Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kyoto Day 2

Our second day in Kyoto didnt start all that early. That gave us enough time to recover, and made sure the driver rested well to drive home safely.

The first stop was at 'Nijo Castle', it was built in 1603 to serve as an official residence for visiting shoguns. Unlike many other temples/shrines we visited, this castle actualy preserved and retained in its original state. The castle was well designed, and each room had its own design for its intended purpose. All the paintings on the wall meant something.. for example, the visitors room/reception room had paintings of leopards, this indicated to the visitors the statues of the owner, indicating who was in control.. unfortunately no cameras were allowed in the residence.

The main entrance

The elaboratly decorated gate before the residence in the background

The Shogun residence had an interestingly designed floor system. They called it the 'nightingale floor'. There were nails under each floorboard that pushed against a metal slot, so everytime you stepped on it the floor board will squeak. This was to warn people of ninjas ..... haha... maybe not ninjas but just to prevent any un-welcomed entry. So all you people who are complaining of a squeaky floor board at your homes, its only protecting you!

There were beautifully manicured garden surrounding the residence, all to match the grandure of the palance. The second castle internally was not open for visits, that one was a replica of the original. I think its probably all empty inside thats why.

Manucured Garden

The next stop was at 'Kinkaku-Ji' or the Golden Temple. It was originally constructed in 1397 as a retirement villa for a Shogun, which later converted to a temple by his son. In 1950, a youn monk burnt it to the ground. Again, reconstruction took place in 1955 and followed the original design completely with the extension of the golden-foil covering to include the lower floors.

Glittering Golden Temple

The actual place wasnt all that big, only a small path lead you from the entrance along the lake to the exit. There were ALOT of tourist there, but I managed to capture a nice picture as if it was somewhere in the past...

Is it really 2009??

There were many stores exiting the temple, and one of them sold warm plum tea with golden leaves. I expected nice fragrant sweet tea, but it was savory!! errk, wasnt very pleasant. But I did see a vending machine that I wish I could carry it back home with me.

Deceiving looking tea

Hmmm yummm..

Because Ken's parents had to leave by train to Kobe, our Kyoto visit ended there... We had a quick stop over at 'Nishiki-Koji Market' before we left for the train station, but I really didnt see enough there to blog about it.

We have probably covered only 1/3 of whats in Kyoto, it really has been a great cultral experience here. I must say, this beats Tokyo any day! I think we will come back since its pretty close by, and i'm yet to visit Osaka and Kobe. So there's definately more of Kyoto to come.. and I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kyoto Day 1

This is a long delayed blog about my trip to Kyoto. We were there probably 2 weeks ago now, when Ken's parents came to visit. We drove there this time, the toll cost was much cheaper than taking the shinkansen.

We left home early morning. The drive was never difficult when you have the navigator telling you to 'turn left in xxx meters ahead'. The whole journey there took about 4 hours and a bit. We saw a very coool van...

'Dream Family' van..

Arriving in Kyoto just before lunch gave us plenty of time for the afternoon to start our sightseeing. For those of you who have never been to Japan, and have not really heard about Kyoto before, let me give you a quick run down. Basically, Kyoto is a Temple and Shrine MECCA of Japan. It has around 2000 temples and shrines, but due to fire and many other reasons, alot of them were not hte original. But even the rebuilts are 100s and 1000s of years old. Just wikied Kyoto, and found out that because Kyoto was spared from the WWII bombings, thats why the alot of historical buildings are still standing there today. Many of the temples and shrines are listed a World Heritage Sites.

Our first stop was at a temple called 'sanjusangen-do', where 1001 golden statues of the 1000 armed Buddist goddess of mercy is carved out and painted gold. The temple was old and acient, and even then, the buildings were made to earth quake proof. I couldn't remember the fine details, but they had put logs at the base of the building, so the whole building would move when the whole earth was moving. No pictures were allowed inside, so here are just a few shots of the outside. The original temple was built 1164, burnt in 1249, but rebuit in 1266.



Our next stop was at another very famous temple called 'Kiyomizu-dera'. Majority of the temples and shrines were accessible by bus with a Kyoto Sight Seeing bus ticket. So we hopped on a bus to our next destination. This temple was not so close, we had to walk up a fair way to get it. But there were interesting little stores which sold ceramic products along the streets leading to the temple.

The Hike up the street to the temple. Can you see it?

There were alot of people when we reached the top. And the building was very very ancient, but funny enough its another reconstructed temple of the original. It was first built in 788, but reconstructed in 1633. I bought my little pretty charm from there.

Good Luck Key Charm

The main hall has a HUGE veranda that stands over a hill, and is supported by hundreds of pillars. But just look at the crowd!!!! There were tourists and worshippers.. amazing how the structure can with stand alllll these people..

