Category Archives: Honeymoon

Day 10: Osaka Harbor

Today we climbed the shortest mountain (4.53m) in Japan, at least that is what we are told… I didn’t even notice. Supposedly you can even get a certificate stating that you have made this monumental achievement, but we never found the “mountain hut” that hands them out.

This so called mountain is known as Tempozan, which is why the area we went to today is called the Tempozan Harbor Village. The area has many attractions, but most of them don’t really interest us. We mainly went to see the aquarium, Kaiyukan. Universal Studios Japan is also in the harbor area, and we briefly entertained the thought of going there as well, but ultimately decided it wasn’t really worthwhile.

So, our day started out kind of slow… we did some laundry in the morning, hung it out to dry, and then headed for the subway station. Upon exiting the train station we were immediately greeted by the sight of the world’s largest ferris wheel… or “giant wheel” as they are known here. We both agreed that we really didn’t want to ride it though… it looks old and boring, and moves very slowly. Besides, we just rode the Hep Five wheel, which is located on the top of a tall building… much more interesting.

We first went to the Tempozan Market Place, located between the big wheel and Kaiyukan. The Market Place also seems a little run down, but has some neat shops in it. My favorite shops are the Ghibli and Sanrio stores, but there were several others. Unfortunately all the food places in the Market Place were of the food court variety, none of which were very appealing. We ended up choosing a curry place because their pictures looked the most appetizing, but unfortunately it wasn’t all that great and it left us a little sad… but that is okay, we remedied that at dinner by having the most awesome curry yet.

While at the Tempozan Market Place we also stopped at a little indoor petting zoo called Anipa. I had been to this place 6 years ago, and remembered it fondly as a place full of happy doggies and kitties. Sadly, this place is starting to look a bit run down as well. Since I was last there, they added some sheep and goats to the mix. They put these new creatures in what use to be the large dog pen, moved the large dogs over to the small dog pen, and then built this little raised platform for the little dogs. The little dogs just look sad, and the mostly all crowded around the single pet bed that was located in the far corner from where people could pet them. The large dogs all looked a bit thin, and some of them looked old and tired… they just laid down and tried to sleep. The variety of kitties wasn’t as good as in the past either, and the ones that were there seemed like they needed some love. And one of the poor kitties kept getting attacked by the others. All of of the animals seemed like they were in need of a bath. There was one kitty, who seemed pitifully tiny, that immediately hopped in my lap when I entered… I tried to rub it, but it just felt so tiny I was afraid of hurting it. I wanted to take it home with me! So… in the end Anipa, which was supposed to give me a much needed dose of puppies and kitties, just left me a little sad.

After the disappointing Market Place visit we headed over to Kaiyukan. We tried to take pictures, but they didn’t come out well thanks to the lighting conditions. Plus the some of the critters move pretty fast. We only took the point and shoot camera… maybe we should have taken the SLR as well.

I had about as much fun as one possibly can when looking at a bunch of fish. My favorite parts were of course the otters, dolphins, seals, and penguins. The otters were cute as always; frolicking and flipping around. The dolphins were cool, and incredibly fast. It made me a little sad again to see them in small tanks. The seals were much the same, darting about in the water. There was one young seal that seemed very interested in the people though. He was especially interested in one little girl’s umbrella and kept following it back and forth as she moved it, and eventually propped his feet up on the rock wall behind him so he could get a better look.

After we had seen all Kaiyukan had to offer, we wandered next door to the Suntory Museum. Unfortunately the gallery was closing as we got there, but the IMAX theater was open. We opted for the 3D Deep Sea movie. I found the movie visually interesting, but I think Sean just used it as nap time.

After the movie we wandered around a bit more, and then found our way to Den Den Town. Sean was happy because we found the Gundam store he has wanted to go to for months, as well as an Animate store and a few other interesting shops. Unfortunately Den Den Town starts shutting down at 8pm though, so we are going to have to go back later for more exploring.

We posted some of the better pictures from the day… most of them didn’t turn out well. We also added a few to the Engrish category.

 

Day 9: Sanjusangendo & Kiyomizudera

Robyn is happy and Buddha is angry. Robyn is happy because she found the corner store that sells ready made peanut creme sandwiches. Buddha is angry because I did not clean my hands before entering Kiyomizudera, and when I went to pick up a monk’s training staff (note… there were 2 staffs, both made of solid metal and one was heavy and the other was ridiculously heavy – picking them up is a sort of contest of strength) I heard a nice crackle in my wrist and it’s hurt me ever since. Other than that today was great.

