Part Two: Kyoto 

Great city. Wish we had more time than just two and half days. One could easily spend a week here. I just wish I had one more afternoon so I could go to Arashiyama about half hour away on the JR line towards Sagano. It would’ve been cool to walk around the bamboo forest and take a hike up towards the monkey park. 

We didn’t have the nicest weather - a mix of rain, sunshine, and clouds. We opened up our umbrellas and hoped that we could keep our feet dry. My favorite site in Kyoto definitely had to the Inari Shrine. It’s so different from anything I’ve seen in Asia before definitely unique to Japan only. 

Here in Osaka we have an abundance of fresh seafood. It links us to our health and happiness. It is our wish to convey this feeling of good health and happiness all over the world through our work." -Shoko Ono

Well said. The boyfriend and I traveled to Osaka and Kyoto in Japan for five days. We wished we could take more time off work but five days was all we had and we wanted to do as many things as we could. Food and sightseeing was a priority. Osaka was awesome for food and Kyoto for the history and sights. 

First picture I took in Japan was their drinks vending machines. They are all over the city. You can’t go a block without spotting one, guess one can never be thirsty in Japan. 

The first meal we had was a small udon shop by our hostel (we stayed at Guesthouse U-En). Since we were eating at an odd time - 3 pm in the afternoon most shops were closed for that mid-afternoon break except for this udon shop. We popped in there and everything was in Japanese. I don’t speak a work of Japanese and I can only read the Chinese characters if written in Kanji. Thankfully the boyfriend who is a lover of language learning and admirers of polyglots studied on some Japanese. The owner saw how lost I was and came over to help us. 

Side note: Japan is a super tech-wavy country (based on what we observed from Osaka and Kyoto). The small udon shop we entered had a machine which you must put in money and then press the type of noodles you want and toppings. Then it prints out a ticket and you present it to counter. So it wasn’t just a point, order, and pay type of situation. 

Back to the udon… it was DELICIOUS! I’ve never had grainy udon noodles before and they taste hand-made topped with tons of scallions and tempura. The boyfriend ordered raw egg udon with a tempura egg… that’s how much he loves eggs. 

After our bellies were satisfied we headed for the subway to go to the aquarium. I’m a sucker of aquariums and fish tanks - even though the Osaka Aquarium was in no way a “Japanese” aquarium I still had to go because it’s one of only three aquariums in the world that contains a whale shark! 

Another fun/frustrating experience getting the hang of using a metro machine to purchase a ticket. OKAY, first off I’m a New Yorker so I grew up riding the subway all my life, then I moved to Shanghai with one of the longest metro lines ever, and I’ve travelled to many cities and we always ride the subway - I’m well versed in subway usage and culture but somehow the Japanese subway still stumps me. 

Fare is according to distance. So one must first look at the above chart to figure out how much a one way ticket will cost. Then you must put cash into the machine, but you must first do your own math to figure out how much money you need to put it and then you punch in buttons with the amount displayed (why can’t the machine do the math for you?) Then it spits out your change and you get your ticket… took us 5 mins to figure it out the first time. I felt stupid. 

We stayed close by the huge train/subway/transfer stations. So getting around those stations were a super hassle. There’s subway lines, commuter rail lines, private lines, and on top of that a million people walking plus shops plus restaurants plus stairs and etc… We were lost a couple of times. 

Oh, and there’s dedicated train cars for women only - usually during rush hour times. So men, make sure you don’t get on one of those accidentally.

We made it to the aquarium. Loved it :)

The best part of our first day in Japan was our dinner. I went on Tripadvisor for advice on the best okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes) restaurant. Osaka is known for two types of food the okonomiyaki and the takoyaki. Here’s the link if you’re interested:

Anyhoo it’s hidden but we found it. If you read the reviews someone gives good directions to get there. It’s not an advertised restaurant - I’m a foodie so I like these kinda places where finding it is half the adventure. We enter and the owner - about 60s skinny man instantly greets you and asks “where are you from?” then followed by “please shut the door all the way”. We told him we are Americans but currently reside in Shanghai, he spews out a few lines of mandarin and tells us he’ll make us something something special. We instantly grab the seats at the chef’s grill. Doesn’t ask if we have any dietary restrictions or what we prefer to eat - guess he is just that confident. 

OMG it’s AWESOME! A batter filled with lots of cabbage, seafood, ginger then topped with slices of pork then smothered with sweet sauce and mayo and a side of stir fried noodles. Food is on the sweeter side but that’s how I like it. 

We took tons of pictures and Kiji (the owner) even took my phone and started snapping away pictures of people in the restaurant haha. 

End of day one in Osaka. There’s gonna be a part deuce and tres. 

Part 3 of 2013 Year in photos. Truly a wonderful year of fulfillment.
I miss you, my little Dumpling.

2013 Year in photos part dos

My 2013 Year in photos part 1