Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring break travels (part 1)

It's going to take hours (if not days) for me to upload photos, etc. from my trip, so here's the short version (part 1):

3/20 (Sun):
- picked up Jen, Syv & Justin from Misawa station in the afternoon
- we all go to the JTB in Towada to book train tickets for the rest of the trip
- head to Shimoda Jusco to kill some time before dinner
- chanko nabe dinner at Sumo Jaya Tsukimitei (相撲茶屋月見亭

 3/21 (Mon):
- stopped off at the Towada Museum of Folklore & History(十和田湖民俗資料館)/Former Kasaishi Family Residence (heritage house)(旧笠石家住宅) on the way to...
- Oirase Gorge (奥入瀬渓流) & Lake Towada (十和田湖)
- lunch at the restaurant (千の花)at the Towada Chamber of Commerce & Industry (商工会議所)
- Towada Art Center (十和田現代美術館)
- Towada Jusco (ate taiyaki, shopped for breakfast, bought snacks, etc.)
- yakiniku dinner at Gyu Kaku牛角

3/22 (Tue):
- short visit to my base school, Kirita JHS (切田中学校); they toured the school and helped two students practice for their Canada home stay interviews
- visit to my office; they met my supervisor, Kacho, Hosa, Maita-Kyoikucho, most of the other Shidoka teachers as well as fellow BOE ALTs
- met up with M-san and we all went for super fresh and delicious kaiten sushi (八食市場寿司) at the Hachinohe Hasshoku Center (八食センター
- went to the ferry wharf to see the sea (there were a bunch of cows in trucks waiting to be transported somewhere, so it was a weird juxtaposition of sea sounds and cows mooing...)
- my (and Jen, Syv & Justin's) first onsen experience at a rotenburo (outdoor/open-air bath) at Yakeyama (野の花焼山荘); I'm still not an onsen "convert" but since it was just the three of us in the girl's side, it was nice to get some "girl time" ^_^
- horse meat nabe and sashimi dinner at Kicchou (吉兆
- last trip to Towada Jusco to pick up breakfast and train food/snacks for their 3/23 morning departure for Tokyo

3/28 (Sun):
- arrived in Osaka in the early afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, hit up the Osaka Museum of History大阪歴史博物館
- walked around Osaka Castle (大阪城) and had takoyaki from one of the vendors just outside the castle
- okonomiyaki dinner at the  BOTEJYU Dotonbori Head Restaurant (ぼてぢゅう総本店
- walked around Dotonbori (道頓堀) before heading back to the hotel

3/29 (Mon):
- headed out for Kyoto first thing in the morning
- weirdest weather ever: occasionally sunny, cloudy, rainy and snowy! 
- went to Kinkakuji aka the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺) and Kiyomizudera (清水寺) by bus 
- had a quick lunch at Kyoto Station before heading to Fushimi-Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) by JR train
- back to Kyoto Station for souvenir shopping (which turned into a bit of a tea tasting) and another quick dinner in the station before heading back to our hotel (in Osaka)

3/30 (Tue):
- headed out to Himeji Castle (姫路城) first thing in the morning; we were really lucky as the weather was gorgeous (sunny and cool) and we made it before: a) the main tower was covered by a giant tent for renovations (starting in April 2010); and b) before the masses of people arrived (when we left, it was a 30min wait to get to the admission gate, and another 90+min wait to get inside)
- bought bento lunches to eat in a nearby park
- took a bus and a cable car ride up to Mt. Shosha (書写山) to see Shoshazan Engyoji, (書寫山圓教寺) a temple complex where parts of The Last Samurai (as well as various Japanese period dramas) were filmed
- since it was on the way back to Osaka, we stopped in Kobe for dinner; Justin stopped a random guy on the street near Sannomiya Station so we (I) could ask for a recommendation for a good but not too expensive Kobe beef restaurant and he directed us to Steak Land Kobe (ステーキランド神戸)
- it was still fairly expensive (around 5000-6000 yen) but much cheaper than the starting at 8000yen place the Lonely Planet Japan guide recommended (the guy on the street also mentioned a couple of 10,000yen places before he remembered Steak Land...)
- we were all pretty much in a "meat coma" after dinner, so it was straight back to the hotel without any further sightseeing/souvenir shopping, etc. in Kobe