Posts Tagged ‘Cold Soba’

Jason and I have been waking up pretty early on our trip to Japan thus far; we were up again at 06:30h and got ready for our day trip to Kyoto.

When we were about to leave the hotel, it was pouring rain. I suggested that we should wait 30-60 minutes to see if the rain stops but Jason was quite insistent that we just hail a cab to the Shinsaibashi train station. I pop into the convenient store next door to our hotel and buy 2 umbrellas at 500 yen a piece. Jason was able to hail us a cab and we were on our way to Shinsaibashi station.

… but of course after we get into the cab, literally 30 seconds later it stops raining.

From Shinsaibashi station, we hop onto the train and head towards the Shin-Osaka station to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto. We booked our tickets on the Tokaido line for the next available train to Kyoto and we are on our way. The trip itself was pretty quick, as it only took us maybe 20 minutes to get from Shin-Osaka station to the Kyoto station. From there we start walking to our destination: Kiyomizu-dera.

Looking back at this now, it was a very poor idea. The walk itself is about 45 minutes from Kyoto station, and the weather was atrocious (and by atrocious, I mean sunny with a temperature of 30 degrees and insane humidity). We stop by a couple stores and Jason found a place where they make chef knives from Japanese steel. We make a mental note of it and continue on our way. By the time we reach the Kyoto National Museum (about 25 minutes away walking from Kyoto station), I start to develop starting stages of sun stroke and become very irritable. We hail a cab to take us the rest of the way.

Traffic was terrible but our cab driver dropped us off as close as she could without racking up our fare for the cab. We thanked her profusely for her consideration. We take a small break in Chawan-zaka (shopping area) so I can grab a drink of water and sit in the shade for a bit, and then we start walking over to Kiyomizu-dera.

Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Chawan-zaka (Teapot Lane), Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple that contains a variety of shrines, and is considered to be one of Japan’s National Treasures.  It was founded in 778 and was built without using a single nail. Though many people may not have heard of it, I’m sure people have seen pictures of the Main Hall and Deva Gate.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall that I’ve seen.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Kiyomizu-dera is quite impressive. There is the Tainai-meguri; I’ve never heard of it before that day and even looking for information about it, there doesn’t appear to be much. When you arrive, you are asked to take off your shoes and provide a donation of 100 yen. From there, they lead you to a dark staircase and tell you to follow the wooden handrail throughout the course of your visit. It made me somewhat uneasy, as it was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything in front or behind you. What this is supposed to symbolize is blindly entering the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu (mother of Buddha). You eventually get to an area where there is a thick round stone the size of a pizza pan with “womb” written in Sanskrit under a small light. They say that Daizuigui Bosatsu could grant wishes, so you are to turn the stone and make a wish. The experience was somewhat frightening (just because you’re literally walking around in pitch black, grasping at this handrail to lead you to your destination) but it was also quite humbling. If you’re not afraid of the dark or claustrophobic, I would recommend checking it out.

After seeing a variety of shrines and the “Love Stone”, I start to feel lightheaded again so we stop for lunch. Again, we eat cold soba. Why? Because we can and it’s fucking delicious!

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Beside the restaurant that we stopped at was the Otowa-no-taki; it’s a waterfall of “sacred water” that has 3 channels of water leading to it. They say that those who drink from the waterfall are blessed with longevity, health and success.

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

We walk around for another hour and leave to buy Jason’s chef’s knife. When we initially planned our trip to Japan, we talked about buying a new knife for our kitchen that was handcrafted, and made from Japanese steel. We head back to the knife shop where Jason peruses the knives (while I suffer from full on symptoms of sun stroke). The woman who owned the shop was very friendly and ensured that we were taken care of (not only did she help Jason out, but she provided me a chair to sit on while he was shopping and 2 origami cranes because I looked just terrible). Jason purchases a knife and a wet stone, and asks if he was able to get a picture of her for our trip. She bashfully agrees, fixes her hair and poses in a photo with Jason.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

She looked at me concerned before we left the store, and Jason tells her that I’m ill due to too much sun. She looks at me thoughtfully for a second and then provides me with another gift; a handmade fan to help me with the heat.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

We take refuge at a McDonald’s so I can have some fluids and get out of the evil sunlight, and we start ranting about how delicious soba is. One thing leads to another and the moment that I felt well enough to meander in Kyoto, we hail a cab and head towards Shijo Street, where Jason knows of a good soba house.

