Saturday, September 1, 2018

Takamatsu, Kyoto, and Ise Shima

Here we are at a vista point adjacent to the station in Oboke, at Iya Valley.

Here is the Anpanman train, the same one we took the previous day.  We're going in the opposite direction this day, back toward Honshu, but not as far, to Takamatsu.

A mockup of a Kazurabashi at Oboke station.

We arrive in Takamatsu, and we check into our hotel, the JR Clement at the station.  We're hungry of course, but not famished (you can tell that we didn't order too much in the pictures below).  I had bookmarked a place to eat very close to the station.  They serve Sanuki Udon, which is what Takamatsu is famous for.  It is a large caliber udon, which is more chewy than usual udon.  Since it is really hot, weather wise, we all go for the Zaru Udon, or cold noodles with dipping sauce. You can get various side orders with the udon.  The tempura Kabocha wasn't too good.  Cold and the crust wasn't crisp.  But the udon was very good!

Takamatsu is also known for Ritsurinkoen, another beautiful garden in Japan.  This garden is arguably as nice as the three "k's."  Takamatsu is said to be jealous that Ritsurinkoen isn't recognized officially as one of the best.

Ritsurinkoen is known for its numerous manicured Pine trees.

Here is a lotus field

Here is the view from our hotel.  We got a large Japanese style room, as you can see below.  Spacious!  Comfortable futons.  Really nice bathroom.  I'd stay there again!  The view is of the inland sea.  We also had a view of the Takamatsu Castle ruins and park.

Of course, we had difficulty figuring out where to eat for dinner.  We wandered for quite long trying to find an appropriate place.  Takamatsu has one of the longest Shotengai (shopping arcade) in Japan.  Parallel to it, one block away is a very large dining arcade.

The problem was that few had vegan options.

We ended up at an Italian place with pizza and pasta, as well as salad.  Connie loved the pizza there.

After a quiet night, on Friday AM we ate the included breakfast at the Clement.  Not that good.  I had my usual double portion of Natto with hot rice, which was dependably good.

We took a short walk that AM around our station and the Shotengai, and I see this barbershop with an unusual sign.  Funny, in Salinas, long ago, there was a barber named Lloyd Urabe, and he was known as Lloyd the butcher!

Dassai was everywhere.  Apparently, it is one of the best selling sake in Japan.

Here is our train car for the short ride (an hour), from Takamatsu to Okayama, where we change to the Shinkansen to Kyoto, to meet Em on her last day of school.

We meet Em, back at the Royal Daiwa Grande, and we get a much nicer room, a Junior Suite, with a Queen bed and two very comfy rollaway beds (which look like regular twin beds).  We also get access to the Executive lounge on the top floor.  Pics from there to follow in later posts.

Below is the area approaching Kiyomizudera.

A Starbucks in an old teahouse on Ninenzaka.  There is a story behind this place.  Click the link there!  We didn't get to the tatami room.

We couldn't figure out where to eat, so we ended up at an old standard, Choice, near Sanjo.  Vegan faire.

Vegan cheese plate

Cold corn soup

My salad, which was really refreshing.

Vegan burger.


I wanted to go to Shinodaya, a few doors down, but they were closed.  I had their meal (Saramori) a few years back, but alas, I had to eat rabbit food.

After a quick overnight, we headed out the door to the station to take the Kintetsu Shimakaze from Kyoto to Ise.  We were going to go to Ise Jingu, the most famous Shinto Shrine in Japan.  Shinto is a polytheistic religion, not mutually exclusive from Buddhism.  In fact, a large plurality of Japanese are both Buddhist and Shinto.  Shinto, however, is not practiced outside Japan, so the vast majority of tourists here are Japanese.  Few foreigners here.  We see Chinese tourists everywhere in Japan, but not in this area.

The Shimakaze is an ultra luxury train. It runs between Kyoto and Nagoya, with a couple of different routes.  It isn't a JR train, so we can't use our JR rail passes.  But it is the quickest way from Kyoto and Ise, so it makes sense to take it.  You'll see that we might have liked it more if it was slower!

If you click the link above, you'll see more details.  It requires reservations two months in advance.  I made ours, two months to the day.  High demand, and I logged in to the site right at the second that tickets went on sale, and I got shut out! Sold out, completely. I was bummed.  This was back in May...  I stayed on the website for a while, stunned.  Then I happened to refresh my screen after a few minutes, and there, before my eyes, were four tickets at the very front of the train, right behind the "pilot."  Wow!  Someone must have put these four seats into their shopping cart and then released them!  I grabbed them and the result is below!  Look at that smile on Connie!

Here is the view from our seat, below.

Wow, what a great 2.5 hours!  So, I guess my planning and research worked out...

We first stopped at Mikimoto Pearl Island.  It was practically empty, likely due to the oppressive heat.  Even though it was a Saturday in July...  Here is Connie on the pier with Mikimoto behind her.

Here is a demonstration by Ama divers.  Women traditionally did the work to harvest oysters for pearls.  

Two queens with pearl crowns

A model of a Pagoda made of pearls.

Mr Mikimoto.  Actually, a statue of Mr Mikimoto

We checked into our modest hotel, the Pearl Pier Hotel, close to Iseshi station.  We were going to a highly rated (on Tabelog) ramen-ya, but it was closed for several days!  ugh.  I found this Soba-ya and Connie had Zaru Soba.  Quite good!  Em and Sam had Combini food in the hotel, and they are happy with it!

The next day, we had a lot to do, with the two Ise Jingu shrines.  Need to load up the energy at the included breakfast.  Standard fare, and it was very good.

Walking toward the Outer Shrine of Ise Jinge we see a Yamashita shop with a stylized Kanji of our name.

Cleaning ourselves prior to entering the shrine.

The path to the shrine.  No pictures allowed.  Fortunately, it wasn't crowded.  Sometimes, the line to get to the shrine is measured in hours.  We had no line

After visiting the two different shrines, which, honestly, were just "ok," we went to the adjacent shopping and eating area. We decided to eat at a "fast food" place in the arcade.

Tenzaru soba for me

Zaru soba for the others, but I got a side order of clams and sea snails.  Quite tasty steamed, I ate the majority of this plate.

In the arcade, I found our Yamashita family crest on a phone charm.  I purchased all four that they had. Not super high quality, and more of a novelty than anything else, but still fun.

We rested a bit in our hotel room, then the perennial chore of deciding where to eat.  I found a pizza place a few blocks away with decent Tabelog ratings.  Actually, it was a bar, with substantial snacks.  We got three pizzas, a mushroom without cheese and a corn pizza without cheese.  These were vegan.  The mushroom had more Asian style mushrooms.  Tasty, as was the corn pizza which was super sweet.  A salad and my Margherita pizza rounded out the meal.  We left full.