Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Cormorant Blogging

Cormorants (Kyoto) - Japan  2014

As seen by us as we walked from our hotel over to the Philosopher's Walk on the east side of Kyoto.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Japan: Culinary Adventure (18): Mosburger

Mosburger (Kyoto) - Japan  2014

Mosburger Interior (Kyoto) - Japan  2014

Hali and Mike had a fast-food lunch at Mosburger, across the street from our hotel. It was actually quite tasty, although the fries were a little limp.

Mike somehow failed to realize that beer was on the menu. Hopefully there'll be a next time!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kyoto Laundromat

Laundromat #1 (Kyoto) - Japan  2014

Laundromat Sign (Kyoto) - Japan  2014

First things first. Upon getting to our room we packed all of our dirty clothes into one of the suitcases and rolled it down the street to a tiny little laundromat. Once the ordeal was over, what a sense of accomplishment!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kyoto / Nishiki Market

Wasabi (Nishiki Market, Kyoto) - Japan  2014

We left Nara and arrived in Kyoto a short time later. (Takes about an hour.) We had reservations at the Hotel Monterey, where we had stayed in 2008. Again, too early to check in, so we walked around the neighborhood, wandering through Nishiki Market.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Japan: Culinary Adventure (17): Breakfast & Dinner at Shiki Tei

Yuri Serving Breakfast (Nara) - Japan  2014

Beef Served on a Hot Black Stone (Nara) - Japan  2014

Two more meals while sitting on the tatami mats. Breakfast as served by Yuri, and beef served on a heated black stone as one of the dinner courses.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nara #5: Self Portraits

Flowers, Self Portrait (Nara) - Japan  2014

Flowers, Porch, Self Portrait (Nara) - Japan  2014

I thought that I should put some self-portraits into the mix.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nara #4: Scenic

Pagoda (Nara) - Japan  2014

Dogwood (Nara) - Japan  2014

The pagoda is located at the Buddhist temple of Kofuku-ji.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Deer Blogging

Deer (Nara) - Japan  2014

Deer (Nara) - Japan  2014

Some more photos of Nara deer. Schoolgirls seemed to find them particularly interesting.

Schoolgirls, Deer (Nara) - Japan  2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Dan's Sundae (Nara) - Japan  2014

Dan ordered this sundae at a coffee shop in Nara. I was able to sample it: good!

Dan Photographing Sundae (Nara) - Japan  2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nara #3: Sightseeing

Kaze no Sumika (Nara) - Japan  2014

Photographing, Sightseeing (Nara) - Japan  2014

Kaze no Sumika has a website. Kaze is "wind", of course. Sumika is "den." So, "den of the wind?"

Somehow "abode of cold" is showing in the Chrome tab up at the top of the browser, but that doesn't sound right.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nara #2: Noon

Bicycle Delivery (Nara) - Japan  2014

Umbrella, Noon (Nara) - Japan  2014

Wandering around Nara, window-shopping and taking photos. Warm weather! Quite a contrast from Karuizawa.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Japan: Culinary Adventure (16): Dinner at Shiki Tei

First Course (Shiki Tei Ryokan) - Japan  2014

You wouldn't think to look at the first course that by the end of the meal we would all be so full that it was almost unreal. I'd really like to fully describe the meal, but alas, I can't: there were several courses and the passage of time has obscured the finer details.

We ate sitting on tatami mats, of course.

Dining Table (Shiki Tei Ryokan) - Japan  2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Shiki Tei: Nara Ryokan

Ryokan Exterior (Nara) - Japan  2014

Ryokan Landscaping (Nara) - Japan  2014

During our last visit to Japan in 2008 we stayed at a small family-run ryokan in Kanazawa (Sumiyoshiya) and we found the experience to be quite gratifying. This time we had reservations at Shiki Tei, a high-end ryokan in Nara with many glowing reviews.

The inn's location has its pluses and minuses: close to Nara Park and assorted UNESCO shrines but also close to a very busy highway. The facilities were top notch and the staff was very professional and accommodating. Very pricey, though, considering that highway noise was quite noticeable. (We had to leave the windows open because it was too early in the season for them to have switched to air conditioning.)

I don't want to be too critical! We had a very positive experience at Shiki Tei. Really amazing dinners.