' Kiyomizu-Dera'
The is a waterfall underneath the hall, its suppose to be sacred and has therapeutic properties if you drink it. But it costed extra just to enter and i wasnt about to drink that water, so we skipped it.

Coming out from the temple and on to the so called 'Teapot-Lane'. It is dotted with little stores selling Kyoto crafts and souveniers. I bought two ceramic tea cups and a kimono belt. I dont have pictures of these, but will show you when i get back to melbourne. =) I loved walking along the streets, it was like walking back to the olden days....

Nostalgic Lanes..

I saw ladies in Kimonos..

The next stop was at 'Kodai-Ji'. Its a temple/zen garden that was built in 1605. The garden is amazing, and the zen garden.. I still cant figure out how they made the pattern in the rocks. If any of you guys know, please tell me!

Zen Garden

Apparently, you are suppose to sit relax and stare at this garden.. and come up with a thought? or a picture? But, I didnt see anything but patterns and people working on the garden.. Maybe i lack zen.. i need to be more zen..

On the way out of the temple, we saw these ladies dressed in Kimono. I have been a papparazzi and taking snaps quickly and secretly. But then I htought it might just be easier if i asked nicely. And they were not shy at all!! So, here's me with kimono ladies..

Pretty Kimono Girls

I was soo happy. I had been wanting take pictures of them, and here they are all three of them taking pictures with me!! I felt so excited.. but whats more exciting was our walk back home..

We walked down more streets and the even setting sun made it all the more ... prettier? Man, now i know why my english sucked. I cant describe things using words any more than.. pretty.. *sigh*..

Japanese culture where the old meets the new..

It had been a LONG day, and we were dragging our feet through the little lanes looking to walk to the main street for the bus stop. When all of a sudden, I turned my head and saw 4 Geishas walking my way down a side alley!! My eyes light up, my heart started racing.. the next thing i was going to do was jump up and down. Geishas often appear in evenings to go to their appointments, but its not always that you get to bump into one in Kyoto. So we were lucky. I took up the courage to go up to them and asked for a photo. They were soo sweet.. they said yes..!!


It felt like my Kyoto mission has just completed with a picture of Geishas. To wine and dine with these ladies could easily have costed up to 30000 dollars. But this photo.. PRICELESS...

A dinner hunt started late, around 8:30, after everyone rejuvenated at the hotel for a well deserved rest. We went to Gion, where there were suppose to be alot of restaurants. Except, we had problem finding them. We found lots of.. 'entertaining venues' instead, with men in suits standing outside to greet the guests. It was kinda awkward being there.. after nearly 30min of grumbling stomach, we walked into this pancake shop.. They made crepes, then topped it up with lots of lettuce, egg, and meat.. and drizzled it with sauce and mayo.... hmmm....

Shy chefs cooking

By the time we had a proper dinner at a sushi restaurant, whats a blog without pictures of the delicious food!!!!

Sushi Set

Unagi Rolls


Kyoto Day 2 will be coming soon.. maybe tomorrow.. =)

Officially 25... Officially getting old.. but not yet wrinkly....

To all of you dear friends back down under, thank you for thinking of me on my birthday. I missed spending time with mum n dad n nick, but i was kept busy with my new met friends so i didn't feel so alone in this far away land during the day.

I met up with two other Toyota partners from Melbourne, and spent most of the day in Nagoya. We had coffee at a cafe where the barrister had worked in Melbourne before. I missed Melbourne coffee, i didn't think you could actually get good coffee like you could back home, but to my surprise its pretty good. Lunch was at a restaurant that sold everything Toff. Tofu steak, Tofu croquet, Tofu salad.. Alot of ladies like this shop i guess i dont need to explain why.

Time flies when you are enjoying yourself, before long i was rushing home at 5:30 to catch one hour train to get back to Toyota city for my birthday dinner. I didn't get time to change and headed the restaurant straight.

We booked a Japanese 'soul food', it was recommended by one of our friend. Apart from a company party that was happening behind us, the atmosphere was really romantic. And the food, beats the Melbourne ones by miles!

Birthday Girl wit h MENU

A salad, nothinginteresting

Creamy Crab Salad

Raw Fish rolled in Pickle

Now thinking back, i really should have taken the names of the dishes down. My english decription doesnt do them any justice. Man.. 'raw rish rolled in pickle' just doesnt soun

d all that appealing.

The next dish might be a little controversial. But, thinking that its dead already anyway.. if i dont eat it, someone else will eat it for me..then it means i miss out.. can you guess what it is?

Grilled.... Whale Meat..

Whale meat is like eating very tender beef .. a little chewying.. with fishy taste... its a interesting taste.. but i wouldnt say i love it... I really want to try Horse meat sashimi.. no

t daring enough to try the blow fish sashimi.. bt vken said its his favourite jap food so far...

