Posts tagged ‘Japan’

My Honeymoon Adventure – Part IV (final)

If you haven’t read parts I, II, or III, you can read them here: Part I, Part II, Part III.

On day seven of our trip, we checked out of our hotel in Osaka, and went back to Kyoto for the day.

Our first stop, was the shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha. If you ever visit Kyoto, it’s a must see. It’s famous for the hundreds (if not thousands) of tori gates that create a tunnel covering the path. The path starts near the base of the mountain where the shrine is and goes into the woods and quite high up into the mountains (image thousands of stairs and that’s about what it’s like). There’s a lot of little shrines along the way covered with little tiny tori gates, so it’s a really interesting and beautiful place to visit.

This was near the beginning of the path, before the stairs started…

Hisa underneath the tori gates.

In some places the path split.

A few hours later, we’d climbed to the peak, climbed back down the mountain, left the shrine, and found ourselves in need of some lunch. We found a little inari-zushi restaurant as we were walking, and  decided to eat there.

Hisa had the inari-zushi. It looked really good.

I had the unagi-don (grilled eel on steamed rice), because as I’ve mentioned before, I loooove unagi. Interesting tidbit, usually when you order unagi-don in a restaurant in Japan, serve it with soup with the heart of the unagi in it (in the left on the picture). It doesn’t really have so much taste, but it kinda weirds me out a little none-the-less. I usually eat it as quick as possible try not to think about it too much. Then I can enjoy the unagi-don to my hearts content.

As we were eating, we discovered that the restaurant had been there since 1542. Yes, 1542. I’m used to seeing restaurants with signs that say, “Since 1955” or for some brands, “Since 1882,” but this was my first time to see a “Since 1542” sign. Welcome to Japan.

After lunch, we took a taxi to nearby Kiyomizu-dera (a famous temple in Kyoto). You can’t actually drive right up to the temple, because there’s only one little street leading up to the temple lined with souvenir shops and a few food places, and it’s jam-packed with tourists at any given day of the year.

This was my second time to visit the temple, but  my first time to visit it during the autumn leaves season. The momiji trees were at their peak and so beautiful.

Near the entrance of Kiyomizu-dera.

Maiko-san (not to be confused with geisha). This something you can only see in Kyoto.

For a quick lesson: Maiko are apprentice geisha (usually girls in their teens). You can distinguish them by the famous white make-up, elaborate hair pieces, and bright kimono with the long sleeves (called furisode). Once a maiko becomes a geisha, she will usually continue to wear the heavy white make-up for three years, and once she’s been a geisha for three years, she’ll usually switch to normal make-up (i.e. no white face, red lips make-up), kimonos of a more subdued style, and wear here hair in a simple style (usually a bun). Sometimes women that have been geisha for over three years will wear the white make-up for special events, but not that often, and not everyday like maiko. Geisha is Kyoto refer to themselves as Geiko, not geisha. And no, geisha/maiko/geiko are not prostitutes. 🙂

Here I am in the main part of the temple with the trees on the side of the mountain (the temple is located on the side of a mountain) behind me.


The leaves were so beautiful!

This is the main part of the temple where I was previously standing. This is also the famous view of Kiyomizu-dera. You can buy postcards and pictures of the temple from this view.

After leaving the temple, we walked through the old-fashioned streets full of souvenir, traditional craft, and food shops.

Eventually, we ended up Gion, the famous geisha district, where we ran into…

More Maiko-san! They were kind enough to let me take their picture before they continued on their way. Being a Maiko in Kyoto is like being a celebrity. Everywhere they go people stop them (Japanese and foreigners alike) and ask to take their picture. They’re so pretty though, how can one resist taking their picture? Notice their fall-themed kimono with the autumn colored maple leaves on them.

Eventually, we ended up back at the Kawaramachi area after dark, so we headed back to Kyoto station, got our luggage, and took a train to Nagoya. From there we took a shuttle to our hotel right next to Nagoya Castle.