Well, we couldn’t find it but we ended up eating delicious katsu. Realizing we are well beyond walking distance from the Kyoto train station, we hail yet another cab and make our way back to Osaka from the train station.

I think we both had way too much sun that day, because we were both in bed and passed out before 8:00pm Osaka time.

Things I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The JR Rail Pass is a definite must for Japan. We purchased a 14 day pass for about $450 CAD each before we left (you have to purchase it before your trip and have it mailed to you, as it’s only available to foreigners), and I first initially thought that we wouldn’t really get our money’s worth from it.

… oh how wrong I was.

Considering all the day trips that we’ve been taking, and that we are going from Tokyo -> Osaka -> Hiroshima -> Beppu -> Tokyo, it was well worth it. The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka alone is over $150 CAD. We are still paying for local transit (aka train rides in the city where the JR Lines don’t go) but $2.50 CAD to take a transit in Osaka is nothing. Also, always book the Shinkansen over the JR lines; it might say “JR SuperExpress” but it will take longer to get to your destination over the Shinkansen lines (didn’t learn this by doing, look at the timetables and you’ll see the difference).

2. I have eaten cold soba more than I would like to admit on this trip.

3. I really really REALLY hate the heat and humidity on this trip. Every day I’m caked in sweat and my clothes feel heavier than they should be. I have never experienced “swass” before but I’m telling you, it has been quite the swassy trip. If I end up losing any weight, it’s not because I’ve been eating healthy and Japan bans GMO’s; it’s because I sweated away all my pounds.

4. Favorite drink is currently either the Cafe Latte by Boss or UCC, or the Royal Milk Tea. Every time I see a vending machine, I’m eyeing that bitch like a meth addict looking for their next fix.

5. Sun stroke is not a fun time in Japan; was hoping to hit up a couple more sites in Kyoto but we both thought it was for the best if we just took it very easy.

… thanks, sun stroke. You jerk.

Next blog post: Day trip to Himeji Castle.

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Jason and I wake up at around 06:30h (Japan time) and we get ready to start our day. We head to the 4th floor to eat breakfast, but realize when we arrive that we have to buy breakfast tickets at the main lobby, rather than paying for the meal at the restaurant itself. Once we pay our 500 yen per person, we go into the restaurant to get our breakfast.

Now the hotel advertises that it’s a restaurant but it reminds me more of the eating/common area of a hostel than a restaurant; buffet style breakfast, everything is pretty much self serving, but the breakfast that they offer is pretty delicious. They have scrambled/fried eggs, breakfast sausage, breakfast sandwiches, toast and croissants for more of the American style breakfast. They also offer rice balls, dried seaweed (nori), kimchi, pickles, japanese style waffles, and 2 soups (miso and just a plain broth) for the Asian style breakfast. After breakfast, we head over to Shinsaibashi station to make our way to Osaka Aquarium.

Outside of Osaka Aquarium

Outside of Osaka Aquarium

We arrive and notice that there are a barrage of school kids making their way to the aquarium; I don’t know if EVERY school in Osaka decided “hey, let’s send our students to the aquarium today” but there were hundreds upon hundreds of kids there. Our visit to the aquarium was still very enjoyable, just kind of loud 😛

This little guy kept photo bombing us when Jason was taking a picture of the penguins (after 4 attempts, Jason just gave up and showed the kid the photos he so desperately wanted to be a part of).

This little guy kept photo bombing us when Jason was taking a picture of the penguins (after 4 attempts, Jason just gave up and showed the kid the photos he so desperately wanted to be a part of).

