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Old 06-13-2018, 10:41 PM   #26
amoeba
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We stroll around Gion back to our homestay.

https://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/gue...etsugekka.html

The location of the guesthouse is great but its a lot smaller than what the photos lead one to believe.

Its also a very old building with bathroom added later that more resembles an outhouse though with modern facilities.

We found this little guy near our futon mat.



It looks a bit too much like a brown recluse though I remember those to be exclusively in the Americas. I furiously searched online for common varieties of Japanese spiders and breathe a sigh of relief as we find that its not poisonous.
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Old 06-13-2018, 11:12 PM   #27
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day 4

My wife really wanted to rent Yukatas. I am not as enamored with this idea but once again marriage is about compromise.

I think I look kind of ridiculous but my wife looks pretty good.

After, we go to KenninJi temple.







Also went through some residential areas.

Before long, it was time for lunch. This time it is tempura at my second choice spot as the first choice isnt open on Sundays.

http://www.gion-endo.com/sp_en/

We dine in the tatami room along with an Australian couple.

The tempura really is great. All the seafood tasted like they could be sushi grade if raw. Favorite pieces were the. Sea bream with shiso, the uni wrapped in nori, the anago, the green bean with spring pea mash.

Photos were allowed but the pieces came fast and furious like a sushi bar so we didnt have a lot of time to photograph.

Did manage this one



****ake cap stuffed with shrimp.

Everything was extraordinarily light and crisp and even after 12 pieces of fried food, I didnt feel heavy.

After the other diners left, took a picture of the setting



A bit more demure than Malice's steak thread muse.

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Old 06-14-2018, 01:10 PM   #28
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Re: Trip blog and perhaps more

I was at an Asian market last night and found bean curd "sheets." Is this the same as yuba/doufu pi/fuzhu?



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Old 06-14-2018, 02:01 PM   #29
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The second package definitely is. You will need to reconstitute in water.

Cant get a good eyeon the first product interior.
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Old 06-14-2018, 02:09 PM   #30
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Thanks! It was frozen and I was going to be out for a while so I didn't pick it up but will get some next time I'm there.
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Old 06-14-2018, 10:45 PM   #31
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day 4 continued

After lunch it was already 3pm and we walked some more around the local neighborhood.





Happened upon a vintage clothing and antique shop, ran in to a 70s 34mm handwound watch that caught my eye. Strap and buckle were not original but dial, crystal, crown, and box were. It was a nice style and even though it was originally a men's watch, my wife could also wear it. I don't think it was a fantastic value find but I wasnt getting ripped off either so ended up buying it.

Walked the old streets leading towards Kiyomizu Dera, Kyoto's most representative temple.



These streets are lined with sweets shops and souvenir stores.

Picked up a pack of sansho. Sansho is the fresh green variety of Szechuan peppercorn.

Also picked up one of these ceramic pour over coffee filters


https://dailycoffeenews.com/2015/08/...-kept-secrets/

We arrive at Kiyomizu Dera about an hour before it closes and luckily the crowds have died down.











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Old 06-14-2018, 10:59 PM   #32
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Had some afternoon matcha and red bean sweets then took a cab back to rest.

Cabs in Kyoto are fairly cheap compared to Tokyo and Osaka. We had very few rides that were over 10 dollars but then again the city is not that large.

Fell asleep still feeling the effects of jet lag. Woke up around 930pm. Most restaurants would be closing now. Thought about going to an Izakaya (Japanese gastropub) but wife was too tired to go out very far and we didnt feel like drinking.

Ended up going to the ramen shop next door to where we were staying.

Tenkaippin, its a chain known for their thick chicken soup ramen. Thick soup is an understatement as its more like gritty gravy. Not my favorite but it apparently has a large cult following in Japan.

I share Bryan of Ramen Adventure's opinions at 2min.

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Old 06-15-2018, 07:49 PM   #33
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Took a stroll through Yasaka shrine at night prior to ramen.



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Old 06-15-2018, 08:32 PM   #34
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One story I forgot to relay was that on our second night in Osaka, after the crab dinner, we decided to take a stroll to digest.

