Photos from Yakushima

27 04 2013

Photos from Japan (mainland)

27 04 2013

Lands of wilderness and people

27 04 2013

We’re back from our travels through Japan and Hong Kong. It was quite tiring travelling with baby and dealing with the long flights at terrible times of the night, tiring to all get some sleep while lights were on and attendants were serving meals.

We started off in Cairns, after a short flight from Adelaide. It was good weather for the afternoon that we were there and we went for a little walk along the esplanade, into the Lagoon and Muddy’s playground. Hugo enjoyed playing in the water and getting totally wet. We found vegan food for dinner at Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant on Lake Street, which was just around the corner from our accommodation at the Holiday Inn. After dinner we walked back into town and got takeaway burgers and fries from Grill’d Burgers, who have vegan burgers, sauces and fries on their menu, so that we would have lunch for the next day.

Our business class flight to Osaka left in the early afternoon (unable to provide vegan meal, so not happy Jetstar…), but we didn’t clear immigration, customs etc at Osaka airport until 10pm or so, making it a late night for little Hugo. We stayed at the upmarket Hotel Monterey Grasmere near the Namba station and had a cot, spacious room and fancy lobby.

The next day we took a Shinkansen for Okayama (having a JR pass was amazing! So fast and easy to travel) where we met Benno’s friend Jun and toured the famous gardens, korakuen (one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan) and snacked at MOS burger where there no longer have a vegan kimpira burger.

Then we hopped back on another Shinkansen and headed for Kumamoto where we stayed the night on the 20th floor of Toyoko Inn, right by the station (great location) and with an incredible view of the city, including the castle.

Benno visited Kumamoto castle and Suzenji gardens for the third time (it was Hugo and my first time) and Hugo caused quite a stir with his cute samurai photo! We got around on the tram and ate lunch at a popular (for mums and their elementary aged children) but small Indian restaurant in the back streets near the gardens.

Another day of travel followed. We took the Shinkansen to it’s terminal at Kagoshima, taxi to the ferry terminal, ferry to Yakushima and an hour local bus ride to our accommodation near Anbo Port on Yakushima. We had a Japanese style room with tatami, futon, semi-outdoor bath and view of the mountains.

We booked a tour through Yakushima Experience for the next day and our guide Steve came with van, baby seat and baby hiking pack so Hugo was well catered for. They also provided vegan bento for lunch! We had a tour of the island, visiting little villages, waterfalls, rivers, giant cedars, yakusugiland and walking through the forest up in the mountains.

Another mammoth day of travel came next. We were up early at 5.30am, we driven in a van to Anbo Port, took the 7am ferry to Kagoshima, took a taxi to the station, took a Shinkansen to Hakata, ate lunch at TOS (touch of soup) which was about a 15 minute walk from the station, took another Shinkansen to Kyoto, transferred to the subway and went three stops then walked 5 minutes to our accommodation, Hotel Gimmond, arriving around 6pm after a full day of travel with Hugo. We ate dinner at Biotei, which was walking distance from the hotel, and had a lovely Japanese set dinner meal.

Serious shopping was on the agenda for our first day in Kyoto. We filled our bellies with vegan tofu cheesecake and tiramisu parfait from Cafe Mumokuteki before walking through the Nishiki markets, Teramachi dori arcades, Book Off and Daiso. We took the subway to Cafe Proverbs for late lunch before walking it off with a stroll to Ginkakuji along the Philosopher’s Path. Much sampling of yatsuhashi sweets was done, and Hugo walked up the hill most of the way on his own. We wandered back to our hotel in the drizzle and ate at another restaurant within walking distance to our hotel, Obanzai, which is a (almost all) vegan buffet.

On our next day in Kyoto we walked to the Imperial Palace gardens and Hugo played in the children’s playground. Then we ate lunch at Morpho Cafe. It was our last day of the JR pass but we were running out of energy so we just had an afternoon excursion to Kyoto station where we spent some more yens. We took the lift all the way up to the skywalk and admired the view of the city and Kyoto Tower. While we really wanted to eat at Sunny Place, they weren’t open at night on Sunday so we ate dinner at Cafe Mumokuteki.