Since it was the last night of our trip, we decided to stay at a really nice hotel, and boy, was it a nice hotel! Upon our arrival, the attendants at the doors of the hotel were wearing long-tailed coats and top hats, and before we finished stepping off the bus, they had our luggage in hand and escorted us to the front desk. After we’d checked in, another hotel employee escorted us (and our baggage) to our room  where she placed our baggage and showed us how to work everything in the room. We were on the Executive floor, and we even had our own club/lounge only for people on our floor. It was pretty cool!

Here I am on the chair couch thing in front of the elevator on our floor acting silly cool.

For dinner, we were too exhausted to go anywhere, so we decided to eat in one of the (many) hotel restaurants. It was buffet style, but the fanciest buffet I’ve ever been to! There was a chef making grilled steaks to order (most tender steak ever!), and some of the foods on the buffet were things like baked salmon with sweet potato gnocchi and red wine sauce. Yum. Because the restaurant was very dimly lit, and I don’t like using my camera flash in fancy restaurants, I didn’t get any pictures, but trust me, it was delicious.

After dinner, we went back to our rooms and with bellies full of fancy delicious food, we went to sleep on our fancy beds in our fancy room.

The next morning, we had a lovely breakfast at the hotel restaurant (they had blueberry and orange pancakes sprinkled with cinnamon!! Wheee!!), while admiring the view of Nagoya Castle.

After breakfast, we walked over to Nagoya Castle, and looked around the Castle grounds and inside the castle. Unfortunately, this castle was also destroyed by American bombers in WWII (boy, we sure destroyed a lot of priceless historical wonders), so after being re-built, the inside of the castle was more like a museum than a castle (similar to Hiroshima Castle). It was still interesting to see though.

Here’s the castle seen from across the moat.

The castle scene from close up.

Why Castle, what big walls you have! All the better to defend against enemies, my dear!

This was on display inside the castle. This was the palanquin that Tokugawa, the shogun, used to ride around in. If you look, you can see the Tokugawa family crest all over it.

After leaving the castle, we headed back to our hotel, where we checked out and took a shuttle back to the station. From there, we began the long trip home.

Despite both of us catching colds, and a looooooot of walking, Hisa and I both had a great time on our trip. I was also happy to get to see more of Japan before we leave. I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip!

Tomorrow we’ll be flying back to the U.S., so we have to pack today and cancel our cell phones. Next time I post, I’ll be back in the states in Oklahoma. I heard it’s really cold…

I’ll see you on the other side!


December 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm 2 comments

Yakiniku – Grilled Meat Japanese Style

Hello all!

Last night, Hisa’s family took Hisa and I out to a yakiniku restaurant (there’s a grill in your table, and you grill meat right at your table and eat it) for dinner. It was fun, and the food was great, but I’ve only been to a yakiniku restaurant in Japan once before that I recall, so I found myself a bit lost when it came to yakiniku etiquette. I managed to discover a few things in the process of dinner last night, however.

1) Yakiniku restaurants will make your clothes, hair, and very skin smell of grilled meat and smoke. I Febrezed my coat last night and hung it up to air out, but I think the smell is still lingering…

2) There’s no niceties with yakiniku. It’s eat or be eaten. Everybody would continually add meat to the grill when some was eaten, and I found myself not really knowing what meat was done cooking, and what meat was still a little raw (beef I’m okay with generally, but under-cooked pork and especially chicken freak me out). As a result, while I was a bit confused and hesitating, much of the meat was eaten up by my husband and sister-in-law. Opps.

3) I’m not a big fan of either cow tongue or cow liver. The was it works is you order whatever cuts of meat you want, and they bring them out on plates (it’s always cut into thin slices), and you grill it at the table. My husband ordered the cow tongue, so I thought I would try it. It looks like regular beef when cooked, but it tastes slightly different and is a bit….chewy. Not bad, but I think I’ll stick to more familiar cuts of beef in the future.

My father-in-law, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law

Me, Hisa, my adorable niece, and her mom (my sister-in-law). My brother-in-law was still at work and couldn’t come unfortunately.

