Burnt Miso Ramen? Because it’s Japan!

Good to be back here.  Business school and travel have taken over my life these past few months.  People from back home have been visiting and it’s just been a blast touring them all over Japan. This could be work if they paid me! But it was a lot of fun.

Being a ramen fan, I am always on the lookout for my next bowl.  I was with my girlfriend’s dad and brother when we stumbled upon Kyoto Gogyo (https://www.ramendining-gogyo.com/kyoto-menu), just off a turn from Nishiki Market.  Having talked to people there, Gogyo is owned by the same company that holds Ippudo, another fantastic ramen chain.

Gogyo’s specialty is their Burnt Miso ramen.  They have an English menu where they will show a “special” and a regular.  In addition, they also have a free upsize on the servings which was truly awesome.  We opted for the Burnt Miso in regular (which meant fewer toppings) and an upsize.  We were expecting fewer toppings but when it came in a large black bowl, we were surprised at how adequate they were.  But the upsize was so big so beware if you are not that hungry.  The Japanese hate wasted food.  It was topped with nori, 2 thick slices of chashu, salted egg, and squid.  The highlight here was the really, really thick and black soup.  It oozed with umami and the thickness meant that cholesterol levels were going to shoot up immediately upon taste.  I could literally taste that the soup was burnt but in a salty, umami-ish kind if way.  It was sort of sweet at the beginning and then it was all umami after that.  The chashu slices were really tender and complemented the broth well.  ¥890 that was well spent.  

The ambience of the place was surprisingly fantastic as well.  When I entered the place, it felt more like a hotel lounge than a ramen place. It had subdued lighting and the seats were comfortable and wide.  It could even easily pass for a romantic ramen date or something.  The place also has a bar in sight for the thirsty ones.  

I highly recommend this place if you want a different kind of ramen experience from the usual shio and tonkotsu ramen variants that are abundant in Japan.  Gogyo has them as well, but you have to try the Burnt Miso one.  It is worth it.  

Burnt Miso Ramen! Look at how thick the broth is!
Get counter seats for a more Japanese experience.

Advertisements

Being Part Of The Gion Matsuri

This is the story of how I became part of the Gion Matsuri (祇園祭).  Not just a spectator this time, but an actual participant!  Yes! A Filipino in the Gion Matsuri! #proudfilipino right here.  Hopefully, many of you could experience what it feels like to be part of this in the future!

Matsuri (祭) means”festival” in English.  So the Gion Matsuri is a festival which happens in one of Kyoto’s oldest districts, Gion.  There are a string of events running from July 10 to July 24 every year.  However, the three main events usually occur on the three Sundays during the above dates.

The first one is dubbed the Omukae Chochin (July 10; welcoming lanterns) which serves as the beginning of the festival and was the one I joined.  The second one is the Yamaboko Junko (July 17; Grand Parade) and Hanagasa Junko (July 24; umbrella parade).

The opportunity was out of sheer luck since the school was inviting students for part-time jobs as parade volunteers.  One of my friends came to me and invited me to join.  Everything was to be provided for (bento and yukata) and it was very hard to resist the chance to be part of one of Japan’s greatest festivals.  At first, we were skeptic of being accepted due to language barriers but my friend gave me some pre-interview training in Japanese in order to ensure that I could be able to answer questions.  All those Japanese classes are finally showing their value!  What’s more interesting is that there are no rules (that we know of) against foreigners volunteering for the festival.  Although knowing Japan, there must be some kind of limit to it.  Nonetheless, we were happy campers and waited anxiously for July 10 to come.

The process was quite easy: just show up in Yasaka Shrine on the arranged time and date and just present your ID.  The yukata (summer kimono) will be handed to you.  They were quite strict with undergarments though and everything had to be white.  After dressing up, we were given a nice unagi bento which should prep us for the work ahead.

At exactly 3pm, an old guy called out our numbers and arranged us in formation.  The numbers were assigned on (what we believe) the basis of companies who sponsored the event.  We were quite nervous as we patiently waited for the lanterns that were going to be assigned to us.  We ended up not carrying any.  Little did we know that we had to pull some sort of musical lantern cart later on!  After all the arrangements were finished, it was time to commence the parade.

*I would have to give full credits to my friends Yan, Eki, and Xiaotong for taking all these awesome pictures for us.  Thanks guys!

