Monday, October 29, 2012

Beauty and the Beef

So more like beef and the beauty, where the beef is beef and the beauty is a wedding...

On Saturday, we took the train out to Kobe so that EDP could have Kobe beef in Kobe. Kobe beef is *very* expensive but how often are you in Kobe? We found a place that was fairly reasonable (only $50 for 5oz!) and hopped on a train. Once in Kobe, we found a tourist info centre and found out the restaurant was about a fifteen minute walk. Well, when we said walk, the girl must have heard subway ride because it took us much closer to an hour to find the restaurant. It was a gorgeous day for a long walk so we didn't mind but it was good we gave ourselves lots of time before our reservation to get there.

Lunch was amazing. Like totally amazing. The restaurant was teppanyaki style, meaning they cook in front of you. We started with some delicious potato soup, followed by a little salad. While we had those, the chef was preparing our beef. He was nothing short of an expert - the beef was cooked perfectly and was by far the most amazing beef I've ever had in my life. It pretty much melted in your mouth. So we got a bit of beef, followed by some roasted vegetables and then some more beef. It was all finished up with some green tea ice cream and a coffee. It was one of the most amazing meals I've ever had in my life.

After that, we wandered down to Meriken Park, where the 1995 earthquake memorial is. The earthquake killed over 6,000 and left 300,000 homeless, destroyed 120 of 150 wharfs and caused 1km of thei elevated expressway to collapse. I they've created a memorial in a park down by the water, including leaving a a small section of the destruction in place. You can see the pavement all broken up and the lamp posts are nearly at 45 degree angles - it was quite the site.

And then it was Sunday - our whole reason for coming here. Aya and Kevin's wedding. It was one of the list beautiful weddings I've been to - the venue was amazing and Aya and Kevin both looked gorgeous. Aya was in a traditional white kimono for the ceremony, which they did in English and Japanese and then later changed into this incredible red dress that was covered in flowers. The ceremony was lovely and it was followed by a toast in a rooftop garden and then we headed down to the reception room for dinner. Dinner was delicious but I don't think it'll be a surprise that the dessert buffet was my favourite part :). The reception was lots of fun - speeches, videos, etc. Very different from a wedding in Canada and it was a great night. It was followed by some karaoke and a couple of drinks before we headed back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Yesterday was a lazy day - we slept in, I did some shopping, and we just relaxed before one last dinner in Osaka. Today has been packing, keeping our eye on weather conditions in Toronto and crossing out fingers we aren't delayed. Here's hoping the worst of the storm has passed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two more busy days

Our plan for yesterday was to visit the aquarium (largest in Japan) and Osaka castle. But our plans had a slight change when we went to meet up with some of the other travelers and one of them was lost. Kevin's dad had gone out for a walk over two hours earlier and hadn't returned. So, Wayne, EDP, Kevin's brother and Kevin's sister-in-law set out to find him. We looked for quite some time with no luck. However, on one of our trips back to Kevin's house, there was a police car in front of the building. Lou had gotten himself turned around but found a police station and they helped him home. Needless to say, he got some ribbing about getting lost but everyone was happy he had made it home.

After that bit of excitement, we headed to the aquarium, which was really cool. Unfortunately, I didn't find Nemo but I did find penguins and turtles and a whale shark and tonnes of other cool stuff. It was a really enjoyable couple of hours. Then, we headed off to Osaka castle where Wayne and Kevin were mobbed by school children playing "country bingo" - they had to speak to people from various countries and get them to sign their paper. At least, that's what we think was going on. They may have thought Wayne was Justin Bieber. After the castle, we all went to Aya's (the bride's) parents' home for dinner. It was a really enjoyable evening and the food was delicious!!

Today was a much less busy day. Wayne, EDP, and I went to visit Himeji castle, one of the largest castles in Japan. It and its grounds were absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, the main keep is under renovations so we couldn't see it but they have put up an observation building so you can see some of the renovations up close. It was really neat to see that. We also toured through some beautiful Japanese gardens that had several koi ponds. We caught feeding time at the pond and it was amazing to see 250 koi going nuts trying to get at the food.

Oh, but the best part of the entire day was definitely having hot chocolate at the Hello Kitty Cafe. They made our drinks look like Hello Kitty on top! And FYI, it was EDP who wanted to stop there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A day in Kyoto

Today, we went up to Kyoto. It was just a short train ride away and soon, we had bus tickets and were headed up to the Golden Pavilion. When we were heading in, we got stopped by a group of students who had some questions and wanted to have their photo taken with us. There's a chance the kids were playing dumb with us about not understanding us so we may end up as stars of a viral video making fun of us.

The Golden Pavilion was quite lovely. It's covered in gold leaf so it really is gold! The guidebook claims it the world's most ostentatious retirement cottage since it was built by the shogun in 1393 as a place to live when he left politics. From there, we walked down to Ninna-ji temple, which had an amazing 5 story pagoda and a palace that was really very beautiful. After that, it was time for lunch and then a bus ride over to Ginkaku-ji, another temple with lovely grounds that we toured through. Once we were done there, we followed the Philosopher's Path, which follows beside an old canal and has numerous temples and shrines along the route. Then, I got a chance to check out a rather fancy department store before we grabbed some dinner and headed back to Osaka.

Tomorrow, we're planning on checking out Osaka castle and the aquarium. It should be a nice day in the city!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Japan now

So after all the last-minute-ness of getting ready on Sunday, we headed to the airport and flew to Tokyo. From Tokyo, we caught a connecting flight to Osaka and now we're here.

Kevin and Wayne, friends of EDP's, met us at the airport and after a short bus ride, we got checked in at our hotel and then headed to Kevin and Aya's house for some visiting with them and Kevin's parents, who also arrived before us. Then it was back to the hotel to get a good night's sleep after a long, long day.

The plan for today was to have a fun day out at Porto Europa, an amusement park, have a BBQ and go orange picking with Kevin, Aya, Wayne, Kevin's parents, Aya's parents, and Aya's friend. Unfortunately, it rained for most of the day so only one ride was operating at the park (a water ride) so we could only wander around. We did get to see a really big tuna get filleted, which was interesting. After lunch, the rain let up for while so we went to the orchard and got to eat as many mandarins as we could, right off the tree. EDP definitely had an advantage due to height and was able to reach the highest mandarins on the tree but I still found some tasty ones. We also got to each take a little bag of mandarins with us so now we have some delicious fruit for breakfast!

Tomorrow, Wayne and EDP and I are headed to Kyoto. Let's hope for better weather than today.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I have never been so unprepared for a trip in my entire life

We leave in 56 minutes and I'm only setting up my travel blog now.  I only packed this morning.  Our plan for what to do consists of a post-it.  I'm not even sure if I told anyone I was going to Japan!!

What is wrong with me?!  Normally, I set my blog up months in advance, have a budget spreadsheet, an itinerary, advance tickets purchased, packed a week early, guidebook thoroughly digested.  None of that has happened.  I did manage to tell my parents about Japan so at least the dog was taken care of.

Anyway.  We're going to Japan.  It's now 54 minutes until we leave.

The main reason we're going is for a wedding in Osaka.  One of EDP's long-time friends is getting married and we were invited.  I think.  I never actually saw an invitation.  They know we're coming and have sent us the plan for the days leading up to the wedding so we won't be the only ones with egg on our face if we get there and it turns out we're not invited.  We're also going to get some sight-seeing in - Kyoto, Kobo, a couple of castles, an aquarium and this super long walking trail I need to research.

We're now leaving in 51 minutes and my to-do list is still lengthy so I'd better get to it.  But I'll leave you with this delightful Japanese song.