Friday, September 26, 2014

Kyoto Day 1

Nishiki Market
Upon arrival in Kyoto, we walked to the Nishiki Market. I'm glad we did because it ended up being the only time we were in the market during our stay.
Nishiki Market
It reminded me a little of Chelsea Market in New York - except instead of restaurants, it had little food shops.
Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market
This is what we ate for lunch. It was a potato and onion filled pastry.
Nishiki Market
I also tried this - a quail egg within an octopus - Nick was too scared. It wasn't my favorite, but I'm glad I tried it.
Kyoto, Japan
After the market, we started walking through the town. I didn't do my research & was expecting a quaint town. But, Kyoto is huge - several million residents.
Kyoto, Japan
There are still parts that have an old time feel.
Kyoto, Japan
We discovered that Nick's GPS on his phone wasn't working and was taking us in all sorts of wrong directions. But, we finally stumbled on a shrine and we were able to get our bearings.
Kyoto, Japan
The Yasaka Shrine is large but I didn't really connect with this shrine. 
Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan
For some reason, I don't think this was how the Shrine grounds originally looked.
Kyoto, Japan
There are thousands of shrines and temples in Kyoto. The town was not impacted by the big earthquake that affected Tokyo.
Kyoto, Japan
We had a little time before our tea ceremony so we tried, without luck, to find a place to get a drink.
Tea Ceremony
I was surprised to learn that traditional tea ceremonies are not practiced widely in Japan. 
Our lovely hostess walked us through the ceremony and then helped us do it as well. The hardest part was sitting our legs. We walked A LOT & those dogs were tired! I'm looking forward to some matcha tea as the days start getting colder. 
Kyoto
We walked home with the Gion area of town and stopped at a restaurant near Nishiki Market called Gyogo. 
We had the most amazing burnt ramen miso. We are still trying to find a recipe so we can try to duplicate it at home. It was a great first day!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji fish market
Our last Tokyo adventure was the Tsukiji Fish Market. They let a select group of people into the famous Tuna Auction at 6:30 am. But, the group is so small, it is recommended that you arrive by 4 am to be assured a spot. We decided to sleep in instead.
Tsukiji
We had sushi for breakfast. It tasted like sushi. There is some talk that all the tuna sold in this fish market is actually caught in the USA. I don't know if its true or not.
Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
After breakfast we walked around the outer market stalls.
Tsukiji fish market
The market was amazing. 
Tsukiji fish market
I have no idea if these prices are good, but it looks like you could eat fresh fish every day. No wonder Japan is such a healthy country.
Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
At a certain time, visitors are allowed into the internal wholesale market. 
Tsukiji
It was a little crazy. These things are zipping around everywhere. You really have to be on your toes so that you don't get in someone's way.
Tsukiji fish market
It was pretty neat to walk around the market and see all the exotic foods.
Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
After we had enough of the fish, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed our luggage & headed to Kyoto.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tokyo - Harajuku


I wasn't expecting to like Tokyo because a friend who recently returned said she couldn't wait to get away from all the people & chaos. But I really loved the city. After being in Hong Kong, it didn't feel crowded or too big. The streets were clean, the skies were blue, people were nice and the food was amazing.
Harajuku
We only visited a few of the many neighborhoods in Tokyo, but we enjoyed them all. Our first neighborhood, just steps away from Meiji Shrine, was Harajuku. 
Harajuku
The girls would have loved the shopping & fashion.

Harajuku is famous for their crepe desserts. It was tough to convince Nick he should try one for the sake of experiencing the local culture.



Our first restaurant, the staff did not speak English. But, they helped us use the fancy vending machines to order our meal. You put in the money, press your selection & then give your token to the staff.
We ate a lot of ramen this week. But, it was so tasty!
We made one last Harajuku run before heading to the airport. It was the perfect spot to grab some additional gifts for the kids.




Monday, September 22, 2014

Sumo Wrestling

Sumo Wrestling
We wanted to experience a mix of old and new traditions in Japan. Unfortunately, the baseball game was sold out by the time we finalized our itinerary. That will be on our short list on the next visit. We did manage to score tickets to a Sumo Wrestling tournament. We ordered them online from the United States through this site. I bought my tickets about a month before we arrived which was too late for the good seats (but ours were fine).
Sumo Wrestling
We arrived about 1:30 and the arena was fairly empty. In hindsight, we should have arrived closer to 3 pm. The level of competition increases as the day progresses.
Sumo Wrestling
The concept is pretty simple. Two big guys are in a ring. The first one to step outside the ring loses.
Sumo Wrestling
The matches only last a few minutes. 
Sumo Wrestling
There is a lot of showmanship before the matches.
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo evolved from a practice within the Shinto religion. Throwing salt before the match relates to the religious purification. 
Sumo Wrestling
I haven't decided whether these are legitimate matches or 'fixed' like professional wrestling in the US.
Sumo Wrestling
But, these are professional athletes. As the day progressed, the stands started filling in.
Sumo Wrestling
Most of the athletes now come from outside Japan. They lived a highly regulated life - living with their trainers. It does not sound like an easy profession.
Sumo Wrestling
We were not surprised to learn the wrestlers have a life span about 10 years less than the average man. I was surprised to learn that alcoholism is a big problem among wrestlers. 
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Apparently, there are ways to track results & the locals seemed to know many of the athletes. You could hear the crowd favorites.
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
The attire in the crowd was a mix between work clothes and fancy clothes. No one in Japan ever looks like they are wearing workout clothes or shorts.
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
The food & drink in the arena was good. We had just eaten so we didn't bring in food. But, Nick bought some sort of box of food. We think it was fish. It was tasty whatever it was.
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling
Sumo Wrestling

We stayed almost to the end of the day. On our way out we saw one of the wrestlers. He is apparently well known as he was flocked with fans on the way out to his car.