Aww… Time to go Home

We left Tatsuta Ryokan around 9:30am – about 11 hours before our expected flight for a two hour drive to Haneda and then another two hour drive to Narita. But knowing what we know now about Japan traffic and how unreliable Google Maps and Sandoro (all GPS units are called Sondra, like bar maids – but I digress) can be, we felt it wisest to just set the whole day aside for the transit.

Which turned out to be largely okay… the weather was glorious as we left the Izu Peninsula and Mt Fuji was my constant friend out the passenger side window. Just stunning with clear blue skies today – these were the best views I have ever had of the mountain in four trips and multiple opportunities for viewings.., and we’re stuck in the car!

Weirdly as I was earlier complaining about Sandora, I was reminded just now of how she unexpectedly said at one point on the drive ‘Warning, there is congestion ahead due to a car on fire!’ Mr K and I just looked at each other and said, ‘Did she just say…?’; ‘Yeah, yeah she did.’ Weird. But sure as eggs ten minutes down the highway, there was a burned out car on the back of a tow truck with several emergency vehicle and personnel around. Sandora can’t seem to tell us how long it will take to get from A to B accurately, but magically she can give us live updates on a burning car on the side of the road.

No I didn’t take a photo of the car wreck.

We noticed this on our way out of Tokyo – all the buildings looked like they were in 8bit due to a type of mesh barrier that is in use along vast sections of the highway. But now we are seeing Mt Fuji in 8bit, we are starting to ask ourselves if Tokyo’s civil engineers got together with various community artist and designed the road furniture this way deliberately to create a cool, and very Japanese style, 8 bit landscape! It’s very cool but also weirdly like looking at the world through one of those halting flick motion books. 🙂

We’ve seen some fun traffic signs on this trip – but I think this one takes the cake. Not only is that a convoluted as fuck depiction of the Shuto Expressway, but it’s live and shows congestion points – no doubt sometimes the entire thing is lit up red like Christmas tree.

We made it back to Haneda to return our rental car around 12:30pm – so as expected the two hour drive was more like three, and decided to try and find some one last fabulous sushi meal before we boarded our sad flight home… Google to the rescue and I found a well located sushi restaurant at Haneda Gardens (a shopping centre across from Haneda Airport’s Terminal 3). The place is called Tsukji Sushiko Takumi.

It was unexpectedly quiet, but perhaps not for midday on a Sunday, so we were pleasantly surprised by that – in no small part, because it feels a bit like every other time I picked a restaurant, we ended up waiting for a table for ages! Mr K had better luck with his eatery choices, though he may not have been heading for the high end of town like I was.

Menus were in English, ordering on an ipad, ad we started with a little salmon, tamago and ikura sushi starter.

Mr K ordered at tempura rice bowl set, and I tried a bit of his eggplant which was delicious.

I ordered the tuna four ways, and OMG if it wasn’t the best damn tuna sashimi I’ve ever had, it was damn close. For a shopping mall restaurant, it was quite ten times better than any sashimi I’ve had in Australia, which is both fabulous, but also sad as.
Definitely saving the details of this place here, in case we find ourselves with time to kill near Haneda at some time in the (hopefully near) future. It was fantastic and cost roughly the same as a weird and disappointing hamburger meal we had a couple of days ago!

We then dropped off our car and met up with our driver – a step that was necessitated by Qantas changing our flight on us. We booked back in April on sale fares, which is the best way to do it if you can. However, at that time QF62 our flight home was operating from Haneda Airport – so we booked to fly in and out of Haneda because that would make the region we needed to travel to more accessible. IE: we didn’t want to have to drive the two hours across Tokyo from Narita. :/ A couple of months ago though, we received notice that all QF62 flights were being moved and would now be coming back from Haneda – turns out today, and our flight, was the first QF62 out of Narita.

So we meet our driver who was thankfully going to expertly manoeuvre us the rest of the way – a solid 1hr 45mins to 2 hrs – across Tokyo as the cost of returning the car to somewhere other than where we picked it up was going to be roughly the same as getting someone to collect us. Plus we figured a professional driver would be way better at driving in Tokyo than we would be, We may have overestimated on that – because instead of taking the Shuto and skirting around the entire city, we found ourselves on some of those inner spokes of this previously displayed nightmare and literally driving on an elevated highway right past Shibuya and Shinjuku! WTF?

