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Temples, Traditions, and Ramen

Early Sunday morning I hopped on the subway from Dobustsuen-mae to Osaka station. I tried grabbing some delicious ebi-mayo rolls but the closest conbini was sold out… I settled for some pastries from a bakery in Osaka station and then made my way to the train.

A ticket from Osaka to Kyoto was only $6. I didn’t expect it to be so cheap and I was pleasantly surprised. I was kind of lost waiting for the train but the signage was abundant and I had enough WiFi to give me some google maps directions to exactly what train to get on. We pulled in to Kyoto station just after 11am and I was speechless.

fb_img_1451365423762.jpgKyoto station is HUGE! I wandered around for a bit, not really knowing where to go. I wasfb_img_1451365427726.jpg by myself, with a few goals in mind of where to go, and that was it. I looked for the kitkat
store with no luck, grabbed a pumpkin milk tea and then went outside. It was a warm autumn day and I was so happy. The station was bustling with people, all eager to explore the city like I was. I purchased a $5 bus pass, which  was good all day for any bus in the
city. I had three places in mind to go to in Kyoto and all day to do it. The only set plans I had were not until the evening, where I’d meet a friend for dinner and Fushimi Inari.

I set off on my first bus, to a place I’d dreamed about going for almost a decade. The bus was long and full to the gills, but I was so excited. I had my kindle with me so the journey was easy enough, and before I knew it the bus was emptying at our stop. I walked quickly up the road to see a bunch of small shops and restaurants full of life. The temple was across the street in a wooded area. I paid my $5 entry fee, completely worth  it, and made my way inside. Kinkakuji temple, or the Golden temple, completely took my breath away. I was shaking, nervous and excited. It’s completely ridiculous to feel that way about a temple but this place was beautiful. This place solidified my love for Japanese architecture and allowed me to grow as a person. I went from a teenager who wanted to go to the land of anime to a young woman eager to see more of the world.fb_img_1451365445815.jpg

It was all thanks to my friend James. He had been to Kyoto during his exchange year in Japan. We sent emails all the time and the pictures he sent me were burned into my mind forever. I was kind of teary eyed looking at the temple, I took my time, took it all in and took many pictures. Kinkakuji has been on my small bucket list of places to go for years, it was possibly the first entry on that list and I finally made it. I wandered the temple grounds, basically floating from place to place. I bought some mementos but I knew this place would be a part of me forever.

After a thoroughly enlightening experience, I wandered slowly back down the street. I stopped in the shops along the roads and looked at all the souvenirs they had to offer. I wasn’t really in a shopping mood, and that’s an odd feeling for me. I was completely and utterly happy. I fb_img_1451365480169.jpghopped on a bus back to Kyoto Station (my centralized point) and decided it was time for lunch. As I ascended the many escalators in Kyoto Station I was treated to a wonderful performance by a high school orchestra. Not only were they really good, they were also playing Disney songs. I sang along and sat and enjoyed the show before heading to Ramen Street. Ramen Street is a name for a section of the department store in Kyoto Station. Famous enough to have its own name but I didn’t think it was the greatest. The restaurants all seemed to serve the same stuff and they all had varying lengthy lines out front. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with ramen in Japan so I just picked one that looked appealing and bought my ticket. Turns out I was not wrong, and I enjoyed the second best ramen I’ve had  in Japan. Nothing beats that creamy delicious ramen I had in Shinjuku though… After filling up, I headed back out to Gion, where I’d explore the historic area of Kyoto, maybe catching a glimpse of a Geisha…

Originally this was only going to be two posts but to save your eyes I’m going to make a 3rd post. It’s hard to believe I was only there for 2 days but my last trip to Japan was one to remember. Sorry for the delay in my posts, lots of stuff going on at home so I’ve been a little busy!

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Next post really soon!
Until next time!
B

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Kitkats in Japan! – A guide.

Kitkats and Japan seemingly go hand and hand nowadays. Japan has the most varieties of kitkats in the world and they’ve become a sort of phenomenon. On my previous trip to Osaka, I grabbed a lot of varieties. This time in Tokyo, I had a little less luck but still was able to get a few new ones that I’ve never tried. This is my personal guide to buying Kitkats in Japan. I should note that the flavours are SEASONAL! So if you see ones you like, grab them! Chances are you won’t be able to get them next time you go. The spring seasonal flavour was carrot apple (it was delicious) and the summer flavour was cookies and cream (also good). Keep your eye out, and if you need to ask a local for the current varieties!

wpid-img_20150323_235553.jpgIn Osaka:

I had a lot of luck in Don Quijote in Osaka. The location on the Dotonburi was full of different varieties when I went during March. At the front entrance, near all the crazy busy checkouts, there is a bunch of food! It was here that I got bags of the Easter special: Apple Carrot, a black tea flavour from Kyoto, a bake kitkat (you toast it in the toaster oven) that was cheesecake flavour, and the typical green tea flavour (found nearly everywhere). Don Quijote has a bunch of snacks from all over, so scour the sections for surprises. I’ve talked about Don Quijote a few times and I really love it, so if you’re in Japan make some time to go.

