Vacation

The best part about finding cool stuff online…


…is realizing, “hey, we can go there next month!”.

(via)

Related, I just happened to stumble across Good Samaritan Club, a group of college-student volunteer guides who will work with you to set up a custom tour in exchange for a chance to practice their English; you just need to pay for their tickets and meals. Might come in handy for some of the out-of-the-way places we’re thinking of going. Or just open up some options for my sister to spend a day without me.

Catting around…


Still collecting interesting places for our upcoming trip to Japan, and I found a cat café not far from our hotel. No catgirls, no moe maids, just cats. Since I no longer have any active porch cats, this will be a nice diversion.

Finally!


For various reasons, my sister and I haven’t been able to visit Japan together for a few years. Her new job has her in Tokyo (and London and Sydney and…) quite often, so she’s building up plenty of airline miles, but she’s booked pretty solid when she’s working.

Basically, we’re going to be in Kyoto for the two weeks between cherry blossoms and Golden Week, with a couple of days in Tokyo at the start. Since we won’t have our parents along this time, we’ll be moving at a much faster pace, while still managing to revisit some favorite spots.

I’m in the “collecting cool stuff” stage of planning right now. Obvious things include the Toji Market, the Tenjin-san Market, and the Kamigamo-jinja Market. We haven’t done Toji before, but the other two are great fun.

While we’re briefly in Tokyo, I’ll be hitting the relatively new Samurai Museum. I will not be buying a sword at their gift shop; well, maybe one of the replica wall-hangers might catch my eye. (note that these are not iaitō)

And since I’ll be in the area, a trip to Nakano Broadway is clearly in order.

Once we reach our neighborhood in Kyoto, I’m sure our first stop will be the little noodle shop that serves katsu curry udon, followed by a quick run up to Shijō/Teramachi/Nishiki for ginger crack and some new kitchen knives for my sister, with a convenience-store stop to locate her latest obsessiondiscovery, monaka ice cream sandwiches.

At some point, we’ll definitely visit the Nishijin Textile Center, both for the kimono fashion show and the fact that last time, none of us had gotten into kumihimo yet, so we didn’t pay much attention to the obi and other braids they had. (there are also kumihimo lessons, a craft museum, and at least two stores (1 2), but those all go in the “maybe” column)

I hope to finally do the Osaka Duck Tour and find out if they sell copies of their mascot. We will of course be hitting up Tenka Gyoza at least once while in Osaka (their web site is down, but we’ll be keeping our fingers firmly crossed that she’s still in business).

Other than that, things are pretty open right now. I don’t think we’ll be dining at the Ninja Restaurant, but it sounds like their live concerts might be worthwhile. Likewise, I don’t think we’ll be doing the Kyoto Samurai Experience, either, even though the kimono rental shop that runs it is just down the street.

Oh, and despite spending most of our time in Kyoto, we’re flying in and out of Haneda, because every other option had the upgrades to business class wait-listed, so it’s a good thing that I found the app for booking Tokaido Shinkansen tickets a month in advance.

When in doubt, more blossoms


Kyoto Botanical Garden, Kyoto, Japan

Finding my fan-girl


All the hand-painted fans I bought at the little shop in Kyoto went over well as gifts, so naturally I wanted to make sure I could find the place again. I knew the name, Kyoto Eshi no Mise (京都絵師の店), and the exact street address, (京都市中京区寺町錦小路西入東大文字町288), but Google Maps couldn’t find it, even with the right kanji. (the address was particularly useless, because Japan)

Fortunately, I had backup. First, an old Sony GPS tracker that I carried almost every day, which would give reasonably-useful approximations of where I’d been at the time the receipt was printed; the accuracy would be low in a covered shopping arcade, but I’d have been able to use Street View from there. I didn’t need to do that much work, though, since I also snapped a geo-located picture with my iPhone, and that put me within 20 feet of the shop.

(“京都絵師の店” does find it in a regular Google search , but unless you put quotes around it, the store is buried under irrelevant results; with quotes, there are foursquare checkins, blog reviews, etc)

Of Japan, but not in Japan


Small detail from a statue in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. He has a certain “my new social-media avatar” look to him, I think.

Statue detail, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Sakura Mankai


A quick crop of cherry trees in full bloom in a back street in Kyoto.

Full bloom on the backstreets of Kyoto, Japan

Full frame, with an older couple getting their picture taken among the blossoms.

Old couple getting their picture taken under the cherry blossoms, Kyoto, Japan

Reflections in the dark


Cherry blossoms at night, Nijo Castle, Kyoto, Japan

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”