Grillin’ away!

Adding meat, flipping meat, eating meat. I was a bit lost.

Next time (whenever that is), I think I’ll have a better idea of what to do. Or I can just steal all my husband’s meat, haha!

December 5, 2011 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

My Honeymoon Adventure: Part III

If you missed out on part I or II of my honeymoon adventure check here: part I, part II.

When we last left off, Hisa and I had spent the day at Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka, where we managed to ride almost all the rides and see all the shows.

I can now safely say that, yes, I really overdid it on that day (I still had a cold afterfall). The next day I ended up being exhausted the entire day as a result, although I have to say, it was worth it! We had that much fun at USJ! I think this just goes to show, that when it really comes down to it, I’m basically a little kid at heart, and/or extremely easily amused.

The next day (day 5 of our trip), we left our hotel in Osaka and went to Arashiyama in Kyoto.

I lived in Kyoto for a year as an exchange student when I was a university student. This was my first time to visit Kyoto since then, so I was pretty excited about it… Or at least I would have been if I hadn’t been so friggin’ tired! Ha!

Seriously though, despite post-USJ fatigue, we both enjoyed our time in Kyoto.



The bad thing about Arashiyama, is that we went there on a weekend during one of the peak visitor seasons (when the fall leaves are at their most colorful). As a result, there were sooooooo many people. It took us several minutes to cross the bridge because of all the people. Still, we did or best to ignore the crowds and enjoy the scenery.

In the fall and winter there’s often vendors that sell roasted chestnuts. Hisa and I bought a bag to share. If you’ve never had them, roasted chestnuts are goooood.

We also bought some ice cream from another vendor. I got the chestnut ice cream. It was also gooooood. Are you sensing a theme here?

There are always boat rides available along the river, but I’d never ridden one before, so we decided to ride one.

I took this picture from our boat. As you can see, there were a lot of boats. The drivers (?) propel the boats forward by pushing a long bamboo stick against the river bed (much like punting). It was fun, and quite relaxing to sit and get away from the crowds for a little while.

There was even a little store boat that would go around to the other boats and sell the passengers any food or drinks they might want. This is the store boat next to our boat offering its wares.

After the boat ride, we bought some dango (little dough balls made from rice flour, and in this case, covered with sauce made from soy sauce and sugar), which were very tasty.

There’s a famous bamboo grove in Arashiyama that’s fun to walk around in, so we headed there and walked around for awhile before heading back to the train station.

On took this on our way to the station. The momiji (Japanese maple) trees are so beautiful this time of year!

After leaving Arashiyama, we headed to the major shopping/entertainment district of Kyoto, Shijo-Kawaramachi area. It was fun looking around at all the places I used to go to as a student. Some places were still there, but a lot of the stores and restaurants had changed.

Eventually, we headed to a good Chinese restaurant I knew of and had dinner, and then headed back to our hotel in Osaka for an early turn in (and believe me, I needed it!).

The next day, we were both feeling much more refreshed (myself especially). We spent the whole day in Nara, a famous city near Kyoto. It’s famous, as it was once the capital of Japan (along with Kyoto, Kamakura, and Tokyo), so there are still many old temples and shrines that are worth visiting.

Some of the more famous shrines and temples to visit, are located in a huge park in the eastern part of the city. We spent most of our time there. Besides just the shrines and temples, the park is also famous for…


There’s a huge number of deer that live in the park. Like the deer in Miyajima, these deer were also quite tame. You could even buy special deer crackers to feed to them.

This is the first temple we visited. It had a large pagoda to the right of it, and to the left, there was a “treasure hall” that was full of ancient statues and other artifacts from the area. Most of the items and statues were over a thousand years old, so it was quite amazing to see them. It also amazed me at the skill craftsmen were capable of thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed inside of the treasure hall.

For lunch, we wandered out of the park and found a random soba restaurant to eat at. I think you can probably tell from the picture, but in case you can’t, it was good.

