Thursday, 31 December 2009

Nagoya Specialties

The specialties in Nagoya include Hitsumabushi which I blogged about here,

kishimen. it looks like our ban mian but lighter in colour. kinda like udon but flat. soup stock is similar to shoyu soup for ramen. taste ok only.

tenmusu. onigiri with tempura inside. sounds interesting but tastes ok only

miso katsu and cochin chicken which i blogged about here.

miso udon. we found the udon in nagoya tougher than usual... like cooked less than al dente >.< chris found the gravy very appetising and ordered a bowl of rice to mix and eat but i found it a tad too salty. not bad la...

oh, it's very cute though... they gave everyone a bib cos when you eat this, it may splash hehehe...

and you're supposed to use the pot cover as a bowl to eat it. reminds me of the korean "boys over flowers" show where Jun Biao ate instant noodles with the pot cover! ^^

my verdict is if you have time to only try ONE dish, go for the Hitsumabushi... it's delightful. the rest, nothing special, other than the miso katsu which is also very nice.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Shopping in Japan

Singaporeans who go to Japan always hit burberry blue label and fancl... yes, they're cheap but there are other shopping experiences i fancy too =)

Besides Kyoto's kiyomizuzaka where they sell the famed (and very very expensive) kiyomizu pottery, my favorite shopping street is in doguyasuji, Osaka. the things here are much more affordable... mainly household brand prices although they do have high end suff... there's a range. I can spend one whole day there. i get as much kick from a teacup as from a pair of ferragamos... hahaha...

At the entrance of the street is this banner.

The shops here sell everything you can find in a Japanese restaurant. There are shops selling pottery ware, knives (very very cool… I was tempted to buy one but my Henkel’s is fine so I didn’t want to waste money), lacquerware, pots, pans whateva la. Whatever you can find in a Japanese restaurant, you can definitely find here. It’s a chef’s heaven =D

I usually frequent this shop near the beginning of the street. Here’s a glimpse of what’s in the shop...

the uncle is very nice one. he understands a little english cos got ang mos go there and buy too... i told him i'm taking airplane back so he wrapped everything properly for me. i checked them in under fragile (cos i had to hand-carry my precious noritake fine bone china...) and they came out unscathed ^^

K, I bought:
6 chawanmushi bowls (i had wanted pink but they were sold out left only one =( so i got the other colour green... very reasonably priced JPY430 which is about SGD$7 each. it's the cheapest. the rest all cost more than $10 each...)

12 soup spoons with spoon rests

2 oyakodon pans (I bought one for priscilla!! =D lately she's been learning how to cook and she liked the cooking with dog oyakodon)

and from top right clockwise:

1 sieve ladle (good for scooping out froth from meat when cooking soups)
2 lemon juice extractors (nice... torisho taka uses these)
10 crab digging instruments
2 crab scissors
10 chawanmushi spoons (bopian... i bought 6 bowls, the spoons come in 5s LOL can be used for other purposes too la)
1 pizza cutter (i just thought the wooden handle looks way too cool compared to the plastic ones...)
1 okonomiyaki "spade" (neh, the thing u use to cut it up and serve)

well, i try to buy stuff i can't find in takashimaya or meidiya of course, otherwise lug back meh? but some of the stuff... maybe you can find in singapore but i saw it and it's good quality so just get la. anyway, there's so much more variety here.

now you know why i packed chris' luggage bag half full and why my house has so many of these "contraptions" LOL

Take subway to Namba and it’s near Bic Camera. If not sure, ask tourist info.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Japan 2009: Day 9 (UNESCO World Heritage Site: Himeji Castle 姫路城)

Inspired by CY's Kumamoto Castle 熊本城 photos, we decided to re-visit Himeji Castle 姫路城 (we were there 5 years ago), the most beautiful castle in Japan, also one of the top three castles (Kumamoto Castle 熊本城 being the second and the third is Matsumoto Castle 松本城 in Nagano). It's actually nearer from Kyoto or Osaka (Kansai) but since we didn't have anything planned and the JR Pass is still valid, why not? We were too tired to hike for 3 hours in Kiso Valley (where we originally planned to do a day trip) la...

Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was home to the granddaughter of Ieyasu Tokugawa who married into the Toyotomi family at age 7 (wa biang, i was like in pembry 2...). The entire castle is in it's original state because it has never been involved in war and is a very good repesentation of castles in Japan.

Flowers outside Himeji Castle.

Each emblem represented a family who contributed to the building of this castle.

shopping street near castle

Access: Take Shinkansen to Himeji and walk 15 mins. When the train is approaching the station, you'll be able to see the castle from afar.

Japan 2009: Day 8 (Gero onsen 下呂温泉)

On the way back to Nagoya from Takayama, we stopped by Gero onsen 下呂温泉 for a soak in a public hot spring bath. Gero onsen is one of the TOP THREE FAMOUS hot springs in Japan wor! Woot! The other two are Arima and Kusatsu. We have been to Arima. Woot! 2 down, 1 to go!! oooh! ah.. ah eh bah! ooh! ah... ah eh bah!

There were only two other obasans so after they left, i whipped out my camera and fired away until someone else came. this time my camera didn't fog up cos we went to an outdoor hot spring.

If you don't have a chance to stay at a ryokan with a hot spring, here's a cheaper alternative =) a day use hot spring. The one we went to is an 8 min walk from Gero station. Here's how it works.

