03/25/2010

March Madness Begins

No...no, my Western Friends, not that B-Ball, NCAA, hoopin' style type M-Madness, I'm referring, of course, to that most wondrous (and touristastical) time of the year here in K-Land-

Cherry Blossom Season!

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It's here, it's full of cheer, get used to it.

Team Kyoto was strolling the neighborhood on this recent lovely holiday Monday and, lo and behold, there were already some early bloomers starting to show their lovely colors.
Nothing too significant around these parts just yet, merely a few bright bursts of Spring Joy to delight the sparse showing of anxious shutterbugs already beginning to descend and stockpile their photographic Sakura libraries.

But get ready because if it ever stops raining this week the armies of the day will certainly begin their march in an unquenchable thirst for all things blossoming.
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Crowds, cameras and Cheery Blossom Parties are on the way Kids so saddle up enjoy the ride!

posted by Billy at 15:17 | Kyoto (Japan)

02/25/2010

Peachy Keen Jellybean

The temperature currently reads 19 (a very lovely 66 to you Fahrenheiters), the Sun is gloriously beaming, the outdoor air inviting, T-shirts are abundant and so, hopefully and dare I type it, this must certainly hint that Spring has gratefully and graciously sprung!

And following alongside this eternal gift, of course, with the coming of Spring a Young Man's fancy turns to......

The Love Hotel!

This week brings our crack Kyoto Research Team (sorry) to -

La Peche
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Located due East and an easy stroll of perhaps 2 minutes from Heian Jingu(and if you can't find Heian Shrine then turn around, get back on the airplane and go home) in Okazaki Park, this convenient Palace of Amour is perfectly situated to serve those restless, randy wanderers who wish to steal away from all the touristic madness of modern life and escape into each others arms......and legs........and........................well, you get the point.

Perfectly capturing all the gaudy splendor of the J-Land Love Hothouse, the Peche (the Peach en Francais) cheerfully announces its open invitations to all in brilliant neon and flashing lights. Its unique features are multiple entrances (for your discretion), twin parking lots (plenty of room for everybody) and I also have solid information that, for you larger than average gentleman, the Peach offers a generously sized condom for your use, pleasure and approval.

And such a bargain!
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Yes, hourly or nightly La Peche has a pristine room waiting for you and that special someone to arrive and shake the walls... at a very reasonable price.

Interesting sidenote- As I was photographing the premises for this post a very satisfied couple was making a hasty exit from same. The Gentleman commented to the Lady that perhaps he had forgotten his cell phone inside- "chotto....keitai wasaletta!"- an absolutely unbelievable occurence as in J-Land an average citizen would more likely forget their money before forgetting the cell but I guess she'd most definitely just rocked his world and/or blew his mind!
Now when describing this coosome twosome I don't wish to mention any ages or force anyone to imagine their parents but in the interest of journalistic ethics I must report.....

They were both older than me!

And please trust me Friends and readers, if you're older than me then you are officially ancient.
But, you know something, as they were leisurely strolling away arms entwined I can faithfully note that Old Pops had a smile on his face you couldn't remove without a baseball bat and his Girl was definitely beaming and dreaming.
I sure hope they got the Senior discount!

God Bless J-Land!
posted by Billy at 17:20 | Kyoto (Japan)

02/15/2010

Izakaya Heaven on Earth

On Sunday evening Team Kyoto rather luckily stumbled across dining Nirvana and promptly fell in L-O-V-E.....with our F-O-O-D!
And if you and yours want to experience similar gastronomic bliss then I can confidently recommend-

OOKINIYA!
http://www.eonet.ne.jp/~ookiniya-kyoto/

From the street (located just a 10 sec walk East of Shirakawa-dori and just South around the 1st corner off Higashikuramaguchi-dori) this rather modestly-sized Izakaya's nondescript exterior gives away few clues as to the epicurean treasure that you will discover inside its cozy, unassuming interior.
First, while this is definitely a traditional style dining/drinking experience the menu is anything but and most certainly will delight you with its exciting, eclectic, electric and wonderfully eccentric variety of dishes ranging far and wide to suit any taste you may be craving.

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(A sidenote to my Western Friends, if you happen to struggle with Nihon-go never fear 'cuz the Master Masaki-san will be glad to guide you in his flawless English so don't be shy)


The lead-off appetizers are your 1st hint to the pleasures in store for your lucky tastebuds-
A delicious dollop of pate' nestled on a bed of tofu and topped with a zesty slice of pepper.
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We have Lift-off!

