Posts tagged ‘travel’

What a week…


Hey! Sorry for the prolonged silence…

We’ve been so busy around here, busyness is practically oozing from my pores!

Or maybe that’s just the lingering humidity that came back from Houston with me…

Rather than complicate things with a long, drawn-out story, here’s the breakdown:

  • Hisa got the job in Houston he interviewed for.
  • We’re moving to Houston.
  • We visited my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my brother’s fiance in Austin.
  • Hisa and I slept on the couch/air mattress at my brother/sister-in-law’s place while frantically searching online for somewhere in Houston to live.
  • We extended our rental car for another week (which caused much strife and anger against the car rental company….but I won’t go there)
  • We went back to Houston and went to look at as many apartments as we could.
  • We had margaritas to battle the stress/fatigue of apartment hunting…
  • We found an apartment! Yay!
  • We came back to Oklahoma yesterday.

We now have a little over a week to find a moving company, get them out here to get all of our stuff out before my parents move out of here on June 3rd….
No pressure…

Oh, we also have to buy furniture; open a bank account; sell our old couch; help my parents pack, move, and unpack; get another car; and get car insurance for said car all before we move to Houston…

Fortunately, we won’t actually be moving into our apartment in Houston until June 15, so that gives us a little more time for those last things.

Like I said, the busyness is oozing from my pores.

Needless to say, I won’t be able to post as much as I want to in the coming two weeks, but I will be posting some! Even if it’s just an update post like this one.

Hisa and I are super excited that he’s found a job, and we’ll be moving to Houston. Of course we’re a little sad that we’ll be 8 hours away from my parents, but we’ll be closer to my brothers, which is great.
We’re also excited to be moving on with the next big step of our lives!

Oh yeah, being 30 minutes away from the beach AND the biggest mall in Texas is a big plus too. 🙂


May 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

Colorado & Utah Vacation – Part III

Here’s part III about our vacation!


Day five, Hisa and I went over to Arches National Park (pretty much a 10 minute drive from my grandparents’ house), and hiked up to Delicate Arch. It’s one of the most famous arches in the park. The hike is not easy though. I found it easier this time around, however, than when I last made it a few years ago. I like to think it’s because I’m in better shape now, but it’s probably because I had become acclimated to the elevation after being in the mountains for a few days already.
We also hiked to Fiery Furnace and Sand Dune Arch, before heading back to my grandparents’ house for lunch.
In the afternoon, we went to town and walked around looking at all the shops until the evening.

Hisa and me right before beginning the climb to Delicate Rock.


Mid-climb up the slick rock.


Nice view.


Hisa in front of Delicate Arch. It was so windy up here!


A closer view of Delicate Arch.


Yet another view.


There’s a little side trail from the Delicate Arch trail that leads to these petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings). I thought they were pretty cool.


Fiery Furnace!


And he says I’m over dramatic!

View of Arches National Park and the Le Sal Mountains in the background.


On the way to Sand Dune Arch…


Some nice man offered to take our picture for us. 🙂


It was very sandy on the way to Sand Dune Arch…which is why it’s called Sand Dune Arch.


Where’s the temple with the holy grail?! I know it’s around here somewhere! Indy?!


Sand Dune Arch


I love little hidy holes in the rocks. I’m just cool like that.


I found another little crevice/cave up behind Sand Dune Arch, so naturally, I had to climb up in it. 🙂


Then Hisa had to climb up in it.


Wheeeeere’s Hisa?


Wheeee! Another little cave thingy!


Hisa took this pic as we were leaving the area. This was an amazing place.


More fin-like rocks in the park.


Day six, my grandparents, Hisa, and I all drove up into the La Sal Mountains where we had a picnic for lunch. It’s always really beautiful up there, but at early May, it was still pretty chilly! No snow fortunately, but the wind was cold.
After finishing lunch, we headed back down the mountain, and back to the house. My grandparents both wanted to rest for awhile, so  Hisa and I went to town to check out this coffee and gelato shop. They roast their own coffee, and who can say no to gelato, right? So we had coffee and gelato, then headed back to the house.

Grandpa, Grandma, and Hisa


Me, Grandpa, and Grandma


The Quaking Aspen trees (my grandparents call them “quakies”).


It’s always so beautiful in the mountains there!


Day seven, we left Moab, and began the long trip home. We drove all day, stopping at Gunnison for lunch where I had an awesome breakfast burrito (I know, a breakfast burrito for lunch is weird, but I don’t care!), and spent the night again in Colorado Springs.