Our last day in Kyoto was spent going to Nijojo in the morning and strolling around the gardens. Then we met up with Atsu at Cafe Matsuontoko and ate vegan fast food (burgers, fries, curry, pancakes, donuts). We also got takeaway burgers for our dinner that we ate in the airport while waiting for our Peach flight to Hong Kong. It was a terrible time to fly, and Hugo didn’t get to sleep until after 10pm after much tears. We took a taxi from Hong Kong airport and finally checked into our hotel, the T-hotel, around 2am. Our room was ultra-luxurious and yet very affordable with a lovely view of the ocean.

We realised that everyone needs an Octopus card in order to travel on any bus, train or subway in HK so that was our first purchase, then a sim card, then lunch at a very busy vegetarian lunch place that had a long queue of people and no English. We took the escalators from Central to Mid-levels along with the other 85,000 people that travel on the each year before catching a bus to the Peak, looking out at the view and taking the tram that was crowded and standing room only back down the hill. A brief walk through the botanic gardens revealed the sad fact that many children are brought up by Filipino nannies on HK while their parents work full time jobs. We ate dinner at a fancy, overpriced vegetarian restaurant. Hugo liked the deep fried lotus seeds, which was a welcome change to the standard fare of rice, rice, rice which he had been consuming.

Our next day we took the sMTR to Diamond Hill and looked around the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian gardens. We met Benno’s high school friend for lunch at the gardens where a vegetarian restaurant was hidden behind a waterfall. After lunch we took a bus to Stanley and wandered around the famous street markets for a little while before heading back on the bus and subway to Kowloon Bay MTR station and eating at Loving Hut (again, a very busy place with a long queue). Hugo and I took a taxi back to the hotel while Benno caught up with another high school friend for dinner.

We took a day trip to Macau via bus and one-hour ferry. We took a shuttle to the Wynn hotel but didn’t find any suitable or available vegan menus like we had hoped so we wandered to Senado square, to St Dominic’s church, then found (luckily) a vegetarian restaurant. Again, it was very busy and we shared a table with others. We walked to the ruins of St Pauls, up the Monte Fort, got lost wandering to the Guia Fort then got very lost finding our way back to the ferry. We wandered up the highway then back down again then along many streets trying to find a way across… many steps and sweat later we made it to the Fisherman’s wharf where we laughed at the Colosseum and other fakes before boarding our ferry back to Hong Kong. We ate at Mana Slow Fast Food (more burgers) and  took a taxi back to the hotel.

Our final day was spent mostly in airports. Taxi to HK airport, check in, lunch at Pizza Express before the rush, board, flight to KL, dinner at Satay house in the airport, board late plane, late meal on plane, limited sleep, finally arriving home at 7am, feeling incredibly sleep deprived!

Kyoto’s Sakura, Neko and Buddhist food

6 04 2010

On our final 3 days in Japan we stayed with Atsu in Kyoto.

We saw beautiful sakura near Ginkakuji along the Philosopher’s Path and at night time under illumination in Maruyama Koen.

We made funny poses and made photo seals in a purikura amusement centre.

We had tea with cats in a neko cafe.

We ate lots of plates of Japanese pickles at hale Vegan Organic restaurant, hidden down a little passage in the Nishiki markets.

We enjoyed vegan parfait and lunch at Mumokuteki, off the Nishiki markets.

We met up with Benno’s high school Japanese teacher at Cafe Proverbs.

We enjoyed vegan kara-age, gyoza and a huge curry at MikoAn, a Buddhist vegan pub/cafe that is even more hidden than hale, down a long alley behind the main street front.

Last night in Osaka and farewell Japan

6 04 2010

On Saturday we had pancakes for breakfast with Atsu in Kyoto, before packing our bags and catching the train to Osaka.

Once we had checked into our hotel near the Shin-Osaka station we went to Green Earth restaurant for lunch. Last time we were in Osaka it was closed for O-bon holidays. It was cheap and simple food, but vegan. Unfortunately they have removed soy cheese from the menu so we couldn’t get a vegan pizza. We settled for the lunch set and a spicy hot sand.

We had dinner in the hotel and repacked our suitcases (again) and did a final load of washing in Japan. We watched some TV- the best Japanese TV seems to be in Kansai kingdom. We watched a game show with human curling competitions and stayed up to watch the Sarah Connor Terminator show in English.

Sunday morning we left the hotel early and caught the Shinkansen at 8.02am.  3 hours later (and after using the office seat in the reserved section that had powerpoints for laptop chargers) we were in Hakata. We had to catch a taxi to the International Ferry Terminal since we had only 15 minutes until we had to check in on the ferry.