After we savored that flavor we tore into the Menu with a passion and were rocketed into the Sunday evening stars by a cornucopia of culinary deliciousness.

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Our 1st stage blast included-
Fried fresh oysters (MMMMMMmmmm)
A sublime Salmon/Avocado Salad in a dreamy, creamy white sauce
Croquette (a rather unique home-made fried potato/creamcheese combo with a fresh berry jam)
and an absolutely orgasmic fried chicken bathed in a tangy sauce that we all fought over until it was finished then poured the sauce over a bowl of steamy rice (as per Masaki-san's instructions) then wrestled over that!

We felt no need to stop there so we hit the afterburners and were rewarded by mouth-wateringly juicy beefsteak
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and a truly unbelievable fried prawn in a spicy korean red sauce coupled to a rice/egg combo that proved to be a lovely union indeed.




But what proper Izakaya chowdown could possibly be a success without some Yaki-soba to top it off?
And Ookiniya brings it!

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I can safely say that I've had Yaki-soba many, many times but this dish was one to savor every moment of before gratefully loosening your belt. As for the smile on your face, trust me, that won't get any looser.

Dessert is, of course, on the Menu and according to the reports I received from Team Kyoto (I, myself was bending to my beer and did not indulge) it was one to remember.
If you happen to be a Nihon-shu (Sake to you) Fan then please try the very original Hire-shu , a hot sake drink with dried and aged (Masaki-san dries and stores them himself for one season prior to their use) Fugu fins mixed in to give it an extra special, subtle yet snappy flavor.
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While Ookiniya is a typically smaller-sized Izakaya the counter can seat 12-15, they also have one table that can fit 4-5 Adults comfortably but please realize that the Menu is simply a very clear cut above your average place and their prices are in line with that quality but slightly above average.
Ideal for Dates (I can imagine no one who won't love the cuisine), Family dinners or casual yet tasteful dining with Friends, they got what you want so please do yourself a favor and come get it!
The place is small but it's no secret for J-Landers (check the cool video on the webpage) so please plan a bit ahead.

Open for Lunch 11:30-2:00
Dinner 5:30-1:30 AM.
Closed Thursdays.

Interesting sidenote- Massaki-san is also an Artist/Sculptor of some renown (and when you see his food presentation this is very easy to understand) and has several of his original paintings on display on his walls so if you are curious please ask and he may enlighten you about his Art and process.
If you got Bank, maybe you can buy!


posted by Billy at 18:43 | Kyoto (Japan)

02/11/2010

Just in time for Valentines Day

CAUTION: ADULTS ONLY PERMITTED TO READ FURTHER
(OK...OK, or...well......as long as you promise to behave like an Adult)

And as a timely reminder here's the 1st in a series about that most, very special, uniquely Japanese contribution to romance and V-Day-

The Love Hotel.

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Ah yes, the indispensible J-Land bridge to many a romantic road, a bridge that always conveys that indefinable combination of convenience, privacy and affordability with just the right touch of illicit charm, secret mystery and Adult naughtiness.

Welcome Lovers both young and old!

This week took us to the mid-priced Hotel Chapel Cinderella located among a cluster of similar romantic establishments in the Okazaki area.
Very vaguely fairy-tale themed, this spanky Love Shack offers a range of amenities at a price many teenagers can afford and most adults would find downright reasonable.
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The schedule and price range may seem overly complex but fear not you randy Romeos and Juliets, basically it's about \3000 for 2-3 hours of wall shaking boom-boom (depending on your arrival time) or \6000 if you want to rock the House all night long and please trust me, my Western Friends, this is indeed a bargain around these parts.
For your money you'll get a large, pristine bed/playground, a spotless, absolutely luxurious bath, free movies (but if you actually turn on the TV you probably shouldn't be there in the first place), complimentary condoms, lube and a choice of other additional, vending machine toys you may both enjoy if you happen to bend that way.

I mean that's what I've heard.....I, myself, being old and ugly unfortunately have little knowledge of this wonderful boon to J-Culture but when in Rome........

Indulge!

One final note- Leave the cameras in your pocket until you get to your room as privacy is indeed a priority in this business of Love-Love. As proof of this practice in most of these pleasure palaces you, as valued customers, will never, EVER make any actual eye contact with any Staff entering or exiting and, of course, vice versa!
Why? You may not be asking?

Not sure but.....
My best guess is that it would appear that many of the happy couples who faithfully patronize these oasis' of orgasms (easily spotted in the vicinity by the hand-holding and mutual smiles) happen to be married......but....... not necessarily to each other.

Hence, getting safely, securely In and Out (ouch...sorry) is a BIG selling point.

