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.

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Otsu-karesamadesu: The Japanese Riviera

This post has been written reluctantly due to all the video footage I lost.  For this one, we would have to stick to good, old-fashioned photos.  No time lapses this week, sorry. 

I am not a Japanese language expert but Otsukaresamadesu (お疲れ様です) roughly translates into “Great work!” in English.  If I’m wrong, please let me know.

One of the great privileges in this world is living next to the beach.  Or by a lake.  Or near any pleasing body of water.  Most of the expensive properties around the world can be found along the French Riviera or Lake Como.  And I totally agree with how these are being valued.  How do you put a price on the view you get every day of the week?  Some might even argue that it’s priceless.  I guess that makes it a bargain, then? 

A couple of my Japanese friends asked us what we wanted to do:  go to the world-renowned port-city of Kobe or visit the virtually unknown city of Otsu.  If you read the title, it is kind of obvious which one we chose.

Otsu is the capital of Shiga, which is a prefecture of Japan.  I was surprised to discover a lot of interesting facts about Otsu.  One of them is that it is the main port in which you could access Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake.  I’ve been hearing about Lake Biwa from literally everyone here in Kyoto.  I also heard that there was a UNESCO world heritage site here called Enryaku-ji, but I would have to visit this some other time.

 

From Kyoto Station, it is quite a challenge to get to Otsu.  You would need to take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line and switch trains at Zeze station.  At Zeze, transfer to the Keihan-Ishiyamasakamoto line and alight at Hamaotsu station.  That’s it you’re there!  One way costs a total of 410 yen.   The whole trip just takes around 30 minutes!

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Just look at that view!  If I didn’t say this was in Japan, you would have probably mistaken this for another country.

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The whole group striking a pose by a viewing deck.  IMG_1913

In order to best experience Otsu and Lake Biwa, my friends suggested to take the Michigan Cruise which was an old-fashioned American paddle boat. It was going to be an 80-minute ride around Lake Biwa.  The ticket costs 2,780 yen for adults and 1,390 yen for kids.  If you’re a student, just show your ID and you just need to pay 2,260 yen!  Oh yeah!  If you’re really hungry, they serve a lunch buffet on board for an additional 2,700 yen.

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I have never seen nor been on a paddle boat before so I was really excited!  Another first!IMG_1900

The boat was HUGE.  IMG_1888

My friend said this was the tallest hotel in Shiga.  Maybe also the slimmest?  I wonder what the view is like up there.IMG_1896

Another group photo after the cruise!  It was a ton of fun!  お疲れ様です

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It is so near to Kyoto!  I think this just replaced Osaka as my preferred weekend getaway.  I mean, just look at the views!  I’ll pick living near water vs. living in a city about 90% of the time.  If it was that easy.

I’d really like to go back and shoot time lapses here next time!

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!

 

Tokyo Drift! A Fast and Furious Journey (Part 3)

I suddenly remembered that I have to write about the last leg of my quick Tokyo trip!

In case you missed out on the earlier posts, here’s Part 1 and Part 2

The last part of our trip covered most of Central and Western areas of Tokyo: Akihabara, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.  These are the busiest places in Tokyo (probably in Japan) and offer a lot in terms of things to do.

We started by visiting Tokyo Imperial Palace.  The palace grounds alone will take you about 30 – 45 minutes to circumnavigate.  One can really feel that this is the epicenter of the Japanese empire just by walking around.  The attention given to the plants, flowers, trees, and structures cordially dial in majesty.

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Behold!  The almighty castle walls!
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How big were horse-drawn carriages in Japan back then?  Because this street is so wide!
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The trees are just perfectly manicured.  Not a leaf out of line.
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We were really lucky because these were not supposed to be in bloom until 3 days later.

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From there, we took the subway bound for Yoyogi Park.  This is a massive and beautiful park that ends at Harajuku.  At the middle, you can drop by Meiji Jingu to get a breather.  It felt like a stretch of 2.5 kms. of gravel.IMG_1676

If you followed our route, this is what you should see:IMG_1678

We went crazy with all the shops from Harajuku to Roppongi.  There were a lot of foreigners living here too.  This area will gladly take your money.  Name a brand and chances are, a flagship store will be in this area.  So bring a lot of dough.  Or don’t.IMG_1679

If you go left from here, you will arrive at another famous shopping destination, Takeshita Street where you could get a shot at one of the graffiti-lined walls.  Each of us just had to take one.

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According to my sister, this street is mostly kawaii girls stuff.  But she was able to find this store, Monki.  There’s a cool dessert place beside it if ever you are a guy shopping with a female.

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The iconic Hachiko just near Shibuya Crossing!IMG_1689

Maybe it is just because off-season but I think Dotombori in Osaka is much busier than this one.  If you are thinking about getting a nice view from the Starbucks joint you see in this picture, good luck getting in.  The upper floors of the train station and malls are the best places to get a nice shot.  I just wished I was into time lapse photography when I went here.  IMG_1693

We had to double back to our hostel to get our bags and got lost.  All the subway-switching can get really confusing.  It really pays to know some kanji especially when the nearest map looks like this:

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We had a great bowl of Seaweed Shio ramen after an exhausting day.  Unfortunately, I forgot the name of this ramen place in Shinjuku.

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While waiting for our midnight bus back to Kyoto, we checked our watches and realized that we had about 4 hours to kill.  Luckily, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is still open!  It has 2 observation decks: North (9:30-23:00) and South (9:30-17:30).  It gives you a stunning 360-view of Tokyo for free!  The elevator line might be long during the day so going at night is better (the night view is better too, I think).  Oddly, the observation deck has a toy store and a coffee shop at the top.  It even has complimentary Wi-Fi! IMG_1702

That’s all, folks!  This series is done!  I can’t wait to go back to Tokyo!

Here’s a video of the entire trip!  I’m very sorry that the camera is shaky, the gimbal is broken. 😦