Category Archives: Honeymoon

Day 2: Kyoto

Today we took a train to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. It was spared from bombardment in WWII due to it’s cultural significance, so there are many great examples of ancient Japan. Believe it or not the military claims to have tried to preserve ancient sites in Iraq, but ended up building military bases out of them instead. Well there was no such evidence of American tampering after we got off the bus at our first shrine, to find a ready tourist stop. Just inside the grounds were several street vendors, which I found odd considering it was supposed to be a religious place.

While we were at Yasaka (the big orange one from the pics) people spotted smoke coming from the mountain behind Chion-in. We rushed up the hill and watched as fire trucks navigated the narrow back roads, and firemen linked together hoses to extinguish the fire very quickly. Once the commotion died down we moved to the front gate of Chion-in. The front gate is probably the most massive thing made out of wood I’ve ever seen save a roller-coaster. Of course, the roller coaster had nothing on sheer grandeur of the gate.

This website claims this temple was used for filming some scenes from “The Last Samurai”. I did not see anything that jumped out as a location but it seemed familiar the whole time. The temple is the headquarters of the “Pure Land Sect” and if I had not been so tired I would have stayed longer. It was a very interesting place, from now on I would like to get some reading in before we go somewhere so the locations hold some context.

After exploring a bit of Chion-in we headed back down the hills and walked around Kyoto for a bit, eventually running into an art gallery with an exhibition of photographer Elliot Erwitt’s works. We decided to stop in and take a nice break from the busy street. We soon found our way to a train station and headed back to Osaka.

We were both very tired on the train ride back to Osaka. I think the last three days we have been going full blast and it’s starting to get to us. Of course, I’m still very happy to be here, but I think slowing it down for a day is in order.

So back to last night…. After we got back to Osaka we stopped by our new favorite tower of shopping, Yodobashi Camera, and hit a collected 2nd wind. We purchased some lens covers with straps and a wide-angle lens to better photograph the buildings and other large objects. I would like to imagine we got a good deal, as the clerk (who was also a English translator for the store – they have translators for several languages) gave us 8% off and it was duty free.

On one of the top floors of Yodobashi Camera building there are several restaurants, with entrances made to look like street level storefronts and menus displayed with realistic plastic examples.

Hosts & hostesses for mall restaurants in Japan will wait outside, greeting people as they walk by and inviting them inside. While browsing the restaurant floor, one of the hostesses waved and greeted us cheerfully in English. Robyn asked her male counterpart what type of restaurant it was… it was a yakiniku restaurant.

Yakiniku is a cook-it-yourself place, where you can select from a wide assortment of meats and vegetables to grill at your table to your liking.  Previous to this I had considered yakiniku a simple crappy Japanese cuisine inspired beef and rice dish served at a restaurant near work. It was a great meal, and the service there is off the chart. There was a little woodgrain plastic bubble with what looked to be a light on it, curious I pressed it and it turned out to be a magical summoning device for our waitress. The words “what does this do?” had not even finished coming out of my mouth before she arrived, and on her knees beside our table.

In all I would have to say the most impressive sights today were the Kyoto train station and the Chion-in gate.  Check out the pics here.

 

Day 1: My feet hurt

It is great to be back in Japan! I have missed this place a lot. It is great to have Sean here with me, so I can share all of my favorite places with him while also making wonderful new memories. I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks will bring!

Last night we were exhausted after the flight and subsequent train rides and fast-paced hike through the streets of Osaka while dragging our luggage. It was only about 9pm Japan time when we retired to our room… although I suppose that was really 8am back home. After some quick unpacking we went to bed, which is really just two futons. Futons aren’t very comfortable when you are used to a big plushy pillow top mattress, but we didn’t care. I slept soundly for hours, getting out of bed around 6 this morning feeling pretty refreshed. I was surprised because normally I am pretty jet lagged for days after coming to Japan.

We had some errands to run this morning, as we still needed to get some money exchanged and had realized we forgot to pack Sean’s razor. So, first thing this morning we hopped on a bus and went to Yodobashi Camera, which is located in a northern part of the city known as Umeda.

Unfortunately the bank located in the building was closed today, still not sure why. However, there was a delicious pastry shop located next door to it so we took the opportunity to have some breakfast. We even remembered to take pictures of all our food especially for Jason lol. I had a tasty custard filled muffin sort of thing and a chocolate croissant, with an iced cafe mocha to wash it down. Sean had a beef and potato cake, as well as a bacon tomato “panini” with an interesting honey banana drink. We are definitely enjoying the new foods! It is exciting to pick some strange things from the menu and try them out… who has heard of a honey banana drink?? It really just tasted like liquified bananas though. Kind of good actually.

After our breakfast we wandered into Yodobashi Camera. I really cannot convey how awesome that place is. It is an 8-floor building, as well as a couple levels below ground. Every floor is huge and packed with electronics and appliances, as well as other things like games, models, toys, and such. They even had a 103” television for sale. It is heaven for us! Imagine eight large Best Buy stores, only make them awesome, and stack them on top of each other, each floor specializing in a certain type of gadgetry. It was hard not to go overboard in shopping. We did find some great stuff though… I got a new case and stylus for my DS, we found a razor for Sean, a cool monopod for the cameras, a smaller bag for the camcorder, an electronic dictionary, and a LAN cable so we can now access the internet. We were also lucky to find a currency exchange counter in the basement of the building!