But also, comforting to know it’s not just useless foreign tourists who fuck this up!

Anyway, we got to the airport in plenty of time to check in early, and thank goodness for that – seems half the ground staff were in training given the flight was newly moved from Haneda. So there was some unusually be-suited management types trying to train and guide the staff in checking people in.

After that, we sailed through customs and security (yay, express passes) and got to potter around a couple of duty free shops before installing ourselves for a while in the JAL First Class Lounge – which was quite okay actually. Saké on tap, literally and a touch screen to order curry, noodles or sushi. Best things about it – it is the quietest airport lounge I’ve ever been in. The Japanese and their inherent politeness manifesting in doing things like – taking phone calls in private booths designed expressly for this purpose, having conversations in what Westerners would call ‘indoor’ voices, and not having Sky News blaring at you whether you like it or not. Take note Qantas!

Boarding went smoothly and it was out with the bubbles to say good bye to Japan. For now.Last Japanese selfie complete with obligatory cutesy filter. It’s tradition!

Dinner options were pretty good and there was a Japanese set menu on offer, that I was certain was going to be disappointing after my fabulous sushi lunch, but when else am I going to get offered a Japanese meal on a plane?

The starters were in a neat little bento box and consisted of some shrimp, tofu, pickles, vegetables, beans,and all sorts of beautifully presented tasties. I was pleasantly surprised – this was airline food after all – but it’s obviously been prepared by people who care. It was really quite lovely with some crisp saké on the side.

There was also a Main course of Dainomono, seasonal grilled fish (mackerel I was told), served with rice, miso soup, and pickles .

Followed by a desert: wagashi which came with a cup of green tea. Nice job Qantas… I was actually quite impressed with an airline meal; first time in years.

Unfortunately our flight wasn’t as comfortable as it should have been – there was an ungodly glow coming from the ‘no smoking’ sign over our head which was a multiple of lumens brighter than any other ‘no smoking’ sign in the rest of the cabin! I was wearing an eye mask and trying to hide under my pillow and still couldn’t block it out. Also the cabin temperature was too warm… which is weird because we always travel expecting to freeze on flights, but at one point when I got up to use the bathroom at 2am, I walked down the aisle and noticed that nearly everyone had kicked off their blankets, so it wasn’t just me being Goldilocks (for a change!).

Other than that our flight was uneventful, which is just how we like them. Getting through Brisbane Airport was no problem and our cabbie was even super friendly and competent! All up it was a great transit* taking about 22 hours from leaving Izu to walking in the door at home.

Sayonara, Japan – for now.

* One slight hiccough of my own creation … I left my iPad on the plane! I never do things like that. Ever. But the stupid thing has a grey cover, the exact same colour of the side table of the business capsules so I can see how after not enough sleep and feeling a bit fatigued, I totally didn’t notice it. Oh well, thanks to the “find my device” and a bit of Googling to find the international airport’s lost property, I managed to get it back a few hours later – but that did mean driving back to the airport again! I swear our cars know the way tot he airports on autopilot.

Tatsuta Ryokan on the Izu Peninsula

Gorgeous day today. As we drove from Shizuoka to Izu, Mt Fuji was our constant companion out the passenger window and my propensity for iffy high speed landscape photography reasserted itself in spades… This was Mr K’s preferred shot, complete with Shinkansen in the mid-ground.

We’d had quite a warm day – somewhere in the low 20Cs all day, but as we neared Izu and entered the mountainous villages of the peninsula, the temperatures dropped considerably, and with it, the autumn leaves were more prevalent. It’s interesting how you can see which slopes of a small valley are the coolest.

Our last weekend in Japan for this trip, thankfully we only minimal transport work this weekend (unless our Middle East clients start arcing up on Sunday just for shits and giggles!) and two nights of rest and relaxation, fun and frivolity in the beautiful Izu Peninsula staying at Tatsuta Ryokan.

I saw this ryokan on a travel vlog and thought it looking lovely. Beautiful ambiance and a welcoming atmosphere. Sometimes it feels a little hit and miss when booking places in languages you are unfamiliar with, but I seem to have won here.

This was booked months ago, and I honestly forgot what type of accomodation I had booked for most of this trip,so it always felt like a wonderful surprise when we arrived at our ryokan stays. Here, at Tatsuta, because we are having guests on the second night, I remember booking a larger room with the private onsen bath, but damn… this room is palatial!

