Picture of the Week

Meeting a sumo wrestler.

Today was the last day of the Nagoya sumo tournament. Congratulations to Harumafuji on winning the Nagoya basho! During Golden Week we went to Tokyo and had a rare opportunity of seeing a sumo wrestler doing errands around his neighbourhood. Granted we walked around with the hope of finding one. The wrestler in this picture is not Harumafuji nor a famous sumo star, but it was very cool to see him and he was very kind to let me take this picture. Another ‘wow!’ moment in Japan!

Advertisements

Sea Day Long Weekend: Kobe

Kobe Port

Last weekend we had a 3 day long weekend, pretty awesome! I love the fact that Japanese people love nature and that gives us a reason to have National Holidays like last weekend’s Sea Day.

So having a long weekend we headed out of Shikoku and into Kobe. I really enjoyed Kobe but some might think that I did so for all the wrong reasons. After the 1997 Kobe Earthquake the city had to literally had to be re-built from the ground up. This means that Kobe is quite modern. They have a nice port and a Chinatown and a big shopping arcade. If you are looking for shrines and temples, Kobe might not the the place to visit.

However as foreigner who eats japanese food, interacts with Japanese people and lives in rural Japan, Kobe was a nice change of scenery. Kobe is modern and very international. Kobe was one of the first cities that began trading with other countries when Japan first began to expand outside its borders. The result is that now there is a huge expat population. We also headed to Kobe because I have been wanting to see a professional baseball game for some time and Kobe/Osaka area have the Hanshin Tigers.

Tokyo Swallows Fans. Loved their umbrella dance!

Now I like baseball? Not really. Do I understand baseball? Somewhat. Do I play baseball? Not at all, BUT Japanese people LOVE baseball and the Hanshin Tigers fans and known for being extreme. I have never been to a baseball game in which every single seat was sold. In Canada I think this is unheard of, but here is a regular occurrence. Fans are nuts! They have clappers, they have cheers, they have songs and they have balloons. They also have their own cheering team and that includes: taiko drums, trumpets and massive flags among other things. They also cheer for the duration of the whole game, non-stop. They have different cheers for different things and they all know the cheers. Also at the 7th inning people blow up balloons and let them go at the same time. Is quite the sight and my favourite part of the whole game. Is beautiful to see people so excited and so involved in the game. We were lucky enough to get seat very close to the 3rd base and even luckier to fins American style hot dogs (in Japan at baseball games people eat yakitori and yakisoba and other japanese food). No amount of cheering could save the Tigers though and they were defeated by the Tokyo Swallows 5-2. No matter though as fun was had by all present, with the exception of the Hanshin Tigers players, of course.

Balloons!

7th inning balloons at the Hanshin Tigers vs. Tokyo Swallows baseball game.

The next day we continued to walk around and went to an awesome Brazilian restaurant, as we like to try international food when we go to big cities. We did some summer shopping and at 6:00pm took our bus back to Niihama.

A corner of its own. A fantastic corner in downtown Kobe, who would have thought?

Picture of the Week

I know I am really bad at updating this blog and sometimes I wonder if anyone still reads it, but I hope someone out there does. I also have many pictures that I have been wanting to share. So I will do a Picture of the Week post and hope you will all get to see a bit more of my adventures.

Special Guests: Maiko at last year’s annual Taiko Matsuri (drum festival) in our town of Niihama in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Island, Japan.

The Best Ramen Shop in Kyoto!

So I decided to take minute away from sounding like Lonely Planet and more like the Food Network.

I was never much of a food enthusiast. As a little girl I wasn’t much into eating and I remember many a times my mom trying to get me to eat. As a teenager eating became something that I knew I had to do but I never really found joy out of eating and even less from cooking.

Well, that all changes once I moved to Japan. For once I was forced to get creative and cook myself, otherwise I would find myself eating Japanese food everyday for what has now been 3 years. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Japanese food well enough but sometimes you have that craving for homemade meals. Also after living here for a while now I have learned to recognize good Japanese food and bad Japanese food.

In March, Thomas and I went to Kyoto to meet up with his parents who were visiting from Canada. On our first night we went out looking for a place to eat and were recommended to a ramen shop a few blocks away. We went expecting the usual but holy cow! We discovered the most amazing ramen shop I have ever been to. It was a hole in the wall kind of place. Big enough to sit approximately 10 people, with 2 young guys doing all of the cooking and only a few items in the menu. The ramen had so much flavour and ramen actually being a Chinese dish it was more of a Chinese style in both flavour and texture. I fell in love with the place, the ramen and our young chefs.

Unfortunately I only took a picture of the dish with my camera phone and the quality is pretty atrocious, but I took a couple of pictures of the store. If you ever find yourself in Kyoto hungry and looking for a great local place with even greater food I highly recommend this shop. The name? I actually don’t know as my Kanji reading is still not great, but I will ask around and update the information here. Bon Appetite!

The BEST ramen shop I have ever been to!

Outside the ramen shop.

Golden Week: Kyoto, Fushimi Inari

Walking through the gates.

Ah, Fushimi Inari my favourite shrine! Fushimi Inari is a shrine in which thousands of toriis (gates) line up from the bottom to the top of a mountain which name happens to be Inari Mountain. Inari was seen as the patron of business so each gate was donated by a business man and there must be a load of wealthy business men in this country because as I mentioned before there are literally thousands of these gates going all the way up to the top of the mountain.

This is one of my favourite places to photograph in all of Japan. Is colourful, is aesthetically beautiful and I just never get tired of taking photographs here and walking through the gated path as far as my feet can take me. I have been to Fushimi Inari several occasions as I like to take as many visitors to it as possible. I have taken my mom, my boyfriend Thomas and the last time my friend Rachel and Jen. Every time I discover something new and just as an extra tip there is no entrance fee unlike almost every other shrine and temple in town.

Now some of you might look at the pictures below and recognize the place, well the shrine was featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha (quite a disappointing cinematically but an interesting book nonetheless). In the last scene of the film we see the young girl Sayuri running through orange gates, that is indeed Fushimi Inari shrine.

Entrance to Fushimi Inari

Prayers.

A shrine with the fox statue regarded as the messengers.

Golden Week: Gion, Kyoto

Gion is a famous entertainment and geisha district on the eastern bank of the Kamogawa River. In this neighbourhood you can find teeny tiny streets with hidden tea houses where apprentice geishas (maikos) entertain business men in the evenings who are willing and able to spend big bucks for their company.

At one end of the road you find Yasaka Shrine. One of the most famous shrines in the city and the place where the now world famous Gion Matsuri originated. From the top of the entrance stairs you can see just how crowded and modern Japan now is and you realize that Kyoto is really a mix of both new and old. Century old shrines and temples mix with modern neon lights, crazy traffic and way too many tourists.

However, if feeling adventurous you should walk through the alleyways in this neighbourhood where if you peek around and are patient at twilight you will be rewarded with the sighting of a maiko running from their home into a restaurant or tea house. I have been fortunate enough to have seen a geisha or maiko walking around every time that I have been in Kyoto. They look beautiful with their kimonos, hair accessories and wooden clogs (geta). I remember once going into an Italian restaurant and seeing 2 apprentice girls with their kimonos and hair done but no make-up eating pizza! During our Golden Week holidays we were fortunate enough to see quite a few maiko walking around town due to the maiko festival that takes place every year during the month of April which happens to coincide with the season of cherry blossoms in Japan.

Maiko walking through an alleyway in Gion, Kyoto.