Here is a photo showing us pulling the cart!  We were numbers 4, 11, 12, and 13 which meant that we were almost in front of the entire parade.  And yes, the cart was very heavy but the group effort made it fun and enjoyable.

13662594_10153573299621227_1931398409_o

There were various chants from the back which complemented the drum beating that occurred in front.  The hardest job was being the one who pulled from the center because you had to steer and make sure that it did not stop.  We all took turns for this task.  Our arms were trembling after the parade.

13646773_10153573299701227_2134994997_o

It was very nice to experience being part of this traditional Japanese festival.  We could really feel that we were Japanese.  Even the Japanese friends we made during the parade shared similar feelings as well.  The level of organization, discipline, and commitment were truly Japan.  Our fellow Japanese participants were surprised that we were foreigners and were happy to chat with us along the way.

Here, we just passed OiOi Kyoto and into the busy Shijo-Kawaramachi intersection.  The center of Kyoto was looking at us!

13632826_10153573299966227_1527839918_o

Our friends zoomed in!  China, Indonesia, Philippines, and Taiwan represent!

13621487_10153573299861227_1226047430_o

The intermission was at the Kyoto Municipal Hall where politicians gave speeches.  Wonderful performances by kids were in display as well.  Sadly, we did not have a lot of pictures of them.  More men in yukata pictures then!  The girls love it!

13621889_293415571005325_779280179_o

Some of the lanterns that were part of the parade.  Since these guys were at the front, their lanterns said omukae which translates into “welcoming” in English.

13621648_293415574338658_943433577_o

After the intermission, it was time to head back to Yasaka Shrine.  Obligatory group photo, of course!  Thank you guys for coming!  楽しかった!

13662609_293390247674524_577817059_o

Filipino Expat Living in Japan

New expat bloggers on Expats Blogs get to answer an online interview about their respective lives abroad.  It asks questions relating to moving abroad, studying/working, living, talking, and everything else about the expat life.  It is an easy read and touches on a wide array of topics.  Hopefully, it could help some people who are planning to move to Japan in the future.

Sharing your own experiences there might help other prospective expats to learn from your individual insights, too.

I posted the interview here but you can access the link here:

Filipino Expat Living in Japan – Interview with Vic

Published:  13 May at 12 PM
Want to get involved?Become a Featured Expat and take our interview.
Become a Local Expert and contribute articles.
Get in touch today!
Filed: Interviews,Japan
What is the best part about an expat life in Japan? Studying, traveling, and living abroad at the same time! Vic’s blog talks about his life in Kyoto and Japan. Where he reads, hikes, bikes, and eats! Vic is also an international student so his blog tells a very different story than most of the other expat blogs out there. Vic also has an ongoing project of capturing breathtaking time lapses wherever he goes! Vic’s expat blog is called Vic Mabutas (see listing here)

Inari with my classmates!

Here’s the interview with Vic…

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from the Pearl of the Orient which is the Philippines. Manila, to be specific.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am now living in Kyoto, Japan.

How long have you lived in Japan and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been living here for about 8 months already and will stay here for about 16 months more.

Why did you move to Japan and what do you do?
I moved here because of a generous offer to study in Japan. I am currently an MBA student.

Did you bring family with you?
No, I live alone.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The first month is probably the most painful one. I did not know how to read nor speak Japanese and that was very frustrating. After a couple of months, gravity sets in and I became more comfortable. Living and touring are two very different things.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It was quite hard given the language barrier. Luckily, the school I’m in offers a lot of language exchange programs so it was easier to make friends after enrolling into that. Most of my classmates and colleagues in school are expats so it is very easy to socialize with them.

Kyoto from above!

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The best thing to do here is to relax. If you’re into living in the perfect balance between city life and the relaxed life, Kyoto is your city. Temples, shrines, and mountains should keep your personal harmonies healthy.

What do you enjoy most about living in Japan?
I enjoy reading books by the Kamo river or on top of Mt. Daimonjiyama. Biking all over the city is such a wonderful thing as well. The Japanese people and culture are very interesting too!

How does the cost of living in Japan compare to home?
It does not even come close. Compared to the Philippines, living in Japan costs about 3-5x more.

Baseball!