Day eight (last Monday), we drove all day from Colorado Springs all the way back to Oklahoma. We left around 8:30 in the morning, and we got back to my parents’ house around 7:45pm. It was a loooong drive, and after spending about 5 days driving in the mountains, driving through Kansas was so incredibly boring. I know North Eastern Oklahoma is not much of an improvement, but there was some slight variance in the terrain, and honestly, by that point we were so glad to be back in Oklahoma and almost home, that we didn’t care.

Last Tuesday, we had to go to the city (yes, we refer to it only as “The City” out in these parts) to return our rental car and run some errands.

Since getting back from out trip, Hisa and I have been packing like crazy!
My parents are going to be moving the first week of June, so Hisa and I have been helping them pack, since they’re both so busy with work.

This week, Hisa and I are going to Houston, because Hisa has two job interviews (fingers crossed!), so we’re trying to get as much packing done as possible while we’re here. It’s kind of the final countdown as it were, since there’s only a few weeks left until they move, so things are busy here!

That being said, I probably won’t have as many posts in the coming weeks, but I’ll still post when I can! And hopefully I’ll also have some Houston/Austin trip pictures when we get back!

May 14, 2012 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

Colorado and Utah Vacation – Part II

On to part II of our trip!

On the third day of our trip, we left Colorado Springs and drove the scenic route through the mountains to Durango. We got there in the early evening, so we walked around their historic little streets (very cool), checked out the narrow gauge railway, then had dinner at a Mexican restaurant followed by frozen yogurt at a little shop on main street.

On our way to Durango, driving through the mountains.


We stopped in Salida for lunch at a little restaurant we found. They served an awesome veggie sandwich and Greek salad! The bread, vegetables, everything was so fresh! It was lovely.


Crossing Wolf Creek Pass in the mountains. I was surprised at how much snow there still was. I kept telling Hisa that it looked like somewhere I bear might suddenly appear, but fortunately, we didn’t see any bears.


Over Wolf Creek Pass, but still in the mountains, getting close to Durango.


Finally in Durango! This is the Narrow Gauge Railroad station. It was actually closed by the time we got there, so I just took a picture of the station.


Main Street! Another cute little street with lots of shops and restaurants. There was even a band on one street corner playing bluegrass music. It seemed so fitting!


We had dinner at this great little Mexican restaurant. I’m always amazed at how different New Mexico/Colorado Mexican food is from Oklahoma/Texas Mexican food. I think New Mexico/Colorado Mexican food uses more chiles and is usually spicier in my experience. Both are wonderful though!
Here, I got a sopapilla (a kind of Mexican fry bread) stuffed with chicken, onions, and spices, and covered with melted cheese. I got both the red and green chile sauces on the side so I could try them both. Amazing.

After dinner, we walked to a frozen yogurt place on Main Street and got frozen yogurt. It was one of those self-serve frozen yogurt places. I’ve heard of them, but I’d never been to one myself until now. It was so cool. They had about 7 or 8 different flavors of frozen yogurt, and then an entire buffet of toppings that we got to help ourselves to. Like most buffets, it was quite easy to lose our heads, but if you can’t lose your head on vacation, when can you, eh? 😀

The fourth day of our trip, we drove to Mesa Verde, where we saw the cliff dwellings. If you’ve never been there, it’s really cool. Some of the cliff dwellings, you can go look at by yourself, but the really cool ones, you have to go with a ranger on a tour. We went on  a tour to see Cliff Palace, the biggest cliff dwelling in North America. It was really an amazing place.

The view of Cliff Palace before we hiked down into it.


Me in front of Cliff Palace.


Here’s the view of the canyon. The cliff dwellings were located on the inside walls of the canyon where the rock had been washed away into a semi-cave like area.


Cliff Palace! If you don’t know, the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park were built by the Anasazi Indians when they lived in the area, around 600 – 1300 A.D. They planted crops on the tops of the mesas, and then created these dwellings in the sides of the canyon walls. We were told they were the most peaceful of all the Indian tribes, being farmers and traders.


It’s amazing how extensive this place was. I can’t imagine how long it took the Anasazi to build it. For a long time it was a mystery why they left, but it’s been discovered that they migrated down south to New Mexico and Arizona probably due to drought.


After finishing our tour of Cliff Palace, we were hungry, so we went to one of the park’s food/gift shop places, and got some Indian Tacos.
Mmmmm, I love Indian Tacos. ♥


After lunch, we explored some more of the cliff dwellings that were open for people to walk around themselves.