It’s quite difficult to capture the size of this room – between the bed space above and the living room space in the picture below, is also about another six tatami mat of floor space? I also wish I could adequately convey the amazing smell of this room – the fresh cypress of the timber work, the tatami mats, and the fresh breezes coming in the large windows to the river… it’s intoxicating.

I noticed this quaint device by the bed… cute touch. 🙂

And of course, I’m starting to feel that no night in Japan is complete without your own private onsen bath on the balcony… just the sight of it is enough to make you start to relax.

We also had a generous provision of coffee, hot tea, cold water, snacks and an amenities kit full of more pookie than you can poke a stick at…
Toothbrush, razor, hairbrush, tabi socks, shower cap and so much more. Most of the ryokans have provided loads of amenities like this – the packaging always gives me pause though!

The view from our room of the Nekokoshi River.

First things first of course we had to shower and then get in for a soak in the tub. It was amazing. The water was about 40C and felt fresh and clear. After that we did a little unpacking and cleared away some work before checking out the ryokan’s other onsen baths. There were four other private onsen baths we could access – and they all had door locks that were electronically monitored so you could scan a QR code and find out which baths were free. This bath was directly at the end of the corridor on our floor, and we had time so we thought we’d go for a second dip before getting ready for dinner. It was lovely – and I imagine four or five people could enjoy this space together quite easily. This is the view from the ryokan’s riverside restaurant on the first floor… just beautiful.

Looking all relaxed and ready for another delicious kaiseki dinner. The menu is predominantly Kawadoko cuisine in this part of Japan (not entirely sure what that means, but I am writing it down so I can hunt for it later). The starters were as impressively presented as they were flavoursome – there was an umeshu aperitif, sakiwan golden soup, boiled rockfish, pork hachimanmaki, forest boar liver, and tengyo nanban (I need to look that one up too!).
The sashimi was fresh kingfish from Ito port, and scallops.

And as per what is now becoming quite the habit, I tried a local junmai saké with the meal.

This was the little boiled rockfish – very fishy, with a very thick consistency, a bit like octopus, but not really.
There was small box covered with decorative paper in the first picture that I hadn’t noticed, and when I did uncover it – more sashimi! Yellowtail and tuna, so fresh and delicious. Amazing… I really am not going to have Japanese food for months after I get home, it just won’t measure up.

Next course, we were back to cooking our own shabu-shabu of delicious golden sea bream and specially prepared tofu.

We were also served this interesting ‘boiled fish’, when we asked our attendant what sort of fish it was, he haltingly replied, ‘Errr, red fish’. 🙂 I’ve since discovered it was known as kinmedai in Japanese which is a Splendid Alphonso to the English speaking world. It was served boiled in a light soy and was very tasty – though I did heave most of the raw ginger off the top… it was just too much!We were also served some tempura seasonal vegetables with wasabi salt – I never thought I was overly fond of tempura…. in Australia it tends to feel heavy in oil, and the one time we went for tempura in Asakusa with a Japanese friend, Amané, she took us to her favourite and she claimed ‘best’ tempura restaurant in Asakusa and I honestly didn’t like it that much. But the ryokan meals we have had have served tempura that is light and delicate and doesn’t taste like heavy deep fried food at all.We discovered that Izu is really well known for their fresh wasabi – and we also discovered, when you grate your own wasabi and not using the squishy over processed stuff you see most places, it is more flavourful and less hot. Very nice.Dashi broth heating for our rice set course – The rice set came with more red fish, sesame, miso pickles, nori, wasabi, and coriander (thank you so much for the heads up on the devil’s weed!), then of course you pour some broth on once you have loaded up your rice.Ta-da! Super tasty. They gave us a large pot of rice and said to call if we wanted more rice – but after such a large meal, I nearly had more condiments than rice in my donburi. Thankfully, with these multi course kaiseki meals, the dessert/sweet courses are usually simple and small… I say ‘thankfully’ because many Japanese abhor waste when it comes to food and it is considered rude not to clean your plate – if you are at a buffet and choosing food for yourself, it is VERY rude to take more than you will eat.
Dessert tonight was some local Fuji apple, a couple of well chosen grapes, a piece of brown sugar pudding, and some sort of slightly cheese-layered-cake thing. Looking very relaxed and chilled there Mr K.