This was one of the big shrines in the park we visited after lunch.

Here’s Hisa walking through one of the gates of the shrine.

Although the lighting was good for the tree, it was bad for me, so I look all dark and shadowy. Beware…

Our final stop in the park was the temple housing the huge Buddha statue. I knew the statue was going to be big, but I didn’t realize quite how big.

Although it’s a bit hard to see through the screen covering it, this is one of the guardian statues at the temple of the gate. It was carved out of wood, huge, and quite scary looking.

This is the main temple building where the Buddha statue is housed. You can tell from all the tiny people that the building was huge. We read somewhere inside the temple, however, that this building is only 1/3 the size of the original building. The statue reached all the way to the roof to give you an idea of its size.

Here’s me in front of the temple.

Due to horrible lighting and a huge crowd, I couldn’t really get a good picture of the statue, and you can’t really tell just how big it was from this picture, but trust me, it was huuuuuge.

After leaving the temple, we walked back to the station and had some coffee, before heading back to Osaka. Before dinner, we decided to go check out Osaka castle. Unfortunately, by the time got there, the castle was already closed, so we couldn’t go inside, but we were able to see the castle lit up and night, which was equally cool.

A close-up of the castle.

For dinner, we decided to head to the central area of Osaka, Dotonbori area. If you ever want to experience Osaka night-life (or any time of day life) that’s probably the place to go. We ended up wandering around for awhile before deciding on Thai food for dinner. Hisa was determined to have some takoyaki (pieces of octopus inside a ball of dough that’s fried), a famous food of Osaka, so after dinner, we bought some from one of that many many takoyaki vendors.

Hisa was very happy to finally get his takoyaki.

It may sound strange and look strange if you never had them, but they really are very good. If you ever visit Japan and have the chance to try them, you really should. They’re not gross. I promise.

After having dinner and Hisa’s takoyaki, we finally headed back to our hotel for the night.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the final part of our trip, in which we visit more of Kyoto and Nagoya.

Check back again soon!

December 4, 2011 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

My Honeymoon Adventure: Part II

On to part II!

If you didn’t see part I, check here.

When I finished part I, we Hisa and I had gone on a dinner cruise in Kobe, and then went to Osaka and checked into our hotel for the night. What I didn’t mention, was that our hotel was in Universal City, right outside Universal Studios Japan.

Our hotel was based on Jurassic Park. Outside the hotel, there was a taxi cab that seemed like a regular taxi cab, but when you walked by it, suddenly the noise of the T-Rex’s footsteps could be heard, and the taxi would start shaking in time with the footsteps. Pretty cool if I do say so myself.

The hotel itself was quite fancy. The wall behind the check-in desk was actually an aquarium filled with tropical fish, and our floor, there was a jelly-fish filled aquarium in the hallway.

My favorite thing in the hotel, however, was the elevators. They were lit only by these deep blue-colored lights, that made you feel like you were in a super fancy aquarium.

Me in the hotel elevator. I look rather creepy is this picture, but trust me, the elevators were cool.

Before retiring for the night, we checked out the hotel store, which had much of the same things sold in Universal Studios. My favorites were the Sesame Street themed goods, namely anything Elmo. 😀

I loved these Elmo earmuffs. As much as I was tempted to buy them though…

I loved this Elmo hat even more. I saw a huge number of people wearing them in Universal Studios the next day. It was so tempting. But as much as I liked it, I knew I would never really be able to wear it outside of the park, so I refrained. It’s pretty darn cute though, right?

I didn’t take any pictures of my breakfast the next morning (it was a breakfast buffet), but I was thrilled that they had pancakes. Unless you stay at a fancy hotel in Japan, you’ll never see pancakes on the buffet breakfast (salad? yes. soup? yes. pancakes? no).

The gate of the park! Notice the statue of Elmo and the statue of …Elmo’s friend whose name I forget.

Hisa and I waiting in line for the gates to open. Cold or not, I was super excited!

Needless to say, there were a lot of people there.

