Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (19) - Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka

Busy is such a lame excuse so I am just going to say I have been slacking lately... (honestly I have been quite busy lately... and it looks like it's only gonna get busier from here on...)


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I am going to expedite this series as much as I can so I can move on to the few short Hong Kong trips I took in May, June, and August (and share some of the fabulous restaurants I have enjoyed...) and the amazing trip to Beijing / Inner Mongolia in July.  (Hint:  Inner Mongolia is one of those places I would consider as "must see at least once in a lifetime".  This place is equivalent as Tibet and Ürümqi in my book but the safest among the three.)

A sneak preview on Inner Mongolia

Anyways, back to Nara.  My itinerary is pretty standard.  I started off from Osaka, taking advantage of my Kintetsu Rail Pass.  The train ride takes approximately ~30 minutes.  My friends were mainly there to take pictures with the Nara deers while my purpose here is the Kasuga Taisha Shrine (春日大社) and Todai-ji Temple (東大寺).  Of course, there is also this restaurant I wanted to try: Shizuka (志津香)!  I was really impressed by Todai-ji Temple.  If you have a chance to visit Nara - don't miss it!



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Kasuga Taisha Shrine (春日大社) 
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Todai-ji Temple (東大寺)
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Shizuka (志津香)

The deers are EVERYWHERE!  They are extremely friendly and will chase after you for their snacks!

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That is the stall that sells deer snacks...
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If you hold any snack in your hand, the deers will come...
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... and they are quite aggressive

Other places I stopped by or spotted along the way in Nara...


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The Nara Tourist Association provides clean bathroom, free coffee/tea/water and free wifi.
It's on the way from Todaiji to Shizuka on the right side of the road.
You won't miss it!

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There is even an earthquake simulation chair!
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Earthquake is very common in Japan.
We experienced a strong one the very next day!

I was too tired and slept right through it though :P 
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The Nara mascot

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A lovely coffee shop right next to Shizuka
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An alley filled with shops next to the Nara Station
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I tried the sushi from this place as a snack
It's quite good!
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Originally, I wanted to go to Yoshino (吉野山) for the sakura but as my friend predicted, I am "sakura-out" and ended up going to Kyoto again!  Kyoto is probably a place I will never grow tired of.



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Kyoto tower

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Kamo River (鴨川)
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I thought the chestnut is a fall thing but I guess they are available all year round.

Ever since I read about Kinana on Feather Factor, I can't get it off my mind.  It took me a while to find the shop!


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For some reason, I thought the shop closes at 5pm.
I almost gave up but thought I already spent so much time looking for it,
I might as well find the place so I can return next time.

I found it within the following 5 minutes... -.-|||
So glad to discover they actually close at 7pm.
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the fans means this shop is endorsed by the geishas / maikos!
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After much debate, I decide to go with the きなな三種盛 :)
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(L --> R) brown sugar / yogurt / green tea
My favorite is the yogurt.
This shop is not as famous among the tourists as compared to 都路里 or 鍵善良房.
You could actually get a seat without waiting in a ridiculous queue and enjoy the experience
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This is the queue at 都路里 at 4-ish
The wait time was about 2 hours here... >.<
I have yet to try this place so I don't know if it lives up to the hype.

Oh yes, I made an irresponsible observation between the real geishas / maikos versus the others...
  • real geishas / maikos walk super fast, except when they are with a client, mostly seen between 5 to 6 pm (?), and does not like to be photographed
  • the others walk slow, usually in groups, and doesn't mind being photographed by tourists
Here's my supporting documents while I was strolling in Hanami-koji (花見小路) :P


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Taxis are expensive in Japan...
Geisha houses are expensive in Japan...
you can put the two and two together...
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I suspect there is a geisha dormitory nearby...
a lot of the geishas / maikos come out from that alley
there are men in uniforms keeping the order
lot of tourists and photographers standing by (some with their tripods ready)
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Although it was still early, I decided to have my dinner #1 at Soba House Gon Bei (蕎麦權兵衛).  I recalled how long the line was the first time I visited Kyoto so seeing there is no line tonight, I cannot resist!


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I tried the oyako udon under the recommendation of the shop and it was very delicious!
I know, I should have ordered soba since I am at a soba house... but I just love udon that much...
Instead of taking the Kintetsu, I took the Hankyū back to Osaka.  (it's more convenient and wasn't expensive at all!)  Of coz, I had to snack along the way...  Thanks to the favorable exchange rate (and all the walking) for making all this non-stop eating and shopping possible.  (The yen went from MOP10:JPY100 to MOP8.5:JPY100 from October 2012 to April 2013!)  


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I can never resist the Japanese confectionery...

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I was pretty full and had no room left when I saw this deliciously decorated cakes! T_T
...so imagine my disappointment when I saw this exact brand being recommended on Japanese TV that same night...
/le sigh
Osaka to me is a place for shopping and eating.


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@ Shinsabashi
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my must buy item in Japan
and it's on sale!
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the newest makeup trend in Japan
/WTS eye bags!!!
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Picking up an eye drops order from a friend.
She highly recommends this.  I haven't tried myself though.
I have mixed feelings about seeing shops like ZARA, Forever 21, and H&M all over the place... I understand it's almost a city status thing to have these kinds of shops but at the same time, the cities loses their distinct flavor when they all become a mirror image of each other :(

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H&M: just opened
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ZARA
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Forever 21: it wasn't here the last time I was in Osaka...

I was finally able to try the crepe from Cocorico!!!  I was lucky to be among the last few to be able to try their crepes that night!  Even though their hours are till 10 pm, they normally sold out before that.  If you want the seasonal crepes, you must come early - preferably in the morning.  It was sold out when I got there so I only got a simple caramel and banana crepe.  It was delicious!


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Dinner #2 at Wakasa-ya (若狭家) :)  If you want cheap sashimi bowls, this is where you go.  They are everywhere in Japan.


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If you are really hungry, you can attempt this monster bowl...
1500g of rice, 450cc of miso soup, and approx. 500g of sashimi (10 different types)!
If you can finish it within 15 minutes, it's free.  Otherwise, it is JPY3,980.
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the most popular items of the shop
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charges for extras
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my uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe), and tuna bowl

I can't eat anymore... but I keep seeing things I want to eat!!! oh well, let me start compiling a wishlist for my next trip!
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another popular noodle place in the area
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JPY100 off for ladies if you order noodles 
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A local izakaya
So many people who clearly just got off work went in there!
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Ichiran Ramen
The queue was crazier than last time

I thought about it... but decided against it in the end.
just not a huge ramen fan and I ate enough that day.
plus, it's opening a new store in Hong Kong in July 2013.

I'd rather spend the time in queue to play with the cute cats instead.  I don't know where they came from and why they were there but I had a great time.  What a fantastic way to end a long day~


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my favorite kitty among the batch :)

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