So, for a refreshing change of scenery-

Treat yourself, don't cheat yourself!
posted by Billy at 16:41 | Kyoto (Japan)

02/04/2010

Out with the Bad...In with the Good

Every Feb. 3 at Yoshida Shrine marks the Kick-off for Setsubun (banishing the ills of last year and welcoming the good feelings for next) and last night they did it up right!

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The Festive crowds were all over the Mountain spending (lottery tickets, ceremonial beans, Oni Masks, etc.), drinking (Hot sake and beer), chowing down (delish hot eats anywhere you cared to look) and smiling (no charge for those).

Successfully negotiating the twists and turns of the Fest was a strictly sink-or-swim affair but I got the big impression that most folks stroked along most happily, easily and gratefully even if elbow room was a very rare commodity so excuse the shaky camerawork but I was riding herd.
Team Kyoto, for example, arrived with a posse of 10 but we were quickly separated by the tidal force of the flow and so we all drifted then docked when and where we could occasionally and/or luckily bumping into the members of our blissfully scattered expedition.

One epicurean highlight- Tsuboyaki!
P1010239.JPGA grilled to perfection giant clam roasting in its own juices. Throw in some hot Nihonshu (sake to you) or a cold beer next to the heater and you got a slice of Setsubun Heaven!

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Later they lit the huge bonfire, a spectacular finale to the evening, to ward away all the Evil Spirits of '09 but by that time Team Kyoto was comfortably regrouping back at HQ.

Hey, cut me some slack.....at least we didn't lose any strays!
posted by Billy at 18:03 | Kyoto (Japan)

01/26/2010

Wrasslin' for Pride!

Well the New Year's Tournament was a bit anti-climactic as Yokozuna Asashoryo P1010222.JPGconvincingly clinched the Title (along with the Emperors Cup) on the second-to-last day thus making the finale with rival Hakuho a strictly academic exercise.

Yes, Asa sauntered into the ring with the Cup tucked firmly in his back pocket and Hakuho had exactly zero chances for ultimate victory so this one was strictly for Mongolian Pride and to take the measure of a man.

If we can't get along.....then let's get it ON!



Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Baby!
Oh.....
It was definitely for Pride but check that Phat-Ass knot that Hakuho walked off with in the end.
That wasn't no thank-you notes or coupons in them envelopes, Kid...
that's Cash Money and it ain't funny!

To the Victor belong the spoils!
posted by Billy at 13:46 | Kyoto (Japan)

01/21/2010

Clash of the Titans

Well Sumo Fans, Day 11 in Tokyo did not disappoint!

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Day 10 found the massive (weighing in at 188 kgs. or 414 lbs. for Westerners) Estonian and Gentle Giant Baruto stunning Yokozuna Hakuho and sending him to his 1st setback of the Tourney setting up a much anticipated showdown with the other Yokozuna (there are currently only 2) yesterday.

It was All-Around B-Boy Asashoryu's chance to take on the "Baby Huey" Behemoth and Asa needed a victory to keep pace with Hakuho at 10-1 each.
Baruto was intent on keeping pace himself and so the crowd in Tokyo was buzzing with showdown excitement.

Asa had the fire in his eyes and Baby Huey had his work cut out for him.

Here comes the BOOM!



Say what you will about Asashoryu (and most J-Sumo fans have a lot to say) but Brother, he is rough, tough and hard to bluff!

And am I the only one who thinks he would make a great Bond Villain Henchman?

He's got Charisma!
タグ:sumo
posted by Billy at 13:58 | Kyoto (Japan)

01/20/2010

Twenty-Ten Sunshine!

Yesterday (Tues.) was a suprisingly lovely day around these K-Town parts- bright, sunshiney and finally-not-so-desperately cold, so I decided to hike up Mt. Daimonji and celebrate this great gift of January Solar goodness.

The view from the bottom
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I was not alone in my celebration.

If you get the chance please take advantage of this almost accommodating climb as it is generally easy for all ages. For Westerners I guarantee that you will be blissfully struck by the outright, open and uncommonly enthusiatic friendliness of everyone you meet going up or down.
Yes, it may be the one and only time of your life in J-Land when perfect strangers actually look directly into your eyes, actually smile, and then proceed to greet you with a hale and hearty-

"Konichiwa!"

Don't be startled and please respond because I've been up and down this Mountain about 6 times now and, trust me, this genuinely friendly greeting is the very warm and generous gift given to one and all as well as the very proper Daimonji-Yama etiquette and a wholesome boost of fraternal energy to help you shake a leg!

