Sisters in Japan, Day 11: Ito and the Jogasaki Coast

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K’s House with another ryokan (now museum?) next door

After a leisurely morning, Brady and I headed off for the Jogasaki Coast.  While the trip was originally supposed to be a family affair, Ricardo stayed back with LR so it was sister! time!

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Our room

We eventually made it after driving high up in the mountains (and fog!), which is not a route that I’d particularly recommend.  We stayed at K’s House Ito Onsen.  It’s a budget hostel in a former ryokan/onsen and it is super cool.  The reviews for the place are great and well-deserved.  There is a small onset facility on site, but we also went to a larger onsen in the Hotel Dankoen where we had a discounted pass.  This was very cool because there was an outside onsen that provides a nice contrast between the cool night air and hot water of the baths.

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Drink machine in the Hotel Dankoen!  Liquid courage for getting naked!

On the way to the Hotel Dankoen, I stopped by a walk-up sake window because why not? It provided an experience that helped make up for the one I missed out on when the drive-thru daiquiri placed was closed in Louisiana during SMS and my Deep South road trip.

After the onsen, we went out to dinner at a restaurant that was delicious.  It was also a little more expensive than we were looking for but the town was pretty dead and not much was open.  The food was quite good.

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Balcony view from our room

Although the day wasn’t as jam-packed as the prior, it was awesome!  Brady and I got to have a ton of quality time in the most beautiful setting.  I love the Jogasaki Coast and highly recommend it.  Given how affordable and amazing K’s House was, I’d probably spend 2-3 nights there as a home base for exploring more of the peninsula.

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Screenshot of the Hotel Dankoen Guide Map- go to the hotel site for a .pdf!

 

Sisters in Japan, Day 10: Kanazawa and Yokohama

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I started my day with coffee at Curio Espresso and from there, I was on the move!  The day would feature the cool city of Kanazawa during a West Coast morning and the evening would feature my old East Coast stomping grounds of Yokohama with a Baystars baseball game followed by beers at the Thrash Zone.

The coffee shop was cute and very English-friendly.  I spoke with an Australian woman who was also leaving that day.  She was quite nice and it’s always nice to have a companionable cup of coffee rather than silently sip, waiting for the caffeine to hit.

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Quiet times at Omicho Market
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Crab and salmon roe bowl

After coffee, I decided to get a seafood bowl (don) at Omicho Market, a large covered market with over 200 stalls, mostly groceries/food.  Kanazawa is known as a foodie city and, since it’s on the coast, as a place with great seafood.  After walking for a bit, I picked a restaurant that wasn’t super busy but looked like it had a few regulars.  The breakfast was delicious and was similar to the delicious bowls I had in Hokkaido a few years back.

After my breakfast, I went to two shops.  The first was Mari-ya with its incredible assortment of threaded goods.  The most eye-catching are the kaga temari, embroidered handballs that are exquisite.

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After Mari-ya, I went a few doors down to 大樋焼本家窯元・九代目大樋勘兵衛.  I know.  I’m sorry.  What does that even say?!?  Well, thanks to Google translate, I can tell you that it’s a shop of Otsuki Yakimoto and the ninth generation family potter Oiso Kanbei.  I also remember this from the little handout I got but to summarize, this shop features a distinctive Kanazawa form where the vessels are hand-formed rather than on the wheel. I made some hand-formed pottery in second grade and, despite how well-loved my 10-lb Christmas ornament and super-ugly coffee mug are by my parents, these Japanese artisans are on a whole other level.

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Otsuki Yakimoto family pottery, ninth generation Oiso Kanbei
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Even shopping bags have a raincoat!  Tea seating area in background.

The woman inside was super-welcoming and had a handheld translator which didn’t work all that well but was a really thoughtful things to have.  Once she saw that I was going to buy a few things, she offered to make me tea.  They have a small open tea room in the back so it made for a unique shopping experience.  After I bought my two cups and one bowl, she packaged it up beautifully, including a plastic cover over the paper bag since it was raining outside.  Although the amount of packaging waste that results is eye-popping, it is also amazing how detail and contingency-oriented the process is.