The restaurant as we were leaving – each table has blankets under the table top and heaters under the table. We were also given large fluffy Japanese parkas that we could wear if we got too cold, but seeing it was quite a bit warmer here than Takayama and up in the snow near Nagano, we felt a little too warm!

Having dinner by the stream was lovely – though I have to say the water was a bit loud for quiet conversation. I imagine in spring this area would look completely different and the river wouldn’t be trickling past, it would be roaring! Waking up to this in the morning is something I could really get used to.

Took this snap of Mr K enjoying the view from the onsen bath before we went down from breakfast. 🙂 I reckon it’s a pretty safe bet that 2,000JPY he is thinking about work on Monday already.
You can see the dining ‘room’ by the river so much easier to photograph in the morning – it is gorgeous here. It was chilly this morning so we rugged up a bit and settled ourselves in beside the river.

Breakfast full of all good things again – egg and a piece of boar bacon, miso soup, rice and condiments (below), pickled veggies, yoghurt, and green tea all beautifully laid out.

The donburi condiments box for breakfast is full of exciting and some unidentified things. 🙂 Beans-of-uncertain-preparation (?) at 12 o’clock, mushrooms in soy at 11 and 1, some slimy umami fishy things (on the middle left), some miso-ish onion flavoured something (on the middle right), seaweed dead centre, wasabi and bonito flakes!

We also had some grilled fish (local whitefish and some sardine) to heat along with some boar’s speck, which was really an interesting flavour – super gamey bacon. I’m getting used to cooking with the chopsticks and have even mastered removing the fish bones from the morning’s grilled fish offerings, with my chopsticks. The miso soup here was excellent – one thing travelling around to so many different areas throughout the country is you rapidly learn that not all miso soup is made equal! Nor is all curry or all ramen.


The morning light really brought out the colours along the riverbank…

We are off to explore the Izu Peninsular today, in particular some interesting road infrastructure and how they’re integrating their tourist transits from rail through to other passenger transport options (‘cos that’s how we roll!).

But this post continues because we stayed here for TWO days and on Saturday afternoon, The Boys arrived from Tokyo! I have so been looking forward to sharing this lovely ryokan experience with them. These guys have known each other since the first grade and this is their first holiday together like this. They’ve been in Tokyo all week and are now hitting the countryside and road tripping to Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kanazawa, Takayama, Nagano, Fuji and back to Tokyo… but this is the only ryokan/onsen visit they have booked (in fairness you can stay in ryokan at all price points, but places like this one aren’t all that accessible for your average early 20s, budget conscious, backpacker types! They all look great and super uncomfortable in their samue… I’m sure a bit of saké will dispel the discomfort quick smart.

When they first arrived, I was busy re-packing our suitcases for our transit home tomorrow, while Keith took them to one of the private onsens so they could figure out how this whole thing works. Which suited me perfectly as I got the bath on our balcony to myself. We all scrubbed squeaky clean, got dressed and made our way down to dinner.

We had a significantly different menu to last night – still served out in the lovely open air river-side dining room… this time a table for five was made up for us.

We started with a yuzu aperitif, and the appetisers tonight were – ginko tofu, simmered sweet potato, tengyo (smoked salmon) with cream cheese, beef with myoko.

On the side was some more beef and green karachi egg in some delightfully delicious sauce made of shitake mushrooms. I have no idea what else was in this, but it was fabulous.

Tonight’s sashimi was two kinds of Ito port fish, and various kinds of wives, (translations provided by google, they don’t always makes sense?), Amagi natural shrimp

The Boys enjoyed grating their own wasabi – very novel.

…and very serious business

A small selection of tempura vegetables – this one had a large piece of sweet potato that I happily swapped for Mr K’s mushrooms… though not passed between chopsticks of course!

Amagi Shamo special wasabi hotpot that you make into a kind of porridge… the soup is made at the table and we were each served up some rice into a bowl, broke about three decent sized eggs and whisked it up and then mixed fresh egg through our rice. Added pickles, miso paste, wasabi, spring onions, and other things to taste, and then add soup to cook the egg… it’s time consuming table side but was really tasty. There was also a savoury egg custard made from tortoiseshell and yuzu paste (?), and some grilled swordfish with magnolia leaves, but I got busy with the cooking of the hot pot and failed on the photos. 🙂 Dessert again was lovely and light and simple: almond pudding, with orange and local melon.