This Kiva (a circular room used for religious ceremonies and also cultural use) people could actually climb down into. When I was really little, my family came to Mesa Verde for vacation and saw the cliff dwellings. The only thing I really remember from that trip was not being able to climb down into this Kiva. My brothers got to climb down in it with my dad, but I was too little at the time… Well, I waited 20 years, but I finally got to climb down into the dang Kiva!
It was cool. 🙂


Prof. Ueki: Now, if you look over here at Kiva #6…


After hiking to some of the other dwellings, we drove around to viewpoints of even more cliff dwellings.


Here’s the view of Cliff Palace from the other side of the canyon. They told us that Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. If you ever get the chance to stop by Mesa Verde, you really should. It’s totally worth it. Also, try to go on one of the tours to Cliff Palace. The ranger’s explanation of the place, the Anasazi, and their lives is fascinating.

We ended up leaving the park around 3pm, and then drove on to Moab, Utah, where my grandparents live. We got there in the evening and then had dinner with my grandma and grandpa.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about the rest of our trip in Utah. Check back soon!

May 11, 2012 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

Colorado & Utah Vacation – Part I

Well, Hisa and I made it back from our vacation to Colorado and Utah Monday night!

I know what you’re probably thinking.

Wait, you went on vacation?

Yeah…sorry about that. It was sort kind of a spur of the moment thing.
And by spur of the moment, I mean the idea was only even came up about a week before we left.

The thing is, in August, my whole family is planning on visiting my grandparents in Utah. They did it last year, but of course Hisa and I couldn’t go because we were in Japan. I haven’t seen my grandparents in several years, and Hisa has only ever met them briefly once, so we really wanted to go see them.

The problem is, Hisa will probably (hopefully!) start work within the next couple of months, and he probably won’t be able to take a week’s vacation right after he starts working to go see my grandparents. So we may not be able to go with everyone in August. We’re not sure at this point.

Hisa had the idea that he and I just take a road trip up there and see them now, stopping along some fun sightseeing places along the way.

I love it when he has these kinds of ideas.

So, after some planning and discussing, we decided to go for it, and take a week long trip.

We spent the first day driving to Colorado Springs.
If you’ve ever driven through Northeastern Oklahoma, Kansas, and/or Eastern Colorado, you’ll know that this is an incredibly boring drive. Nothing to see.

The second day, we went to the top of Pikes Peak via the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway in the morning; and visited the Miramont Castle Museum, toured the Historic Manitou Springs, and checked out the Broadmoor hotel in the afternoon.

Here’s the station where we boarded the cog railway to take us to the top of Pikes Peak. It was already a little chilly at this point!


Heading to the top of Pikes Peak…


I think the conductor said we passed through three different climate zones as we climbed. By this point we were above the tree line as you can tell. The whole area was so beautiful.


I took this right before we got off the train. It was cold! Beautiful, but cold!


A nice man offered to take our picture for us. That’s his finger in the corner. A lasting momento so we won’t forget him.
Notice all the ice.


They make these special high elevation donuts at the store/restaurant at the peak. They can only be made above 13,000 feet, so we got one to try out. It was yummy. It was also nice to sit down, because after walking around for a few minutes, I was so light-headed from the high altitude.


The temperature at the peak while we were there was 22 degrees F with a wind chill of 12 degrees F. That wind was bitter man. It hurt my teeth to smile!


See that lake in the distance? It’s frozen. 🙂


After getting back from Pikes Peak, we found a Polish restaurant at the nearby Historic Manitou Springs. I had the cabbage rolls which came with potato dumplings and a cucumber salad. So. Good. Seriously, I think these were the best cabbage rolls I’ve ever had.


Hisa had the pierogi (a kind of stuffed dumpling) with various fillings. These were also really really good!


“Are you done taking pictures so I can eat now?”

The Miramont Castle Museum. A huge Victorian mansion built by a French Catholic priest. Very cool.


The dining room. Everything was antique and accurate to the period. Even the wall paper.


My favorite room in the house. The kitchen! This was the coal burning stove. It has a kettle, fry pan, iron, waffle iron, pan for baking potatoes, and a large granite stone for placing in one’s bed to make it warm.


Everyone needs a suit of armor and a smoking jacket in their library/study.


Here I am in front of the grand staircase. It was amazing how huge this house was. It had four floors, and I don’t know how many rooms. This staircase was of course only for the priest, his mother, and their guests. There was a separate (tiny and narrow) staircase for the servants, who lived in tiny rooms on the fourth floor.


The bathroom.

The priest’s mother’s room. Very big. There was actually a separate room room that was originally supposed to be her room, but her 13-foot four poster bed wouldn’t fit in it, so they had to build a bigger bedroom, and made the smaller room her designated dressing room.


After leaving the Miramont Castle, we headed back to the Historic Manitou Springs, pictured here. We looked around at all the shops, which was fun.