Ran across a massage place offering 60 minute massages for 2800 yen. Thats about $26 for 60 minutes, which is a fantastic deal especially considering there is no tipping in Japan.

We were able to walk in and got a massage each in 2 rooms separated by a curtain. My wife's masseur was Chinese while mine was Japanese so she would have no language problems while I might but the Chinese masseur assured me that if I wanted him to translate to my masseur, he could.

Now I don't get a lot of massages normally while my wife does so her tolerance and preference for strong massages is a lot higher than mine.

I changed in to what resembled pajamas and then my masseur came in to the room as I lay prone. I was immediately surprised by how much power could be generated from my masseur's 150 lb frame. Soon I was being twisted in to shapes that I had not thought possible and had muscles stretched in spots I did not know exist.

My discomfort steadily increased as I felt I was on the losing end of a jiu jitsu match. However, I did not want to appear unmanly as I was representing Chinese American men and partially carrying the burden of some forgone Sino Japanese history.

Instead of asking for a lighter touch or crying out in pain, I attempted to hold it in but occasionally I could really not bear it and I would let out a series of long low grunts. Not a peep can be heard from my wife. Either her masseur was gentler or she can tolerate a lot better than I can.

As the pain reached a crescendo, I let out a soft "itai!", the Japanese word for "it hurts" (a term that surprisingly comes up often even in the most vanilla of Japanese porn). Upon hearing this, my masseur consults my wife's masseur without letting up.

My wife's masseur asks my wife something then replies with " something something kimochi" and then my masseur confirms with "something something kimochi".

Kimochi??? Doesnt that mean comfortable or feels good in Japanese? ( another word that comes up very often in Japanese porn).
"No kimochi !! No kimochi !!" I wanted to say but the part of me that wanted to keep up appearances of manliness did not allow me to do so.

Thus I bore out the rest of the massage while letting out a stream of grunts and groans that probably sounded like I was orgasming. Finally the massage ended and the 2 masseurs and my wife busted out laughing.

My wife's masseur said " The Japanese masseur thought you said you said you were in pain so I asked your wife whether you knew Japanese and she replied no". (thanks honey). "You were letting out so many grunts that we both assumed you were really enjoying it."

As I thanked my masseur, he had a big grin on his face.

Moral of the story is to be truthful.

Afterwards I actually felt pretty good but during was almost unbearable.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:58 PM   #35
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day 5

Woke up early again and we'll be leaving Kyoto today.

Before we go, we stop at one last temple.







This temple is devoted to rabbits and is as you guessed where most people come to pray for fertility.

We just started trying so figured any little help won't hurt.

A quick cab to Kyoto station where we buy tickets to our next location.

We also pick up some ejiben but they were only ok so I didnt take pics.

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Old 06-16-2018, 12:21 AM   #36
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After 2.5 hours, we arrive at our next location, Atami, Shizuoka prefecture.

It is a seaside hot springs resort town that is a bit less crowded. I don't know if the whole town pipes in hot springs water but there is a free hot spring water foot bath right outside Atami station.

We take a short cab to our Ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel).



My wife chose this Ryokan because it is a very old building but in reality a very small part is the original building and they've added on quite a bit over the years.

Apparently the Kurosawa film Kagemusha was partially filmed here and the hotel also houses one of the five first radios to make it in to Japan in the early 1900s.

The service in Japan up until this point has been about 85% of top US service but this place is really over the top.

As soon as they saw the cab, the hotel manager and 2 porters come outside the building and await us to exit the vehicle.

The porters quickly reach for the luggage inside the trunk and whisk them away quickly and quietly while we checkin. We switch out our shoes for slippers befire even entering the hotel and our shoes also promptly disappear.

We are then led to our room.





This room is about 3x the size of our room in Osaka hotel room/ homestay in Kyoto.

This is not counting the small private garden and private outdoor hot spring fed bath.

Indoor bath is also spacious and spring fed.


Outdoor bath

Garden


We are greeted with welcome drinks of hot tea and sweets.