I also had luck at the airport, Kansai International Airport. In the duty free shops and even a small sandwich shop, I was able to grab red bean, strawberry cheesecake (in a Mount Fuji box!), wa-ichigo (a real strawberry flavour), ichi matcha (strong green tea), and Sakura Macha (Cherry blossom green tea). I had a lot of luck on my first trip to Japan, and I was able to stuff all of them into boxes that I sent home.

At the Kitkat Chocolatory, they handed out a sign that said there were special kitkats at Osaka Station. I didn’t make it down there on my first visit to Osaka, so I’m going to try and go next time!

In Tokyo:

I feel like I had more luck in Tokyo, though the amount I brought home seemed to be less than I brought in Osaka. I saw a lot of varieties I didn’t see before. I had a lot of luck and came home with quite a few! In Tokyo you could find them in wpid-img_20150814_194142.jpgmany places, I’m going to list the places I had the most luck.

Don Quijote in Akihabara had many varieties, in big bags and small boxes. My friend bought green tea and dark chocolate. Both are standard and available at most conbinis in Japan too. I didn’t see anything new so I didn’t get any.

Lawson’s is a convenience store chain in Japan. In the location in the Musashi-koyama subway station I was able to find and purchase raspberry kitkats. They are easily the best kind I’ve tried, but I’m a bit biased because raspberries are my favourite.

Souvenir shops also keep a stock of many varieties. I grabbed some hot chilli pepper flavoured ones from a souvenir shop under Tokyo Station. Almost all souvenir shops in Japan stock some variety of kitkat. My friend also purchased some strawberry cheesecake flavoured ones, and some green tea ones.

In the souvenir shop in Diver City Tokyo Mall I was able to buy bags of the cookies and cream flavoured kitkats, and even some green tea red bean kitkat balls. They were strange but still good! They also had the Mount Fuji box of Strawberry cheesecake kitkats, which my boyfriend devoured after he got to Korea J.

Duty Free shops in the Narita airport (specifically the Akihabara Electric Street duty free shop) had all the varieties I saw in Osaka, and some of the ones I saw outside.

wpid-img_20150731_192215.jpgKitKat Chocolatory in Seibu Department Store with a name like that I expected a lot more. The chocolatory is merely a 10 foot counter in a department store. It was busy and packed, but they had a huge variety. They also do seasonal flavours, and they change out the varieties often. When I went in Tokyo they had several kinds in small boxes: Strawberry Maple, Orange Cocktail, Ume (Plum), Ginger, and Butter. The small boxes are stylish and contain 4 mini kitkat bars. They’re about 400Y each. They also always have boxes of Sakura Matcha kitkats. They had single sticks that were about 300Y each, in dark chocolate, white chocolate, and raspberry. I didn’t buy any but they appeared to be larger than your average kitkat stick. They had some larger collection boxes including a variety of fruit flavours: passion fruit, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, and then they showed that other varieties were available in special places across Japan (like Kyoto station and Osaka station).

If you go to Japan grabs some kitkats, they make for excellent souvenirs and they have kinds for everyone! I’ve tried a lot of kitkats in my life, more than I can even list! They’re really hard to come by (in weird flavours) in Canada, so I’m glad I got to go straight to the source.

Hope you enjoyed this sweet post 😉

Until next time,

B.

This is the final post in my Tokyo a go go series.
Find the main post here!
Go back to Day One!
See where I stayed in Tokyo.
Go to Day Three!
Check out my Tokyo Transit Tips!
Go to Day Four!
Read my Robot Restaurant Review!
Check out day Five!

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Day two: Sushi rolls, Giant Robots, and a Stunned Pigeon.

day twoDay two was probably my favourite day in Tokyo. We headed out to Asakusa just before 10am, we had booked a sushi making class with Yoshimi from Tokyo Kitchen . She met us just outside the subway station at the famous Kaminarimon gate in Asakusa. I applauded her for wearing a stunning white kimono, especially on the humid summer day. We walked along the river to her apartment. She pointed out the cool landmarks on the way: the golden “flame”, the Asahi beer headquarters, and the cool river bus. We made it to her apartment, which was a beautiful airy little place with an awesome view of the river. We sat down and she gave us a lesson on Japanese cuisine, and then thoroughly explained what we’d be doing.

