Sunday, February 25, 2007

Expansive intake

As I only have another few days left of my stay in Kyoto I packed in a good deal of sightseeing on Saturday. On Wednesday I will be heading off on the Shinkasen to Tokyo where I will meet with various researchers in different Universities to discuss possible projects. I will certainly miss the gentle pace of life here in Kyoto which has enabled me to get a lot of both research and background reading done - I'm not sure I could keep up this pace indefinitely however. I expect life in Tokyo to be more frenetic but from my experiences last time Ochanomizu is a very relaxed and friendly place to work.

However, Saturday was anything but gentle sightseeing, though it was very enjoyable. After an early start we headed by train to Osaka, about a half and hour from Kyoto central.

Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe blend seamlessly into one another and you are reminded starkly of the lack of usable land here in Japan. We headed up Osaka's Tsutenkaku Tower for the city view. Originally designed as an Eiffel tower on top of an Arc de Triomphe, the first version burnt down and was replaced by a 1960s take on an Eiffel tower on top of an Arc de Triomphe - This is not an astounding architectural success, but it does give a good view of the city.
Osaka in half light
We spent an hour or so seeing some of the highlights of the city including sampling the famous takoyaki, choux pastry surrounding vegetables and chunks of octopus cooked in a giant waffle-iron - highly recommended. If you find the main arcade street there will be a stall with quadruple the number of people as any other stall; it's worth the wait.
Osaka Takoyaki
Parisian/Japanese street style:
Japan-france
The mossy Buddha, continually watered by worshipers:
Mossy buddha
From Osaka we took the train along the coast past the refineries, which caused such terrible problems after the Kobe earthquake (which cost over 6000 lives and 200 billion dollars of damage), and through the city of Kobe itself, on to Himeji castle, an ancient fortification of stereotypically Japanese design, though quite unlike the counterpart Medieval European castles.

I read that this castle was not only used extensively in The last Samurai and Kurasawa's Ran but it was Tiger Tanaka's Ninja training camp in You only Live Twice. It's an impressive construction and quite a startling view from below.
Himeji 2
Himeji castle 1
Himeji geometry
Back to Kobe to take in the night view from the hills overlooking the city via a walk through China town. Though I love the food here (as is beginning to show abdominally - regular swimming is losing the battle against sushi, I fear) I'm missing many Chinese dishes and baozi eaten in the street was a good reminder of treats 'back home'.
Chinatown
Back to Osaka where Saturday night was beginning to rear its head and we made our way to a sushi restaurant which Tatsuya's father, a veritable epicurean by the sounds of things, had suggested. Everything from uni nigiri (a sea urchin roe/gonad treat - one of my favourites) to raw horse sushi was on the menu (though we missed the latter). Another superb meal and the best otoro I've ever eaten. One of the five exquisite plates we gobbled our way happily through:
great sushi
and finally we took our weary feet and swollen bellies back to Kyoto where a planned Saturday night on the town disintegrated before our tired eyes.

Today (Sunday) has been another useful day working in a local cafe. There were festivities at the nearest temple which is currently in full plum blossom bloom. I braved the crowds for half an hour but whatever the Japanese version of a baboushka is has sharp elbows and the pushing power of a rhino and with battered mid-riff I made my escape, hoping to return in a couple of days when the crowds will have dispersed.

7 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

I see food. Yum yum. The rest of the photos are now blurred with drool. (Only on my screen, of course.)

Jonathan Shock said...

Believe me, in 3D these dishes were even more incredible, though they didn't last long!

Phelps McBride said...

My Shreddies taste especially bland this morning as I ogle your food piccies. Great snap of the moon glimpsed through receding roofs too. The prospect of returning to the Wu must seem rather unappealing after your little Japanese adventure...

Jonathan Shock said...

P.M, Your Shreddies may seem bland but I'm not sure that a choux-octopus combo is the perfect breakfast treat with a cuppa tea.

I was really missing my good home made muesli recently. No fresh fruit from the bottom of my garden in Beijing. Still, baozi for breakfast are pretty good, too.

I didn't notice the moon until I looked at the shot afterwards. I just really liked the geometry of the view.

I'm loving it out here in Japan but getting home is always nice as well.

Jonathan Shock said...

Well, this is a pain! My blog is blocked because, according to Blogger, it appears to have the signatures of a spam-blog (splog). Having verified that I am a human being Blogger will put me back on line when they have decided that my blog is not automatically generated.

J

sa~sa said...

I'm so jealous. One day I'll be in Japan too!
Great food photos, makes me drooool :p *slurp*
Would especially like to try the one with the shell. Too lazy to read, too hungry really. But that looks delicious!

tc~

Jonathan Shock said...

Hi tc.

Glad the photos give you a good appetite! You should definitely try and get yourself here some time.

All the best,

J