When the gates finally did open, music started playing, and the employees all came running from two directions, waving and smiling with matching Santa hats on. It was great. Oh yeah, and Woody Woodpecker was there.

Our strategy for the day (besides going on a weekday when it was less crowded), was to be there when the gates opened, and ride all the rides we wanted in the morning as quickly as possible before it’s too crowded, and then go to any of the shows we wanted in the afternoon. It ended up working out really well. We never had to wait longer than 15 – 20 minutes for a ride, and we were able to see all the shows we wanted and then some!

The first ride we ran walked quickly to, was the Spider-man ride, and it did not dissapoint! It was a combination of an actual ride (riding in a car that goes along a track and moves around) combined with a 3D movie, so that it really seemed like spiderman and the bad guys were jumping on the car, flying in our faces, etc. This was probably my favorite ride in the park.

Back to the Future! The second ride of the morning.

Aw, yeah!

Hisa getting ready for the Jurassic Park ride. It was definitely cool, and the T-Rex at the end of the ride looked really realistic and terrifying.

After we got off the Jaws ride (also pretty cool), they had a giant shark hanging up, that you could have your picture taken with. I love the Christmas wreath they put on it, hehe.

As we were heading to the Space Fantasy ride, we came across a random Christmas parade going on. Naturally, I had to catch a picture of Elmo. 🙂

I didn’t get a picture of the Space Fantasy ride, but it was basically an indoor rollercoaster. It was similar to Space Mountain at Disneyland, in that it was a space-themed indoor rollercoaster, but I have to say that Space Fantasy was cooler. Instead of a regular long rollercoaster car, you rode in a kind of pod-like car, consisting of two seat on each side, back-to-back. As a result, besides just moving forward, you would also spin, so sometimes you would end up going backwards (I thought this would be freaky, but it ended up being really cool). After the Spiderman ride, this was my second favorite ride in the park.

After the Space Fantasy ride, we went to the 50’s themed diner in the park for lunch, where we had hamburgers. I was excited about my Cookie Monster cup.

In the afternoon, we went to see several shows. The first we saw was the Water World show. The stunts the actors performed were amazing. The Japanese actors were quite funny in parts, but the pre-recorded Japanese dialogue for the main characters (Caucasian actors) was a bit cheesy. Still, it was definitely worth watching just for the amazing stunts. People would fall/jump off the towers into the water, jump over things in jet-skiis, not to mention an entire biplane  came flying over the back wall and landed in the water at one point.

The whole park was set up like old-fashioned American streets. It was fun just walking around and looking at all the buildings. Also there were speakers set up all over the park, so everywhere you went there was Christmas music playing. I loved it!

After Water World, we watched the Shrek 4D Adventure, which was fun. Afterward we had a break, and had some cake and coffee in one of the cafes. I love the Elmo coffee cup. ♥

Later in the afternoon we watched the Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll show (that’s the one with Beetle Juice), Backdraft, Terminator 2:3D (very cool), and Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic (cute, and also fun seeing all the Sesame Street characters speaking Japanese).

After going to all the shows, we just walked around, looked at some stores, etc.

There were a couple toy soldier guys outside one of the stores.

It’s hard to see in this pic, but in the building that says “Merry Christmas”, Santa Claus is sitting on a big chair. You could go sit on his lap and have your picture taken with him.

Shrek-Hisa! Yaaay!! I think the Shrek ears look quite cute on him! What do you think?

They had a huge Christmas tree in the center of the park that was beautiful.

We finally left the park around 8pm, and ate dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant in Universal City. It was fun eating in an American restaurant, but everything was so American about the restaurant, and I was so tired, that I almost started talking to the waitress in English at one point.

Tired is kind of an understatement. Exhausted is more adequate.

For dinner I had grilled mahi-mahi with shrimp and some kind of sauce and mashed potatoes. It was gooood. And oh so American, lol.

Afterwards, we got our bags from the hotel, took a train to our next hotel in Osaka, checked in, and collapsed with exhaustion. We both had such a fun time at Universal Studios though, it was worth the exhaustion!