All up a fabulous meal with lots of very traditional Japanese flavours to try… which is a good thing because it sounds like these guys have landed themselves twice in CHINESE restaurants since getting here – and there is zero excuse for that! Japanese food is amazing… I have no idea why you’d opt for Chinese!

After dinner, we all went back to our room, (which all up was about four times the size of the room the Boys were sharing), because of course we had accumulated more saké than I could take home, and Mr K had left over beer and snacks we thought they could demolish or take with them for the rest of their trip. An impromptu work meeting transpired over saké…Less so as the night went on… 🙂

See? Way more comfy in their samue after sufficient application of saké. We managed to polish off quite a bit – which was nice, I knew I was buying more than I could consume or would be allowed to take home.

I also gave them a crash course in ‘which saké to buy from which convenience store’. LOL… – 7/11 to stock up on cold Hakutsuru, Lawson’s for affordable and reliable good, Tatayam Junmai, and FamilyMart? Well, FamilyMart is a bit of a crap shoot on what you’ll find at any given store. 🙂

Breakfast time, we met The Boys down by the riverside. Tamago, pickled yam, miso soup, an egg custard, and another donburi set with all the amazing condiments. I have no idea what this dish was in the top right… but it was delicious and full of rich umami flavours – unfortunately the breakfast didn’t come with a menu, and our attendants skills weren’t up to a translation.

This morning’s donburi condiments consisted of whitebait, pickles, seaweed, sesame, bonito flakes and dashi or soy sauce. It was kinda cool to be old hands at the Japanese way of serving dinner now – and to watch the confusion as The Boys tried to figure out what the hell they were eating.

Breakfast miso soup should be a thing back home, I think. I’m gonna turn it into a thing when I get back. Miso soup for breakfast… can’t think of a single reason why not to. Oh okay, other than the fact that the readily available miso soups at home are nowhere near as good as here!

More grilled fish and sardines – plus a weird little chicken popsicle thing that tasted a bit of yuzu…

… but all too quickly, breakfast was over and it was time for us to try and hit the road for the long drive back to Tokyo where we had to return our rental car to Haneda and then meet a driver to take us to Narita (short but annoying story omitted here, where Qantas is the villain*)

We had a marvellous interlude in the mountains hanging out with the kids before they continued on with their adventures and we head off to travel home. This is the good stuff… the best stuff, really. Making memories that last a lifetime.

*Villain is probably being far too harsh a term for these circumstances; we booked return to Haneda back in April, but from today onwards, all QF62 Tokyo to Brisbane flights will be going Narita to Brisbane, not Haneda to Brisbane. We’ve known about it for months, so the only inconvenience was two hour transit across the city and the cost of a private transfer to haul our arses and our luggage. *shrug*

Migiwaya in Yaizu, Shizuoka

Work was pretty full on today – we were looking at integrated transport solutions in Nagoya and then had to make our way to Shizuoka which took longer than anticipated… we have found the SatNav in the car to be variously reliable. It gives us decent information on route options and is usually accurate on the cost of tolls, (which are seriously prohibitive considering they barely save you any time at all on some occasions), but we don’t think is always operating on real time traffic data. We have had a couple of instances where the tolls route had a lot of congestion and ended up taking much longer than the no tolls route would have taken. C’est la vie. Live and learn.

We stayed for the night at Migiwaya in Yaizu Harbour in Shizuoka in a lovely little ryokan known for the fresh and crystal clear onsen water. We had a quiet little garden villa at the back of the properly in a tucked away secluded little spot.

The room was enormous – I think these newer ryokan establishments have realised how people from the cramped larger cities of the country enjoy a bit of space for restful and relaxation.

The living room was also quite large – had enormous closets and the lovely little half height rocking chairs that were really comfortable.

The tea making space was well equipped and the fridge stocked with complimentary beer, highball and non alcoholic drinks.His and her yukata for the stay.and his and her towels. The blue is for boys, and pink is for girls really is ubiquitous. Outside was a lovely deck overlooking a private garden. Not as established as some gardens but will be lovely in a few years as the plants mature. Dressing room:Bathroom:Snackage and drinks: Before scubbing off the road and into the onsen. It was a very warm 41C – which probably only felt warm because the ambient temp was closer to 20C than 10C this close to the coastline. The water really is crystal clear, and while not as soft as some others, was lovely and refreshing. After a couple of dips in the bath (in between getting some work done) it was time to go for dinner. Here was the menu for the evening, laid out in a lovely autumnal design:

Appetisers of wheat bread and persimmon mixed with walnut paste, roasted duck, smoked salmon, Japanese radish, red turnip pickle and citrus seasoned grilled fish. So tasty.Maguro sashimi – this was delicious. Lovely three different cuts of tuna of varying grades. <3 Big fan! Had to try the local saké of course – cute little saké jug.Shimonita leek soup. Followed by a house speciality – deep fried tuna cheek. This was possibly the most flavourful cooked piece of tuna I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not super fond of tuna once it’s more than lightly seared, but this was fantastic.Local fish with Chinese cabbage served with seaweed sauce.Simmered Shrim Potatoes.Marinated steak with malted rice paste.

Steamed rice with fried Sakura shrimp, served with miso soup and pickles. It’s interesting to see how the flavours in miso soup change so much from region to region.

For dessert, a small brown sugar pudding and some local fruits.

Another delicious meal, and so beautifully presented… 10/10 would dine here again.

After dinner we had a reservation in a different, larger, private onsen… so we made our way down the garden paths to a private little cabana-like space. It had a double dressing room, a double shower room and this lovely large onsen. Only we found it to be rather too well lit and took care of that pronto…much nicer without a spotlight overhead, and just the garden lights left on.
This was actually an odd space to be bathing in – it has all the appearance and feel of privacy, but probably had the actual privacy of a tent! People couldn’t see in, but you definitely got the impression with the open air space that your voices would carry, though the ryokan was not full and we saw only two other parties at dinner.

After this it was time for a much need, good night sleep with the sounds of the ocean not far away. We both woke up bright and early – our deck faced predominantly east, and even though we had remembered to close all the blinds, we found ourselves waking early. Never mind, that just gave more time to have another soak in the onsen on the deck before breakfast in the dining room.

Breakfast that comprised of a cast of a thousand dishes!
Grilled Japanese horse mackerel with fish sausage and wasabi.Tuna sashimi for breakfast! How decadent.Tamago with pickled broth sauce.

Plus a bunch of other delicious things – they seem determined to fill us up at breakfasts here, which works well – if you skip lunch!


Once we finished some work stuff – we got a chance to check out the cute little town of Takayama… and oh my goodness! Takayama is definitely, where I parked my car!

We started on the riverside where the morning markets are held most days from 7am (8am in winter I believe), and wandered past lots of craft stalls and touristy shops. Takayama’s Old Town district isn’t very big so a few hours is a goodly amount of time to spend wandering the streets here – unless you get side tracked.There were chop stick shops, LOADS of sweets, biscuits and lollies for sale, puddings, beef stores, fans, glassware, ceramics, and cutesy as hell Japanese kitch. Cute little glass chopstick rests… I nearly bought a set to bring home but while the chopsticks I bought home from Kanazawa back in 2015 are probably the most used and useful souvenir I have ever bought from anywhere, we tend not to set the table too fancy when we are having Japanese at home. So they probably wouldn’t end up getting used much.

A cool lantern made out of random black and red chopsticks. I guess this is the sort of thing you can do when you are buying in bulk and not paying retail! These fans remind me of the hundreds of fan shops all over Kyoto… Takayama is sometimes called ‘Little Kyoto’, as its old town district is relatively well kept. Takayama is also really well known for its Hida beef… this is a Hida beef bun – the type you usually get full of pork. Mr K felt that he just *had* to get one and it I stole a bite, it was really tasty.

This guy is a Japanese yew carving (I’m assuming that is ‘yew’, as in “IS that a yew tree? Do those trees grow like that? Dad, go stand next to Chreeis!” said in th most grating clueless loud American accent you can muster). At the end of the Edo period, an artist name Matsuda Sukenaga created original netsuke carvings using the beautiful grain of the Hida area’s characteristic Japanese yew timber – without adding any colour. They are said to be the beginnings of the art of Japanese yew carving, or a craft known as ‘ichii itto-bori’, which is a nationally recognised traditional craft of the Hida area. This guy actually represents Daikoku who is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. This god is said to be a fusion of the mythological creator of Japan, known as Okuninushi no Mikoto, and an Indian God…. weird combo.

Across the road from this auspicious looking character is a wee little Hida beef-onna-stick shop – which Mr K also just *had* to try.
This is his, ‘I’m not working for ten minutes together, and there is beer and beef!’, face.