Along with the peace, calm, fresh air and Mother Nature's goodness it's a bargain at the price.
Yen- 0.

This is the semi-official start of your hike so if you make it to this point you're in the right place!
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Yes, I can cheerfully announce that smiles abound on this invigorating trek and I'm not sure if it's the people or the place but I was mighty glad to be on top and I know I wasn't the only one.

Quick shot from the top (and please don't mind the ugly guy talking, I couldn't get him to go away but.....No charge for the music!)



WINTERTIME, BRING IT ON!
posted by Billy at 14:59 | Kyoto (Japan)

01/11/2010

Happy New Year Sumo!

In case you hadn't noticed,

IT'S 2010!

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And in J-Land that means many things of course but one of the more enjoyable of this New Year's gifts is the Grand Sumo Tournament currently rocking Tokyo's (sorry K-Fans) Ryogoku Kokugikan for the next furious 14 days of single combat throwdowns.

Day One started off with a BANG as all the Ozeki (Top Ranked) Wrestlers dominated their opponents, including a devastating display of power by Kotooshu, before the 2 Yokozuna, the charismatic, controversial Asashoryu and the stoic, rock-solid Hakuho, entered the sacred circle and gave the sell-out crowd, including the Emperor and his Main Lady, their money's worth.

Asa was just a little bit too much Man for the willing but ill-equipped Kotoshogiku and flipped him overboard after a brief struggle in the center of the ring.

Hakuho, on the other hand, ran into a tough scrap (after one false start) with the perhaps suprisingly feisty Kakuryu.



Stay tuned 'cuz this is just the beginning.....
タグ:sumo
posted by Billy at 11:15 | Kyoto (Japan)

12/16/2009

X-Mas in Japan

Yes it's that Happy Holiday time of the year and it reminds me of the question I'm often asked by my western friends-

"Do the Japanese celebrate Christmas"?

J-Landers certainly do!

But rather than show you pics of J-Land Yuletide festiveness (you can spot an excellent shot of this year's giant Kyoto Station X-Mas Tree over at Mio-chan's blog) I asked a few of the nice girls from our Kyoto office to share their Christmas presents with you to demonstrate the true and generous Spirit of the J-Land Holiday.

So here's Maya, Azu, Yua and Mizu-chan to give you a very special holiday greeting.



Yes I know that these fresh-faced, healthy young gals may not be the most attractive examples of J-Land femininity but let me assure you that each and every one of them has an excellent personality!
タグ:Merry Christmas
posted by Billy at 14:58 | Kyoto (Japan)

11/30/2009

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys

Last night, to officially close out November,Saitama Arena in Tokyo (sorry K-Fans) hosted a brawl between the forces of Good and Evil, Old and Young, Boxer and Puncher, Fast and Slow.

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Guess who won?

Yes, the humble, gallant, gracious and older WBC Flyweight Champion Daisuke Naito put his belt on the line to face the bold, brash, loud-mouthed younger Challenger Koki Kameda in a grudge match destined to settle the score and clean the bad blood.

The Score was settled and Naito-san provided the blood.

It was an ugly evening for the Champion as the younger boxer danced around the aging-before-your-very-eyes Champ salt-and-peppering him with punches and punishing him with a devastating straight Left which the older fighter ate with terrible regularity.
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Naito-san, representing all that is right with the world, had no answers to the barrage of blows that he swallowed, looking old, slow and ineffectual as the young Challenger, carrying the flag for the Future, patiently schooled him with his faster fists and feet then coasted to a comfortable victory.




There was no doubt as to the decision after 12 rounds and the fighter's faces very clearly told the tale as the Champ looked as if he just finished shaving with a cement mixer and KK looked like he just got done dancing with his girlfriend.
Youth was most definitely served as KK grabbed his belt and did the dance, as he was entitled to, after his serious beatdown of the Champ leaving all those in the Naito Camp with a bitter taste to go along with a harsh and sobering splash of reality.

It was a sad ending for a brave Samurai Warrior and a cold bucket of water in the face for the upright folks hoping for the Hollywood ending but, fear not, for all is well in J-Land.

'Cuz Hakuho slammed Asashoryu.

HELL YEEEAAAAH!
posted by Billy at 15:18 | Kyoto (Japan)

11/29/2009

2009- Get It While It's Cold!

A Pop-eyed glance at my calender this morning regretfully informed me that November is out-the-door and this simple fact of course, and unfortunately, heralds the arrival of.....

(duuummmmm da dum dum)

the Holiday Season.