 

 

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Dutch elements in the main gate to Oyama shrine.

Next, I went to the Oyama shrine.  It has a really pretty garden, which was especially vivid due to the rain/sprinkles.  There were a few school children groups so I got a few enthusiastic “Hellos!” from the daring.

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Kenroku-en
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Kenroku-en

Kenroku-en is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan and even though I had been there before, it seemed worth walking through it again.

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Higashiyama Chaya Street
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Two women in Higashiyama.  They were posing for photos for anyone who asked.

Time was starting to run out so what’s the solution?  A few more stops!  I took the bus over to the Higashiyama Chaya district, which was absolutely beautiful.  I only had time for a 15 minute walk, which was just enough to make me really go back for a more leisurely stay!  If I hadn’t had to make the Baystars game, I definitely would have pushed off my return.  But it was better than nothing and also a cool reminder that there’s always more to see.

I also stopped into the Fukumitsuya sake shop.  The brewery is just outside of town and, if you plan things a little more ahead of time than I, you can make a reservation for a tour.  Another thing for next time!

So, I was starting to cut it close.  I decided to take a taxi so I could stop in Omicho one more time to buy a mochi panda t-shirt for SMS.  I know, completely ridiculous.  It was a lot busier around lunchtime, so it was fun to see it more bustling.

I actually got to the train station early and almost made a slightly faster train but, unfortunately, the train was only reserved seating and thanks to the guy in front of me who bumbled with his wallet for several minutes (seconds), I didn’t make a reservation in time.  As a side note, it is a total pet peeve of mine when someone gets to the front of a really long line and then acts surprised when it’s time to pay, show a passport, etc.  Get ready people!  It makes everything go more smoothly!

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Never fear! I caught the train I had originally planned on so I got to Yokohama on time.  On the train, I enjoyed a delicious train bento that had a plastic insert explaining what all the little dishes were.  Bonus!

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Go Baystars!
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Baseball cheerleaders and mascot!
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Foul ball safety officer
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New friend!
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My littlest tomodachi.  I love the ear pro!

After arriving in Shin-Yokohama, I hopped on the subway to the Baystars stadium.  The were playing the Hanshin Tigers.  Brady, Ricardo, LR, and I had the best time.  We bought noisemakers bats, had some beers, and made friends with our neighbors.  It was the best!

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No posers!
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Thrash Zone IPA, baby-style

Afterwards, I brought Ricardo and Brady to The Thrash Zone, a small bar that specializes in IPAs and playing heavy metal vinyl.  We had another beer, spoke to a few Americans (whaaaat?  What are they doing there?), and then caught the train home back to Atsugi.

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Tiger Super Fan!

October Goal!

It is 1 October and I am way behind on my blog posts.  I’m still trying to catch up on my April trip to Japan.  Yikes!  I really like having my blog as an outlet and, in an effort to be more consistent, I’m going to write a post every day in October.  Hopefully, I’ll be caught up by the end of the month with all the trips between then and now.  There will also be a few posts like this when I run out of time and need a short filler piece to keep the streak going.  Tomorrow, Day 10 of Sisters in Japan!

Sisters in Japan, Day 9: teamLab and Kanazawa

Day 9 started out on the drizzly side.  After waking up and saying goodbye to Ricardo and Brady, I headed out to teamLab Borderless in Odaiba.  SMS and I had seen an exhibit in Palo Alto and thought it was pretty cool.  I had slight regrets in pre-purchasing my tickets since I now thought I’d rather get to Kanazawa earlier but the money was spent and off I went.

