Before I went home for Christmas Mewby and I headed over to the German Christmas Market in Osaka.
We had been there last three years ago on Xmas Eve, and enjoyed the stalls and the mulled wine, but it has increased in popularity since then, the crowds have gotten bigger and the mulled wine somehow wasn’t as good… To escape the crowds we wandered through the Umeda Sky Building and its garden instead. This is ourselves reflected in a window looking out on an illuminated waterfall.
Later we had dinner at Santa Lucia near Utsubo Park (thanks to Eric J. for that tip!). It was pretty good… Though a bit odd that we were seated in a greenhouse.
And the food was a little too salty. Back in Kyoto we went to Kisui and Miu needed four glasses of orange juice in quick succession to quench her thirst. Before heading back though we also took in the Yodogawa illuminations:
On the Sunday, (18th December) we visited Arashiyama Hanatouro (lantern light-up). It was crowded and very cold but well worth the visit.
After that we really needed a hot nabe to heat us up! I was positively dreaming of this on the train back.
Halloween was Mewby’s birthday so I took her out for a meal at a posh French restaurant. You can read the details on Deep Kyoto, but basically they had great food and great coffee, but a crap drinks menu and they served me whale. Mewby liked her dessert anyway, so that’s something.
After the restaurant, our thirsts still unquenched we popped in at Kisui. Every year Setchan makes a big point of celebrating Halloween and having all her customers dress up. Setchan really loves Halloween. Anyway the place was full of lively characters, all in costume and all in high spirits who immediately burst into a rousing “Happy Birthday to you…!” as soon as we walked through the door. Setchan and Risae’s costumes were particularly impressive:
And though we didn’t come in costume, Setchan has her own stash of wigs and accoutrements on hand and so we were encouraged to dress accordingly:
Then home for cake and candles – and as it was Halloween it seemed appropriate somehow that Mewby wear my AC/DC devil horns…
Tuesday was my 41st birthday and as I had the day off I decided to mark the occassion with a big lie in by climbing Daimonji. Unfortunately I had to go down to the ward office first to renew my alien I.D. card, which meant I had to cycle all the way from Kyoto station up as far as Ginkakuji in North-east Kyoto. If you don’t know, that’s maybe a thirty/forty minute bike ride, it was a hot day, it’s mostly uphill and I’m out of practice, so by the time I got to the base of the mountain I was already pretty cream crackered. This is the wee mountain I was headed for. Note the big 大 (dai) character from which it takes its name.
It’s not a major hike to climb Daimonji, just a good workout, but it’s been a while since I’ve been up there so I was soon out of breath. (more…)
On Sunday 5th June we had a picnic by the Katsura River in Matsuo. “PinPin” means “full of beans”. We played sports, ate, drank and had a lovely day – and the weather amazingly stayed fine until the evening so we were very lucky. A lovely day with my lovely friends.
No. It’s just Nana’s leaving party. As the old shepherd’s saying goes:
Great party Saturday night,
Sore heads Sunday morning.
Those old shepherds knew a thing or two about parties.
Far right we see the guest of honour looking surprised/pleased/stoked.
We didn’t have any shepherds on Saturday but we did have LEGENDARY TIMES and I can even remember some of them. Ah, come back Nana and we’ll do it all again! This is my personal favorite picture:
Here are some more (a video will follow if and when I can bestir myself to make it):
Friday being Shinran‘s birthday, I had the day off school and as it happens Mewby was free too. “Let’s go to Kobe!” she said. What a good idea! Now, one of the most popular spots for tourists in Kobe is the Ijinkan area, (lots of early 20th century pretty foreign residences), but we’ve both seen that a few times now. However, there’s lots to do and see in Kobe besides that – we had a lovely time.
First off we took a stroll through China Town and had ourselves a little snack to tide us over from one of those street stalls… and then we strolled on through the city towards the sea and Meriken Park. I thought it might be nice to go up to the top of the Port Tower there… and I was right.
On one floor there’s a revolving bar you can sit at and watch the city turn about you. They sell a special “Meriken Beer” there – it’s actually very good.
I was pretty happy with my Meriken beer.
And once night has fallen the view from the top floor is lovely.
And here’s the view from the outside.
By the this time we were hungry so we headed over to the nearby Mosaic building. It’s full of restaurants but we had one in particular in mind.
The last time we came to Kobe, a year ago, we came here and really liked their pizzas. I was also pretty happy at the giant bottles of Moretti beer they had. Unfortunately, they’ve downsized the beers since then but the food did not disappoint.
Pumpkin bread - recommended!
A potato frite sardine salad type-o-thing - tasty!
Pizza Al Convent - sweet baby tomatoes, anchovies and lots o' greens!
After a wee (fun!) detour through the game centre downstairs we were walking back towards the Sannomiya station area when I spotted this place.
I’d seen Pub James – Blues Land in my guidebook but wasn’t at all sure where it was exactly, so finding it was a real stroke of luck. On entering I immediately felt right at home – as did Mewby.
This place is great, soft lighting, comfy chairs, lots of space and great music!
They were playing some music by a gravel voiced local bluesman named Kougen. Really nice! The owner said he was a friend of his, and seemed delighted that I liked it. I think I might have to invest in an album… You can check out a video of him in performance here. I wonder if he ever plays in Kyoto… Anyway, we both agreed that we were definitely coming back to this bar next time we are in Kobe!
Back in the Sannomiya, the streets were rolling with people out on the town. It’s incredible round that area on a Friday night; like one big street party – Kyoto’s Kiyamachi really doesn’t compare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many happy/drunken party people in one place! We were tired though so we retreated to a cheap hotel and got ourselves a good night’s kip.
Next day, we visited Ikuta Shrine – and on the Ikuta road I spotted this statue of a lady who appears to be studying a turd. Odd.
The shrine itself, is really old, among the oldest in Japan in fact. There is a record of it in the Nihongi as having been founded by the Empress Jingu after she came back from raiding Korea in the 3rd century AD. It’s a pretty spot and a welcome break from concrete and neon.
From there we headed to Rokko and took a cablecar up into the mountains. The cablecar itself is gorgeous.
But the ride itself was certainly enhanced by the presence of an onboard jazz band!
From the top we went to Rokko Garden Terrace, they have a tower there which affords some stunning views of the city (if the weather is clear enough).
After that, lunch; pork for Mewby and sea bass for me.
And then succumbing to weariness (and perhaps also to the wine we had with our lunch) we wound our way back home. Kobe’s a great place to visit – but it’s nice to be back in dear old Kyoto too!
Now, this is just my opinion mind, but I think this picture (taken by Yutaka from up a tree) is really kind of awesome.
This is Yutaka up said tree. Saturday, a bunch of us went out to Matsuo for a picnic. There’s a big park there along the Katsura River and all you can see is trees, and hills and GREEN. Oh, and all the little families taking advantage of the sunny weather and the short Golden Week break and having picnics of their own. Anyway, we had a very happy day, eating, drinking, running around, throwing various objects about and generally having a bit of a laugh. Here are the rest of those pictures.
And here is one last unrelated picture from last night at Urbanguild.
Pictured are Yutaka, Yoshida-kun and Ayumi. All of us had a lovely time watching the final show from local band elements (about which you can read here). Guest drummer Shigeki Fujii is a friend of Yutaka’s, so we got a discount on the tickets too(tee-hee!). Thanks Shigeki Fujii!