Sashimi Platter (luv Prawn Sashimi)

Sweet Egg and Pork Pork

(nice the first few mouths, then it got a lil too sweet)

I really enjoyed dinner. The food was yummy.. and the company was even better..

Now i shall wait patiently for my present to arrive.. =P

Monday, May 25, 2009

WOrking Visa Arrival

I just got a postcard sent in the mail..
it was written in my own handwritting.. it came from the immigration.

My working visa has arrived.

I will go pick it up tomorrw...



guess what. i just felt my very first earth quake. We were watching a drama series after dinner about 2 hours ago, and all of a sudden the whole place started to vibrate..
It was unreal. I was in shock after that. I didnt even have time to react before it was over.

Although the earth quake was only had about 1degree in magnatude, it was big enough for me! Freaked me out a little, what am i going ot do if it gets bigger!

This has made us realise that earth quakes do happen here! haha.. yes its for real.. and we should really go get our earth quake pack ready.. sometime soon..

But i'm ok.. alive and kicking still! Dont worry!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I havent been updating lately...
I get lazy..
and I dont think many ppl read it..
so.. i get even more lazier..

but i will update more.. cuz i went to

WIll update soooonnn..


Mr Chin decided to cook me dinner one night, he always talked about his beef and curry when he was alone here. So, it was his turn to show off a little.

Look at the intense concentration

Mr Chin does not cook very often.. almost never.. so the effort was appreciated =)

Tada.. Finished product..


We had dinner at a Japanese Pub 'Izakaya' one night. I think its the best place I have eaten at so far. Not sure whether was because of the great food, I was very hungry or the loud happy cheerful atmosphere it has.

The food comes in small portions, so you can eat and order then eat then order somemore.. alot of business men/women go there after work to drink till late.. There's a similar place in melbourne called Izakaya Chuji, but its really nothing like the real ones here.

Our yummy food:

Mayo Prawn

Grilled Pepper WIngs

Sesame Salad


Things on sticks..

last of all, my favourite drink. Its tastes nothing like an alcohol drink, but its alcoholic. It was nice... and it made me happy. =)

I would like to go back again. soon.
We headed to the a Wistria Lane (festival) on a spitting tuesday morning. Not the one where you'll meet Terri Thatcher but the one on the outskirts of Toyota town.

Wisteria is a type of vine flower that hangs down like grapes. This festival celebrates the blossoming of these flower just like the cherry blossom festival. The flowers are only in full bloom for about two weeks in a year, so since I didn't get too see the oh so famous cherry blossom, I was lucky enough to catch this one.

After about an hours drive from home, we arrived at this festival. We either missed the season cause we came too late or we were too early, there were only a handful of them hanging down.

There were 3 different varieties: purple, pink and white. Even though there wasn't a lot flowers, I thought it was pretty. Not sure whether the boys enjoyed it as much as I did. Here are some pretty pictures for your viewing.

There were purples ones...

and pink ones..

and white ones...

aren't they pretty.... i want some in my backyard...

Job update

Just a little update on the job front.

The teaching position at GEOS came back positive. I start working when all my visa application (changing from working holiday to a proper working visa) comes through.

The working is at GEOS. Its one of the big 4 English tutoring centres in Japan. Although my working hours are not that pleasant (12 - whenever + Tue - Sat), its still a job that will help me pass time and earn some YEN!!

And you all know what i will do after i earn some YEN =)

Training would start later this month, so.. will keep you updated then..

last day in TOkyo

The last day in Tokyo was spent going to places where obviously the rest of Japan whom was on holiday also wanted to go. We checked out of our hotel and placed our luggage at the train station lockers again.

Our first stop was at Tokyo's most famouse temple the 'Kaminarimon'. My goodness it was really crowded. There were two rows of little stores along the side of the path which lead up to the temple. They sold things from kids toys to kimonos to mochi to other jargons that I have already forgotten. It felt alot like shops outside temples in china, 'funny' quality at sky rocket prices. I didn't buy anything nor did I ask the prices, so don't take my word for it.

There's a famous saying that goes 'while in rome, do as romans do.' So at the temple I did exactly that... doing wat everyone else was... And it went something like this...

1.I ate stuff on sticks

2.I shook n shook n got my lucky stick, from the the number on the stick I got the paper that was suppose tell my fortune. I couldn't remember what it said now. So I followed everyone n tied this paper on the rail... I hope the good fortune comes true... And the not so good ones comes between the good ones so I don't feel too bad.

3. I rubbed the gold man n wished for... A secret. I prayed for grandma who is a big buddha fan.

4.I washed my hands to clean them from my sins.. Or from the dirty food stains previously... Just kidding!

