Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kyoto and then to Okuhida and back to Tokyo

The view of the Eastern Hills from our hotel room in Kyoto at sunrise.

Here you can see Kiyomizu-dera, if you squint.  Actually, if you were there in the hotel, it's easy to see.

I saw this in the Japan Times a couple of days before.  I thought I should get one.  It was really good!  Let alone that it was purchased in a combini.

So, this was nine eleven, Em's birthday, and she really wanted to go to Monkey Park again.  Connie really didn't want to go, since we had just been there a couple of years before.

But Em really wanted to go, and it was her party.

Above, we are at the Arashiyama station (Randen line), where they have a Kimono Forest

Below, the Togetsukyo Bridge, over the Hozu River.

The walk up the hill to the monkeys.  Here we see the first monkey.

I was going to see the view of Kyoto, but this guy was going to charge me in addition to the ¥100 coin that this scope was charging.  I told him, no.

This man is feeding the monkeys.

This little guy is posing for pics.

Here is some joker mimicking a monkey.

Em is watching this guy feed the monkey.

But this guy made the monkeys mimick his facial expressions.

We spied this vegan place on the walk from Saga-Arashiyama station to the Monkey park.  On the walk back, we decided to eat there.  Totally vegan.  Here is Em's gyoza.

Sam's set.

My Kare rice.

Here is Sannen-zaka near Kiyomizu-dera, for some shopping.


We could see a large buddha from our hotel room.  Ryozen Kannon.  Here it is closer.

For dinner, I thought we'd try Choice Cafe, for the kids, since it was totally vegan, while Connie and I would eat at Shinodaya, just a few doors down.

Unfortunately, Shinodaya was closed.  It had great Tabelog ratings, too.  I was going to have the Saramori. Oh, well.  Guess we could all eat at Choice and give up some meat.

Organic vegan biru.

Sammie said this was one of her favorite dishes of the whole trip.  Vegan burger.

Connie got the vegan pizza.

Em got the Kare Rice.

And I got the salad, which was actually really good!  The pieces of cheese were really good!  I was really surprised! The Kabocha pieces were tasty.

We even got their cheesecake and chocolate cake.  Tasty!

The next morning was our trip to Okuhida, the Japan Alps.  Two years ago, we were headed to a different area of the Alps, which was wiped out by a torrential storm. We changed our plans then.  There was a substantial storm this year, too.  I had planned to go to the Shin-Hotaka ropeway this year. But the weather was stormy and there would be zero view, so we decided to go to our onsen ryokan, in Karukaya in Okuhida.  We stayed at the Sumeikan Karukaya, a really nice riverside onsen with outdoor baths.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Above, we are on the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya.  We purchased these macha mochi's at Kyoto Station.  At Nagoya, we changed trains to the Wide View Hida to Takayama.  Since we wouldn't be going to the ropeway before the onsen, we had a few hours to spend in Takayama!  We went to the morning market (Takayama Asaichi), and looked for the burned wooden phone charms that we bought in 2011.  Didn't find them...  But we found some Hida beef for me!

This is Wagyu beef, nearly as good as Satou, but only ¥500 for the skewer, plus a couple of hundred yen for the Coke. Need to cut down on calories, you know!  Wink wink.

Yamashita store.

This person wouldn't make eye contact.

This person was more personable!

Found the burned phone charm place, but the guy was off.  Couldn't get custom charms like we got in 2011. :(

Hida Beef bun, only good, not great.

Connie and I had ramen from a randomly selected store. It was good (Connie really liked it, but the portion was small -- for ¥650)

We saw this Ramen-ya, with a line.  I bet it would have been better!  But we were time limited, since we had a bus to catch.  There was some Gaijin joker watching me taking a picture, so he did the peace sign.

A streetside shrine.

After arriving at our ryokan, I immediately beelined to the riverside onsen.  Convinced Connie to come with me, and we went in to the private bath, and then to the public mixed gender bath.  Men had to wear this waist smock, and women had to wear a "dress."  But the onsen was really nice.  After a brief time, we went indoors for dinner.  A great "kaiseki" dinner, one of the best meals we had this trip.  The kids had vegan meals (as I had requested at reservation time).

Connie eating an Ayu, grilled.  She had most of mine.

Hida beef on a Hoba leaf.

Sashimi. Tai and Squid.

Seaweed and Tsukemono.

Vegan tofu cooked on Hoba leaf.


Vegan tempura.

Matsutake rice cooked at our table.  I thought it was better than at Tagetsu.

Dessert. Like daikon, but sweet.

Our room.

Breakfast at the same table.

We took a bus to Hirayu onsen.  We would have gone to Kamikochi, but it was storming, so we opted to grab a quicker bus to Matsumoto, then to Nagano, then to Tokyo.  We had a 1.5 hour layover in Hirayu onsen, so we walked about the town.  Here was a streetside hot spring which this store used to cook eggs, and heat hot sake for sale.

So, we arrived at Tokyo, the Four Seasons, a few hours early, since we didn't stop at Kamikochi.  Got our usual greeting, but then the doorbell rang, with "room service." I thought that this must be some mistake, but they arrived with a fruit tart for Em, for her birthday!

They had several greetings for us.

Greetings from their staff. You wouldn't get this at a big hotel, even a six star hotel.  This is why we won't stay elsewhere in Tokyo now.

The kids went to T's Tantan again for dinner.  Connie and I went to have Ramen.  I scoped out Oreshiki Jun in Tokyo Ramen Street.  Tonkotsu Ramen.  They also serve Tsukemen.


Very good tonkotsu ramen. Firm, very thin noodles (as Hakata noodles should be).  At the end of the bowl, they were a bit too limp, but that is normal.

Very good tsukemen.

The Kakigori at the place on B1F in the Shin Maru Biru!  Sorry, don't know the name!  But I can tell you exactly how to get there!  Which is way more important in Japan!

I had scoped out getting a haircut in Japan too.  Found out about QB.  This is a chain in Japan, with haircuts for ¥1000.  A bargain!  So, I enter, and Connie wants to go, to see what happens!  I couldn't take pictures of myself, unfortunately, even though I tried.  The barber got mad at me, when I kept interrupting his work, so Connie had to take iPhone pics, like below.

Anyway, they had a branch in Tokyo Station!  You enter, and purchase a ticket at a vending machine.  They had a ¥1000 version and a ¥1080 version.  Usually, the vending machines at Ramen-ya have pictures, making choosing easier.  This had no such pictures, like Christopher Lloyd as the cheaper version and George Clooney as the more expensive version.  The cheaper version had a 65 year notation on it, so I thought it was a senior discount, so I just bought the more expensive version!  Didn't want to create a scene for a few yen.

Worked out ok, and I was done in just a few minutes.  For more complicated cuts, you should bring an "after" picture.  But note, if you go in as Christopher Lloyd, you likely won't leave like George Clooney.

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