We also went to the Umeda Sky Building today. I love that place! This has to be at least the 4th or 5th time I have been, but I still enjoy it. I am going to have to take Sean back at night so he can see the city lit up. The Umeda Sky Building is not the tallest building in Osaka, but it still offers amazing views. We have posted some pictures of our day… unfortunately Yodobashi does not allow you to take photographs in their store, and that is where we spent most of our day.

After our wandering around in Umeda I realized I have no idea how the buses run in Osaka beyond the two that go from the apartment to Umeda. I remember the subway pretty well, but not so much about buses. So, we had to take the subway back… which meant a longer walk when we were already tired and sore from walking around for 5 or 6 hours… mental note: google Osaka bus map.

I think I had Sean worried. He seemed pretty confident in my navigation abilities up until that point, but I think the length of time I spent looking for an information counter with a bus map made him think we were lost haha… he started joking about dying lost in the labyrinth of underground shopping centers.

Well, I suppose I should go. Sean is looking bored and I guess we have to figure something out about dinner before too much longer. There are just so many food options! I think I might take him to Dotonbori tonight, which always looks really cool with all the neon signs lit up. There are tons of restaurants and street vendors there, as well as lots of other entertainment options. Maybe we will have some more “Day 1” pictures for you soon!

Oh, and we also decided to start a separate “Engrish” category. Today, on our way back from the Umeda Sky Building, we came across a story written on the walls of a construction area. We also saw a couple other things that made us either laugh or say “WTF?” … we thought you guys would get a kick out of seeing these things too.

 

Guess what, we’re in Japan!

The flight was pretty uneventful. We watched National Treasure 2, Dan In Real Life, 27 Dresses, and some Bali-wood movie everyone slept through. Kansai International Airport is huge, despite being a manmade island that continues to gradually sink into the ocean.

Going through immigration was interesting, we were fingerprinted, photographed, and briefly interviewed by the immigration officers. Going through customs was pretty uneventful though, just a few questions on where we were from and where we were going… they didn’t even ask the standard questions about fruit and vegetables.

We met our host Hiro outside baggage claim and he got us train tickets for the trip to his apartment. Japan has a great public transportation system. Trains and subways can take you anywhere you need. Moving the luggage was really easy in the airport, because there are many escalators and elevators. However, lugging the large bags got very tiring as we moved from the express train to the local trains (subway) because there are lots and lots of stairs.

My (Sean’s) first impression of Japan, upon stepping out of the train station, was being greeted by a huge flat-screen ad for a movie on the side of a building. I imagine those are in New York too, but I’ve never been there. The train ride  and walk to the apartment was really like walking into any anime with a cityscape. Everything I’ve seen in anime (regarding architecture, city lights, etc, not monsters) came to life and it was a struggle not to stand around and stare.  Too much of a struggle really because Robyn was quite un-impressed (this is her 3rd trip to Osaka) and soon realized she had left me on the curb of the train station, like a deer caught in the headlights from the street level city glow.

Hiro asked what we would like for dinner, and Robyn suggested nikuman because she thought it would be easy and fast. He then led us to “551 Horai” or “go go ichi”, where we picked up nikuman, which are Chinese buns filled with meat and onions. We also got sticky shrimp rice balls wrapped in leaves and caramelized sweet potatoes.  Everything we had was very good, but I’m sure it’s just the tip of the iceberg because our host now works at a okonomiyaki restaurant – and it’s a local specialty I’ve seen food network hosts rave about.

I’m very excited to get our money exchanged today and start exploring Osaka. I will be glad to shed the luggage and just walk around with time to enjoy the new scenery.

We have posted some pics in the Honeymoon gallery, the link is at the top of this page.

-Sean & Robyn (mostly Sean)

We’re married!

It was a great weather for our wedding. Robyn looked more beautiful today than I have ever seen her. Our family and friends were very generous, and everyone had a good time at the reception. Robyn and I would like to thank everyone that attended or sent good wishes. We each feel welcomed in our new family.

We have collected a few pictures from today to share. Feel free to email us with your photos and we can add them to the gallery, and you can download existing photos. This is just a quick post but more photos will follow when we have collected more, and a bit more time to sort them out.

It’s now time for the honeymoon! Next post from Japan!

60%??

Now the forecast has been changed from 30% chance of scattered showers and 79 degrees to 60% chance of showers and 76 degrees. Not good! I really really hope it is wrong. But this is probably going to be the first time ever that the 10-day forecast turns out correct. Or, it is probably going to be wrong and it is going to be 40 degrees and pouring rain. Arg! No! I must remain optimistic.

Uh oh… rain?

We are now officially within the time frame in which we can check weather forecasts. I don’t really trust any forecasts farther out than a few days though… and even those are questionable. I really hope the forecast is wrong because right now there are scattered thunderstorms for May 3. Hopefully those will be in the afternoon, or far away from Duke Gardens. I really don’t want to have to go all the way out to the church in Cary and I really don’t want to have to coordinate telling people to go there either. Grrrr…. but like I said, I don’t really trust the forecasts so far in advance so hopefully it will be sunny and 70 degrees at 10:00 May 3. On the other hand, the chance of precipitation is only 30%… those are pretty good odds.