Temple day

Like the weather was crap yesterday, it’s amazing today. With nothing but pure sunshine and 25 degrees all day long, we figured it’d be a good day to spend in the shade of temple gardens. Rhonja plotted a route visiting a bunch of them. We rented bikes at our hotel to reach them with relative ease. We knew from our last trip that riding a bike in Japan is pretty doable as most of the main roads are built in blocks. It did take a little time to get used to the strange traffic laws again though. Obviously you ride your bike on the left hand of the road, if you even ride on the road at all. Because on main streets you get to ride on the sidewalk, unless it’s safer on the road. Unless there’s parked vehicles. Unless you’re not allowed to. But then sometimes you’re not allowed to ride on the sidewalks either. It’s a monkey-see monkey-do kind of thing really, that seems to rely on your interpretation of what’s safest if the signs don’t indicate anything with 100% certainty. And then there’s the whole issue of parking your bike somewhere that’s allowed because there’s towing zones all over..


Once we got to properly start our temple-tour it was pretty great. Japanese temples are always pretty amazing to visit simply because there’s nothing quite like it. Some of the larger temples we visited were easy enough to find, but using google maps you sometimes take strange side-entrances you don’t expect. For example, for one temple we went up a very steep, rocky hill only to find out there was a better, more normal entrance a few hundred meters ahead. And there was a sort of back-entry through a suburb which we had to back-track again to leave since there were stairs everywhere!

In the end, we visited Yasaka, Ginkaku-ji (the silver temple) from where we walked to the Honen-in Temple. We rode our bikes to Shinnyodo and Konkaikomyoji. Rhonja especially enjoyed Shinnyodo, where we took the steep rocky side-entrance, since it was large, very pretty and with lots of Japanese green maple trees and few people. Marcels favourite one was the final one with the back-street entrance since it was pretty and we bought some very tasty sweet mitarashi-dango there.


Later in the afternoon we went back to the shopping district. Rhonja located a bike parking lot wich appeared to be a motorcycle lot, but we figured if we headed there the lot attendant would be able to point us in the direction of a bicycle parking lot instead. And so it happened, and we parked out bikes in a special rack that would lock your bike in. You pay to get your bike back, so you should still lock your bike itself as well. We visited two Book-Offs which are stores that sell second-hand video games and often cool merchandise as well. Marcel is always on the look-out for certain japanese games and Rhonja enjoys browsing the various merchandise and helping Marcel look for specific games so it’s a fun store for both of us. Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything we wanted but still had a good time.

We also made a stop at a nearby arcade where we played some more Taiko No Tatsujn, the drum game we played before. Rhonja is starting to get the hang of it as well which makes it more fun for both of us to play together. She’s still nowhere near Marcel’s level though!

After the arcade we started to wonder if our bikes had headlights or not. So we headed back to our bikes to check. Though we did have headlights, we only had reflectors at the back. But so did all the other bikes we saw so we started to wonder if that’s what it was supposed to be like in Japan. We figured we’d better be safe than sorry and headed back to our hotel to return the bikes and eat nearby instead. Hotel staff told us that in Japan you only have a reflector at the back of your bike (good to know!).

Rhonja felt like eating curry, and though Marcel recommended we headed to a CoCo’s again (the curry chain-store), Rhonja was curious how other curry stores compared so she picked a few that got good reviews. One of them sounded amazing and got 4.9/5 stars on google which rarely happens. There’s only 5 curry’s to choose from and only 9 seats in the store! But unfortunately it wasn’t opened yet at the time google (and their store sign!) said it would be so we headed towards our second option.


The curry we ended up eating was still really, really good though. After dinner Rhonja wanted to play some more at the arcade, something that Marcel is always up for. So we played some Pop-n-Music this time! Rhonja was left alone with 200 yen for a little while so she had to learn to navigate the Japanese menu’s a little bit. Once again, she felt like she started getting the hang of the game a little untill she saw Marcel bashing away at the buttons at a much, much higher level.


After we played the games a little we went back again for some well deserved rest.

Happy birthday Marcel!!

Rhonja ordered perfect weather for Marcel’s birthday today. She pleaded with the weather gods to keep the sunshine coming. It was a perfect day..Screenshot_20180513-110525~2[1].png

Ok, so maybe they misunderstood a little. Sunshine, or a Japan shaped/sized raincloud that wouldn’t let up throughout the day, we get the confusion there.