We sat on the tatami floor drinking our tea. After our host (a sweet old lady) has made sure that we understood everything, she exits the screen door but not before making a kneeling full head to the floor bow. Jeebus, I am almost overwhelmed with this kind of hospitality.

Last edited by amoeba; 06-16-2018 at 12:39 AM.
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Old 06-16-2018, 12:53 AM   #37
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Aside from the private bath, there are also 2 much larger public baths onsite, one for men and one for women. While we were fairly up to speed on Japanese Onsen etiquette, we were still not used to extended nudity in front of strangers. Also, different hot springs in different parts of Japan are at different temperatures. The onsens in Atami run at a constant 80° c (176 F). Thats the temperature at which I sous vide octopus and would be too hot for steak. Fearing that we might cook ourselves to a medium well, we chose to stay in the private bath where cold water can be added.

Some onsen tips. No alchohol before or during the onsen. Put a small cold wet towel on your head while in the onsen to keep your mind clear and not pass out. Limit baths to 30 minutes or less to not risk passing out.

I would go in, relax for 20 min, come out, drink some cold water and rest, while my wife would go in the bath. Then we'll switch out again.

The bath is large enough for the both of us but we liked different temperatures so we alternated.

I dont know what zen is but after 3 iterations of bath + rest and garden watching, I think I reached it.

We then changed in to our yukatas for dinner!
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Old 06-16-2018, 01:21 AM   #38
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Typically, Ryokan stays are inclusive of a kaiseki dinner and a Japanese breakfast. One of the reasons we picked this hotel was because the food was supposed to be pretty great.





Skipping over pictures of plum wine and sesame tofu, here we have the zensai, mix cold appetizer box. I was surprised to find the western ingredients of prosciutto, foie gras, and avocado present.



Suimono course. More water shield.





Sashimi course. For some reason I got more uni than my wife. From the color, I believe this is Bafun uni. It is immaculate, as is the madai (sea bream) and aji (horse mackerel). These are in the top 5% of ones I have had.

We were instructed to clap the sprig of shiso flower in our hands and pull the buds in to our soy sauce dish. Made me feel like a bartender, which was pretty cool.



Mini hotpot dish. More yuba, eggplant, and shrimp. Yuba was good but did not reach heights at Shoraian. Its almost impossible to make fresh yuba for all the hotel guests so its understandable.



Wagyu, mushroom, daikon grilled in butter by our host. I wish she let me do it but relented. Not A5 grade but still pretty good.



Chawanmushi with lilybulb and truffles.



Gelee/terrine of chicken and vegetables.



Grilled miso cod, grilled king crab, duck, rice, pickles, fruit

Finally some barley tea to finish.

I added a 180ml bottle of Daiginjo sake for $14.

The level of cooking was about 85 percent of what I experienced at Maeda but some of the ingredients were just as good if not better. For example, the quality of Uni was superior to the one I had at Maeda.

Last edited by amoeba; 06-16-2018 at 01:28 AM.
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Old 06-17-2018, 11:47 PM   #39
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While we drank tea in the "living room" , a different attendent came and moved aside the dining table and then made the 2 tatami mat beds. We rested on the Tatami afterwards and watched some Japanese TV. The only English channel was doing continuous Trump/Kim coverage.

Watching tv in a foreign language really helps with sleep.

We wake up about 40 minutes before breakfast and cleanup before our kind host enters to setup for breakfast.



Breakfast menu is only in Japanese






Simmered shrimp, egg omlete, mentaiko (chili salted pollack roe), daikon sandwich, various salty mochi, nori paste, some kind of weird butter bean paste checkerpattern cake.



Sashimi of squid and young yellowtail.



Yuzu jelly in the back. Another hotpot dish.

Dish in forground is shiokara, which is salty fermented squid and squid guts. I have had this stuff before. Id you can disregard the smell, its pretty good. It is stronger than natto fyi.



Onsen tamago which is actually cooked in the onsen water ( presumably unbathed).



Grilled aji. Already ate some unfortunately.



Hotpot dish with egg and anago cake, fried tofu, daikon ball, mizuna.

