Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture 23.Apr.16

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Another fun outing ensued in the morning as we rode the bus to the Alps, Tateyama. We were reminded of the Swiss alps and enjoyed some proper matcha roll and tea after a communal hot pot lunch. (Not so fun for me in the 50 minute stretch of the windy mountain bus ride as the motion sickness pill wore off.)

The tour group we were with was so properly run and organised, giving us a sufficient sample of each unique site. On our way back to Osaka, we once again had proper stops at Service Areas, giving us opportunities to procure immaculately boxed souvenir sweets and nibbles (OMG, grilled cuttlefish) along the way.

By sunset, we were conveniently alighted at our hotel where we returned to our creature comforts. That was an activity-packed 2 days outside of Osaka, don't you think?

Shirakawago, Gifu Prefecture 22.Apr.16

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The next stop after Takayama is this really charming little historical town. We've had an hour or so to wander. Shirakawago is just lovely with the traditional thatched houses and the snow-capped mountains in the background. Definitely memorable.

We were later brought to a hotel in another town where we spent the night for an early start the next morning.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Takayama, "Little Kyoto", Gifu prefecture 22.Apr.16

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With an early start on Wednesday, we lugged an overnight pack to join a local coach tour out of Osaka. (Trying to figure out the undisclosed bus meeting point was not without drama.)

Unclear of how much time had elapsed in the moving vehicle aided by the multiple stops at pleasant Service Areas (rest stops along the highway) and the many snacking and souvenir opportunities each provided, the journey to the unknown was totally enjoyable. No busting bladder! Seats were all assigned, too. How civilised! Cup of complimentary green tea while you stretch your legs? Yes please.

The tour included a lunch box which we pre-ordered. Just delightful. In a few hours we were clearly out of the city and in a hilly region. First destination of our coach tour was Takayama, a town dubbed Little Kyoto. We were left to wander the little town for an hour or so. Lovely to have a brief visit to see and smell something out of the city.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Dotonbori and Shinsekei 21.Apr.16


We began to realise that there is an entire underground network buried in Namba -- a city of railway and shops -- right under our hotel. The bakery with kitty buns became a landmark in our navigation.

This is Pickle transported back in time to kittenhood in Osaka. If only.

We decided to make Dotonbori our breakfast stop for Day 2. It was a rainy day which threw any plans for a trip to Kyoto out the window.

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The most significant memory to this little eatery was partly the kaisendon in which the chef kindly but unexpectedly doused soy sauce on the sashimi for us, but mostly because as we sat down, we realised that we were out of Yen and they couldn't accept credit cards...

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It was a charade of gestures and eventually guessing from within the ambiguous string of phonetics a semblance of 'Family Mart' (a convenience store) where there is an ATM. You bet Family Mart become the running joke of the week.

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A simple wet day of snacking through Dotonbori and under-covered shopping streets ensued with some purchase as collateral.

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Lots of fabric fondling. Somebody stop me.

This really damp day also allowed us wander underground for cake and tea (Matcha, what else?) before heading out in the drizzle to Shinsekei and Tsutenkaku Tower.

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Only because a picture of Takoyaki Hello Kitty in the observation deck is mandatory.

[ Full album of our Osaka experience: ]

Sushi Cooking Lesson with Yayo 20.Apr.16

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Our week in Osaka was not jam-packed with activities, but we did begin our first afternoon with a sushi cooking class. Sushi cooking with Yayo was a private session in her home -- the third participant did not show up, so we had the place to ourselves with Akane, the silky terrier mascot. (Seen here wearing a doggy kimono.)

It was a casual homely affair, Yayo had prepared all the ingredients beforehand. After each careful demonstration, we get to have a go on our own. Mind you, trying to make an omelette (dashimaki) with chopsticks is not as easy as it looks...

Our class / dinner comprised of miso soup, dashimaki, 10 pieces of sushi and samples of sake. All spectacular, if I say so myself.

I conclude that Japanese women deserve the tip of the hat and had it been left to me, with all that prepping and cleaning up and immaculate presentation, we won't be having sushi and dashimaki and miso soup on a regular basis!

[ Full album of our Osaka experience: ]

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Namba, Dotonbori, Osaka 20.Apr.16

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We went lux by staying in the pleasant Swissotel in Namba and indulging in the hotel restaurant's traditional breakfast of rice porridge for our first day in Osaka. Those little pickled and savory dishes do add up and we almost had no space left in our bellies.

To walk breakfast off and get our bearings, we ambled our way a few blocks away and got drawn to a fresh seafood market. We wouldn't miss any opportunity when it comes to the freshest seafood, so we literally ate our way through the market. Sea urchin, fat belly tuna, Takoyaki and mochi and sweets our eyes landed on... I guess we've found Dotonbori.

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With a couple of hours to kill before our 3pm appointment, we tried to make sense of the rail and hoped to find a spot with cherry blossoms. Off to Kema Sakuranomiya Park (Tenmabashi) we went, only to confirm the disappointing truth.

[ Full album of our Osaka experience: ]