Yes, welcome to the intense, insane, non-stop, harassing pressure from every corner of your world to party hard and work harder, hurry up and wait, smile big and make nice, hook up or shut up and buy, buy, buy, buy and then maybe....buy.

Visiting family this year?

My condolences.

But lest I (or you) slip prematurely into my particular Blue X-mas let's take one last look at the refreshing bounty and beauty of K-Land's Autumn splendor as the Sun sets slowly in the West.
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2009!

Yes it's Last Call and she's a smokin' hot, deeply drunken Beauty Queen who you been dancing around all night yet haven't gotten even a good whiff of yet but right now she's fully-loaded and got you locked on-target because she just broke up with that special, special Guy mere moments ago and so she desperately needs a strong shoulder to cry on along with some firm reassurance of her sexual attractiveness at least once and for all but just for tonight, especially for one and only you.
In other words- Move fast Brother, 'cuz you ain't never gonna get this shot again!
posted by Billy at 12:28 | Kyoto (Japan)

11/17/2009

The Armies of the Day

A rather pleasant Fall season has peacefully settled in K-Town recently bringing with it the perennial lush beauty of Koyo (Autumn's changing colors) and the accompanying mobs of camera-wielding Fall fanatics tirelessly pointing and snapping at everything in sight.

Yes it's your basic Good News/Bad News situation.

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Here's a Sunday shot of SHINNYODO, one of K-Town's more popular spots for Momiji (leaf viewing) and I guess there were more cameramen crawling around the place on that fair Sunday than busy bees on a dripping honeycomb.

Like most things Japan the J-Folks take their Fall holidays seriously along with a tripleshot of expresso energy to power their plans and pepper their schedules.
Of course I joined in (camera in fist) but was hopelessly overcome by the waves of hungry eyes/lenses and so basically I went with the flow and was carried along the touristic tide, a not altogether unpleasant sensation but something you may want to prepare for if you decide to venture out with friends or cameras in hand.

Somewhat strangely of all the hundreds and hundreds of blissed-out visitors I was one of the very few Westerners in attendance (indeed I counted only 2 others, all of us being about as hard to spot as a polar bear on a sandy beach) and I guess I'd consider that fact as good news as we neither created any stir nor received any undue attention that I perceived but were merely and easily swallowed up then stirred gently into the day's happy mix.

The Monks running the Temple had a nifty parade followed by a swell ceremony which the majority of the crowd bumrushed and indulged in most enthusiastically, basking in the vibes and soaking up the blessings. P1010110.JPG

Me?
I stayed safely and securely outside and counted the number of folks I saw that were under the age of 50.
It was a small number but like the energizer bunny, J-Folks just keep going...and going.....and going.......

Next weekend, if you're seeking, the Season should be peaking.

LUCK!
posted by Billy at 15:48 | Kyoto (Japan)

11/13/2009

The Ramen Hunt is on

If you were busy indoors (wink,wink) on Tuesday evening congratulations because it was one chilly, rain-soaked, slap-in-the-face out of doors and when that happens I say-

It's time to brave the elements and pounce on the HOT RAMEN!

So Team Kyoto busted out the umbrellas, raingear and towels, waterproofed our cash and electronics, checked our coordinates, synced our watches, plunged into the deluge and made a very wet beeline to-

SANTOUKA!
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http://www.santouka.co.jp/

A huge global chain stretching across J-Land, extending into Singapore and all across the USA from New Jersey to Chi-Town to California, SANTOUKA is likely one of the more trendy Ramen Shops in K-Land (indeed is probably prominently mentioned in any guidebook you happen to be holding right now) and undoubtably the easiest to find. Take the Tozai Line or the Keihan Line (or any of the many buses that stop at Sanjo/Keihan Station) to Sanjo and walk up the stairs.

Congrats...you're there!

Don't be put off by its popularity (when we were there the seats were more than half-full with foreigners and there was more EiGo being bantered about around the counter than Nihon-go, a very strange sensation) because I'm here to testify that the ramen is up to snuff and done to a turn.
Tourist-friendly, easy-to-read Menus in English and a young, personable staff will get you through your order without a bump so relax and enjoy your Ramen buzz!

I might suggest the KARA-MISO.
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Lovely to look at and better to taste, this slightly spicy soup will warm your belly and soothe your soul so if you like a little flava with your noodles you can't go wrong.

I wrote that I might suggest the Kara-miso but you also will be delighted with the SHIYO RAMEN.

