Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nagano Grapes, 長野 巨峰葡萄

This is one of the most famous grape around Asia. It's huge in comparison to the usual breed of grapes, what's more, you only eat the flesh of the grape and discard the skin, it comes off surprisingly easy too. The taste is what makes it famous, it's the grapiest tasting grape you can ever find, it almost borderlines to fake grape taste. Running at 1580per box, it is considered quite a luxurious item.

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Kyoto, 京都 玉寿司

Our trip to Japan was kind of a budget trip, we never really spent a lot on anything expensive, it was more of a see-and-experience trip. But we all have to splurge once in a while, so we found this nice restaurant in Kyoto on the top floor of Yodobashi. We ordered some sake, two bentos and an assortment of sushis. Very very delicious and I can still remember the taste a long time after it, all for 7000.

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Kyoto Kiyomizudera Temple, 京都 清水寺

Since we arrived in Kyoto it had been drizzling, the next day it kept up more of the same weather. I promised my sis I would buy some 護身符 amulets for her and her family. I had done some searching previously and located this rather large temple in Kyoto. It is a world heritage site, the majority of the temple was built in AD 1633 upon 139 pillars of foundation. The name of the temple which literally means clear water temple got its name from a waterfall in the mountain near the temple. Myth has it that it can cure all diseases. Beautiful cherry blossoms can be seen around the temple during April, but too bad it was September. As we made our way out of the temple to browse around the shops nearby, we found a very nice antique looking shop selling pots and plates, we walked inside and found there was a cafe upstairs, being tired from walking in the temple, we decided to sit down for a coffee and tea, it was exquisite.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Horse Sashimi, 馬肉刺身

It is a delicacy rarely found outside of Japan, unknowingly stumbling into a small ramen shop in Kyoto for dinner, I spotted the sign on top of the bar. 馬刺し for 840円. I quickly persuaded my wife that this is a must try, she willingly agreed. When it arrived it looks just like any other raw red meat. It also comes with grated ginger, spring onions and soya sauce for dipping. We gave it a try and thought, it is a bit chewy and actually quite bland, there was not any special smells or taste to it, but anyway we gave it a try.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Tokyo Metro, 東京メトロ

Tokyo Metro and Toei are two main companies making up the Tokyo subway system. Navigating your way through the Tokyo subway is like threading through two needles at the same time, it requires first of all language, patience and well more patience. The two companies operate on few overlapping stations but otherwise work on entirely separate network lines. Subway in Tokyo is costly but effective, trains come on the dot and the next train is never more than a few minutes away. However I would caution travelling during peak hours between 7-9am and 5-7pm. The amount of people is astonishing and is an experience no tourist should be subjected to, you are constantly pitted between businessman jackets', and lets not mention the operators with white gloves shoving people back into the carriages so the doors can close.
A very interesting culture exist on the trains is  that one must not produce any audible noise either via talking (no more than whispering), or phones and gadgets. All audible phone rings are strictly prohibited and is appropriately shown on board the train via signs. This culture is unknown in other parts of the world, but I find it welcoming and makes the ride much more enjoyable.
There are also during peak hours, women only train carriages, very respectfully for women who want to ride with people that can keep their hands to themselves.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tokyo Tower, 東京タワー

How can anyone visit Tokyo without seeing the Tokyo Tower? It is the counterpart of the London Big Ben, Sydney Opera House, Statue of Liberty, so on and so forth. To catch the tower in all it's glory you would need to go there at night because that's when they turn all the lights on the tower. The tower was opened in 1958, standing 333m tall, 13m taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it weighs in at 4,000t, 140 drums of paint was used to paint the tower to orange, also it's an active tower broadcasting 240 waves of which 14 are analog and 10 are digital, and 176 floodlights had been installed on the tower to keep it illuminated with orange light in winter and white light in summer. The tower before you approach it, can be seen a fair distance away and to be honest, the tower actually looks better from the outside, you could also travel up to the top of the tower for a nominal fee. After browsing through the small mall of shops at the feet of the tower we decided to grab dinner before heading back to the hotel, and regret is a strong word but I'd have to use it here (first and only time in Japan we found bad food).

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Asakusa, 浅草

Asakusa, 浅草 is a district in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan, most famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. There are several other temples in Asakusa, as well as various festivals. A hot spot for tourists around the world. Right in the middle of Asakusa is a large cluster of Buddhist temples, surrounding the temples are souvenir and food stores specially catering for tourists. This place, no matter which day of the year is mostly packed to the brim. This is also the only district in Tokyo to have manual rickshaws; they will pull you around the district for a nominal fee.

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