Then came the saké breweries and shops – which may or may not be the reason that Takayama was one of our stop overs to begin with!Why hello? This is where I parked my car!

This is a pretty typical Japanese cross-over : the red pointy legged mascot is called Sarubobbo, which means, ‘baby-monkey’ and he is usually depicted without a face… but here is a Hello Kitty Sarubobo.

Sarubobo dolls were traditionally made by others for their daughters as a charm for a happy marriage and for a smooth delivery of children.Anyway… what was Hello Kitty doing in the middle of my saké adventure, anyway? I think we accidentally wandered into saké heaven… there are so many breweries here that there are walking tours and special maps showing you which brewery is where.

I’m crying like a Sarubobo baby-monkey … so much saké and I’m only allowed to bring a limited amount home!

Okay, so that was just one Takayama saké store – it isn’t even one of their brewery store fronts! >.> This may take longer than we anticipated… Oita Sake Brewery Kamisannomachi *(I think… by the time you get to the end of this you’ll see where the confusion is creeping in!)This place was directly across the street from the Takayama Cafe…e

Funasaka Saké Brewery…This place was great – you pay 450JPY for a little cup and you can fill it 12 times from 12 different bottles in their range that are kept in a big fridge you can access.

We found ourselves a warm little space near this hearth and happened to meet a couple who live in France – Jeremy was originally from the UK and was a ski instructor for many years, Juliana is from Brazil and they had a delightful 1 year old named Charlie who was an absolute legend letting his mum try some saké without complaint. 🙂
As it turns out Jeremy and Juliana are into buying hotels and renovating them in France so they have quite a lot of knowledge and experience in French real estate… happy thought indeed.

Hamada Saké Brewery is stumbling distance across the street… and they have a different tasting system.

First, all the award winning saké and a very small, negligible, attempt at saké education…

Then you buy a 100JPY cup from a dispensary machine (it’s all very hands off as far as the staff are concerned). Then you go to a machine and put in 500 JPY for 6 saké tokens or 1000 JPY for 13 saké tokens. Once you have your tokens you just put them in the machine of choice and a shot of saké will be dispensed. The numbers on the machine correspond with bottles on the shelves and off you go! There is a description above each saké which is the sum total extent of trying to offer you any useful information on each drink! Matsuzaka Saké… So many people lining up for the token machine!It was so easy to just hook into this… $10 later and you’re really quite toasted.Quaffable stuff and well worth a stop!Ummm.. Kawashiri Brewery I think? :/ It was about this point that we decided we should get back to our accom as we had more work to do and I was rapidly ending up in a state where I wasn’t going to useful at all!
We are definitely going to have to come back to Takayama at some point – would be great to come with someone who has better Japanese skills than either of us have.

Gorgeous little town with heaps to see. And we didn’t even touch on their weird retro museums and other offerings.

Kanazawa do do di do do

Thanks Mr K for putting that ear worm in my brain for half the day. 😐

We finished some work this morning and then found some free time to head for a quick shopping stop at the Higashi Chaya, Kanazawa’s oldest and most famous geisha district. Here, there are lots of heritage preserved buildings and tea houses that come alive at night; interspersed with touristy gold shops that do roaring trade during the day. We were last here in the summer of 2015 – it was 39C, humid and sticky. Today was barely 16C and raining off and on.
No, not shops that sell actual gold like the Ponte Vecchio or something, but things covered in ‘gold’… mostly craft items and beauty products either that are either guided in, or contain gold leaf. And, somewhat weirdly loads of food products with edible gold leaf on them – though it’s anybody’s guess why as gold leaf doesn’t seem to have a great deal of taste about it. **shrug**

Since we were here last there is a decidedly Chinese aesthetic creeping into a lot of the larger very gilt object d’art that we saw for sale. So more of this…And less of the traditional Japanese lacquerware etc…There is quite on lot of hand blown glass products with gold accents of course that seem really popular and always with the saké sets – we’ve noticed that since our last visit to Japan in 2019, there seems to be a trend towards saké jugs shaped like this one, rather than the traditional little carafes that you see used in restaurants a lot. They seem quite neat and I dare say have a much higher capacity than the small carafes, which I imagine is what is putting the restaurant industry off adopting them. 🙂 I mostly came here to hunt for some new chopsticks. I bought four sets of lovely ebony chopsticks last time we were in Kanazawa and they are the singly most useful and used souvenir object I think I have bought back with me from any trip ever… but so far I haven’t seen any designs that took my eye for every day use at home.The gold leaf, gold powder body products are destined to remain a mystery to me, though. I was Google Translating posters and signage like a mo-fo today, and do you think I could find anything that was able to explain ‘why’ having gold in your face creams, lotions, potions and actual face masks was supposed to be good for your skin? Nope. Not so much. The one store person I asked what the gold is good for, responded by telling me it is ‘very skin luxuriating for your complexion’. So… yeah. I guess it looks pretty and seems super fancy is the reason for it?

