Last Koyo in Japan

I went to Kyoto and Nara to enjoy the autumn leaves one more time before leaving Japan.  On our way to Tofukuji we stopped and admired the red leaves against the white walls.

We also went to Ginkakuji which had been closed for renovations since we arrived in Japan until 2011.  It was somewhat similar to Kinkakuji - just not gold - and it has some really cool stone sculpture/zen garden.

A lot of people were in kimono walking around admiring the leaves as well.

We also got to see light-up koyo before heading to a true Kyoto kaiseki dinner.

We had our own private room and ten courses!  I'll have to do another post on the kaiseki.

The next day we went sightseeing in Nara.  And, of course, being in Nara, we saw a lot of deer!  And the deer will bow to you - if they think you will give them food.

The big buddha is housed in the largest wooden structure in the world.

This hole in the pillar is the same size as the buddha's nose and it's considered good luck to crawl through the hole.  I thought about it but all these kids were crawling through and I didn't want to get stuck!

We also stopped by one of the famous gardens in Nara which was beautiful!



Jan 24

Kaiseki in Kyoto and Nara

As part of my koyo trip to Kyoto and Nara, we also had a kaiseki dinner in Kyoto.  We had the dinner in our own private room.  The food was great, the service was stellar and my friend and I had a lovely time.

The little orange thing that looks like a persimmon is actually a quail egg dyed orange!

The next day in Nara we enjoyed a kaiseki lunch.  The decor of the restaurant was beautiful and the food was so delicious.  I really liked the red table.

Tea before lunch.

Persimmon and veggie dish - savory with a hint of sweetness

Apple jelly, creme fraiche and kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) - a nice way to end the meal.



Jan 23

Kaiseki Dinners

Before we left Tokyo, Henry and I had a couple kaiseki dinners.  One with a partner at the firm, another just the two of us.  And that doesn't include the kaiseki dinner and lunch I had in Kyoto/Nara.  he he

As always, the ingredients were top-notch and the presentation was beautiful.  One kaiseki dinner was at a long-standing traditional kaiseki restaurant that had opened up a branch at the Cerulean Tower Hotel.

This dish was soft shell turtle chawanmushi (steamed savory egg custard).

This restaurant also had a dessert cart which was different from the usual kaiseki places.

The other kaiseki place we tried was located in an old neighborhood in Tokyo, down an atmospheric, quaint alley.

We got to sit at the counter and watch the chefs work right in front of us.  Check out the tuna in the box!

We also had our own fish shabu shabu.

It was a very filling dinner.



Jan 19

Work Farewell Party on a Yakatabune

My department threw me a farewell party on a traditional Japanese boat - yakatabune.  Kinda like a old-school dinner cruise.

The boat had tatami mat seating and traditional Japanese food and karaoke!  It was also a bit short.

It seems all the yakatabune ships anchor at Odaiba before heading back.  It was a cold night but that made the views very clear.  It was very pretty.

Overall, a nice, fun night.


Jan 18

The last things in Tokyo

We've left Tokyo about a week and a half ago.  It was a crazy few weeks heading up to the big move.  First, Diana finished work, and the next day we left to Taiwan to visit family.  Then we came back and both of us were packing and doing the final sobetsukais (going away dinners) with everyone.  Here's some pictures of the long run to the finale.

NOTE:  Technically, we're back in Tokyo for a couple of days in Jan to pickup luggage after our long 1 month vacation in Vietnam, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia, but we're homeless, so it really does mean that we're out of Japan.

The Clown Punch + friends sobetsukai

Andre's group's concert, the UFO phonics.

Last time to take print club pictures, well.. first time for me, but the girls were editing here.

Our last すき焼き sukiyaki.  The left side is the high end fatty 黒毛牛肉 kuroge beef (this one from 鹿児島 Kagoshima).  That's also not butter on top.  It's fat, and soooo good.

Our last sushi at our favorite place, 魚真 Uoshins, the 寿司屋 sushi-ya.

The last time to see the manga man!  We hadn't seen him in Shimokitazawa in a long time.

At the Tokyo Ultimate 忘年会 bonenkai our friends gave us signed discs.

The view of the moving truck as it took our the remainder of our apt away.  We came in with 22 boxes, airshipped.  We left with 89 boxes sea shipped.  I don't think we accumulated that much stuff, but the Japanese movers tend to pack the boxes lighter.



Dec 24

Forbidden Jumpkick

In the forbidden city in Beijing.


Nov 7

Beijing - FOOD!

We quite enjoyed the food in Beijing, you can eat really well in nice restaurants for about $20 a person.   We had Sichuan hot pot one night which Henry really enjoyed.

The lamb was pretty good and the broth was delicious as well.

We had more Sichuan food at another popular restaurant.

And of course, we had to have Peking Duck which was so crisp and tasty at Da Dong!

It was a great way to end our trip to Beijing.



Oct 24

Beijing, the Mainland Sights

After 3 years in Asia, we finally made it to Mainland China, Beijing, to be exact.  We went to visit my old college friend and his family.  He was kind enough to arrange housing for us in the same complex.  We hit the big 3 touristy spots - Great Wall, Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City - and ate A LOT!  (Beijing food will have to be another post)

We took a local, very cheap train to the Badaling section of the Great Wall.  And while it was a more touristy section, it wasn't that crowded and it was convenient to get there.  Apparently, they wash the trains between trips.

It's amazing how far the Wall stretches.  It was quite impressive.

There were many Chinese tourists, too.  And many, shall we say "local" sights.

The Temple of Heaven was also beautiful but we're not sure if the Echo Wall really works.

Finally, we walked to the Forbidden City which was massive!  So many alleys and courtyards.  There was also nice gardens as well.



Oct 17

Fireworks on Atami Beach

We went to Atami again for a beach ultimate tournament and as an added bonus there were fireworks on the beach that night.  We could easily watch it from the balcony of the hotel we were all staying at.  While it was only 30 mins (half the time of the usual Japan fireworks festivals) it was impressive and beautiful nonetheless.

The Finale


Oct 12

Tokyo DisneySea

We went with some friends to Tokyo DisneySea!  It's a one-of-a-kind Disney sea-themed amusement park.  This year was also the 10 year anniversary of DisneySea.

Various ports of the world are represented and you can even drink beer in the park.

It was a long weekend and the weather was beautiful so there were many people in the park when we went.  There were even lines to get into the stores.

While most of the staff and "cast" were Japanese.  We saw Pocahontas who we were pretty sure was caucasian with a LOT of heavy makeup - she looked like she had a mask on instead of make-up.

We rode some rides, saw some shows and generally had a good time.

We also saw the fireworks show.




Oct 11