Sunday, February 28, 2016
Already grown tired of Shibuya, Omotesando and Harajuku area where I spend most of the time, I took a train a bit further away from the centre to the north of Tokyo. Yanesen area is off the beaten tourist path but it's one of the few areas where traditional buildings and lovely Edo-period atmosphere have still remained.
I walked through Yanaka Ginza, a traditional shopping street, to meet with very many friendly cats and elderly people, taste tea and rice crackers, admire amazing pottery and explore antique stores.
Yanaka Ginza had a mixture of old and new businesses, there were stores that probably had been around for centuries next to some very new and modern coffee shops, galleries and bakeries.
Kokonn café, gallery and store
In the back of trendy store you will find a small café with a traditional feeling where hand-dripped coffee is served in bowls on tatami mats.
There are over a hundred temples in the area and also a huge cemetery, which is supposedly especially beautiful during cherry blossom time
old sake advertisements at Shitamachi Museum Annex (The Former Yoshida Liquor Shop)
Also, with a craft beer hall, a vegan bakery and Scai The Bathhouse, contemporary art gallery built inside an old public bathhouse, around the corner, it was truly a great mix of traditional and trendy.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Unfortunately I will leave Japan before sakura aka cherry blossom season but I am not worried much because plum trees are already blossoming and this isn't any less beautiful. Came across this lonely pink tree in Daikanyama, Saigoyama Park yesterday.
I assumed these little kids were excited about blossoms but not really, it was all about some birds on the tree..that happened to be parrots. Yes, I just found out that those live here freely, not only in zoos.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
6 weeks in and I have already started missing homely Estonian beauty and body care products. It is complicated here in Japan, one option is to buy local products that are all labeled in only Japanese so you never really know what you are buying or to splurge on expensive imported products.
Luckily Tilk! came to help and supplied me with their new line of face and hand creams. Tilk! is a relatively new Estonian skincare brand that uses fresh natural ingredients, including herbs from Saaremaa island in Estonia.
All the products are designed with a creative and busy person in mind, saying that, all the packages are comfortable to take on a airplane and fit into carry-on baggage liquid limit.
The packages are in a good size so I carry them in my handbag on daily basis, also yesterday, when I visiting a museum of an iconic Japanese painter and sculptor Taro Okamoto. Tilk fun and colourful design fitted so well into the surreal garden of the museum.
6-1-19, Minami-Aoyama, Minato Ku, Tokyo 107-0062
All the creams have such a nice foamy texture and look and smell like mango mousse.
Regenerate Me facial cream for combination skin, featuring carrot and almond oil, shea butter and a bioactive complex with rosehip
Moisture Me hand cream featuring sea buckthorn oil, mango butter and a bioactive complex with horsetail. I like the thick consistency and this one has already surely replaced the one with argan oil I was using before.
All products are available in their online store
Inside the museum, a reconstruction of Okamoto's atelier was also on the view.
Monday, February 22, 2016
As I unfortunately had only one day in Kyoto, it ended up being very intense, wanting to see and walk around as much as possible. Yet I already want to go back! Even if less than 24 hours, it was still one of the best trips I have ever had.
Afternoon I decided to explore the central Kyoto, starting off from the Nishiki food market where I tried a quail egg stuffed baby octopus for the first time. The look of it was just so intriguing I couldn't resist.
I spent rest of the around Gion, the Geisha district, and Higashiyama , the "old town" area where even the telephone poles were recently removed to bring back the feeling of old days.
1000 origami cranes, a legend says that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane or even an eternal good luck.
Premium grade matcha ice cream - my favourite treat in Japan!
A love how the sky suddenly turned black but somewhere sun was still shining creating a magical and even bit mystical atmosphere.
An impressive tree outside of the Shore-in temple
My last destination before catching a bullet train back to Tokyo was Fushimi Inari shrine. It's the most important of all the shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. The shrine is famous for its Senbon Torii aka thousands of torii gates. The torii gate covered hiking trail leads up to into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. Walking through it was another dream come true!
Saturday, February 20, 2016
I have no words to describe my last Sunday here in Japan - I finally had a chance to visit the city of Kyoto. It felt like one of the dreams of my life coming true.
I happened to be in Osaka for work and as it close to Kyoto I made a last-minute decision to change my trains tickets to Kyoto instead of coming back to Tokyo. I quickly booked a random hotel a night before with having no time for any research. I couldn't believe my luck when I discovered my hotel is located by picturesque riverside across from Arashiyama.
I woke up early - couldn't wait any longer to go outside and discover this amazing out-of-this-world place. This was the best decision ever, the stores were still closed, no tourists to be seen, only a few a locals doing their morning duties, as I walked over The Togetsu-kyo bridge, sun was shining bright, trees were glistening from the last night's rain and steam was rising above mountains. I felt as I was either still dreaming or woke up in a movie.
My first stop was Tenyru-ji aka "Heavenly Dragon Temple" and its Zen garden dating back to the 14th century. It is a great example of "borrowed scenery" using nearby hills of Arashiyama as a part of landscape design.
The temple visit was followed by a walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Photos definitely can't capture the feeling of standing in the midst of this bamboo grove, the sound that trees moving in wind make... it's something out of this world.
After passing through the bamboo grove I ended up at the entrance of Okochi-Sanso, former private villa and gardens of famed film actor Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962). 1000 yen entrance fee included a bowl of matcha and a traditional sweet at a tea house in the garden.
Sitting alone at the tea house, feeling the breeze, listening to birdsong and enjoying excellent tea definitely added a lot to my visit .
Gio-ji Temple and its luxuriant moss garden. I was so tempted to lie down there!
After all that walking and climbing up and down the hills I was ready for a early lunch. The restaurants had just opened, so again, I was the only guest.
It was my first time sitting down and eating on a traditional tatami mat, far more comfortable than I thought it would be!
Three different kinds of soba noodles with green tea
Part 2 of my day in Kyoto following up soon!
Thursday, February 18, 2016
On my last night in Osaka I wandered around the main downtown area - Dotonbori. Previously I had read that Osaka is not only one of the Japan's but also world's culinary capital. This was clearly seen in Dotonbori where hundreds of eateries were lined up, cheap izakayas next to Michelin-star restaurants. The dishes most distinct to Osaka are takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (a kind of Japanese savoury pancake). I love them both equally!
Takoyaki - octopus balls usually served with special sauce and mayonnaise. I tried them with lemon and rock salt this time. obsessed
The streets of Dotonbori were even more crowded than in Tokyo and beared crazy neon signs, including including some enormous crab and octopus statues.
After a couple of hours of walking and just admiring the scenery, it was time for dinner. For starters - kimchi, beer and my new favourite kitty
Okonomiyaki covered with special sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and dried bonito (tuna) flakes
Monday, February 15, 2016
On the second day, we paid a visit to the city's landmark - Osaka Castle. The construction of the original Osaka Castle started in 1583 but it was destroyed by fire and attacks for several times so the current building is dating back to only 1931.
The parks and gardens surrounding the castle were wonderful, I loved the very laid-back and friendly atmosphere there: school kids of field trips, elderly people taking afternoon strolls, joggers, dog walkers, happy kids playing and eating ice cream.
The trees weren't in full bloom yet but the plum grove was still lovely, it suddenly got so hot that we took off all our jackets and sat down on grass to enjoy an ice cream. Summer's almost here!