Still, we headed towards Uji with two umbrella’s. Uji is renowned for its matcha tea so Rhonja found a bunch of tea related things to do. Like joining a tea ceremony, being taught how to perform a tea ceremony and grinding/drinking your own matcha tea! There’s also a temple known for its relation to tea and while you’re at it there’s a shopping street with matcha related foods. Rhonja might enjoy the matcha flavour a little more than Marcel, but it’s still a cool thing to do for your birthday!

The weather did influence the order we would do things in though. We started by visiting some other shrines nearby that are also on the world heritage list. Inside one of them was happening what appeared to be a super serious ceremony. We got to peek inside through a little through a window and moved on. The temple grounds were already a water park, but luckily there were stepping stones. It started to rain even more.

On the map Rhonja saw we were near an observation deck on top of a mountain. Signs indicated it was only 1.2km away, it didn’t seem too high and the path seemed easily accessible. We made the climb so we could have a little lunch Rhonja brought along at the top. The view was pretty nice, but the rain did obscure a lot of it which was quite a shame. Just as we thought it couldn’t rain more… it started to rain more.

We were near the building where you could grind your own matcha though, so when we got down the mountain again we decided to head there first! There were several things to do in the building. There was a shop, a tea ceremony, a café, a little museum about tea and of course the workshops. The museum was teeny tiny, really it was just a room with some of the machinery used to process tea, some signs and a movie you could watch that described the different processing types for tea. It was english so we watched that for a bit before seeing if we could join a workshop. We waited at a counter and saw people busy with workshops in the next room over behind glass. The workers definitely saw us but did not acknowledge us for a few minutes which was weird. But eventually one came to us and said we could currently only join the matcha grinding workshop, which is what we set out to do in the first place anyway! Matcha grinding is done with a special grinding stone which you turn counter-clockwise. Not too quickly, 3 seconds per turn, or the matcha is too coarse and turns out bitter. It was kind of relaxing to do and when we had enough matcha to make tea with we had to gather it up in a box to move along. We had to use a special type of bamboo whisk to make some froth on top of the tea and we got a red-bean sweet to go with it. It was tasty but mostly just kind of fun to drink your own tea! (Marcel looks extremely bored in the picture, but he was actually having fun 🙂 )

We headed towards a temple next which looked really pretty in pictures. It’s partly surrounded by water with koi fish and a beautiful garden. Now however, it was almost completely surrounded by water. The rain did a real number on that one! It seemed to have let up a little though… Or so we’d like to say, but it seemed to get even worse instead.


The museum that went with the temple was packed with people who had had enough of the rain like we did. Our shoes were drenched, our bags were soaked and we were just starting to feel a little miserable. We decided to head home early instead. Our walk back to the station still took us past the street with matcha related foods though, so we looked at the selection a bit while passing by but we didn’t really feel up to it anymore. The rain managed to get even worse! Or maybe we just got more fed up with it and it just seemed that way.


On our way back to the hotel we also were passed by some kind of ceremony. People holding little shrines and banging drums, and also an old guy being carried by others. We got a bunch of sticks from one of the people, but we weren’t sure what they were for.
We asked our hotel staff if they knew what they were, but unfortunately they didn’t know either.

Back at the hotel we hung our clothes to dry a little and after changing and relaxing a little we went for dinner. The restaurant Rhonja initially chose was full though, so on our way to the next option we happened to pass by another restaurant Rhonja had seen online that looked tasty and fun! We both had some beef cutlet, served with rice, miso soup, some kale and a soft-boiled egg. A soft boiled egg is nearly raw in Japan as it’s used as a sauce for your food. Rhonja saw they served matcha beer and thought that would be fun, and Marcel went for a normal Kyoto beer. It was all very tasty (except the matcha beer though it was still decent).


Afterwards we headed towards a nearby arcade to play some pop-n-music together. Rhonja didn’t do too shabby if you ask her, since she managed to (usually) get a score of a little above 50% of Marcel’s score!

It was still fairly early though when we finished playing so we headed towards Yodobashi again since they have plenty of things to look at. After that though, we headed back to our hotel stopping at a Lawson’s to get some beers and snacks for in our room. Though a very, very rainy day we still had fun!