Unpictured is rice, pickles, miso soup, rice porridge, sweets.
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Old 06-17-2018, 11:52 PM   #40
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After everything was cleared away, we take one more bath and then relax watching the gardens before checking out.

Once again terrific service as attendents retrieve our regular shoes, call a cab, and bring out our luggage.

Then as we enter the cab, the manager and 3 attendents all do a full 90° bow.

We both regret not staying another night. Still it was a nice respite in the midst of our vacation.

One last picture of the hotel.

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Old 06-18-2018, 12:06 AM   #41
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Atami is only 1 hour from Tokyo and in no time we are in the middle of Ginza after transferring from JR to local subways.

We're a bit early for checkin so we check our luggage and go exploring.

Did some vintage camera browsing with my wife. Lots of luxury brand shops in Ginza also.

One thing that is amazing about Japan is that this country is really food obsessed. Even in Osaka and Kyoto, there are a lot of restaurants packed in to every square km but things are more pronounced in Tokyo as most buildings are at least 5 stories and there is usually a restaurant on every floor.

Realistically you can have a great food trip without doing much planning at all.

Saw this sign, not sure what they sell

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Old 06-18-2018, 01:12 AM   #42
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We went back, checked in, and rested for a bit before heading out for dinner.

While we've had a lot of sashimi on this trip, we havent had proper edomae (Edo/Tokyo style) sushi.

Reserved at Harutaka almost 3 months prior to my dining date and was the first restaurant I reserved for this trip.

Harutaka-san was under the tuteledge of Jiro-san for 10 years and could be considered along with the now retired Mizutani-san as the greatest of Jiro-san's students.

This wasnt why I chose Harutaka though. Rather, back in 2015, Harutaka was the #2 Sushi restaurant on Tabelog when I first read about the restaurant. #1 was and continues to be the impossible to book Sushi Saito.

Unlike the rush of nigiri that is over in 20 minutes at Ginza Jiro, Harutaka's omakase spans over 2 hours and is composed of well over 20 dishes. About 7 appetizers and 14 to 15 nigiri by my count.

The appetizer standouts on this night were the hirame flounder, Kinki (rock fish) which were partially cooked and the katsuo (bonito tuna). The katsuo had intensely deep smoked flavor from the charred skin and a rich flesh that was deep in flavor and mouthfeel inspite being fairly lean. I did not realize katsuo can taste like this.

Harutaka's nigiri tends to be bigger than other high end Ginza shops with no sweetness and sharp acidity and salt in the rice. This style is perfect with fattier fishes. The standouts were chu toro medium fat tuna, otoro high fat tuna, aji horse mackerel, surf clam, and anago sea eel.

This was the best aji I have ever had. Head and shoulders above the rest.

Service was a bit colder than what we had experienced up until this point but still super professional and courteous. They kept flipping for us a picture sushi dictionary for each course. We were the only non Japanese there that night and I didnt really have time to take pictures.

This blog post from someone else last year had 90% of the same menu and his picturea are better than mine could have been anyways.

http://www.diningwithoutborders.com/?p=3617
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Old 06-20-2018, 09:46 PM   #43
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We must have rolled out of there as we've never felt so full from a sushi meal.

We walk back through the glitz and lights of Ginza, now with most of the stores closed yet the illuminated gold leaf and crystals in higher contrast than the day.

We manage to find another massage spot, this time for 70 minutes foot and body for 40 dollars. This place was fully Chinese staffed and we were able to make some small talk.

My masseur was especially talkative and conveyed some of the difficulties of being a Chinese immigrant in Japan. That while Japanese people are exceedingly welcoming to tourists, that attitude does not neccesarily extend to long term immigrant workers.

He also talked of the difficulties of getting married as a young man in China due to the sizable financial prerequisites and dowry.

It made me appreciate what I have.

Last edited by amoeba; 06-20-2018 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 06-20-2018, 10:11 PM   #44
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We wake up and grab some croissant and pain au chocolat from the bakery next door called Lecrin Bakery



Not bad, not quite at the level of the best of what I had in Europe though.