Afterwards we went to see the Broadmoor Hotel. We didn’t stay here, because it’s pretty expensive, but we’d heard a lot about it, so we wanted to go check it out. Rather than just a hotel, it’s more like a miniature city. They have a large number of buildings, they’re own little lake (which you can see in this pic), a few gold courses, shops, etc. It was a really pretty place, and fun just walking around, even though we didn’t stay there.

After leaving, we went back to our hotel for a little bit, then headed out to have dinner.

Tomorrow, I’ll post part II of our trip. 🙂

May 10, 2012 at 10:28 am 1 comment

Life on the Farm

Hisa and I got back from Texas on Sunday, and man were we tired! We were still tired yesterday (Monday), so we ended up mainly resting.

We had a great time on the farm though!

It was really hard work, but very satisfying work. We were also fortunate in that the weather was beautiful (in the 70’s and lovely) almost every day we were there. The couple whose farm it was were incredibly friendly and kind people. N was an incredible cook, a huge supporter of Nourishing Traditions style cooking and the Weston A. Price Foundation (a very pleasant surprise for me), and cooked some amazing meals for us while we were there. K was a real Texas cowboy, gruff and straightforward, but with a very warm heart.

We would get up at dawn every morning (assuming the roosters hadn’t woken us up already), and do the morning chores (feed the pigs, the cat, the chickens and ducks, let the goats out, and let the chickens out) before going up to the house for breakfast at 7:30 am (We stayed in a separate cabin next to the barn, and went up to the house for our meals). After breakfast, we would work outside all morning, come in for lunch, work outside all afternoon until dusk, do the evening chores (same as the morning chores, except put the goats and the chickens in their enclosures for the night) and then come in for dinner. After cleaning up after dinner, we would usually go back to the cabin, shower, and collapse into bed around 9:30 pm.

We did all kinds of work on the farm. We weeded the garden, fed the animals, herded cattle onto the road (we blocked off the road with a person on either end, let the cattle eat the grass on the side of the road, and let cars through whenever they came), herded cattle off the road, extracted honey from honey combs from the bee hives, filtered honey, drove the tractor, cleaned up wood debris from the pastures, fixed a crushed fence, went fishing, etc.

We also got to eat a lot of food straight from the farm. We had their own eggs, beef, pork, honey, vegetables, bread, pickles, jam, honey wine, etc. Normally they would’ve had their own milk, but their milk cows/goats were dry while we were there, so we had raw milk from a nearby dairy. It’s really amazing to go get fresh eggs from the chicken coop, pick vegetables from the garden, extract honey from the combs, and then eat it. Not to mention the fact that it’s soooo good!

It was a great learning experience, and the place we were at was so peaceful and beautiful. The experience confirmed my thoughts, that working on a farm is a lot of hard work every day, and a bit hectic and disorderly (the more animals you have, the more disorderly it can be), but very satisfying work and extremely rewarding. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like I was really living and experiencing life every day, much more so than I would be sitting at a desk in a cubicle all day every day (note: I have nothing against desk jobs and the people who work them. This is just my opinion, so no offense meant!).

Although I don’t want a working farm of the same scale as the one we were staying at, I do still very much want some chickens (no roosters, please), some dairy goats, and an organic vegetable garden. Maybe even a cow or two someday, and a pig. We’ll see. 🙂

I really hope Hisa and I can work on some more farms in the future with WWOOF, and I really recommend it to anyone who wants to know what it’s like working on a farm. It’s a great organization, and also a great way to visit other countries and experience the culture without spending a huge amount of money.

Now for the pictures!


Hisa, weeding away!

Sunshine and me deep in a conversation about…something.

The goats in the morning eagerly awaiting being let out.


The Sikie chickens

The cows out on the road, munching away on the grass. Except for that one cow, who’s trying to figure out what I’m doing.


One of the clover fields.

Me, busy at extracting honey with the help of David and Anna (two WWOOFers from France who were at the farm the same time as us).

An inside view of the honey extractor.

Look at all that delicious, raw (and at this point, unfiltered) honey coming out of the extractor! After we filtered it, we ate some on fresh biscuits. Heaven my friends. Pure heaven.


Raz and Folger, the farm horses.

Why yes, I can drive a tractor, thank you very much.

Hisa learning to drive the tractor.

Me busy at work, pulling the trailer out into the pasture to collect wood. The tractor was a stick shift, but much to my relief, it was a lot easier to drive than a stick shift car.


Three Billy Goats Gruff?


Me with one of the cows. They kept coming over to try and “help” us with picking up wood.


Hisa’s first fishing experience. He almost caught a wide mouth bass, but it got away at the last second.


March 6, 2012 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

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

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

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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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