Strolling through Kyoto

After check-out it was time for us to move on to our next destination, Kyoto! Rhonja got a little help from an elderly traveller to make sure we were choosing the right train, but unfortunately at our transfer station her card had a malfunction and wouldn’t let her pass through the gate to get there! And to make matters worse, Marcel couldn’t get back through the gate to get to her! The gentleman was still around though and helped her communicate with a ticket attendant who told her she didn’t check out properly at the previous gate. So she had to walk back there (which was a different station so it was a few hundred meters, but they were connected underground), check the gate but not pass through and then she could come back?… Or something?
Rhonja decided to simply ask again when she got there to double check. The attendant there, after some explaining of the situation, was able to simply manually check out her card.

This time, Rhonja could pass the gate just fine and we even caugh the train we wanted to in the first place. It was really crowded and hot but about halfway some seats opened up for us. We were lucky at the hotel though and could check in right away, around noon, instead of at 3. The room is only slightly larger than the last one and you notice it’s an older hotel, the floor looks a little shabby. But once again it’s all clean, so it’s fine. This hotel also has bikes for rent so it’ll be fun to explore the city by bike sometime the next few days.

We decided to head for Nishiki first, Kyoto’s main shopping district with a few must-see things. On our way there we noticed the street was filled with Pokémon images. We don’t know why they were there, but they were cool.


We visited the Yellow Submarine store where Marcel bought some boardgames he wanted. We wandered around a bit, played a game of Taiko No Tatsujin, drank an expensive beer in a bar and visited a small ukyo-e museum. Rhonja scored a pretty postcard of her favourite piece there and even got a free poster featuring another one with some advertising for the museum on it.
We got a bit hungry though, but it was way too early to eat dinner yet way too late to eat a real lunch. So Rhonja managed to find a noodle shop that also served some fried side-dishes. So we got some fried cheese and chicken with a huge bottle of beer for between the two of us. It was really good! We made a note to return there for dinner later during our visit in Kyoto.


After dropping off our new goodies at the hotel we headed off for dinner.
We went to a small hot-pot place, where we got some delicious meats. For appetizers we got dried chili manta ray wing and their special: Fried potato salad. The potato salad was better than we anticipated, it was wrapped in seaweed, battered and fried. With the hotpot itself we ordered both pork and beef. Luckily we also got a small note which explained how to use the hotpot. First we had to ‘butter’ it up using a piece of fat. Afterwards we had to put in some sauce and cook everything in that. When the meat was done we could either dip it in yam-sauce, or a bowl of raw egg. (According to Rhonja raw egg here was fine, and it tasted good!)


After we filled our bellies we made a quick stop at Yodobashi were we bought a few small souvenirs and headed back to our hotel. Tomorrow will be mainly about preparing/drinking tea, and it’ll be Marcel’s birthday!

Old gold, old castles and even more old stuff

Today after breakfast we headed out to the Osaka Mint Museum.
Entrance was free, but we were instructed to wear a badge to enter the museum.

The museum itself was nice. Most of the signs were in Japanese, but luckily with the power of internet we were able to get a decent bit of knowledge out of them.
Especially the miniatures of how their machine work  were pretty neat!


Afterwards we walked towards the Osaka Castle, which was just a few minutes away.

It was quite busy in the surrounding gardens, but near the castle it wasn’t as bad. There was a huge line queueing at the entrance, but we found out that was for the lazy people who wanted to use the elevator to get to the top of the castle. We don’t like queues, so we took the stairs for eight fleights and were at the top within a few minutes.
The top floor provided us with some great views:


The other floors of the castle were more like a museum, which told a lot about the history of the castle and the emperors.

After Osaka we strolled across the street, where conveniently the Osaka Museum of History was located. Here we were taken through the rich history of Osaka, all the while Rhonja was scavenging for stamps. Japan is fond of stamps. At most attractions you can get a stamp, but this museum also had several stamps you could get on each floor. They even provided you with a small booklet in which you could collect them. Of course Rhonja wanted them all, and she succeeded.


In the afternoon we made a quick visit to an Arcade, where Marcel beat Rhonja in both Pop’n Music and DDR, but that wasn’t much of a surprise.