Tomorrow I’ll bring you part III of our honeymoon adventure, in which we visit Kyoto, Nara, and Nagoya!

December 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm Leave a comment

My Honeymoon Adventure: Part I

I’m baaaaack!

For some reason, when I typed that I was thinking it in a creepy Poltergeist “They’re heeeeeere” voice.

I was emotionally damaged by that movie when my parents showed it to me at the age of seven. It scared the living daylights out of me. As a result I’ve been terrified of ghost movies (and most scary movies in general) ever since.

Moral of the story: Don’t show scary movies to your seven-year-olds.

Or me.

Have a great day! Bye!!!

No, I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that.

Hisa and I got back from our trip on Tuesday, and have since been recovering.

We a had a great time! Except for the fact that on the second day of our trip, I caught a cold and was sick most of the trip. On the second to last day, Hisa caught my cold from me (sorry, Honey), and is currently recovering.

I caught a cold 3 days before my wedding in Hawaii, so I guess it just figures that I also caught a cold on our honeymoon. Now that I think about it though, it’s not entirely surprising. Right before our trip we were crazy busy trying to get ready to move, Hisa was finishing up at his work, then we had the actual move, and as soon as that was all over, we went on our trip. I think there was definitely some fatigue and stress built up, so that once I was finally able to relax, it manifested itself in the form of a cold. I just wish it hadn’t been on my honeymoon, lol.

Me after catching a cold. Yes, people wear masks when they’re sick in Japan (and when you’re throat is sore, it keeps the air you breath all warm and moist and lovely), so you see people wearing masks everywhere. Now, wearing sunglasses and a mask is a bit more unusual. I could never decide if I looked more like a movie star in disguise or like I was about to mug someone.

Hisa now with a cold on the last day of our trip. He decided not to wear his sunglasses so he wouldn’t look like a mugger.

We still had fun though! My throat was only horribly sore on the first day of my cold, and after that I mainly dealt with the runny nose, stuffy head, no energy bit, and honestly, as long it my throat isn’t sore, I can cope with the rest.

We started our trip down south in Hiroshima and worked our way back up north, visiting different cities along the way.

In Hiroshima, we visited the A-bomb Dome (above), the Peace Memorial Park, and the Memorial Museum; all related with the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of WWII. The bomb exploded almost directly over the dome building, but it was one of the few standing structures left. It was left as it was as a reminder of the tragedy.

We also visited Hiroshima Castle. The original castle was destroyed in WWII, but they rebuilt it in the 50’s. Unfortunately, since it’s not the original castle, the inside is more like a museum than a castle. Elevators and all.

For dinner our first night in Hiroshima, we tried out Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Unlike regular okonomiyaki, in Hiroshima it’s cooked with noodles in it. Hisa’s had a mix of seafood and meat in his (and a lot of green onions on top).

Mine was mainly a seafood version (shrimp, scallops, squid, oysters, etc.), and very delicious.

After dinner, we walked along one of the main streets in the city, where there were Christmas light displays all along the road. This was one of my favorites. The trees were filled with maple leaf lights. It’s kind of hard to tell in the picture, but each light was in the shape of a maple leaf.

I also liked this boat a lot.


Here’s Hisa and me inside one of the light displays. Awww, aren’t we cute?


The next day, we took a ferry to Miyajima, an island near to Hiroshima, and I started feeling progressively worse and worse throughout the day. The island is famous for the giant tori (temple gate) in the water, but unless you go during the high tide it’s more a giant tori in the sand. Here’s Hisa and I posing in front of the tori. Let me just point out that I was feeling pretty crappy by this point.

Here’s a picture of the shrine, Utsukushima Shrine, that the giant tori gate goes with. During high tide the sandy area is all water. Don’t be fooled by the green trees and mist in the mountains. It was cooold.

One fun thing about the island, is that there were wild deer everywhere. I say “wild” with hesitation, because these deer were so used to the huge crowds of people, that they would just walk around the people looking for handouts. They didn’t even mind if people touched them. Nothing seemed to bother these guys.