We got right into cooking and it was so much fun! We prepared a few dishes: summer cold tofu with tomatoes/onions, wpid-img_20150730_104242.jpgspinach with sesame, potato miso soup, and of course some beautiful mosaic sushi rolls. There was a lot of work put in, but it made our morning hunger all the more worth it. By the time we finished everything, I was starving. It’s a good thing everything we made was so delicious and fresh, and was so satisfying. Yoshimi was super helpful and handy, she took us through the steps slowly but surely. We made a few dishes: we started off my waking the rice, then starting the omelet for the inside of our sushi rolls, then we prepared the topping for the cold tofu and the dressing for he spinach. The dishes we made were: chilled tofu with a summer tomato/onion topping, spinach with sesame, potato miso soup, and some mosaic sushi rolls. It was time-consuming but honestly the time flew by! We were eating lunch just after noon, which was perfect timing. After lunch we talked for a bit and then Megan and I left to explore Asakusa.

wpid-img_20150730_131036.jpgAsakusa is a pretty neat area, Our class was on the river, so we could see the river boat/bus driving on by. We could also see the really cool shaped Asahi beer headquarters! It’s shaped like a glass of beer, foam included. Next to Asahi beer is the golden flame, which resembles a golden poop really, and Tokyo skytree. We were going to take the river bus to the next stop, but like with most public transit in Japan, it was too expensive. Our cooking instructor had mentioned “Seria” to me, after I said I loved Daiso, and I had made a stop there before we explored more of Asakusa. There was a lot of cool stuff in the department store, and Seira had a lot of really adorable things. I grabbed some Minnie Mouse utensils for my niece, some Mt. Fuji washi tape and notes, and a really cute set of elephant sticky notes. Stationary in Asia KILLS me, it’s so adorable. Seria is a good wpid-img_20150730_142327.jpgplace to go for souvenirs too because everything was 100Y, 108Y with tax.

After walking around the temple and gate area of Asakusa, we decided to make our way to Daiba station. This was a bit of a journey from Asakusa, but we made it. It had started to rain when we were on the subway and thankfully the station we were at allowed for a completely indoor transfer. By the time we made our way to Daiba, the rain had let up. The walk to Diver City Tokyo Mall was a gloomy one, but at least there was no rain. There was actually a summer J-pop concert going on, and I stood to watch it for a little bit from the walkway between the subway station and the mall.

wpid-img_20150730_192730.jpgDiver City Tokyo Mall is a HUGE indoor shopping area. There are about 8 floors, and each floor is filled with great stores. I had put this place on my list for two reasons: Old Navy and a Giant Gundam. I love Old Navy, probably 60% of my wardrobe is from there, and I was really excited to find a store in Japan. As we were walking into the mall, we noticed that people were really hesitant to go in the doors. Thinking it was just another tourist bottleneck, I tried to pick up the pace. Imagine my surprise when I realized that everyone was just avoiding a small pigeon who was sitting in the doors looking a little ruffled and a lot confused. Poor bird. Thankfully a mall staff member helped the little guy out and we were on our merry shopping way.

The next few hours were spent shopping happily, going through store after store. If you don’t know me, I can shop for hours. I love looking at new things, sometimes buying new things. I really like shopping. I purchased quite a few things, some clothing included, and a lot of souvenirs. We ended our shopping adventure with a trip to the Daiso on the 6th floor, and then chilled out for a bit before checking out the Gundam outside. The Gundam is  A HUGE model gundam, lit up outside the mall. A few times a day there are performances in the way that it might move a little, and at night they do a 15 minute anime screening. Also, during the day wpid-img_20150730_193514.jpgyou can walk under the Gundam. It was a pretty cool little aspect, and I enjoyed it whole-heartedly. After we took some pictures, we headed over to another mall so I could check out the Disney store. The Disney store in Japan is always a stop for me, it’s full of cute little things. Basically ever time I go to Japan, I buy some tsum-tsums. These are small stackable plushies that are super cheap and adorable. When I was in Osaka I picked up 5, and this time in Tokyo I picked up 3.

Daiba is a pretty cool area of Tokyo because it’s on the bay. There’s also a part of it that looks strangely like New York city, it also has a Statue of Liberty and a very Brooklyn bridge-esque bridge.I took quite a few pictures here and it made a perfect backdrop for the night. Tokyo was still humid after the sun went down, but that didn’t stop my little photoshoot.wpid-img_20150730_200614.jpg

After journeying back to Akihabara, we stopped for dinner at Coco Ichibana. This is a popular Japanese curry chain. I had a cheese curry katsu, which is a pork cutlet in curry. It was really delicious and I’m glad there’s a Coco Ichibana in Busan haha.wpid-img_20150730_213505.jpg

We loaded up on snacks at the convenience store, and then made our way back to Grids so we could rest. Another somewhat successful day in Tokyo awaited us on Friday.

Until next time,
B.

This is a post in my Tokyo a go go series.
Find the main post here!
Go back to Day One!
See where I stayed in Tokyo.
Go to Day Three!