After the arcade we went back to the hotel to get a little rest before dinner. We had a reservation at 19:00 at Yakinuku Rokko with Harry. We’ve been there together before and had a great time, and it was Marcels third time there. A few minutes after we were seated Harry himself came to greet us since in our reservation we let know we were returning customers. Marcel regaled his previous excellent experiences here which Harry seemed to enjoy after which a waitress stopped by again to explain the menu and take our orders.
Marcel spent some time reading the one-star reviews online and mocking the stupid people. You see, this restaurant is all you can eat and drink, but though they serve wagyu meat you can’t order only this. We thought it was obvious and we also enjoy ordering some variety,  including somewhat strange things since we are in Japan anyway! So besides wagyu  beef we also ate plenty of cow heart (very tasty!), some cow intestine and stomach (which is ok), and some “regular” cuts of meat like cow steak and rib, pork rib, loin and neck, lamb, etc.
You get to eat and drink for 2 hours which is plenty of time. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel satisfied.



Tomorrow we head towards the next city in our itinerary, Kyoto! Where new adventures await!

The exploration of Osaka

This morning we got up, after quite some extra hours of sleep. Luckily we’re now fully rested again without much of a jet lag, so enough energy to use the whole day for exploring!

First we got some breakfast from a nearby Family Mart, of which the jingle that plays when you enter the store always puts a smile on our faces (Link!)
Both of us obviously went for Japanese breakfasts, both contained a lot of rice, fried pork and some vegetables.

Afterwards we headed out towards Amerikamura, but got distracted on our way there and headed off in a different direction which looked cool. Walking through the streets you’re greeted by lots of great smelling food, extremely happy music, and storefronts filled with delicious looking plastic meals


When we came to the end of the shopping street, we got into the subway and headed towards Namba, where we made a quick stop at Tully’s Coffee to get some Iced coffee.


We spent the rest of the morning exploring. We visited a lot of electronic, gachapon and even a few boardgame stores. For lunch we went to a Kobe Beef place at which we had some superb Kobe Beef Ramen.


In the afternoon we continued our exploring, visiting arcade’s, a few landmarks, videogame stores and loads of other stores, buying a few souvenirs here and there.
When it was time for dinner again we stopped at a place where we got a lot of fried stuff.
They had deep-fried shrimp, large shrimp, beef, eel and some vegetables of what we think we knew what they were (although in Japan one can never be 100% certain).


At Tako Tako King (one street from the one we went yesterday) we grabbed a dessert and ended our evening with some Pachinko.
Rhonja had never played this before, and although she still doesn’t exactly know what was going on (which is perfectly fine), she still had a blast.
The main gist of it is that you purchase a few hundred metal balls, insert these in a machine, and using a knob you can determine how fast they are launched. It’s sort of like an over the top pinball machine. Apparently you can earn points (Rhonja got some!), which you in turn can convert to more balls (or prizes).


The souvenirs of the day we found afterwards, a small gift for ourselves which was a passport cover, which turns it into a well-known Japanese piece of art, the “Fine wind, clear morning”, which fits well with our red colored Dutch passports:


That’s all for today!


The first day back in Japan

Obviously, using Rhonja’s exceptional navigation skills, we arrived in one piece. We couldn’t check in untill 14:00, so we decided to start our trip in Japan at the Osaka Aquarium. Marcel had already been there before, but Rhonja really wanted to go and see the Mola Mola fish, which is really silly looking. The aquarium was celebrating a new exhibit so they had some really cool koinobori on display outside which Rhonja really liked.


The aquarium itself was also worth the trip. Some of the exhibits are a little small, but their newest one was pretty huge and even contained a whale shark! The entire aquarium is built along a downward spiraling route, taking you past the exhibits multiple times at different levels which is really neat to see.


After visiting the aquarium we rode the ferris wheel outside. It’s got a bunch of regular gondola’s and a few that are all glass. The all glass ones had a large queue though, so we decided to take the regular ones and enjoyed the view all the same.


Rhonja didn’t quite want to go to the hotel yet, though Marcel could use a little rest, so first we explored a nearby mall for a little bit. There were some peep holes in the wall where you could see kangaroos, capybara and an alpaca and it seemed to imply to be some sort of petting zoo. Rhonja was sold.
The “zoo” was divided into three rooms. One had open cages with rabbits and guinea pigs with some free-roaming turtles, one had cats, dogs and a pig and the last held the capybara, kangaroo and a bunch of owls. Note the missing alpaca here, as it was unfortunately led away as we reached the final room of the zoo 🙁


After some intense petting we noticed we were both pretty tuckered out from the long flight and activities so we headed back to the hotel for a nap. The room is cozy to say the least as everything fits exactly into this room with little space to spare. But considering we pretty much only sleep here and it’s all very clean that’s fine.