Hisa petting one of the many deer. Deer hoping for food, and being thoroughly disgusted with Hisa for not obliging.

For lunch, we found a little restaurant that served anago-don, grilled eel served over rice. It’s a specialty of the Hiroshima/Miyajima area, and as I absolutely love Japanese unagi and anago (both types of eel), I had to have some. I was not disappointed. It was gooood!

We left the island in the evening, and by the time we got back to Hiroshima, and found a place to eat, I was so exhausted and miserable feeling that I didn’t even think to take a picture of our dinner (we had ramen).

I did, however, remember to take a picture of our momiji manju once we got back to our hotel. This is another specialty food of Hiroshima. Manju is kind of like a little cake filled with sweet red bean paste (called anko). They make them with all different fillings though, and as I’m not a fan of anko, we bought other varieties to try, including cream cheese, apple cinnamon, chocolate, custard, and sweet potato. The Hiroshima manju are different from others because they’re in the shape of a Japanese maple leaf (momiji). Why, I honestly don’t know. But hey! They were pretty tasty!

Hisa also tried out the local beer, “Miyajima beer”.  I don’t remember if he liked it or not, because I was on the verge of passing out. Fortunately, with the help of tylonol pm, a humidifier, and various medicinal drinks for colds from a nearby convenience store, my throat was much improved the next morning, and I was able to once again enjoy myself.

The next day, we traveled to Himeji to see Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle is supposed to be the best castle to see in Japan. The people actually covered the castle with a type of dark camouflage netting to protect it from the air raids in WWII, so it’s also one of the few castles that wasn’t destroyed during the war by American bombers. Unlike a lot of other castles, most of it’s walls, towers, and surrounding buildings are still in tact, so you can explore more than just the main castle.

Naturally, we decided to visit the castle when they were in the process of restoring it for the first time since the 1950’s. Opps. The entire main castle is enclosed in a building with a picture of the castle on the side of it. Yay…

Fortunately, there was still plenty to see. In one building, they had a display of samurai armor. If you’ve ever seen samurai armor in person, it’s always surprising to see just how tiny they must have been in life. Having one of those guys charging at you would still be terrifying though.

We were able to go up into the castle to see the process of the restoration, and it also had a pretty good view of the grounds.

It was really cool to walk around the grounds of the castle. Every aspect of the castle is about defense. The walls, the moats, the steep stairs, and huge metal gates.

Just about every wall had holes for rifles and archers, not to mention the places where they could dump rocks, burning coals, and boiling oil on intruders.

After leaving Himeji, we traveled to Kobe, where we went on a dinner cruise.

Here’s the boat we road on waiting for us in the port.

The waitress took a picture for us during our meal. We had a table right by the window which was fun.

The appetizer. I don’t know exactly what it was, but oh, it was so good!

Young roasted chicken. Yum.

Mushroom cream soup. I know it doesn’t look like much in the picture, but trust me, it was gooood.

My main dish: fish. Delish. Hey, that rhymes! Go me!

Hisa’s main dish: steak. Also very delicious.

For dessert we had fruit mousse (I forget what flavor of fruit it was…) and tea. Everything was so good! Almost as good as…

The view! We got to enjoy the sunset from the boat while we ate our dinner.


After dinner, we were able to go our onto the deck of the boat to finish watching the sunset. Yes, it was a bit windy and quite cold, but it was so much fun!

A slightly blurry night time view of Kobe city from the deck of our boat.

After our cruise, we took a train to Osaka city, where we checked into our hotel for the night and crashed.

Tomorrow our tell you about part II of our trip. There’s a lot more to come!

December 2, 2011 at 12:09 pm 2 comments

Fun Times at the Photo Studio (Wedding Kimono Pictures)

I have nothing food related to post today, as I haven’t been doing any cooking since we came to my in-laws house, but I’ve been busy with other things instead!