You buy an entrance ticket at the vending machine. If you can read Chinese, this shouldn't b difficult. However, if you need towels, you'll need to be ale to read katakana. anyway, small towels are the right most button. For bath towels, click the second right most. We bought two entrance tickets and two small towels (we kept them as souvenirs... hehehe... eh, Japan's top 2 hot spring neh... don't play play). When we went to the Shirakawa-go hot spring, we brought along our towels from the room =)

In the bathroom are lockers where you can lock your belongings for JPY100.

If it's just clothes, i don't bother... no one steals clothes one la... you can put in one of these baskets. of course i locked my camera LOL

Here's the certification that it's a Japan hot spring...

Please shower yourselves clean clean before soaking in the hot spring bath. the Japanese have this fetish about looking at themselves in the mirror when showering one... hahaha... and oh, please don't stand up hor... your dirty water will splash onto other people. please sit down... no towels IN the hot spring ok? towels wrapping hair or on the head are fine.

here's the basins. this public bath is very ngiao one. usually at public baths, they'd provide hair brush, toner, lotion etc. this public bath has nothing, not eve tissue paper and got to pay for hairdryer some more JPY100 for 5 mins.

Of course, before leaving, i bought a packet of hot spring powder =DD

Access: Take Hida Wide View from Nagoya, Takayama or Toyama to Gero station and ask the information counter for locations of public baths.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Japan 2009: Day 7 (UNESCO World Heritage Site - Shirakawa-go 白川郷)

50 minutes by Nohi bus (not covered by JR Pass) from Takayama is the UNESCO World Heritage site Shirakawa-go. I was very excited about coming to this place, staying at a gassho zukkuri (farmhouse)

and soaking in the hot spring in shirakawa-go =D

Here’s the route to Shirakawa-go.

To get to the village from the bus terminal, everyone had to cross this suspension bridge. It’s quite amazing… there’s NOTHING supporting it from beneath. It’s just suspended at two ends and when you walk with many people, you can feel the bridge vibrating hehehe…

After depositing our baggage at a gassho zukkuri (farmhouse) Kanja, we walked around and built our first snowman

below are the three gassho houses always featured in posters and postcards. To take this shot, i was standing on a rice field covered in snow. For the zoomed in shot, if you look closely at the bottom left, there's actually a rainbow ^^

had lunch at a small eatery. I had Hida soba which I realised is vegetarian =P

I met a group of ah pehs who reminded me of Mr Tee… armed with their top end nikons and canons with tuah tuah liap L lens and monopods, they were having a whale of a time firing away at this persimmon tree LOL

we kena saboed by them though… they told us that to get to the top of Shiroyama viewpoint, we would need a car so we decided to hike up to Shiroyama Viewpoint to catch a bird’s eye view of the place. It wasn’t that bad but I kept asking chris…

Me: dear, are we reaching??
Chris: not yet…
Me: I think we’re reaching!!
Chris: we’re not even half way there, dear.
Me: >_____<|||

When we finally reached, Chris said his lunch was gone liao LOL the sun was in the wrong direction la so I was rather -.- but then again, we’re only there once so shoot shoot lor. there was actually a bus up and down the viewpoint!!! We took the bus down -_____-|||

The snow was like 1m high…

Before dinner, we dropped by at Shirakawa-go no yu 白川郷の湯 for a soak in the public hot spring bath =D

Actually, Shirakawa-go can be covered in a day trip from Takayama unless you want to stay at a gassho zukkuri. If you do a day trip, you won’t be able to see the night view of the place lor. But light-up is only in January anyway. I went around at about 4:45 when the sun was going to set and saw a couple of crazy photographers like me out with tripods and cameras LOL There was an ah peh who was helpful in pointing out interesting things to shoot and happily showed me his pictures =)

Here are some of my night shots…

A machine shovelling snow and spitting it out into a heap. It was freaking cold out there…

Here’s our dinner… again nothing fancy, just homecooked fare: tempura vegetables (eggplant, pumpkin, sweet potato, shiso leaf, mushroom), fried fish, grilled beef, pickles, tofu, miso soup, rice and mikan, Japanese tangerine.

they still use firewood one neh...

oh, we met two Singaporean geen nahs at the gassho zukkuri we stayed at... ah yo, they backpack one er... >.< young really different la. got the energy... we travel more like the old fogeys in Japan... with our tiny overnighter trolley bag hahaha oh but the trolley bag is not such a good idea in snowy places because you can't drag it at some parts! hahaha we realised =P

and the geen nahs couldn't understand a word of Japanese but could still get around so to those who are wondering... it's possible one. but of course, if you can speak or at least READ Japanese, it's an added bonus.

Access to Shirakawa-go:
Take Nohi bus from Takayama bus terminal (JPY4800 for round trip)

Price at gassho zukkuri Kanja:
JPY19320 per night (about SGD$300) inclusive of dinner and breakfast which is very expensive considering the fact that it's got no TV, no internet, no ensuite rooms, toilets are freezing cold (although got heated seat). The water in he toilet is not heated so it's like iced water. I didn't wash my face. I just used cleansing milk and tissued off. heng i brought my evian spray so i sprayed to remove cleansing milk then wiped off with tissue and toner twice. Our hotel in Nagoya with everything only cost about JPY17000 neh... but staying here is for the novelty lor. Try Koemon (nearest to suspension bridge so most convenient) or Yokichi (Yokichi has English speaking staff and is near Shirakawa-go no yu so it's very popular for non-Japanese speaking tourists) but book early cos when we booked, these were already full. However, I was told that reviews about the service at Koemen were not good. I don't know. Basically, it's an experience. Tried once, probably won't try again cos for the price, we can get much better hotel amenities in the cities LOL