Marcel headed out for a bit while Rhonja continued to snooze. He did wake her up for a bit telling her to open the door when he returned.
When he did return, Rhonja wasn’t responding to the knocking on the door. Marcel, who was still standing outside the room, also heard Rhonja’s alarm (which she set earlier to make sure she didn’t oversleep) going off, but it was all in vain; Rhonja wasn’t waking up…
Luckily the hotel staff was able to get Marcel into the room with the spare key, so he was finally able to wake Rhonja up to get some dinner.

When we were strolling around in the afternoon, we already passed a place where we decided we would eat: Coco’s Curry. (And like last time, it most probably won’t be the last time)


We had a great dinner there and to make the evening complete we also visited Tako Tako King, were both Rhonja and Marcel showed off their Japanese language skills and ordered beers and Takoyaki (They were very impressed!)


Back at the hotel Marcel again tried to show off, but unfortunately this time the staff didn’t exactly understand his way of saying “1319” (Which is sensanbyaku juukyuu, but the intonation caused some confusion), but he still got some kudo’s for trying.

Now headed to bed for some sleep. Only Rhonja knows what tomorrow will bring! 😀




Flying (mobile) doctor and landing in Osaka

Right as we were ready to board the plane, Rhonja suddenly found out her phone wasn’t able to make calls (You could hear incoming calls, but no way to answer)
Luckily Marcel was quick to react, downloaded two new customs Roms for Rhonja’s Phone while he was still on Dutch unlimited data, just in time for boarding.

In the air he did some hotfix magic, and Rhonja got a working phone again (although she did have to install most of her stuff again, but we had backups for that)

Other than that the flight wasn’t really special. Dinner was meh, seats were meh, leg-space was okay but still worth the extra €60 we paid, breakfast was awful.
We did have seats on the opposite sides of the plane (same row, but different window), and there was even a baby between us, but fortunately also with good parents. The noise that was made was perfectly filtered out by our headphones. The flight also had WiFi, but at €5 for 10MB it was a bit too much for us so we went dark for a few hours.


At Osaka everything went smooth; Fingerprints were taken and our faces photographed.
We picked up our luggage and the Simcard we ordered, so we’re online everywhere!

Currently riding the train to get to our hotel, hopefully we’ll get there in one piece; Rhonja has the lead this holiday, so she’s taking care of transportation and reservations, while Marcel can relax for once 😀
(Marcel did make one last minute reservation though. He booked the last two available seats at the Pokemon Cafe in Tokyo, which we’ll be visiting near the end of our trip)

Photo’s will probably come in our next post!


Today we headed out to Schiphol.
With a few bumps along the way (people in front of us had a collision, and of course the “Afsluitdijk” went open when we were there) but we made it well on time.

We dropped our car off at the valet parking and headed inside.
Luckily Schiphol isn’t really busy during the week, so luggage and security was done within minutes.

After a lunch at the Golden Arches we’re now waiting at the gate. 30 minutes left!

(Almost) Ready for liftoff!

We’re currently busy with the last preparations, making sure we don’t forget the important stuff.
Yesterday we dropped our ferret at my (Marcel) parents so that’s taken care of.

Other than that we’re good to go.
A few differences compared to previous trips:

  • This year we won’t we buying the Japan Railpass, this time it’ll be cheaper if we just get individual tickets for the trains.
  • No papers. We’ll be doing everything digitally, so we’ll probably safe a few twigs from certain death. (Okay, our money will still be part paper)
  • Marcel didn’t plan anything. He assigned Rhonja to arrange everything, so he can just relax (or watch the world burn, not sure yet what’ll happen)
  • Hopefully Marcel won’t slip and bruise his arm this time, so he can finally spend some time at the Arcade again to impress people with his Dutch skills.

But of course some things will be the same:

  • We’ll be visiting several cities we’ve already been before, just going to do different things there.
  • Dinner at Yakiniku Shinsaibashi, great little restaurant in Osaka
  • It’s going to be amazing
  • And of course we’ll have an internet connection throughout our whole trip, so we can keep you guys up to date!


Tuesday we’ll be leaving for Schiphol, probably will make a post from there again!