young man stopped by- I felt bad for making him wait as Ojiisan dealt with my prints and money >.< so I apologized. Ojiisan gave me a free extra print of purple flowers ❤ I got several prints as well for some gifts, for my journal, and to display at home! Ojiisan also gave me a paper with information about the Small Ukiyoe Museum and the craft of Ukiyoe.

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 I feel like being able to meet and talk with Grandfather was a special gift, and a it was a highlight of my trip for sure.

Now if this ain’t just the cutest lil duck you ever did see… (I’m obsessed with this duck print).

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After my Ukiyoe adventure, I got a “morning set” (eggs on toast) at a little cafe down the road.

Next, I visited the lovely temple across the street from our inn. It has images and statues of boars everywhere.

I bought a fortune and couldn’t get much out of it with google translate, but some of it sounded like ill omens, so I tied it to the fortune tree. 

Dustin and I did a bit of exploring in Kyoto together today. We checked out the Kyoto Disney Store (an employee there noticed my SHINee keychain and told me she is also a Shawol! It was exciting!), PokeCenter, and a few other spots. I got some Diabolik Lovers manga (!) from a bookstore. We had tasty sushi at a conveyor belt restaurant.

In the afternoon Dustin headed back to the inn and I walked to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre. So many lovely artisan goods there! I got the attendant at the centre to call me a taxi since my feet were KILLING me after a long day of walking. I had a nice little conversation with the taxi driver who thanked me for complimenting Japan and he in turn complimented my Japanese. 

 

Tomorrow is day 12: Universal Studios Japan!