I have been to quite a few aquariums over the last 2 years but this by far is my favorite. The first exhibit you see is the Aqua Gate, which is 11 metres in length and holds 140 tons of water.The most impressive, however, is the Pacific Ocean exhibit. The tank is 9 metres deep and holds over 5400 tons of water. The main attraction to this particular exhibit is the 2 whale sharks. You can find more information about the facility and their exhibits here: http://www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng/index.htm

Aqua Gate. Water volume: 140 tons, Water temperature: 21 degrees C, Tunnel length: 11 meters , Area: 63 square meters

Aqua Gate. Water volume: 140 tons, Water temperature: 21 degrees C, Tunnel length: 11 meters , Area: 63 square meters

After spending almost 3 hours at the Osaka Aquarium, we head over to the Tempozan Market Place and ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel at the mouth of Osaka Bay. I am absolutely petrified of heights and wasn’t doing too well for the first half of the ride, but the views you see are breathtaking! I highly recommend going on the ferris wheel if you want to see a great view of the city.

Realizing we ate over 5 hours prior, we are on a new mission: find delicious and ever so yummy food. We stumble upon a restaurant that serves cold soba noodles and head in for lunch. The one thing that I really enjoy about Japan is that they have pictures or models of all their food, so even if there is a language barrier you can still know what you’re getting and order it easily. Jason shows our server in the display what we wanted to order (though we realized soon afterwards that if we just said “soba”, he would have understood) and within a couple minutes lunch was served.

Cold soba noodles in Osaka

Cold soba noodles in Osaka

Once we were completely satisfied with our soba, we hop on the train and make our way to Universal Studios.

Universal Studios in Japan was… a very odd experience. Imagine just the “cuteness” of Japanese culture meets Universal Studios. It’s hard to explain but the attractions were hilarious, probably because of their gestures and the way they said things (also probably because we couldn’t understand a damn thing they were saying). Though it was an interesting experience (to say the least) if I ever come back to Osaka, this is probably a place I won’t be returning to. If I could actually understand Japanese then maybe but it just wasn’t the same not knowing what they were saying.

Universal Studios, Osaka

Universal Studios, Osaka

We killed a couple hours at Universal Studios and then decided it was time to head back to Shinsaibashi and eat dinner. Due to Jason’s constant complaining about yakiniku, I found a place not too far from our hotel and we decided to head there. You can read a review that I wrote here: http://wp.me/p3jWPD-29 

Cooking a piece of Waygu beef at Yakiniku Rokko

Cooking a piece of Waygu beef at Yakiniku Rokko

2 meat platters and about 3-4 drinks later we begin to feel full, a little tipsy and extremely exhausted from our day. We walk back to our hotel, hit up the public bath and call it a night after loosely planning a day trip to Kyoto for the following day.

Things I Have Learned Thus Far on My Trip
1. The heat and humidity is unbearable. I’m currently suffering in 30 degree weather with an insane amount of humidity. When we first arrived to the Dormy Inn, we couldn’t read the remote that controlled the air conditioning. We had to send a photo of the remote to his ex so she could translate and hopefully help us (this was after going to the front desk asking for help).

Seriously, how were we supposed to work this thing?!?

Seriously, how were we supposed to work this thing?!?

2. I fucking love cold soba.

3. People do not give a fuck about how you dress. I have seen people dressed as cats, dressed as punks, lolita/schoolgirl, hipsters, business people and they seriously do not bat an eye at the way that someone looks. I kinda wish we had this non-judgemental mentality in North America (though I will admit that I am severely guilty of judging people).

4. Japanese school children are absolutely adorable. A lot of kids would say hi to Jason and try to strike a conversation with him in English because he’s a white guy.

5. Monkeys scare the shit out of me.

Okay, so there are 2 (unedited) blog pots for your reading pleasure. My apologies, yet again, for my poorly written posts. It’s time for sleep, as we are leaving Osaka tonight to head to Hiroshima for 2 nights.

Next blog post: Kyoto (and maybe Himeji and Kobe).