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A more traditional bowl with a more solid pedigree and an all-time fave of many of my J-Amigos, SANTOUKA'S soup was really superb- rich but not too greasy, solid but not too thick and loaded but not overloaded with goodness. Do yourself a favor and read the very interesting explanation for how and why they prepare their Ramen that is located at the bottom of your menu, it may add to your enjoyment.

A word to the wise- S's bowls, while certainly delicious, are a tad bit on the small size so if you are truly hungry I'd suggest getting the Large or at least ordering some of their very reasonably priced appetizers to accompany your noodles.P1010083.JPG
On weekends you might have to wait in line for the goods but on Tuesday we swam in and sat down without delay, so did everyone else, and when we exited the tab was light like a feather mostly because we only indulged in grub and skipped the adult-type beverages as is my usual practice in any Ramen shack.

Yea, of course they serve beer/beverages there but why the Hell are you drinking in a Ramen Shop?

Walk outside the door and there's only about 5 or 10,000 booze options within very easy walking distance!
Or as the Irish say-

“When I drink water, I drink water and when I drink whiskey.....I drink whiskey.”
posted by Billy at 12:58 | Kyoto (Japan)

11/09/2009

Sunday, blissful Sunday

Who was that whining about the chilly weather last week? Oh.....me?

Well then let's just strike the question and move on with our grateful celebration of the glorious gift that was Sunday here in K-Town.
Yes, an absolutely sublime Summer breeze blew back to Us all carrying energizing warmth as it lifted the smiles of just about everyone I passed on that lovely day. Not to be outdone, the Sun showed up on time, at full power and for the duration as She toasted us all with yet more inviting, invigorating warmth and healthful vitamin D!

If you happened to be a burglar you must've had a very leisurely days work 'cuz I don't think ANYBODY stayed home yesterday and if you did then my sympathies are all yours.
Families, Couples, Singles, Seniors, Juniors and In-Betweeners, I guess just about every upright body (and even some not so) in the vicinity got out and basked in the beauty, which was very, very beautiful.

These two Good Kids kind of captured the spirit of the wonderful Sunday Joy.
But a warning to my Touristic Friends-

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!



Those rollicking, winged warriors are called Tonbi (species name Milvus migrans lineatus, maximum wingspan about 3 1/2 feet) and they patrol the River at all times searching for easy pickings and oblivious victims.
If you decide to picnic Riverside sometime then my sincere advice to you is-
Keep your eyes on the skies!
Or you may have your goods snatched from your hands in the time it takes you to blink as you watch your lunch fly away to provide a meal to a hungry Hawk Family.

I guess these two thrill-seekers (the other species in the frame, called Homo sapiens and they can be found pretty much everywhere) just decided to cut to the chase and went the direct action route as they shared their grub and got to watch the nifty display of aerial acrobatics. Not a bad exchange I'd say.

Other folks got their kicks in other ways I'm sure but let's not kid ourselves...
Kicks were gotten!

This Old-Timer doffed his waders and his fishing pole and tried his luck as the younger kids kicked back and eased into falling in love.
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Personally I happened to be on my way to the salt mines and was running fast and hard.

Hey...somebody's got to do it.

Yep, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good but I'll take either one around now and Sunday was both!


posted by Billy at 13:41 | Kyoto (Japan)

11/03/2009

Weather you like it or not.....

Mark Twain once famously stated-

"Everybody talks about the weather...but nobody does anything about it."

Well, my Touristic Friends and Neighborly neighbors, welcome to Fall.

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Yep.

That's all I got today.
Now where's that down jacket.......
posted by Billy at 16:34 | Kyoto (Japan)

10/28/2009

Undercover Ramen...and then some!

It's So long, Farewell, Adios and Goodbye to Summer and a hearty, healthy welcome to Fall around this vicinity as the thermometer drops with the Sun (out of the teens this week and into single digits next or about 63 and down to 43 for you Farenheiters) but no longer perks up much during the day.

Stow those t-shirts and bust out them sweaters!

Ladies...you may now conscientiously doff those black leather, knee-high, spike-heeled boots you've been itching to strut and thank you so much for maintaining that mini-skirt.

As for this K-Ranger, Ramen hunting season continues full steam ahead!
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And this week Team Kyoto went deep undercover and infiltrated

MIN

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a combination Teshoku (traditional set meal) and Yaki-niku (BBQ) place that also serves a damn decent bowl of hot, fresh and satisfying Ramen to warm those old bones and soothe that growling belly.