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Tile peacock

When I got there, there were hundreds of tomodachis already in line.  There was an employee holding a multilingual “End of the line” sign far from the entrance, which was simultaneously helpful and depressing.  Eventually, I got into the exhibit which was really crowded.  This is in contrast to the fake! news! website which features solo visitors only!  Of course, I wasn’t really expecting to be on my own.  It’s popular and very cool.  I do think that once you’ve seen one exhibit, that’s kind of enough since essentially, a large part of the exhibit consists of fancy light projector effects.

Part of my meh reaction to the exhibit is that I really had not allowed myself enough time since I had picked the time I wanted to leave for Kanazawa.  I wanted to arrive mid-afternoon so I could see a sight or two before closing.  I took a crazy tight schedule of two subways to Tokyo station and just made the shinkansen.  Running was involved, which always makes me feel like a crazed tourist godzilla but it’s an acceptable trade-off at times.

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Kanazawa was overcast and beautiful.  I saw one of the few sakura trees still in bloom, since the area is cooler than the East Coast around Tokyo.  I bought a bus pass and headed over to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.  When searching #kanazawa, I had seen pictures on Instagram of Leandro Erlich’s “The Swimming Pool” and I had to see it!

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A different way of hanging out in the pool!
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It really looks like a normal small pool.
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View from the bottom!
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Am I swimming through the water or jumping around like an IG influencer?!?!

It’s a really neat installation of a limestone pool with a glass bottom over a room painted aquamarine.  It’s a very playful way of tweaking assumptions of what we think we see in common objects and what they actually may be.

The whole museum was quite cool.  There are only a few exhibits but that allowed me to focus on them rather than have many go by in a blur.  There was a love exhibit that consisted of paintings that looked all the world like neon signs.

An added museum bonus goes to lockers that, while mandatory for larger bags, have a refundable Y100 charge.  Travel tip for people with hand luggage in Japan- lockers are everywhere and are awesome to avoid lugging bags around.  Even light bags can be heavy!  Just have several Y100 coins in your change purse!

After the museum closed, I walked back to the bus stop and headed towards my capsule hotel.  I had made an online reservation, which I feel is the way to go!  Especially since capsule hotels for women are not as common.

The capsule was clean and, since this was only my second time staying in one, a really unique experience!  I was given a goodie bag of towels and pajamas for my stay.

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Towels and pajamas. There are also toiletries in the bathroom, including single-use toothbrushes. A person doesn’t have to bring a thing!

Now, it was time to plan for dinner.  Kanazawa is known for being a foodie town, so I wanted to have something delicious.  I found an amazing sushi place online, but the it was small and I felt it was unlikely I’d get a seat.  Then I found Iwashigumi, a restaurant specializing in sardines.  This sounded so niche and quintessentially Japanese (focusing on one thing and doing it really well), that I decided I was in even though my familiarity with sardines is limited to Caesar salad dressing and occasional forays into trying to up my Omega-3 intake by queasily eating small fillets.

I walked down the 157 towards the river.  The restaurant had the type of wooden slated door, which always seems like such a commitment when I enter that I almost chickened out.  But I went in, sat down, and ended up having the most incredible dining experience!

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Door on the left

There were two main people I interacted with, an older man and older woman who worked there.  They didn’t speak English and I hardly speak Japanese so there wasn’t a lot of verbal conversation, but we still communicated with each other throughout the night.  It was an atmosphere of such warm hospitality that I felt at ease and at home.  I loved it!

There was an English menu, which was very helpful.  I decided to go all in and get the extended tasting menu.  I was hungry and I felt that I was in for a singular experience.  I wasn’t wrong!

The first three courses were a sardine salad with assorted sashimi, followed by a sardine croquette.  Next was a larger sardine served whole.  Given the size, there was a good amount of fish to eat.  I did not eat the whole thing- the head stayed!

After that was a sardine chawanmushi, which was delicious!  It’s one of my favorite dishes.  Sardines in wonton-like wrappers were next, with a sardine “meatball” tofu soup to follow.  Finally, the savory dishes ended with assorted sushi.

