nakano

(Canon 1100D)

While our hostel was nothing to shout about, it was nestled in a nice and peaceful neighbourhood close to Nakano Station, which itself is located near the busy Shinjuku Station. We spent our last day exploring Nakano Station and its surrounds, pretty much kept occupied by cakes, manga, sushi, and a supermarket.

Even though we didn’t manage to catch the cherry blossoms this time round, we were fortunate to have left Japan just as strong winds swept into Tokyo. Besides, missing the blossoms is the perfect excuse to return, isn’t it.

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hakone

(Outside Togendai Station/port – Canon 1100D)

Our friend has a Japanese friend who visits Hakone every year for its hotsprings. I wasn’t particularly keen on the hotspring, but I was curious about the place that seems to attract even the locals.

It turns out that Hakone came right out of a postcard. Even without the hotsprings, the place is scenic and worthy of a visit in its own right.

This egg was boiled using water from the hot-springs. it can be kept at normal temperature for a week.

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a day in osaka

(Umeda Station – Canon 1100D)

The first thing we did when we arrived in Osaka was to get lost.

Umeda station is served by several railway and subway lines, but if you wish to take the Yotsubashi line like we did, you have to locate the Nishi-Umeda Station, which is connected to Umeda Station.

Sounds simple enough, but we got lost anyhow.
Try it, why don’t you, and find out for yourself?

We chanced upon a shop at Umeda Station that uses the food ticket vending machine, and naturally, we had to patronize it. After all, we had resolved to treat ourselves to a different dining experience every meal.

With our limited japanese skills, we ordered our food from the machine rather hastily, conscious of a queue fast forming behind us. We were ushered quickly to our spots at the table alongside other salary men, at lunch hour no less.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so stressed up while eating. That piping hot bowl of curry ramen came to us within seconds, and I swear we finished it under 5 minutes. Another minute more, and we would have felt like a liability in a place where people slurped up their food in a no-nonsense, no-conversation manner.

We snacked, and we walked. In Osaka, I found the only kawaii bookshop at Shinsaibashi Suji , and had the most delicious takoyaki at Tenjinbashi Suji, supposedly the longest shopping arcade in Japan.

When we tired ourselves out, we sought refuge in a sushi shop and watched the chef prepare sushi. He was so nimble we never did got to find out when he put that bit of wasabi in between the rice ball and fish.

The Instant Ramen Museum was probably the reason why we ended up in Osaka in the first place.

If I have my way, I would have instant noodles at least once a week. It was therefore fitting to visit the museum and pay tribute to the inventor of instant noodles, Mr Momofuku Ando.

While we didn’t manage to sign up for the ramen-making class, we made sure we brought ourselves  some instant ramen home.

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[Kyoto] central kyoto


(Canon 1100D)

On our final evening at Kyoto, we had soba at Honke Owariya (in Takashimaya), which has supposedly been around for more than 500 years. If you like your noodles springy, you will enjoy this version of soba, which is somewhat different from the ones we order from the vending machine in Osaka (this is another story for another day) or consume in Singapore.

My soba came with a tiny piece of yuzu that managed to give the soup a faint citric taste.

We took a long stroll down the narrow lane of Pontocho after dinner. I really like how the Japanese create pretty shopfronts using calligraphy.

At the end of Pontocho, we did a u-turn around the row of shops, and found ourselves on the street parallel to the Kamogawa River. It is all very romantic – the trees, bending over the river like that, with their almost-bare branches.

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deer land

(Nara Park – Canon 1100D)

I’d expected to see a couple of lone deers in Nara Park, but there were hoards of them. Everywhere. One even rammed into my shin with his stumps (where the horns used to be), drawing a loud gasp from a fellow tourist, and leaving me with a bruise that has since faded into a faint mark on my skin.

Other than that, I remembered that it was a finer day than the rest before. The weather had gradually started to take a turn for the better, with the sun out and the rain completely gone.

Favourite macha ice cream

[Kyoto] the Fushimi Inari Taisha

(Fushimi Inari Taisha – Canon 1100D)

We headed for the Fushimi Inari shrine just before daylight was fully spent to see the orange Torri gates. After having to rely on our maps the whole afternoon, it was nice to find the shrine located just outside the Inari Railway Station (on the Nara line).

Foxes are believed to be the mesengers of Inari, the Shinto god of rice.

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