Japan: Uji, Kyoto Prefecture

Reason #46633869 why Japanese public transport is frikkin awesome: go to your local train station at any time of the day and almost always, you could be in any other major city in no time. Without much hassle. One morning, within 30 minutes, we arrived in Kyoto (from Osaka). Another 20 minutes got us to Uji, a small town famous for its green tea and a world heritage shrine. Amazing!

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This building, Byōdō-in, is so beautiful that it is featured in ¥10 coins. The phoenix on top of its roof is featured in the ¥10,000 notes. Apparently, this building was made into a Buddhist temple, dedicated for people to depart to their next life. I think.

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Sample set of different soba: one of which is matcha soba.

I had another emo-period of terribly missing my precious, however, as if my dad inlaw knew, I got emails from him with happy photos of Little E. He looks very well loved and spoilt. He’s a blessed boy to have such loving grandparents, who are generous with their time, attention and love. The three most important, and so precious, things anyone can offer. I felt a lot better after seeing the photos 🙂

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After lunch, we visited a registered UNESCO world heritage shrine, Ujikami-jinja. I love going to shrines, again, because they remind me of my grandma and my childhood. I also like seeing the bundles of people’s prayers hung up around the place. I personally think that without hope and faith for a better future, what kind of life would you have? 🙂 regardless of your religion or lack thereof.

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We then went to the oldest continuing green tea producer and shop. We met the one of the owners, who is a 14th generation of tea producer and saw a photo of his grandson (the 16th generation). He proudly showed us the many awards they won and how apparently, their tea is the tea of choice for the emperor of Japan!

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There, we did an introduction to Japanese tea ceremony, including grinding our own matcha (green tea powder). I am not a fan of matcha but I wanted the experience, so I’m glad that I did it. Also, at least now I know for sure that I really don’t like the stuff, because Uji is probably the place to have it 🙂

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I liked Uji, it is only a short trip away on the train from Osaka and/or Kyoto, which makes it a good day trip option 🙂

Japan: Hakodate, Hokkaido

We got in late into Hakodate, the last city of our Hokkaido tour. After dropping off the hire car, we went to Lucky Perriot, apparently “the Number 1 local hamburger place in Japan”. How could you say no to that?

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It had to be the worst food I’ve had in Japan, in equal top position with the onigiri of random unidentifiable filling I bought on my first trip here. Sorry, Lucky Perriot!

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After a restful night, some of us went to the Morning Market for a fresh seafood breakfast. I had fresh crabs and sea urchin on rice, it was delicious. I noticed that the sellers in this market were a lot pushier than those in any other markets I’ve been to. Though being Japanese, they were still not as pushy as ones in SE Asia 🙂

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On the way back, we walked past this place….. I take comfort in the fact that it was the only shop with no one in it.

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The rest of the day was all about sightseeing. Hakodate was apparently the first ever port in Japan open for International trade. The city is heavily influenced by western styles, most noticeably, the star-shaped fort. It was apparently designed by a man who studied Dutch architecture.

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It was in the fort that I finally succumbed and Skype’d my inlaws and Little E. I had been holding off as I didn’t want to upset him (and myself). Little E looked so chubby! And happy. And content. I knew he would, but I am glad regardless to be able to see it. Afterwards, my mum inlaw emailed and said that Little E didn’t get upset at all. He was happilly pointing us out on the photos around the house and took comfort in grandma saying we will be back. I, on the other hand, was not fine. Sigh. Isn’t this so much of a #firstworldproblem? Longing for my son when on an overseas holiday? 😦

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Anyway, dinner was at a food alley, with most of the places only able to fit a maximum of 5 people! I loved the ambience of the place 🙂 This kind of outdoor, basic, fuss-free dining spots is what I love about Asia.

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Squid ink and potato butter corn gyozas! The potato butter gyozas came with salted raw squid. I didn’t like the dip 😉

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To finish off the night, we went on the Hakodate ropeway to see the night view of the city. We were lucky that we got to see it as the cloud went over really quickly and soon we were in it. Funnily enough, there were still people taking photos of the “view” with flash. You wouldn’t be able to see anything! Ha.

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Our night cap for the day. Our hotel provided these shaved ice machines for free. It was such a treat for both the young and old guests! 🙂 Mr E and his brother went nuts on the condensed milk!

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And so, that ended our trip to Hokkaido. I’ve always wanted to go, I’m sorry that it was not winter as the island would be way prettier then. However, I did enjoy the trip. Hokkaido is so much different from Honshu (main island of Japan), offering mostly nature and its picturesque landscapes. It is beautiful!