All in all, though, we still look back on our Sumiyoshiya experience with nostalgia in a way that we probably won't with Shiki Tei.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nara #1: Scenic

Pond (Nara) - Japan  2014

Maple Leaves (Nara) - Japan  2014

We arrived at our ryokan a little early, so we went for a walk in the vicinity prior to check-in. This part of the city is very scenic and pastoral, in spite of some busy traffic whizzing by.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Deer Blogging

Deer (Nara) - Japan  2014

One of the many semi-tame deer wandering around Nara's parks and temples.

According to local folklore, deer from this area were considered sacred due to a visit from Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine. He was said to have been invited from Kashima, Ibaraki, and appeared on Mt. Mikasa-yama riding a white deer.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

From the Train

Playing Field - Japan  2014

Nara - Japan  2014

Top photo taken from the high speed shinkansen at 1/2000th second with an Olympus E-PL5. Same shutter speed used for the bottom one while on a local train between Kyoto and Nara.

Entering Nara Mike was a little taken aback at the highly urbanized infrastructure as seen from the train. He had pictured Nara as a quiet little tourist town, but no.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Back to Tokyo

Tokyo Station #1 - Japan  2014

Tokyo Station #2 - Japan  2014

We caught an early train back to Tokyo for a connection to Nara (via Kyoto). As we waited for our Kyoto-bound train Mike snapped some shots inside Tokyo Station while Hali went to shop for bento boxes.

For breakfast he had already had a Plane Doughnut. Good!

Plane Doughnut (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bridal Doings in Karuizawa

Bride & Groom (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Bridal Shop (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Wedding couple being photographed. Karuizawa is a resort town and obviously a big wedding destination.

We must also remember the earlier Tokyo Wedding post, of course.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Japan: Culinary Adventure (15): Nagai Farm / Pure Milk Gelato

Nagai Farm Cow (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Shopgirls (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

On our way back we stopped for a gelato snack at the Nagai Farm store in Harunire Terrace. Very tasty. Afterwards the shopgirls posed for photos, then Yukiko got on the computer, diligently trying to provide Hali with the name of some unlabeled beans. But it was difficult, so no translation.

Yukiko (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hike to Karuizawa Bird Sanctuary #3

Pond, Trees (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Yellow Blossoms (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

We hiked throughout the Bird Sanctuary with Hali ringing a bear bell provided by the visitor center. Alas, no bears were sighted, just very muted early spring colors. Going back down the road we noticed trees starting to blossom.

The only bird sighted in the actual sanctuary was a small Eurasian Wren.

Wren (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Japan: Culinary Adventure (14): 7-11 in Karuizawa

Seven Eleven (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Harunire Terrace Bakery (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

We hadn't had breakfast that morning before starting our hike, hoping that something would show up. It did! A 7-11 right across the street where you could get (machine-brewed) coffee, and (packaged) pastries. Yum! Little did we know that, upon resuming our hike, we would come across an upscale bakery at the Harunire Terrace shops.

Upon which we had to order extra stuff for a second breakfast. Of course.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Mandarin Duck Blogging

Mandarin Ducks (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Taken near the Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary. Whoa, exotic!

But wait: "there is a free-flying feral population of several hundred mandarins in Sonoma County, California."


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hike to Karuizawa Bird Sanctuary #2

Nagakura Shrine (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Purifying Fountain, Nagakura Shrine (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Our "hike" was on sidewalks and the side of the road for the most part. At the beginning we made a slight detour to visit this Shinto temple. An overcast sky, an empty shrine and the sound of the Yu River in the background. Very nice.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hike to Karuizawa Bird Sanctuary #1

Rooftops (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Train Interior, Shinano Railway Car (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

We left early in the morning and walked the short distance to Karuizawa Station and took a small local train to Nakakaruizawa (only one stop). The weather had started to cooperate: moderate temperatures and a welcome overcast. Nice view of rooftops from the Nakakaruizawa Station.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Japan: Culinary Adventure (13): Saint Germain, Karuizawa

Saint Germain I (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

Saint Germain II (Karuizawa) - Japan  2014

We had dinner here after our soba lunch. Very interesting experience. Small restaurant with a group of people sitting at a table drinking beer and smoking cigarettes as the only customers. They did have an English menu, however!

The style of food was decidedly non-Japanese: Mike ordered a pork cutlet which came European-style. Hali had corn soup. Dan wanted "something small," but our translation skills weren't equal to communicating his request. He'd had a large lunch so he contented himself with a beer and some of my pork.