Welcoming a Little One

One day, my teacher posed the class with this question,"What would you do, should an alien race come to this world, to say that we welcome them with peace?". We were 14 or 15 years old, and at that age, we thought it was cooler to have a space fight a la Star Wars.

He continued on, "We should send a couple with their baby as our ambassadors, because baby is a symbol of love", and as an easily impressed kids, we were looking at him with awe. It was SO deep, (that Adele might roll in it).

Today, I know that it's not necessarily true, some babies arrived due to circumstances, some get the wrong gender, and risked getting hated (or terminated) by their own parents. It might make someone a bit cynical, especially in a world where over-population is a major concern.

But, here we are, finding some of our friends, great people who has been waiting for a little one all their life. We are so happy to know, that these babies will come into a loving family, even though the parents' eyes is tinged with blood colour due to all the loss of sleep. In this circumstances, a celebratory welcoming, is indeed fitting. We hope you, little one, and your parents, really live, laugh, and more importantly, love. 

Miyajima Island

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The giant torii (the red gate) at Miyajima island is world-famous, and has been the island's main attraction, but we found that the island offers so much more than just the giant torii.

When we landed, we were pleasantly surprised by the welcoming committee, the deers of the island. They are curious and will try to nibble at everything, including your paper map, so keep them stashed away. 

The giant torii itself was very crowded with throng of people trying to get the best picture of the scenery, and it was near impossible to get a clean shot. It was worsen by the short day-time of winter and we didn't get the best picture at this moment. Instead of staying too long near the torii, just have a stroll in the alley, where you can find a lot of local delicacies, such as the beef bun, and the momiji cake. 

We spent most of our evening in this alley, before getting our dinner in a local okonomiyaki store further down in the village, which that night, only served us and another local couple. The food was great, and she cooked the okonomiyaki in front of us. 

We returned in the morning for the torii, well before the first ferry arrived on the island, and we got much better view. The golden hour definitely helped the vibrancy of the colour. If we have more time, we would love to go hiking on mount Misen, but it has to wait for other opportunity in the future. 

Koko-en Garden

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Koko-en garden is located just beside the Himeji castle, and while the castle is always crowded with visitors and tourists, it seems most people did not pay a visit to this beautiful garden.

True to the Japanese garden philosophy, Koko-en is not a colourful flower garden, but more akin to serene landscaping mastery. The garden consists of 9 smaller gardens with their own theme, from bamboo groove, to the ponds. 

When we were there, winter just started, and the garden lost most of its vibrancy, especially the spring and autumn colour. Having said that, it was still such a beautiful place that you need to visit when you have the chance.

The White Heron Castle

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Japan has a wealth of great carpentry work, with craftsmanship level that maybe has no to little rival elsewhere. The Himeji castle is one of them.

Perching on top of a small hill in the city, the castle is visible from the train station, and a short walk of no more than 15 minutes will bring you to the front gate of the castle. You can imagine that in the past, all the people of the town will be able to see the structure from afar, and maybe feel a bit safe with such grand fortification looming about. 

The castle itself undergone several miraculous brush with total destruction, spared from the plan to dismantle it in 1871, the  bombing in World War 2, as well as the great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.

If you are interested in a more supernatural phenomenon, the castle also a breeding ground of the famous ghost story, the Okiku's well. Okiku was falsely accused of stealing a valuable dish from the family, and thrown to the well, people often claim that they can still hear her voice from the well, counting the dishes to make sure that nothing is missing.

Just beside the castle, there is the Kokoen Garden, that we will visit in the next post. 


Photo Credit: Edwina

Eat Till You Drop in Osaka

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Osaka is a 15 minutes train ride from Kyoto (riding on a Shinkansen, that is), and we decided to only spend one day in the city, focusing our time in Dotonburi, the food street. In this area, you will find hundreds of restaurants, stalls, and souvenir shops that sell all the Osaka specialty, such as the crabs, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki.

Since I am allergic to crustacean, I leave it to E to taste the 8-legged creature. She instantly fell in ecstatic mood, and threw praises to how good it is, enough to make my mouth watery just from her description. We then sampled various food along the street, and the only limit was our stomach's capacity, which, due to age, filled quickly.

It is better to enjoy Dotonburi with a big group of friends, so that you can order, share, and taste more!

Arashiyama, Kyoto

DSCF0802 We spent a whole day in Arashiyama, and it was really cold. The December wind really rattled the bone, and at this moment, I thought the importance of having a good pair of winter gloves. Mine was purchased in Australia, and it's good enough for Australia's mild winter, I constantly looked for a hot beverage vending machine, so I could hold a warm can of coffee in my hand (and spend quite a lot of money for hot tea, coffee, and lemon drink).

Around Kyoto: Nishiki Market, Gion & Kiyomizudera

IMG_7499 A bit neglecting of the site for a while, because I was out for a short holiday on the Easter weekend, and a very busy week after that. Here are several shoots from Kyoto, mainly in Nishiki market, Gion and Kiyomizudera.

Nishiki market is a long alley of stores, filled with Kyoto amazing confectionaries and food. A must visit if you are a foodie. Try the warabi-mochi that has jelly-like texture, and taste many green-tea flavoured snacks.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

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Fushimi Inari Taisha is a must-visit temple in Kyoto. The rows of thousand red torii is a sight and a beauty to behold, however that means this temple is crowded all year long, and taking a picture without people marching at the background is almost impossible. There are few ways to have a crowd-free picture. 

The first one involved some steely determination, as the temple open round the clock, you can try to visit it very early in the morning, or even late at night, so, just like I said, steely determination to wake up very early, or go home without any public transport. 

The second is something we found out first hand. Just climb to the top of the mountain, the further you go, the emptier it is. It took about one and a half hour (with our slowpoke pace) to reach the top of the mountain, and once you reached the top, you are rewarded with... almost nothing. No majestic view of Kyoto, nor a grand building/temple/palace. If you feel that spending about 3 hours of your life looking at torii is a wasteful endeavour. I suggest that you stop at the resting point, which gives you a sweeping view of Kyoto, and make a bee line to the bottom of the mountain afterwards. 


Photos by me and Edwina

The Little Prince Museum - Hakone

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photos by Edwina & Me
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