Sanjusangendo is a very long hall with 1,001 kannon statues, and 28 more representing the Japanese take on the Buddhist Gods. It was very interesting to get to read the significance of each statue. Typically statues in temples do not have bi-lingual explanations nearby. I won’t go into what each statue was because there were just too many. (See pic below, taken from http://www.taleofgenji.org/sanjusangendo.html)

After a short bus ride and walk, we found Kiyomizudera. It’s based on a waterfall from a mountain, where a famous warrior learned about the shame in killing any living being from a monk, and ended up financing a temple in that very spot where he learned his lesson from the monk. Kiyomizudera is on the side of a mountain, and we relaxed quite a bit enjoying the breeze while we were up there.

We were also interviewed two times today by school children, apparently there was an assignment floating around to meet people that spoke English, share names, and ask them a question. We gladly obliged the middle school students. The first set asked us if we knew about anime and which ones we liked. I think we gave them plenty of answers between the two of us.

 

Days 7 & 8

Sorry for not posting yesterday; we were out of town. Haha, well, outside of Osaka anyway. We went to a nice hot spring resort in Kobe for the night… it was great! The photo gallery for these two days makes it look like all we have done is eat… and I guess that is pretty much all we have done lol.. besides relaxing, but that makes for boring pictures.

Day 7 started out, as usual, in Osaka. Hiro invited us to lunch at the okonomiyaki restaurant he works at in Umeda. Okonomiyaki is another “cook it yourself” type of food that is quite popular here. It is often referred to as a Japanese pancake, but it is nothing like a pancake in my opinion.

The chefs mix up bowls of batter, cabbage, and whatever ingredients you have chosen. The bowls are brought to your table where you cook them on the griddle, and then cover them in a sauce and top it off with  mayonnaise. There are also some other various side items you can order to go along with it.

We offered some suggestions and then left the ordering up to Hiro, since he is of course more familiar with it than we are. We couldn’t believe the amount of food he ordered! He ordered three types of okonomiyaki… seafood, cheese, and curry. He also ordered some, hmm… how to put this… cow parts covered in some kind of spicy sauce, some strange jelly type stuff, yakisoba noodles wrapped in egg, and a daikon salad.

The cheese version, strangely named “American” was definitely the winner. I can’t tell you how awesome okonomiyaki is!  Sean also really enjoyed the curry version (named Indian) but even he thought the cheese was still the best. The seafood mix (named Japan) one was okay… but it had nothing on the cheese and curry versions. Hopefully we can find our way back and have some more later!

After our huge lunch we took a bus to Arima Onsen, which is a small town in Kobe. The main part of the city is on the opposite side of the mountain, so Arima has a very small-town feel to it. We did a little exploring today before coming home… it was kind of neat to be outside of a big city for a change, although the narrow streets were kind of scary.

The resort was wonderful. After checking in they let me choose a yukata… there were so many to choose from! A yukata is like a cotton kimono that is meant to be worn in the summer, at festivals, and places like hot springs. Most traditional hotels offer them to their guests, who wear them around the hotel and around town.

As we came in we knew right away that the service would be impeccable. They refused to let us carry our own bags, showed us around the room, and immediately served hot tea at the dining table in our room. There was also a small note in English that thanked us for staying with them, and a small thank you gift as well. Our room was incredibly nice, and consisted of an entryway to remove shoes, a small toilet room, a nice bathroom, a large tatami mat room, and a small sitting area beyond that. The large tatami room in a traditional hotel is a multi-purpose room that serves as a dining area and sleeping area; the futons being stored in a closet until they are needed.

We spent some time relaxing in the room, enjoying the mountain views and having foot massages by the hotel’s staff masseuse. The foot massage timing couldn’t have been better, as dinner arrived just as he was finishing.

The dinner was huge! It consisted of several courses of traditional foods, the main dish being Kobe beef that we cooked ourselves on tiny grills. We were also given a small note congratulating us on our marriage. This was our first encounter with “strange foods” and some of them didn’t really suit our western palates… but all in all it was still a great experience and the beef was awesome!

After dinner we spent more time relaxing, and then watched as our room was transformed from a dining area to a sleeping area in a matter of minutes. It was interesting watching the staff lay out the futons, as they seem to have it down to a science.

We scheduled some private time in one of the hotel’s open-air baths, which was wonderful. I wish we could have had more time with that. We disrobed in the little changing area and then stepped outside. The bathing area was surrounded by a fence for privacy, with bamboo growing all around. The bathing area was basically a large stone and bamboo tub of hot water with a bubbling fountain in the middle. The night was beautiful, and a little chilly, so it made bathing in the hot water all the better. You will forgive us if we don’t post pictures of that!

It was then back to the room for sleep, and then up early this morning. Once again the room was quickly transformed back into a dining area, and a huge meal was served. The meal was again traditional foods, and although some of them were a bit odd to us it was actually a pretty tasty meal.

We are now back in Osaka, and I already kind of miss the quiet of Arima. But oh well, maybe we will find another hot spring resort before the end of the trip.