From there we headed towards the hip n fashionable n strange part of Tokyo. This is where girls gather dressed up like maids all guys want one at home. There are not only maids but also anime characters.

We met the crowd right after we got off the train. The was a queue just to get out of the station!it was not much better outside, infact it was worse! The popular street was chokeblock. We followed like sheep and got stuck in the traffic jam. We got pushed forward, then backward, the

n forward, then backward. After 20min, we still couldn't see light at end of the tunnel, mr. Tallish saw a side lane n we sneaked out. The only interesting thing we saw there was a cute street bands, disappointsingly no maids for you.

Our last destination before home was at a ramen museum at Yokohama. Yokohama is about 30min train ride from where we left our luggage. I think I was told its the biggest city outside Tokyo. The day was getting late so I didn't get time to visit the famous china town. The museum is set in a 1920s tokyo street with 8 different ramen shops selling styles from all over Japan. There queues outside each store.guess what, the queue outside the most popular shop was long... So long that we waited 60 minutes.

Does the photo look like it was worth the wait? Because the taste sure wasn't.

Our three day Tokyo trip was long..and tiring but it was well worth it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Today started even earlier, at 4!! We wanted to get to the famous Tokyo Tsukiji fish market, and they only allow visitors at the auction site fro 5 till 6:15. We left the hotel and the streets were silent.. there were still business men catching train home from the big night the day before.. they really do party hard...

We reached the market just after 5:30, and the fish mongrels were already busy at work. There were people, carts flying around the place. Every step i took seem to be in somebody's way. The fishermen didnt seem all that welcoming like every other japanese person i've met. I guess we were in their way a little. But the experience was very interesting. The action of rows and rows of frozen fish, lots of different other seafood.. i wannnnnnnaa eat now!!

The fisherman all check the fish with their torches before the auction starts. I guess it tells you how fresh it is? not sure.. they ring the bell the entire inspection time which lasts around 5-10 min. Then the very excited auctioneer goes crazy. I have the video but its too big to post it on. Its very interesting!

Fishman ready to CHOP UP the fish

I think he was going to chop us up soon if we didnt stop taking photos and videos of what what he was doing. He shoooed us away when we stood around watching on eagerly. I guess it would be weird if people always came to our work, and took pictures of us as if we were in the zoo..

Did i Mention i LOVE seafood? =)
The early rise took its toll, and we were exhausted after the initial excitement. Hotel bed was the only thing we looked forward too. We initially planned to have breakfast at the sushi restaurants at the market, but the wait would have been atleast 2 hours!! FOrget that.. bed was much yummier at that time..

2 more hours of sleep made us fresh again. (only temporary) We started our day again. The imperial gardens was our next distination. It was pretty, and welll groomed but because you dont really get to see much of the imperial palace at all its jst another garden. I didnt really find it that fascinating but here's a photo to show 'been there done that'..

Palace building with Modern Office Sky Scrapers as background

Because we missed out on the sushi in the morning at the market, we thought we'll track down a sushi restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet. The walk there was exhausing, and by the time we found the place I was thristy, tired and STARVING. Maybe I had high expectations.. maybe it just wasnt that good but at 2600Yen per person... the food was very very ordinary... i could probably get sushi jst as well at the supermarket!! Its probably the hype from the book, too many visitors have gone there, and their standards have dropped...

Not so WOW sushi.. and WOW prices..

After lunch, we strolled through the streets of GINZA.. this is where all the high end top designers mark their place on the Tokyo map. There were probably 5 LV stores along the GINZA street, one in each department stores.. DOIR, Channel, Gucci, Armani.. you name it they have it.. the only thing we were missing was some extra YEN to spend.. =) so.. only window shopping for us.. It was hard to see any sort of signs of 'recession'.. with people shopping like crazy.. but then again.. what does recession look like anyway.. i sure dont have a clue..

Our real cultral experience were not limited to the modern and hip japan, but also the ancient and mysterious (maybe not) Japan. We visited the Kabuki theatre and actually watched an act. The Kabuki is like the chinese opera or the wester opera, its a stage show but with no singing. Women come to watch in their tradition Kimonos. The actors speak in long and and sort of singing tone but not really singing... hmmm they had extravagant customes and stage settings. Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures in the theatre.. so that was a shame. The story was interesting but not interesting if i retell it here so instead you can take a look of the outside of the theatre.

The Kabuki Show didnt end until 6. I wanted to do another 'Been there done that' at Akihabara, where all the electronics stores where. So we headed off to there. It wasnt all that interesting, just like all the electronic cities you see in HK and China, everyone selling electronic goods. Bt i heard the prices here are not as cheap as HK, so i didnt get anything. We had a quick and cheap dinner there and headed straight back to the hotel to rest our poor poor feet...