Today, Hisa and I went to the photo studio to have wedding pictures of us taken. But these weren’t just normal wedding pictures. We wore traditional Japanese wedding clothing. Hisa wore the men’s kimono, called hakama, and I wore a white wedding kimono with a kind of over-kimono over it called uchikake. Most of the time at studio was spent on me, honestly. First I had my hair and make-up done, and then I had two ladies dress me in the kimono. Yes, it took two ladies to dress and it took quite awhile.

Seriously, I’ve worn kimono before, and there’s always a few layers and a bunch of cords and ties and sashes involved, but this was on a whole new level. I had about 8 layers on. Not joking. On top of that, the outer uchikake kimono was heavy. The material itself was heavy, but also the bottom of the uchikake kimono was padded which added more weight.

For anyone who has never worn a kimono, it’s very much like wearing a corset. They wrap you up tight as they can, so you look fabulous, but you can’t really breath well…or walk well…or sit well. Leaning over and going to the bathroom are right out of the question. But you know what?

It was awesome.

I had so much fun! It’s’ kind of a once in a lifetime thing to wear a wedding kimono and have professional photos taken of you, and it’s always fun having my make-up and hair professionally done.

Me all jazzed up in my wedding kimono! One fun tidbit: See that white thing with the two tassels sticking out of my kimono? One of the ladies told me it was a ceremonial knife to protect myself with. How cool is that? I may not be able to move without assistance, but I can still stab you with my ceremonial knife! Bwhahaha! [note: unfortunately, I did not get to keep the ceremonial knife]

I also had my special wedding fan. Dig that hair.

Me with the groom. I just realized Hisa looks like he’s holding a knife in this picture. Actually, it’s just his special wedding fan seen from the side. I’m the only one with a knife, hahaha!

We went to the photo studio together with Hisa’s mom (on the left), but while we were getting ready, two of Hisa’s aunts showed up to watch everything. Good times.

Just because.

I like red lipstick.

It was a fun experience, although by the end of it my cheeks were a bit tired from smiling so much (reminiscent of the wedding pictures taken after our actual wedding. I can’t wait to see the professional pictures when they’re ready!

Tomorrow, we’re leaving for our trip through western Japan. We’re going to start off at Hiroshima and work our way north. Fun! I’ll be sure to post pictures when we get back!

Until then!

November 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

The Move

After two days and what seems like a never ending trip up and down the five flights of stairs in our apartment building, we’ve finally moved out of our place!

All I can say is, thank goodness for moving companies. Packing stuff, throwing away stuff, selling stuff, etc., was tiring enough, without having to actually carry everything out to the moving truck. The moving company guys did all of that for us. And considering our apartment is a weird two-floor apartment with the entrance on the upper floor, and most of our living space on the floor below, the moving guys had to haul our washing machine and refrigerator up the steep, narrow flight of stairs in our apartment to the entrance on the floor above. Not something I would ever want to attempt. Actually, I have no desire to move a refrigerator anywhere. That includes moving it from one side of the kitchen to the other. No thanks. Go moving guys, go!

There was a lot more involved in moving, but it’s kind of all a blur to me now. Let me just say, I’m glad it’s over. We’re done! Now Hisa and I can relax until we leave Japan on Dec. 6th.

Right now we’re staying with Hisa’s parents in Tochigi. Right now I’m in the living room where Hisa, my sister-in-law, and my 3 year old niece are watching My Neighbor Totoro. Good times.

It’s really distracting though, because I like this movie, hehe. So for now, I’ll leave you with this picture of our empty apartment.

Goodbye our home for the last two and a half years!

Next Tuesday, Hisa and I will be leaving to travel around Japan for about a week via Shinkansen (the bullet trains). I won’t be able to post during our trip, but I’ll try to post before and after our trip while we’re still in Japan (thought it probably won’t be everyday as I’m not cooking any here). After going back to the U.S. I’ll start posting more regularly again.

For now, I’m happy to be able to rest for awhile. 🙂

November 19, 2011 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

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About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

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