Once we returned to Osaka, we came back to the apartment with the intention of waiting for the sun to go down before heading back to the Umeda Sky Building… unfortunately it began to rain though. We did however ride the ferris wheel on top of the Hep Five building, but we didn’t take photos because of the rain. Before the ferris wheel we had shabu shabu for dinner at an all you can eat place. Shabu shabu is yet another cook it yourself dish that involves thinly sliced beef and veggies cooked in hot water at your table. It wasn’t really the best shabu shabu though, so we will have to do it again later. This place was more aimed at quantity over quality… still not bad, but it was not nearly as awesome as it could be.

 

Day 6: Todaiji

Today we visited Nara’s Todaiji temple. There is an entire history lesson in itself and I won’t go into all the details. Impressions: Lot’s of deer in Nara. Lot’s of poop from the deer. Huge stuff.

After a short walk from the train we started to see the deer. Deer in Nara are a Japanese “National Treasure”, thought to be messengers from the gods and thus protected. The deer roam freely throughout Nara Park, and Robyn had stories of how evil they are. I did not really believe her until I saw a deer charge at a small girl for the deer cakes she had in her hand. Later, on the way back, I purchased some deer cakes and used a behind-the wall feeding technique I had witnessed. Apparently the deer will “bow” if you hold the treat over their heads, but to me it looks more like they are getting ready to rear up and try to trample you for the tasty treat in your hand.

Once we made our way past the evil deer, I was again amazed at how big Japanese temple gates are. Robyn tells me that the two I’ve seen are indeed among the biggest Japan has to offer. Inside the gates were two very large guardian statues. Taking good pictures today was very hard because there were masses of school kids. Easily thousands. Several tried to say hello to us and by the end of the day I would just reply “konnichiwa” back to them. Once you get past the huge main gate and a surrounding wall it opens up to a view of the temple’s main hall, known as the Diabutsuden. The Daibutsuden is huge. Once you get into that building there is a huge Buddah, and on either side smaller but still huge statues of other lesser gods.. You will just have to check out todays pics to see what I’m talking about. The Buddah’s fingers are as large as a person. If size of deity idol meant anything to me, I would be pretty humbled. Even more impressive is this huge Buddah was completed around the year 752, and used so much bronze it nearly bankrupted the government.

There are some other, less impressive temples nearby. We visited one temple at the top of – you guessed it – a very long flight of stairs. On the path back to the main gate there is also a very large bell. It was very tempting to try and jump up to hit the ringer, but instead we just took some pictures.

The walk back to the train was pretty uneventful, and after some chores around the apartment we were too impatient to wait for the bus and picked up Chinese to go from a store next to the bus stop. Some things never change, and there are of course crappy Japanese imitation Chinese food places too. They suck just as bad.

 

Day 5: Rainy day in Osaka

The weather was pretty miserable today. We woke up early this morning with the intention of going to Kyoto, but the weather was just so wet and cold. The dreary gray skies left us feeling pretty uninspired  about venturing out, but we sat down with the Kyoto map to pick some locations while eating breakfast… but we never went. We ended up cuddling until we nodded off again, and then just spent the better part of the day cozy and warm in our futons.

Sometime in the middle of the afternoon we decided to brave the rain and head out… it is going to be raining all week from the looks of it, so we might as well get use to being wet! So, we looked up the location of an anime store for Sean and headed for the bus stop across the street.

We took the bus to Osaka Station and then walked to Umeda, where we stopped for something to eat. We ended up at a kushikatsu restaurant in the Hep Navio building. Kushikatsu is basically deep fried meat and veggies that you cook yourself. Each table is fitted with a small deep fryer and there are several cold cases filled with various items skewered on little wooden sticks. You pick out whatever you want, bread it, and stick it in your personal little fryer. You are given one hour to eat as much as you can… the only catch to this is that the food is covered it hot oil so if you don’t wait for it to cool down you will burn your tongue… so of course we both are still suffering a little with seared tongues. The meal was awesome and we will probably end up doing it again later in the trip.

After stuffing ourselves full of fried meat and veggies we walked further into Umeda, looking for an anime store (Mandarake) that Sean wanted to visit. Shockingly enough found it very easily, although we did end up walking through the red light district to get there… that was interesting.

Sean seemed pleased with the store initially, but then looked sad when he only found a few Macross 7 toys. He did buy a blue VF-19 and a stand though, so at least the trip wasn’t for nothing.

That was pretty much the bulk of our day… after that we did some more shopping (back to Yodobashi!) and then ended up back at the yakiniku restaurant we ate at the other day. We enjoyed it, but declared that we are not allowed to eat it again for a while because we want to try as many new things as we can.