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The last dish was a little ice cream sandwich.  I do not think it had sardines in it but, given the theme, who knows!?  It did taste like fairly straight-forward vanilla.  During the dinner, I had sake served in a small pitcher shaped like a fugu.  It was very cute.

Afterwards, the chef gave me a little goodie bag with a box of sardine prep mix to cook at home.   I have instructions and I’m saving it to cook for SMS.  I’m not sure if it’s curry, soup, etc at this point but one of these nights, we’ll find out!  I also filled out my address and several weeks later, I received a postcard.  It was such a wonderful experience and I would recommend the restaurant to anyone (other than vegetarians!). It was such a warm, kind-hearted vibe that I absolutely loved the place!

On my walk home, I walked past Mariya, a shop my Dad had told me about.  The temari balls were beautiful and I resolved to go the next day when the shop was open.

Sisters in Japan, Day 8: Yanaka & Ebisu, Tokyo

Our Tokyo mini-vacation continued with another early morning walk-about for me followed by group touring a little later in the day.  Since LR would feed at 6 and then go back to sleep, the whole family would sleep in until 10.  Delightful!  Except my jet-lagged self couldn’t manage it.

On Day 8, I took the subway to Nakameguro where there was another City Bakery!  SMS and I had found the Hiroo outpost when we lived in Japan but it was under renovation during this trip.  The pastries are amazing!  I bought one for there and one (two) to-go.  I was so happy!

Afterwards, I took the subway to Shibuya and walked over towards Aoyama.   I went to MUJI Found and bought a fold-over pouch, piece of linen cloth, and fermenting paste for pickles.  Guess which one of these things I still haven’t used?  Hint: It weighs 1 kg and rhymes with permenting faste.

I headed back to Hiroo with a stop in my favourite park.  It was a long-ish walk and by the time I got back, everyone else was set to head out on our field trip of the day, the Yanaka neighborhood and the Asakura Sculpture Museum.  SMS and I had been there before and I wanted to show Brady and Ricardo how cool it was.

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Unfortunately, no strollers were allowed (lots of stairs) so Ricardo and LR chilled outside while Brady and I went through.  It’s really an amazing traditional house with a more Western greenhouse artist studio in the front.

Afterwards, we walked around the Yanaka neighborhood, stopping for a beer/sake along the main pedestrian street.

 

Next, we walked towards Ueno Park but came upon the cutest outdoor cafe, Ueno Sakuragi Atari.  This was an awesome find!  We had a beautiful seat outside under a veranda with climbing plants while enjoying beers and snacks (marinated eggplant was my choice).   I suspect this cafe is in a few non-US guidebooks since there were a few tourists but no Americans.  I would definitely recommend this place in any Tokyo guide of mine- it was great!

We caught the subway in Ueno and headed back to Hiroo.  After getting ready, I went out to Bar Trench in Ebisu to meet Norfolk friends for a pre-dinner drink.  Bar Trench was super cool with great cocktails.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to drink them rather quickly, which was a little bit of a faux pas I think since we didn’t seem to appreciate the craftsmanship.  But we did!  Just quickly.

Also, at Bar Trench, and a few other places in Tokyo, I noticed that there’s a seating charge.  It’s usually Y300-500 with higher prices noted in the highly touristed Golden Gai.  It’s not a big deal, but something I hadn’t noticed when I lived there.  Maybe I didn’t go to nice enough cocktail bars?

After drinks, we met up with Brady, Ricardo, Rachel and other friends for a shabu-shabu tabe-houdai (食べ放題) and nomi-houdai (飲み放題), aka, all we could eat and drink over a 90 minute period.  We were very good at it!  It was a lot of fun because it was an experience I’d never tried before and we were with great company!

After dinner, we walked from Ebisu to Hiroo for our last night at the New Sanno.  The next day, we were going to part ways with the M-R clan heading back to Atsugi while I went to TeamLab in Odaiba followed by a quick overnight trip to Kanazawa on the West Coast of Japan.