Now I wrote undercover because, hungry Brothers and Sisters, if you can find Min your first time around then you're a better man than me. They don't have a website and I don't think a phone call or a map would neccesarily help in this case (I used to live an easy 5 min. walk from there and I never saw it or knew it existed) so dig out your satellite-tracking GPS's, your night-vision goggles, your guts and you may also want to leave a trail of glow sticks behind you just in case.

Basically it's due North of Nijo-Dori and just West of Jusco but it will probably be easier to just follow your nose and listen to your stomach.

But if and when you discover this Top Secret Hideout you will definitely be glad you did.
A modestly priced (starting around \650) all purpose eatery that will certainly have something for everyone, Min offers a rather extensive menu amid a humble and friendly atmosphere.
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It's a One-Woman Show so if you're in a hurry you're probably in the wrong place because nobody else will be.
I've been there twice and both times the clientele seems to lean towards neighborhood working men and families with kids but anyone with patience and a discerning palette should be able to relax and enjoy. Probably not an ideal Date place (unless she likes delicious food more than trendy decor) but an excellent choice for chilling, grubbing and knocking a few back with friends and your tab will be JapanEasy!

Don't forget the Chu-Hi!P1010045.JPG

Interesting sidenotes- Your English will be about as useful as your credit card, which is to say not at all, so you'd be best advised to leave both at home and try out your Nihon-go or bring someone who can savvy the lingo or, as always, smile, point and let the Master Lady do the driving.
Also.....
While chatting with the Master on a brief break between duties she informed the Team that even some neighborhood people don't know about them although they've been in business at the same site for 40 years.

Now you know if they been slinging great hash for 4 Decades in this Food crazy City then the Goods got to be MMM-MMMMM GOOD!
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Seek and Ye shall find!

posted by Billy at 12:22 | Kyoto (Japan)

10/05/2009

Sunshine, Smiles, Singing and Veggies too!

Sunday broke open like a final grand gift from the Gods of Summer (who are heading out of town with their golf clubs around now) and along with the wonderfully warm inviting weather came.....

THE 2009 VEGGIE AND PEACE FESTIVAL
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Please don't ask me why (I'm a dedicated carnivore myself) but Team Kyoto did indeed make an appearance, strolling through the crowded but happy waves of the organically righteous Armies of the Sunlight.
Uniform of the day? Blue jeans, t-shirts, hemp genie pants (harem pants?) for both boys and girls, shoes were definitely optional and I didn't see a slick chick rocking high-heels all day (trust me, no small miracle there).

We sampled the wares here and there (coffee,, great, cake... much less so) and that was no mean feat because there were some serious lines of all-natural vegg-hunters everywhere and business was booming!
So much so that a friend of mine at one of the booths told me that they had completely sold out of food around Noon.

A brief sketch of the day's events-

A J-Land meditation hawker pinned me in a crowd and delivered a touchingly earnest spiel (in absolutely flawless English) espousing the merits of her particular philosophy, finishing with an invitation to their tent (ahhh...Cults. The desperate, lost and lonely searching for answers to all the Big Q's) for a free sample of same.

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There were bands, dancers, magicians, games and for the walking weary a very decently priced (\300) Foot Massage to soothe those barking dogs.
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Along with organic beer and a taste of sultry Sangria!

I have to say that a Good Time was seemingly enjoyed by all but I gotta tell you something..........

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I searched high, low and in-between with a wad of cash burning a hole in my pants and I spotted Veggies everywhere but I'll be damned if I ever did figure out where it was that they were selling the PEACE.

posted by Billy at 18:36 | Kyoto (Japan)

09/30/2009

All's well that ends well

Anybody looking to crash for a night or five near Kyoto Station and you say your budget isn't the primary concern?
Want to blissfully count your J-Land sheep in a relaxing atmosphere of refined charm and Eastern elegance?
Craving a taste of Old-School Kyoto Machiya-Style flavor gently blended with all the creature comforts (albeit in a much smaller size) of Home?
Need a piping hot Breakfast to fortify you before you tackle your day's sightseeing adventures?
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(check-in Time)


If you're nodding your head right now then SAKURA/KAEDE RYOKAN may be the place for you.

http://www.kyoto-ryokan-sakura.com

The Ryokan Experience is a distinctly Japanese way of unwinding that graciously carries a list of very subtle attributes that may not be suitable for everyone but I'm certain can be appreciated by most and Sakura will satisfy, most likely in proportion to your expectations.

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The decor and design of the rooms are understated and pleasing but you should adjust your scale to the Japanese model lest you face frustration. These are not Western-Size rooms or really anything near it; they are pleasant, pristine and placid with just the proper amount of low-key taste.
The many reassuring pluses include-

Fine Shiseido Shampoo in your immaculate bath.