We are putting up some photos, but they will probably be pretty boring since we didn’t do much photo-worthy today. Maybe we will do more tomorrow. We are thinking we may brave the weather and try to go to some indoor things in Kyoto.

Oh, Monday we go to Arima Onsen Resort! We can’t wait to see what kind of massage packages they offer..

 

Day 4: Relaxing in Osaka, sort of

The last three days have been kind of hard… we are used to sitting behind desks all day, so hours of walking have left us tired and sore. Therefore we decided we should take a day to rest a little, since this is a vacation after all.

We slept in this morning, unlike the last few days of waking up early in the morning. Then, we sat around the apartment for a while being lazy until we decided we were hungry and should probably find something to do with our day that wasn’t very strenuous. Sean mentioned kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) and I recalled a couple restaurants in Shinsaibashi from years ago, so we headed for the subway.

As usual, going over to Shinsaibashi involved stairs and walking… so I can’t say today was completely relaxing, but we tried to keep the pace as leisurely as possible. Once we arrived in Shinsaibashi (a huge shopping district) we wandered around the main drag until we found a kaitenzushi place. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as good as it was 5 years ago, but it was still pretty decent.

After we finished our sushi we continued wandering around, had some doughnuts, browsed a few stores, and then found ourselves standing in front of a nice looking storefront with a sign out front that simply said “Relax” and a banner that showed different massages and gave their prices. Sean had been going on and on about wanting a foot massage like Zane Lamprey had on an episode of Three Sheets, so we stopped in for 30 minutes of “reflexology.” I must say that was the highlight of the day… by the end of the 30 minutes I was seriously contemplating asking for additional massages. I wish I could have a foot massage every day… I think we just might have to go back there later on! Sean seemed impressed too, when we left he said he felt like he had cheated on his wife.

After that we pretty much just wandered around some more and did a little shopping. Our wandering took us over to Amerika-mura, which means America Village. That place was great for Engrish spotting… we posted a few more t-shirt photos in the Engrish section. Our shopping haul for the night was a cool Jigen t-shirt for myself, a doggie kimono for Jack, an assortment of spicy rice crackers for Sean, and a ton of bread for snacks tonight and tomorrow morning.

Before going to bed each night one of us always asks the inevitable “so what are we doing tomorrow?” question. It usually ends up with me giving Sean a few options and letting him choose. It looks like tomorrow will be another Kyoto day, although I haven’t thought far enough ahead to know what we will be doing there. I expect the day will start with a trip to an anime store, since it seems like that is something Sean is really wanting to do. Other than that… hmm… maybe Kiyomizudera and Sanjusangendo… it is supposed to rain tomorrow though :(

 

Day 3: Osaka Castle & Dontonbori

Robyn was let down the first time she went to Osaka Castle, expecting a castle and finding a museum instead. With this information at hand I enjoyed Osaka Castle, finding it the neatest Japanese castle shaped museum I’ve ever been to. Er.. wait the only castle shaped museum I’ve ever seen.

On the path to the castle we came across armies (or swarms depending on your point of view) of Japanese school kids, all wearing colored caps to identify which school group they were with. One group spotted us taking pictures and ran over shouting hello in a thick Japanese accent, and immediately proceeding to strike poses for us.

The castle in it’s current state was rebuilt in the 1930’s, and parts of it have been excavated from time to time. However on the inside you would never be able to tell it was a castle. The outside of the castle was replicated with great detail. The parks around Osaka Castle are almost just as interesting, with huge stone walls and beautiful gardens surrounding the paths. Many homeless camps were set up in the park, with an organic arrangement consisting of blue tents and tarps behind the largest trees in the park on both sides of the main path leading to the fountain.  It struck me as very interesting that even the homeless people in japan seemed to stay very organized. After our short tour of the castle grounds we headed over to the Aquabus for a river tour of Osaka. This was the best waste of an hour here yet. We sat in the boat for a whole hour, and got to see plenty of buildings and dirty undersides of bridges. Best of all there were no steps or walking.

After a late lunch we made our way to Dontonbori, a famous Osaka entertainment district we have seen on TV shows such as “Anthony Bordain’s No Reservations”, and “Have Fork Will Travel”. We took the obligatory pictures of the running guy, clown, and crab. While we were at the vendor with the giant robotic crab sign I picked up some of the grilled crab meat, and it was not as good as Mr. Bourdain led me to believe. Maybe they cooked his fresh since he had a camera crew.

After an hour of shopping we managed to pick out a new camera bag, pillow, and spotted a few more Macross toy candidates. With my obsession of all things from Macross you might be wondering why I have to pick out candidates – the really good transforming valkyries run about $191. Of course they are high quality and at least a 1.5 foot long, but at those prices I just can’t buy them all. The latest ones I could find are the opposing forces from Macross Zero. With any luck maybe I can find one from Frontier.