We're heading out to Shinjuku today to try the VR themepark.
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Old 06-20-2018, 11:41 PM   #45
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Really enjoying your blog amoeba The food is presented so beautifully, like works of art really. It's inspiring me to take a little more care with my plating.
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Old 06-21-2018, 01:48 AM   #46
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Thanks Rexx.

We get to Shinjuku around 1030. Still feeling a bit hungry, we step in to a random cafe.

I feel that cafes in Japan are divided in to 3 types.

1. Modern cafe where focus is on flavored coffee (Starbucks fits in here). Drinks are usually sweet and on the cute side.

2. Coffee Sommelier type place where there is some sage of coffee.

3. A place that reminds me of a mix between an old parisien cafe and a Turkish cafe where the coffee is good but served in an old style (no pourover or siphon here) and there is plenty of cigarette smoke.

Unfortunately, the one we went to was #3. Wife got a crepe cake and we got 2 cafe au laits. Coffee was good, crepe cake was ok but the smoke was stinging my eyes after 10 minutes and we had to get out of there.

One thing I like about Tokyo is that right close to major intersections, you find small residential apartments where people try to beautify what little area they have.



We get to the VR spot and we get a package ticket that allows 4 of the smaller ride and also a separate ticket for the longer Ghost in the Shell game.



My wife getting in to the ski game.

It was at this moment that I realized I made a grave mistake. Due to my enormous head, my enormous glasses could not fit in to the VR goggles. So things were a bit less immersive for me.



It came time to play Ghost in the Shell. The game is normally 4v4 but today its 3v3. Me and my wife got paired with an Australian gentleman and we faced off against 3 Americans from New York.

Its basically a first person shooter where you can move around in the arena.

You strap arm sensors to arms, leg sensors to legs, and a whole computer on your back.



You're not supposed to run and you see in game warnings if you get close to a real life wall or another player.

Due to my blurred vision, I put up a score of 1 kill and 9 deaths. My wife's lack of video game experience put her at a slightly better 2-8. Our Aussie teammate actually put up an impressive score of 9-4 and was crowned MVP but needless to say our team lost despite completing more mission objectives (hacking suitcases).
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:27 AM   #47
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The greenery around the apartments is fantastic. Totally love it. I laughed pretty hard at your massage story btw, I could totally see my bf and I in a similar situation. The first person shooter VR sounds extremely good fun tbh, I would definitely try it out. Could you narrow down a favourite dish you have had or is it just too hard?
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Old 06-21-2018, 12:25 PM   #48
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Fantastic report, amoeba! The ryokan food photos have me quite literally salivating.

ekiben and all bento styles, really. Think the Korean dosirak is my all time favorite.

How were you treated by the average Japanese while there? Do you think it made a difference being American instead of Chinese? Did anyone assume you were Chinese, then change their behavior when they realized you were American? Apologies if you don't look like you could be Chinese, I'm making that assumption based on your Chinese-American comment and saying you lived in China for a time. I studied the history of Chinese/Japanese relations in university as a large part of my degree program hence my curiosity.

Was your homestay a minshuku or more like an airbnb?

You're among friends here, you can admit the real reason you skipped the onsen was your tattoos.

Go ahead and break my heart by acknowledging that you didn't spend a single night in a capsule hotel, but don't say you never went into any of the 100 yen stores because then I might weep.


I won't ask about pachinko parlors because as far as I'm concerned you did that no matter what you say.
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Old 06-22-2018, 02:02 AM   #49
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Rexx, the katsuo (bonito) dish at Harutaka was probably the most surprising as it tasted different than every other katsuo I have had before.

The cooked Amadai dish at Maeda was the best new food item I have had so far.

Tempura at Tempura Endo was the most surprisingly delicious and its a lot more refined than what I expected.
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Old 06-22-2018, 02:04 AM   #50
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Chop, remember that we visited a fertility shrine, thus capsule hotel would be counter productive.

No 100 yen shop like Daiso either though we shopped at fair share of Japanese drugstores.
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