All posts tagged: Japan

Journey to the Bucolic Japanese Alps – Shirakawa-go and the Gifu Prefecture (Part 2)

Waking up to birds chirping in the garden from my Japanese futon somehow felt surreal. This was a strong contrast from the night before, where I slept in a small modern hotel room in the center of Tokyo. As I watched the sun streams in through the paper windows, a sense of serenity enveloped me. It was mostly due to the time difference that I was awake this early to enjoy this moment. It was joyful to listen and observe nature doing its morning song and dance. I could’ve stayed in bed much longer but another day of exploring the Gifu region beckoned me to get up and start my day. I still had 30 minutes before breakfast, so my sister and I took advantage of the quiet morning and rode our bikes around the village. As it was very early, and no one was out and about yet, we had the roads to ourselves to leisurely admire the mountain scenery around us. There was a sense of freedom and playfulness that we don’t often …

Journey to the Bucolic Japanese Alps – Shirakawa-go and the Gifu Prefecture (Part 1)

Over the past year, I have been lusting for Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go, a Unesco village nestled in the Japanese Alps and where time has seemingly left the region untouched. This mountainous area is known for its historic A-frame houses, also known as gassho-zukuri, which were made with a traditional building method without utilizing any nails. These gassho houses have withstood the test of time and continue to attract new generations of admirers. The next destination of our trip was a visit to the Gifu region where these houses are located today. Our trip started early in the morning with the high-speed train ride from Tokyo to Toyama, where we then picked up the rental car for a 1-hour drive to Shirakawa-go. Once we entered the picturesque village and checked into Shiroyamakan Inn that was established in 1884, we knew we were in for a special visit. The inn keeper’s daughter, Nana, greeted us and took us to our room where we were served tea and snacks. We were also given 3 bikes to use while …

Best Souvenirs in Tokyo for Foodies and Chefs

Buying quality souvenirs can be a hit or miss experience. Tokyo has an amazing assortment of interesting trinkets to buy for loved ones. If you are sick of T-shirts and generic tchotchkes, I would recommend the following stores where I buy my souvenirs. A. Kappabashi-dori – For chefs and home cooking fanatics Kappabashi-dori is a 800-metre-long street lined with more than 170 shops that sell anything and everything cookware related. The shops here cater to both professional cooks and home chefs alike. Kama-asa Shoten – Japanese knives This  family-run business opened in 1908 and specializes in Japanese knives, or wabōcho, handmade by craftsmen in Japan. The business is currently run by Daisuke Kumazawa, who is the 4th generation proprietor. This is one of the most popular shops on the street. There are also very knowledgeable English-speaking staff who help you select the best knife for your cooking requirements. The best part is that they’ll engrave your name in Japanese onto each knife making it a special memento for you or for gifts. I did have to …

A Short Visit to Tokyo

Tokyo is a dizzying hub of sights and sounds and was also the first destination on this 2.5 week trip to Japan for my mom’s special birthday. While I have been exploring this city over the past 10 years, it was her first time in Tokyo,  I created this truncated itinerary to give her the best flavors of Tokyo in a relatively short duration and I’m excited to share it with you. Day 1: Arrival into Narita Terminal 2 and the Shibuya Scramble We arrived on Japan Airline at Narita Terminal 2 in the early afternoon and proceeded to procure a pocket Wifi. This was very important as we needed the data service for navigation throughout the country. I went to the J Wifi and JAL ABC counters located on the first floor and Softbank Global Rental and XCom Global counters located in the basement level near the train platform to search for the best data plan. (see Terminal 2 map) After getting my exercise running around the terminal, I concluded that J Wifi had …

Review: Creative Omakase at Michelin-rated Sushiyoshi (Osaka, Japan)

Getting to experience the creativity of Chef Nakanoue Hiroki at Michelin-rated Sushiyoshi was the culinary highlight of my recent Japan trip. Although Osaka has a booming street food scene, its sushi has generally played second fiddle to Tokyo’s. Sushiyoshi is trying to break that narrative with its creative omakase. I had heard great things about this 26-year-old sushi-ya and was excited to try it. As an added bonus, Chef Hiroki speaks decent English and his exuberant personality makes the experience memorable for all guests. How did this chef’s tasting stack up to all the other omakase? When I arrived at 7pm for my reservation, there was already a full house as the sushi-ya contains only 8 seats at the counter. I was escorted to my spot at the end of the bar and was promptly served tea and a hot towel. Japanese omakase can be intimidating for non-Japanese tourists; however, Chef Hiroki was very welcoming. My omakase started with salmon and caviar tartar housed in an “apple” wafer vessel. The wafer reminded me of a …

3 “Days” of Gluttony in Osaka, Japan

Osaka has been a YouTube sensation over the past few years due to its reputation as a street food haven. The city has been overshadowed by Tokyo and Kyoto for the last decade and is now finally coming into its own. On my recent trip to Japan, I made it a point to include this foodie destination on my itinerary and the city did not disappoint. I had limited time since it was only three full days, so my trip was packed with eating and some sight-seeing. This is my foodie adventure in the kitchen of Japan. Day 1: Dotonbori I had underestimated how long it would take for me to travel from Bangkok, so by the time I arrived at my hotel, it was already 7pm. Since I only had three full “days” in Osaka, every minute counted. I quickly made my way to Dotonbori, the heart of Osaka’s entertainment district, which reminded me of New York’s Times Square with its bright neon signs and throngs of tourists. I quickly searched for Mizuno, the …

2 Day Temple Stay in Koyasan, Japan – the Birthplace of Shingon Buddhism

In order to take a break from modern Osaka, I ventured to a secluded village up in the holiest mount an of Japan for a spiritual rejuvenation. Mount Koya (or Koyasan) is the birthplace of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism in Japan that was founded by Kobo Daishi* over 1,200 years ago. Today, the UNESCO-designated World Heritage site has 52 shukubo open to visitors. Shukubo are temples that historically offered overnight lodgings to pilgrims, with the majority of them welcoming tourists today. The shukubo experience includes sleeping on a tatami mat floor in a 1,000-year-old temple, eating a vegan feast cooked by the resident monks and participating in certain Buddhist rituals. A trip to Koyasan is an authentic spiritual trip that refreshes the soul. For my recent trip to Osaka, I carved out two days to make my way up the mountain. Normally, this trip would take 90 minutes on an express train from Namba station on the Nankai Koya Line. Unfortunately, two weeks before I arrived in Japan, a typhoon disabled the cable car service between …