All rooms are Non-Smoking but for you tobacco die-hards out there an efficient smoking alcove is always available for use.

A suprising (considering the building's dimensions) amount of clean, natural light during the day.

And the highlight of my stay.....

Your tatami sleeping space and the luxurious futon that goes with it like your childhood peanut butter and jelly.

Now if you've never felt the perfection that is tatami matting beneath your grateful toes then do yourself a favor but watch out because you may never go back to anything else.
And I don't know what they filled their futons with over at SAKURA but when I tucked in for the night and woke up in the morning my rejuvenated body told me it just had to be angel feathers sprinkled with moonbeam dust and topped off with those snowflakes from the poppy field scene in the Wizard of Oz!

Want a great night's slumber? You got it!


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Please don't forget to slip into your supercool, comfortable and casual all-cotton Yukatta after your bath because you'll be glad you did and why not chill in the Garden a bit before bedtime as you admire your own sartorial splendor.


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You won't worry as you saw logs and you won't have to because in the morning pretty Girls will be there to serve you a hot meal and hotter coffee.

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Having mentioned these strengths the savvy Traveler should definitely weigh the Ryokan's perhaps somewhat weaker points against them.

The smallest rooms are almost claustrophobic and will not please everyone.
Internet service (an unimportant feature to me but...) is only available in the very public Lobby area.
Your bath, while immaculate, may be uncomfortably small for your larger-size Westerner.
No Dinner.

But if you're seeking a stylish, homey alternative to the sometimes antiseptic, sometimes slightly cold blandness of Big Hotels then check out the way they do things around these parts.
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(check-out Time)

Depending on your pocketbook and your expectations you might be glad you did.






posted by Billy at 14:45 | Kyoto (Japan)

09/28/2009

Welcome to Ramen Season!

Congratulations World-Travelers because if you've arrived on these shores about now then you're just in time to bask in the near-perfection of J-Land's end-of-summer climate.
Comfortably warm during the bright, sunshiney days without a lick of humidity and blissfully cool when the Sun hits the horizon, bringing us absolutely perfect sleeping (or anything else) weather.

And, for this K-Ranger, along with these cooler climes comes the ever fresh satisfaction of a hot, steamy bowl of Ramen to make you feel good all over before your date with Mr. SandMan.

So my annual quest for the Ramen goods begins anew, praise all!

And this Saturday night the Quest brought Team Kyoto to-

DAIICHI-ASAHI!
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Now, a little Ramen background for the uninitiated.
A quick poll of my J-Friends recently confirmed the consensus that a proper bowl of Ramen should be 3 things-

GOOD
HOT
and
FAST.

A side order of Gyoza is optional but preferred, the price must always be reasonable and conversation while chowing down should be kept to an absolute minimum.
This is Ramen Nirvana.
All other aspects of the dining experience (decor, service, presentation, etc.) do not, and should not, disrupt this essential formula.

In other words.......FOOD HEAVEN!
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So, adhering to these criteria, Daiichi-Ashahi scores a touchdown and does the dance, Baby!

Located on Takakura-dori, just south of Shiokoji-dori and about a 3 minute stroll directly east of Kyoto Station, DA delivers the Goods with rapid-fire speed and a tasty, tasty payload that won't even scratch your wallet.

Be warned- This is NOT a no-frills Ramen Shop...this is a NEGATIVE-FRILLS Ramen Shop. This lean, clean Ramen machine is stripped to the bone and built for your belly, not your eyes.
You will be expected to grab your seats, talk fast, catch your grub, work those sticks, snag a toothpick, pay up and then leave immediately because there will be desperately hungry Ramen aficionados waiting for your spot.
The only promise DA delivers is delicious chow, all other bets are off.
If you don't feel comfortable in this type of environment then don't go 'cuz at DA you're expected to lead, follow or get out of the way!

Having established that, personally, I think the Average Joe/Jane should be able to hack it as on Saturday I saw every conceivable type of K-Towner in attendance, with their faces tucked gratefully into their bowls, from your Hi-Powered Business Man with the $3000 tailored suit to your teenage, bleached blonde, wanna-be hip-hopper with baggy jeans hanging off their ass to any and every type in between.
Everybody happy, comfy and very busy eating!

Hours are 4pm- 2am.

Got a taste for something good?
Had a few too many and want to fill up on something great before you hop on the train or crash for the night at your hotel?

Don't bother dipping your toes........
Just dive in, Brothers and Sisters, the Ramens's FINE!

posted by Billy at 16:07 | Kyoto (Japan)

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