At the terminal we got our boarding passes, submitted our alien cards, went through customs, immigration and into the duty free shops then onto the little jet foil JR beetle. We left Japan around 12 noon, and arriving at South Korean immigration and customs around 3pm. We think there was a total of 3 white foreigners on board, including us. The rest of the passengers were Koreans and Japanese.

Straight out the exit door and there was the shuttle bus to Busan train station. Tickets were only 900 won (about 90 cents) – Korea is already cheaper than Japan!

From Busan station we had about 4 minutes to find our KTX train to Seoul. We matched up the times (3.50pm departure) with our tickets and ran to platform 6 and boarded just before the doors closed. We put away our suitcases and went into car 9 to find that people were already sitting in seats 13 A and B… huh? Was it double booked? They called a train conductor who spoke English and while the departure time was correct, the train number was different.  Perhaps there had been a booking mistake in Japan when they booked our Nikkan Kyodo Kippu (Japan Korea ticket). So, we got moved to car 17 to where there were 2 free seats. At least we didn’t get kicked off! We almost thought we were in trouble when a passenger boarded at a later stop and stood looking at our seat numbers, but then they went away and we were safe in our seats!

We arrived in Seoul around 7 pm, walked through to the subway and boarded a crowded subway train for our hostel, the funny named Mr Sea. We bought some foods at a local supermarket with a very grumpy checkout-oldwoman and had curry for dinner. Yay! We made it to South Korea!

Final days in Japan- Kyoto

1 04 2010

On our final 3 days in Japan we stayed with Atsu in Kyoto.

We saw beautiful sakura near Ginkakuji along the Philosopher’s Path and at night time under illumination in Maruyama Koen.

We made funny poses and made photo seals in a purikura amusement centre.

We had tea with cats in a neko cafe.

We ate lots of plates of Japanese pickles at Hale Vegan Organic restaurant, hidden down a little passage in the Nishiki markets.

We enjoyed vegan parfait and lunch at Mumokuteki, off the Nishiki markets.

We met up with Benno’s high school Japanese teacher at Cafe Proverbs.

We enjoyed vegan kara-age, gyoza and a huge curry at MikoAn, a Buddhist vegan pub/cafe that is even more hidden than Hale, down a long alley behind the main street front.

Local trains to Kyoto

30 03 2010

We had 2 trips on our seishun 18 kippu left so we embarked on another 8 hour local train journey from Tokyo to Kyoto. The highlight was seeing Mt Fuji from the train when it stopped at Fuji station.

Snow-capped Mt Fuji from the train window near Fuji station.

Last day in Kisarazu

29 03 2010

Our apartment inspection went quickly with no troubles apart from being told that some items we had put in non-burnable rubbish were actually burnable. Eww too much rubbish incineration.

During the inspection it started to snow.

After dramas at the post office trying to post our stuff home (they wouldn’t accept our suitcases so we had to pack stuff in boxes to send home. Now we’re stuck with suitcases while ‘backpacking’ shoganai), we caught the express bus to Tokyo and met Emma for dinner at the vegan pub, Non. It will close for good soon, so we went one last time. And that was our final meal in Tokyo (this time, anyway!)

Cleaning can be done later

28 03 2010

Second to last day in Kisarazu…and we escaped. Instead of cleaning the apartment we caught the bus to Yokohama and met up with Atsu and his niece for lunch, then met his beautiful sister and the younger niece over green tea and sakura sweets. We ate macha flavoured soymilk gelati for morning tea, then had taco rice and vegetable soup for lunch at Chaya, followed by Mont Blanc and Salty Nuts Caramel Tart for dessert.

The sakura are almost in full bloom here is Kisarazu. Yesterday was sunny and would have been perfect for a photo but we were too busy washing windows and mopping floors. So we had to be content today with sakura at night and sakura during overcast days.

After returning home we had a snack of yuzu orange flavoured potato chips. How interesting. Then we had our last meal in our apartment. After dinner Lara was in charge of emptying and cleaning the kitchen, defrosting the fridge and cleaning the floor. Benno was responsible for finishing the cleaning of the shower that he started this morning, and unfortunately stayed up until midnight completing the job. D’oh.

Is farewell a verb?

27 03 2010

Photos from the Gyosei Inter farewell dinner in Kimitsu.

The Indian waiter took the photo, but had difficulty working out how to press a button, so we ended up with 12 of the same photo. I never knew using a camera was so difficult.

Enjoying the same photo.