Celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary in Sapporo

17 02 2010

Coming all the way to Hokkaido, Benno wanted to visit an Ainu culture museum. Ainu are the indigenous peoples of Japan, the last remnants live in Hokkaido. The Sapporo Ainu Culture Promotion Center, Pirka Kotan, was at the end of a subway line followed by a 40 minute bus journey. We got on a number 12 bus, which is what we thought was the right one according to sightseeing map. However, it took a different route. The bus driver stopped at the terminal and pointed us in the right direction of the main road to get the bus that goes to “Koganeyu onsen” bus stop. It was a little slippery walking on the ice, but we found the next bus stop and soon a bus came. We got to “Koganeyu” bus stop and asked the driver if it was the same as “Koganeyu onsen”. He said no, keep going. So we waited, then he stopped 3 stops later and said that if you want “Koganeyu onsen” stop, it was back there. We walked all the way back in the snow and ice (stupid bus driver) and finally found the Ainu museum. It took us about 2 hours to reach it.

The Ainu made interesting clothing. They made woven bark fabric for gloves, cloaks, headbands and bags. We went outside and saw some traditional buildings covered in snow. There was also a hut that they kept stolen bear cubs for fattening up then eating. It made Benno feel sad.

Afterwards we headed back on the bus and subway to Sapporo, then down to the end of another subway line and on another bus to lunch at Chi-e no ki, a vegan macrobiotic restaurant. It felt like a blizzard walking from the bus stop to the restaurant through all the snow. We had a lovely late lunch at around 3pm to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. We ate the curry set that came with tempeh (Benno is happy) and the fried rice set. Then we had the moist and rich carob cake for dessert and the waffle set with ginger herb tea. Unable to move but needing to get home, we waited in outside in the snow for the bus, throwing snowballs at each other and having snow fights.

We stopped off at the Jupiter International supermarket in Sapporo eki for some treats, then booked our limited express and shinkansen tickets for tomorrow’s ride home.

We ate out at Aoi Sora again for dinner. It was very enjoyable and the staff are lovely. While the menu is small, every item is delicious and beautifully presented. It was a fantastic wedding anniversary dinner. We had the fish burger (awesome, best ever) and the millet burger set with many salad options. For dessert (even though Lara was already full) Benno ordered (and ate almost entirely on his own) the hot apple pie, the parfait and genmai amezake. To top it off, we got given presents again- free rich chocolate balls that were so creamy and chocolatey. And, I think he gave us a big discount for coming again as we only paid Y4000 for all that.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Odori and saw the remains of the snow sculptures – a pile of snow blocks. It was almost -7 degrees and noticably chillier.

If you go to Sapporo, please eat at Aoi Sora! It’s so tasty and welcoming!

Kobe, city of earthquakes

14 08 2009

We were told that we had to leave the house by 7.30am so we got up early and had porridge for breakfast and headed out.

We took the subway to the JR station then caught a train to Kobe. We arrived in Kobe a few minutes before the tourist centre opened so we waited to collect a map and get directions to the Earthquake museum.

We caught a train to the museum and wandered around on the tour. There were videos, movies, simulations, models and lots of photos and written materials about the massive earthquake (“the Great Hanshin Earthquake”) that hit Kobe in January 1995. About 6000 people died in this earthquake and huge amounts of damage done to buildings, bridges, railway lines and other infrastructure like water and electricity. The first time Benno came to Japan on his school trip was a few months after the earthquake and the shinkansen lines had only just been repaired.

After the museum we caught the train back to the station and went to the only veg restaurant in Kobe, Modernark pharm. It was a very popular place and they had great food, including burgers, curries, raspberry soymilk lassi, soy latte, sesame shortbread and cakes.

After lunch we caught a train to halfway between Osaka and Kobe and visited the Tezuka Osamu manga museum. Osamu Tezuka was a famous manga artist and drew comics such as Kimba the white lion (from which Disney stole the Lion King plot) and Astro Boy.

We caught the train back to Osaka and went to dinner at a french vegetarian restaurant far away from the city. We caught 2 train lines to get to the station, then had to find a bus to go out along the highway. We weren’t sure where to get off but the bus driver helped us and eventually we found the restaurant. We had vegan ome-rice (omelet rice, a japanese favourite) made with yuba or tofu skin, and risotto. Then we had mango sherbet for dessert. It was already getting late so we found the bus stop, caught a bus back to the station and then a train back to Osaka and then subway back to our host’s apartment.

Himeji Daytrip

12 08 2009

We used our seishun 18 kippu to catch the train from Nara to Himeji via Osaka which took 2 hours. In Himeji we walked the 15 minutes from the station to the famous castle. We wandered around Himeji-Jo, the main keep, the stage where samurai commited suicide, the outer walls, the western baily and the vanity tower.

From the castle we walked next door to the koen (gardens) that were arranged in rooms according to their different styles (e.g. pine, bamboo, water etc). We had our roasted vegetable baguettes for lunch that we had made the night before.

Then we walked around to the Prefectural Museum of History. At 3.30 we lined up in the Japanese room for the chance to try on Samurai armour or a 12-layered kimono. Out of the 10 or so people there Lara won BINGO! So she got to try on the 12kg heavy kimono, have photos taken and stickers made. We didn’t get to see the whole museum as the kimono dressing took about 30 minutes!

We caught the train back to Nara and had dinner Ragamala, an Indian place that served garbanzo curry with tumeric rice and 5 vegetable curry with chapati along with papaddums, mango juice and grapefruit juice.

To-kae festival in Nara

11 08 2009

Walked to the train station and caught a local bus to some World Heritage temples to the south west of Nara. The first temple, Yakushi-ji, had 2 impressive pagodas on either side of the main hall. It had some interesting buddhist statues but was a bit noisy due to construction and rennovation being done on one of the main halls. The second temple that we went to visit, Toshodai-ji, was covered in scaffolding and was under rennovation. So we didn’t bother going into the grounds to see it. Then we walked along the train line to a burial mound – a large mound surrounded by a moat and covered in trees but apart from that not very exciting.

We went back to Nara central by bus and to Ashura again for lunch to try the gluten pieces curry with brown rice, domadofu, samosas and pappadums.
We went to the Nara National Museum in the afternoon after buying some yummy bread at the bakery (mango and coconut roll, cranberry and sultana roll, walnut bread and a french stick). The museum had lots of Buddhist statues from the surrounding temples and shrines, and a collection of Chinese pottery and metal works.
After the museum we got a towel at Daiso since one of ours was left in Kyoto at the hostel. We had a quick dinner and headed out for a walk to see the Nara To-kae festival (20,000 lanterns arranged around the city- http://www.toukae.jp/tokae_e/index.html). It was very pretty and lots of people were out in their yukata.