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8Books Review: Essential Japanese Grammar

8Books Review: Essential Japanese Grammar

After having gotten hooked on learning some legit Japanese for my trip to Japan last year, I’ve been rarin’ to continue my Japanese language skills for a future return trip to Kyoto study tea ceremony traditions. Thus, when given the opportunity to get a review copy of Essential Japanese Grammar by Masahiro Tandoori and Eriko Sato, I was happy to oblige. The Good One of the things I was really looking for in Japanese language […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: McDonald’s in Japan

Traveling Japan: McDonald's in Japan

I suppose it is fitting to talk about McDonald’s in Japan as it was the last stop before we headed back home Stateside, a sort of transition from Japan to America. I have pretty much removed McDonald’s from my dietary routine, for weigh cutting reasons and now for fair trade and sustainability purposes, but prior to this change, I always found it interesting to visit the local McDonald’s in different countries to see what they […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Kyoto Snowstorm

Traveling Japan: Kyoto Snowstorm

Before we begin this little journey through a Kyoto winter wonderland, I should start with the disclaimer that I grew up in sunny southern California. I put on a scarf whenever the temp goes under 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When I stayed at dorms in Harvard University at Boston one summer during high school, I asked what the underground tunnels were for, and when they said it was for the snow, I replied, “Oh HELL no.” […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Traveling Japan: Toei Kyoto Studio Park

It’s quite lovely to experience Kyoto’s preserved machiya neighborhoods and many ancient temples, but equally fun and still historic is the Toei Kyoto Studio Park. Basically, imagine Universal Studios but minus all the big fancy rides and massive studio set experiences and in their place are ancient samurai and ninja backdrops complete with, well, samurais and ninjas. Old Japan period television series are a pretty big thing in Japan, and fans can come see where […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: New Year’s Festival at Yasaka Shrine

Traveling Japan: New Year's Festival at Yasaka Shrine

If you watch a lot of anime, you may have noticed that festivals are a big deal in Japanese culture and story telling. Just like there’s usually a onsen hot spa episode, a beach episode, or a class field trip episode, the festival at the temple is also one of those staple episodes you find in a lot of anime. So having watched a lot of anime over my lifetime, I wanted to experience the […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Shinbashi Dori in Gion

Traveling Japan: Shinbashi Dori in Gion

From various sources, I read that Shinbashi Dori has been called the most beautiful street in Asia. After reading that, I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to hunt this street of beauty down and check it out. So, with a couple guides and my trusty international T-mobile phone with me, I steered my group down to the Gion district where Shimbashi Dori is just a block down from the Yasaka Shrine. Did it meet […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Kyoto’s Ninen Zaka & Sannen Zaka

Traveling Japan: Kyoto's Ninen Zaka & Sannen Zaka

While researching places to go in Kyoto, I have to admit, I was trying to live my Rurouni Kenshin years and wanted to see “old Kyoto” where ever it may still exist, while temples and gardens are key destinations in such a search, I realized that I would also have to find *streets*. Thanks to the efforts of Kyoto citizens to preserve the historic architecture and vibe of their ancient city, there are certain areas […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Kiyomizudera

Traveling Japan: Kiyomizudera

除夜の鐘|Joya no Kane #kyoto #kiyomizudera #japan #temple #清水寺#京都#日本#寺 A photo posted by 音羽山 清水寺|Kiyomizu-dera (@feel_kiyomizudera) on Dec 31, 2014 at 9:32am PST The image above is of Kiyomizudera buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, the night I was there. Except I wasn’t there. I had walked up to the temple that New Year’s eve in 2014 and found it closed. What I didn’t know was that the temple would open up a couple hours after I […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Kyoto’s Heian Shrine

Traveling Japan: Kyoto's Heian Shrine

The Heian Shrine is one of those major stops in Kyoto. It’s one of the main shinto shrines in the country, and its torii is one of the largest in all of Japan. It’s a symbol of revival for Kyoto after the capital was moved away to Tokyo, and they’ve kept the city thriving by becoming modernized while at the same time preserving a lot of the old traditions and cultures.

Traveling Japan: Arashiyama’s Okochi-Sanso Villa

Traveling Japan: Arashiyama's Okochi-Sanso Villa

The Okochi-Sanso Villa in Arashiyama used to be the home of a famous actor named Denjiro Okochi. As I was researching the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest destination, I saw mention of this, read a little about it, saw some beautiful pictures of the buildings and gardens, and decided I had to stop by–especially because there’s a tea included with the price of about $20 USD ticket. It did not disappoint. To get to the Villa, you […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Arashiyama’s Tenryu-ji Temple

Traveling Japan: Arashiyama's Tenryu-ji Temple

We had come to this area primarily for the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, but we found so much more than we had expected. One of the things about the city of Kyoto is that there’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site around like every corner. We were practically tripping over them. It’s clearly why Harry Truman said no to Kyoto as a target for the nuclear bombings in World War II. I had read that the Tenryu-ji […] Continue »

Traveling Japan: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Traveling Japan: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

The Arashiyama area is a “touristy” location, which makes it sound like one of those ugly tourist traps flooded with souvenir shops vomiting cheap goods onto sidewalks. Not so. It does have souvenir tourist shops, but a lot of the stuff is a lot more tasteful than the cheapo “I <3 [insert city here]” fare, with some gorgeous products such as handcrafted chopsticks or beautiful coin purses. #japan #cat A photo posted by @tinabot on […] Continue »