Saturday, 12 April 2008

Day 2- Osaka, Arashimaya-Part 1

Warning: Long post ahead

Day 2? What happen to Day 1? We spent it flying. I hate tou
rs sometimes when they say 8D/6N. 2 days include the flying time there and not the actual time used for touring.
Japan second tour is something we planned last year, I must say it was a trip planning laden with mishaps. Not going into details, but we attempted to initially cancel our trip earlier on but our "friendly" fruit tour company was not able to allow us to even though we were within our limits. Further more, in our research of possible tour operators, their tour sales people are just plain unhelpful. No suggestions of what possible options we could have, their attitude - "just read the brochure-lah"... Aargh. Anyway, the fruit operator was chosen because it catered for the second timers to japan. It's not cheap by the way. First thing is -they probably suck @ customer services. Really. I have seen better. This will be the LAST time i travel with the freaking fruit tour agency.

However, during the trip we were lucky the tour guide
turned out to be an ok fella, friendly and helpful mr lee san. If he turned out to be as helpful as his desk colleagues, i would have walloped him there and then. *lol*.

Now, most of you know - tours are equivalent to boot camp travelling. Get up at wee hours of the morning, sit in buses for the longest time possible and only get 2 to 3 hours in a specific tour place. This trip is no different by the way.

I hated the flight there. Some how or rather i don't travel in planes well. No matter how big or spacious the seat is- i find travelling in confined places as planes stressful. Recently, i noticed that when i fly, i start to have problem with my feet. They feel a bit swollen every time i fly, so it results in quite a fair bit of tossing and turning in the plane. I dread my flight to Sydney in July.... Another round of tossing and turning. *Yucks*. Boy, was i glad i reached Kansai (Osaka) airport. Yup, we entered Japan tail end of the country first. Well, almost. Surprisingly - Kansai was pretty quiet that day....It was fully populated only with Tourists. Like me. In fact, there were 3 groups on the same trip. Peak season. Kansai airport is pretty interesting. Designed similarly like Chep Lap Kok in Hong Kong, this is one of the few airports that sits on an man made island on its own.
Japan has recently introduced photography entrance, where by all passengers from foreign countries will have to have their photos taken and thumb prints scanned for reference. I bet they are trying to curb the "jump plane occurences" that happen from foreigners. This process before check out took a good 1 and 1/2 hours in Kansai airport... By the time we got out... everyone was exhausted from just standing... Luckily, the tour bus was there and we headed out of Kansai to Kyoto.

One thing the guide could have done better was to tell us exactly where we were sometimes. My trip takes me to Arashimaya, which is a western district in Kyoto. Poor neko only realised it was Arashimaya on the 3rd day after watching news on tv.. *fists in air*. Arashimaya is the more traditional parts of Japan you can enjoy. (Unlike Tokyo) Backdropped with a lot of hills and flowing rivers - you feel you are really in Japan when you come here.

This was also where we had our first Japanese meal of the day. Please note. We are on
a traditional japan tour so about 90% of our meal is japanese food. Funny thing about Japan, they have a lot of these restaurants that serve big groups of people in some what large rooms. So, once we trouped out the bus ( i was severely distracted by the amount of shops in the surrounding area ) to our lunch place. The first thing i saw was this:
Long tables of food already there, ready to be served. All you have to do is sit down and they will start serving you tea and topping up soup for your noodles. To be honest, i was so starved, if the food was cold i couldn't careless. We were also a good 1 hour late due to the delay in the airport. So, what to do? Take pictures of food first. I am lucky this is japanese food- at least people won't snatch your food while you try to take it -hahahaha... Plus you get your own portions, no need to fight for it.

So, what do i think of real Japanese food? My first impr
ession our bento meal? A tad bit "cold".... brrr. The picture is not so clear but there was the usual - fried stuff - tempura, karaage, sausage (nanda soreh?) and egg. Probably because we arrived a bit late, i found the food a bit cold. That brown blob in the middle that looks like ham choy? Well it was not but surprisingly i love the taste of that. Not sure what pickled veggie it was but it was doused with wasabi and tasted great with the rice
A big bowl of kitsune udon followed. This was not so bad because they topped it up with Hot hot soup. Plus i love the beancurd(aburaage) that looks like fox ears. Yumz. I love the shallot toppings as well. How come in Kl i never enjoyed this? Anyway, kitsune udon is a favorite in the Kansai area of Japan. I give this bowl my two paws up -as it is REALLY tasty. Plus it warms my cold belly on that very cold cold in Arashimaya. Somehow i don't favor the kamaboko ( half moon fish cake) - i prefer the fried varieties of fish cake better.

After the lunch, what do we do? We work it out. Arashimaya, being close to the hills is famous for their Sagano bamboo groove. A dense thick forest of never ending bamboo. It is about a 15 minute walk through the groove and 1/2 hour walk through the forest. The walk to the Bamboo groove is full of interesting shops, sounds and more food. I sometimes envy people with bottomless stomachs. There were so much food along the way but i could not eat a lot because i was already stuffed with my lunch. *grr*.

Since this is hanami season (flower viewing season ) and sakura is the flower of the season, most of their desserts and gifts are sakura themed. You would have think that white little flower has no taste but no...... it appears in cakes, ice cream and even cream puffs. In Japan, gift giving seems to have to do a lot with giving this nicely packed desserts. Sometimes they are SO PRETTY, i am not sure i want to open it. But do note that not all these are really tasty. I sampled some that were way too sweet for my liking. Also if you are planning to buy this, do buy it on the last day of your trip- they only have a shelf life of 7 days normally or a month.

For those lazy to walk, you can pay some money to get these kakkoii onii-chan to pull you. Ahem. There are so many things to distract you along the walk. Which explains by the time we reach the end of the groove, we lost a few people along the way.

I ignored the fact i can read japanese as well as english and took a picture anyway. I only realized this during picture processing.This 4 fellas are amazing peaceful to look at in my opinion.
Despite being amazingly cold that day, ( below 15 degrees that day) ice cream seems to peak my tour group interest. See? Everyone gathering around to admire the ice cream. I must admit it did look very attractive but hot food was more on my mind.

I can't remember if the above was sweet potato or something else but she was busy grilling this lovely stuff on this hot plate. You can get this flavored with black sesame as well if you like. She was busy removing the crusted sides, so i just snapped a picture of her here.

Notice, that the Kansai region people look pretty different from the Kanto region people or those in Tokyo. They less dressy here in the Kansai region, which to me looks a bit more natural than the fake brown hair and overly dressed people at times.

So, after some stop and starts, we finally reached the entrance of Sagano bamboo groove.... Think -House of the flying daggers when you see this place.

How green can you get.
Finally! The exit

This walking thing, seems to go on and on, by the time i saw the entrance, i was already rushing out of it. The plus point of walking in a cold country is you sweat very little. Thank god, because it was only still half the day, i don't want to stink up the whole place...... After that rather exhausting walk..... we had to proceed for our "romantic train ride"(That is according to our travel brochure. Romantic my foot- there were about like 100+ crammed up in the train.....
. While waiting for the train ride, i saw a lot dango..

This is a strange tasting snack. Actually i think it is mochi, made up of rice flour and grilled on an open stove and later dipped in some brown sauce. It is a mixture of sweet and salty which really .. is strange. Takes some getting used to but i won't say no to eating it once in a while.

After that we headed to Kyoto.... which is the next post.......


  1. your photos are very very nice. btw, fruit tour company mr desmond lee is apparently very famous (according to my mum) - he has super premium fees apparently!!! (its like buying our service, ahem :-) )

  2. really? i tried googling him - even mr tour guide say he faymos!



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