As for the gold leaf foods, well the fruit logs, the tea with gold leaf in, the brownies, cakes, sponges, matcha jellies all covered in gold leaf weren’t of much interest… and after the shrimp ice cream debacle, there was no way I was going to go buy a 980JPY gold leaf ice cream just to take a photo of it 😉 so here, have a picture of someone else’s that I stole off the internet somewhere.

Apparently you can’t taste anything unusual about it – and you just end up with gold leaf sticking to your lips.

While it had drizzled most of the time we were here, at one point during our short visit it started to absolutely pour down so we found ourselves taking refuge in what we thought was a cafe but turned out to be a jaffle house? Toasted sandwich restaurant? I dunno… felt like some Aussies could have been running the place – ham and cheese jaffles, egg and ham jaffles and even curry and cheese. I haven’t had a piece of white bread since maybe about February, and damn but it doesn’t taste like cake… so sweet!
I promise there were actually quite a few people wandering around here today – I just seem to have taken most of my pictures of these old buildings and winding little streets with hardly any people in them.

After this we had to make our way to Kanazawa Station where all the city’s public transport infrastructure comes together. Like Toyama, it’s actually quite impressive how integrated the transport is here, and attached to large convenient shopping centres. We had to pop up to the Pokémon centre while we were here because, well it was there.

Pikachu in a kimono is apparently a limited edition Kanazawa Pikachu… the lady in the store went to great pains in broken English to let me know I couldn’t get this particuar stuffed Pikachu anywhere else. This wasn’t actually in the Pokémon store it was just a display in a regular chemist when I popped in looking for a nail file. Cute.

Once we finished with the train stuff it was now pushing dinner time, so we went up to the restaurant level of the train station department store and found a very popular sushi restaurant called Morimori Sushi. Now Morimori had a queue that was probably about 35 people deep and we momentarily toyed with the idea of going to one of the other 20 other sushi or ramen noodle restaurants on this floor but Morimori was the only place that had anyone queuing to eat there – honestly, every other place had seats outside but no one waiting to eat at those places. So we diligently collected a number and sat down to wait…
And wait we did! It was a good 45 minutes of listening to customers being called (in Japanese!) by the time we realised just how long a wait this was going to be! And by then you’re committed right? We ended up waiting about 75 minutes to get a table!This was definitely going to be one of those, ‘oh dear, I hope this is worth it’ things, and while I was pretty confident that I’d be happy with my wash once we managed to have some dinner, I was less confident that Mr K would find the wait worth his while given he’s not the sushi/sashimi fan in the fam. Speedy conveyor built sushi train:Mr K once he realised that his beer would arrive cold and immediately! Happy face – thankfully.The menu was quite extensive with pages and pages of offerings under each category, and our orders arrived really promptly. Saké and beer to start, like there was any doubt about this. I had some Tateyama Gingo saké and it was cold and delicious (it’s getting so much easier to order a drop I know I will like, the more familiar I am becoming with the local products). The food was delicious and imho, well worth waiting for. I had some salmon an some yellow tail sashimi, as well as some maguro tuna and some ikura ships. Everything was delicious and fresh just as you would like hope at a Japanese port town. Mr K catching up on some serious news.

After dinner we had to go back to the train station for a meeting with Mr Icoca. The station itself is a genuinely beautiful and modern architecturally designed piece of fabulousness… even the civic art wasn’t too hideous.

The Motenashi Dome is an enormous glass and steel dome behind the famous Tori Gate entrance to the Kanazawa Station. It’s a HUGE undercover area – it feels a little difficult to convey the size of this space.

The Tori Gates that welcome visitors to Kanazawa when they arrive by Shikenson, JR train, or bus.

Hopefully we will get a bit of fine weather to see the gates in their usual timber colour rather than lit up on a rainy night. They usually look more like this:

Anyway, another long day was long. Time to call it quits for the day.