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Japan?
Probably the language? But it’s very fun to learn though! Imagine all the Japanese anime and great movies you could watch. Not to mention having Japanese friends!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Japan, what would it be?
Try to learn how to speak basic Japanese first.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I would say the daily struggles of living alone is probably the hardest part. Next would be, studying the language.

When you finally return home, how do you think you’ll cope with repatriation?
Repatriation would definitely be an issue. The transition from a developing country to one of the most developed countries in the world was hard. But I think repatriation will be even harder since you have been part of a highly-developed society for a considerable amount of time.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Try your best to learn basic Japanese before coming here. If you could manage to enroll yourself in classes, that would be fantastic. It will solve a lot of the early problems.
  2. Go around Japan! It is such a beautiful country! Personally, I recommend the countryside. All the cities are the same.
  3. Japanese food is so delicious but can be relatively very expensive as well. So eat wisely!
  4. Japan is a very active country. As an expat, running, hiking, and biking are awesome ways to explore cities while keeping fit!
  5. If you are studying in Japan, participate in language exchange programs as much as you can. Your Japanese network will directly increase.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Battling loneliness in Japan is highly dependent on what kind of person you are. So you would need to figure this one out. Japan has so many things to do though so get out there!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
If ever you want to contact me, just send me an email at victormabutas@gmail.com. I’ll try my best to respond in 24 hours.

 

Kyoto: Daimonjiyama

My friends and I have started a travel group called DIY Travel Japan. We aim to share our DIY travel experiences in Japan to the world through blogging and vlogging.

Since I am co-contributing to the group, I’ll be sharing our content here in my blog as well.

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been to Kyoto’s Daimonjiyama many times. Weekly, in fact.

This however is different because it shows group dynamics.  Real people, real events, and real interactions with Japan.

For the complete details on how to DIY this trip, check out Conquering Kyoto’s Mountains.

Please watch in HD and don’t forget to like our Facebook Page and subscribe to our Youtube channel for more.:)

Thank you and enjoy!

Karainya: The Best Curry in Kyoto

Indian food is amazing.  Of all the places in the world, I never thought I’d find amazing Indian food here in Japan.

Karainya is one of the best Indian restaurants near my school.  It is located on Imadegawa dori just before Horikawa dori.  You cannot miss it as it is situated on a busy intersection.  Going in, you will see a happy Indian chap who amazingly speaks 3 languages.  I’ve heard him speak English, Japanese, and Chinese.  I bet he knows Indian, too!

The menu is simple.  There are curry sets (beef, chicken, lamb) and a Tantanmen which is kind of like Japan’s version of the Sichuan dish, Dan Dan noodles.  The curry sets are priced from 750 yen to about 1100 yen for the full set (3 types of curry), if I remember things right.  You can even add 100 yen and get unlimited Naan bread which is awesome!

The chef makes everything by himself so it take about 15-20 minutes of waiting.  Even the Naan!  It is super worth the wait!  I’m no food expert but at least I know a good curry when I smell it.  It smells very strong and spicy (which I like).  It’s served on a canteen-like metal plate with the biggest Naan bread I have ever seen.  It’s bigger than your head.  The accompanying salad and soup were okay.  It’s the curry (I got beef and lamb) and Naan bread that makes the experience enjoyable.

Just look at that plate!  Easily one of the best 750-yen meals I’ve had in Kyoto.

IMG_1794

Kyoto Time Lapse! +GoT Ep. 3 Is Now Loading

You know that feeling when you’re so immersed into whatever you’re doing that you don’t realize a week just passed?  That was last week.  Whew.

First, nothing delights me more than speaking to my girlfriend properly.  Not just sending some random emoticons and late messages.  I’m talking about real conversations in real time.   Maybe I’ll do a piece on long-distance relationships some time in the future.

Second, as you might have suspected in this post’s title, I cannot wait for GoT to fully load.  Given Japan’s internet, it should be over before I finish writing this post.  And yes, *spoiler alert*, John Snow is alive!  Ep 2’s ending was something else and a total rebound from the always-dismal season opener.

Third, I am still dumbfounded with how the Spurs lost to the Thunder.  I know how damn good the Spurs are and losing the series in 6 games was really below expectations.  No wonder Pop’s interview was so dry.  But, it’s also exciting how the Thunder will size up against GSW.

This time lapse shows the Nishijin area of Kyoto where you the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is located.  This was shot for roughly 6 hours on a 5-second interval.

Should be a great week ahead!  Hope you have an awesome week, too!

 

Time Lapse: Kyoto Sunset

Found a way to break out of the apartment rooftop contraption.  All it took was opening one of the laundry room windows. *insert clever laugh*

Golden Week went by really quick. Too quick.  I’m still recovering from all the lost footage in Otsu but it is what it is.

Sunsets are always beautiful.  The transition from various degrees of yellow to various shades of orange is a sight to behold.  It is quite hard to use a negative word to describe a sunset.  It’s one of the main reasons I jog in the afternoon.  Lately, it’s been quite tricky to time them due to the longer daytime so I just tried to leave the camera shooting for a couple of hours while I went out for a jog.

E.M. Goldratt’s Critical Chain was a fantastic novel on business.  It was a lot about what runs in the minds of different levels of managers across different institutions.  Project management (and this does not only apply in business) is something that is dynamic.  Not unlike what most business textbooks say.

And this is what really is exciting about testing assumptions.  Assumptions make or break any mode of thinking.

Now I understand why one of my undergrad professors always nagged us about what our assumptions were.

Enjoy the sunset!

 

 

In Kyoto, We Bike, Bike, Bike!

It was only here in Kyoto that I reacquainted myself with biking.  Prior to Kyoto, I could not remember the last time I rode a bicycle.  

Biking was one of those things that you just had to do when you were a kid.  It was part of childhood (my childhood, at least).  This is why I am astonished every time I discover people my age (or older) who do not know how to ride a bike.  The feeling is almost synonymous to the feeling of not knowing how to spell your name.  Once you can spell it, you just never forget for the rest of your sane life.  Same goes for biking.

And then Formula 1 happened.  Top Gear took over my teenage life.  The Fast and The Furious made me dream.  When I got my student driving permit (2nd year HS) and finished driving school, the dream was no longer a dream.  The feeling of punching the accelerator was the greatest feeling ever.  The high school and college years were all about cars, from a hobby perspective.

All good things come to an end and I had to say goodbye to Big Berta.  

Once I got here, the first thing I had to buy was a set of wheels.  2 wheels.  A bike!  Everybody seems to bike here in Kyoto.  In other parts of Japan, people bike but not as much as they do here.

My only non-negotiable was that my bike had to have gears.  I’m a speed freak and a fixed-gear bike would not be able to deliver that.  Having a bike with gears isn’t only for speed.  It also comes in handy when tackling hills and crested roads.  So whenever you find yourself in Japan or in any foreign city where a bike is necessary, do yourself a favor and get one with gears.  You will never regret paying the extra bucks.  It doesn’t have to be a 21-speed monster, 3-6 gears should be enough for daily commute.

I tried to compile all my biking videos so far into one video.  Maybe I could turn this into another set on its own.

Enjoy!

HD!

 

Time Lapse: Murakami and Kamogawa

My love for reading fiction is negatively correlated with my age.  When I was a kid, I would remember bringing home shortened versions of classic novels from the bookstore.  I had a ton of them.  You name it and I’ve probably read it.

As I grew up, things became very different.  Fiction became literally fiction to me.  It was too out there.  Too perfect.  It’s just one of those moments where you don’t know how it happened.

But then now, reality isn’t really that different from fiction.  There are only moments.  And most of my cherished moments in Kyoto are spent with nature.

Haruki Murakami is the only Japanese writer I know, which makes him my favorite by default.  I plant to read all his books while I’m here.  I didn’t even know he was born in Kyoto until I searched him on Google.  Anyway, I’ve just finished reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman about a couple of hours ago.  It was a fascinating collection of moments.  There’s still some beautiful weirdness in there, if you know what I mean.

Here’s this week’s time lapse.  I tried something new today by splitting one sequence into different vibes.

Like and subscribe!

Comments are awesome!

Time Lapse: A New Take on Daimonjiyama

I think I may have taken too many subjects this quarter.  

I’m taking Finance, Business Research Methods, Statistics, E-Marketing, Nihonggo, zzzzzzz.  The curse of free education.  Why slack off, right?

This time lapse was taken two weeks ago.  I had no time this weekend to take a new one.  This one shows a different perspective and shows more of the mountain’s slope.

I hope I can take a new one next week!