Thursday, November 29, 2012

Traveling Solo - Japan (7)

Day 5:  My spirits dampen as I woke up and found that it was raining outside.  (It was the only day it rained during my entire 9-day trip so lucky me actually.)  I decided to save Tofukuji to another day but stick to my plan to visit Uji and Fushimi.

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After a relaxing breakfast at the hostel, I borrowed an umbrella and walked towards Tofukuji Station.  Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the day after 2 major festivals, or maybe it's simply because it's Tuesday, the road was quiet and the 15-minute walk felt long and dreary.  That's when sunflowers and the scent of kinmokusei came to rescue.  Hehe!

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curry fried bun
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I took the picture when I returned from Fushimi but the fragrant is just the same if not stronger
The train ride to Uji is uneventful and quiet.  Uji was even quieter.  I was almost sad until it finally dawned on me that the rain has set the perfect mood for my visit.  Afterall, the last ten chapters of the Tale of Genji are set in Uji.  (For the record, I only read the comic version by Waki Yamato.)

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these value tickets are a great way to plan where to visit when you are in Japan
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The statue of the author of the Tale of Genji
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Other than the Tale of Genji, Uji is nationally famous for its green tea.  Naturally, my first stop of the day is Itohkyuemon (伊藤久右衛門).  I tried the different types of tea and ended up buying all of them and more.  I can't leave without a box of the green tea kit-kat right?  (They actually sell it in a lot of place but I am an "origins" fan, i.e. I want to buy my Uji tea in Uji, not in Kyoto, even if they are from the same store and it's exactly the same thing.)  As I walked out the store, I knew if I am going to blow my budget, today will be the day.

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The sales lady at Itohkyuemon is so nice and helpful
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my rain-proof shopping bag!
I slowly made my way to Uji Jinja and Ujigami Jinja but skipped the Tale of Genji Museum.  I guess I didn't love the book enough (it's basically a story on the life and affairs of a ridiculously good-looking jerk aristocrat from the Imperial family). 

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The residence along the historical district of Uji is very nice.
You can see they have put much effort in decorating their gardens.
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Uji Jinja
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a priest getting ready to perform a service
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Ujigami Jinja
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The Uji Bridge over the Uji River is very pretty and like I said before, the rainy weather was perfect for Uji.

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I just stood there and enjoyed the view for like 30 minutes... in the rain...
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Although the Phoenix Hall at Byodoin Temple is undergoing major restoration from September 2012 to March 2014, I think the Museum alone is worth the visit.  Byodoin was also originally a villa to Minamoto no Shigenobu and purchased by the most powerful member of the Fujiwara clan, Fujiwara no Michinaga.  It was converted into a Buddhist temple by Fjuiwara no Yorimichi. 

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the Japanese are serious about their restoration...
The temple ground is huge so I was amazed by the power the Fujiwara clan had back then since the villa used to be 50% of the entire town of current Uji.  The image of the Phoenix Hall is also featured on the 10 yen coin and 10,000 yen note.

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the museum hallway
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The family tree of Fujiwara no Michinaga.
He married princesses and his daughters married the emperors.
That's the way to stay in the power game I guess...


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After Byodoin, I walked to Tokichi for lunch.  There is a Tokichi near Byodoino too but I went to the main store.  I was promptly seated and I ordered the herring soba with the green tea dessert set.  The soba wasn't as good as compared to the one I had in Arashiyama but the dessert made up for it!  Most people came just for the dessert.

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shopping street outside Byodoin
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Shogun drinks their tea too - or so it's advertised...
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Tokichi Honten
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the garden outside the cafe
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herring green tea soba
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green tea jelly, mochi, red bean paste and green tea ice cream - in a frozen bamboo container
only available at the "honten" (head office).
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"light" matcha, with dark chocolate
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the crowd that came for desserts
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the tasting area in the tea shop
feels more casual than Itohkyuemon

I walked back to the Keihan Uji station and enjoyed my view of the Uji River one last time before heading over to Fushimi.

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The pelicans are experts in catching fish.
There is a festival in the summer (mid-June to late-September) that actually shows how fishermen uses these birds to catch fish.
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so pretty~~
Although written with different characters now, the name Fushimi (which used to be its own "town") originally comes from fusu + mizu, meaning "hidden water" or "underground water". In other words, the location was known for good spring water. The water of Fushimi has particularly soft characteristics, making it an essential component to the particular type of sake brewed in Fushimi. This also explains why the area developed as a sake-brewing center in Kyoto. Today, Fushimi is the second greatest area of Japan in terms of sake production, and is where the sake company Gekkeikan was founded.
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this is a display at the train station
Naturally, my next stop is Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum.  Since I couldn't make an advance reservation, I was unable to visit the "月桂冠酒香房".  Bummer!  I wish I could see how they actually make the sake.

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Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum
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Entrance free is JPY300 - you can a can of sake, and free tasting of 3 different typs of sake.
you also get the postcard if you show them your value ticket.
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one of the equipment used in the cooking of sake
I got one of the limited sakes they sell at the museum and the cashier keep checking with me to make sure I understand this sake needs to be refrigerated and confirmed within 2 weeks of purchase before she would sell it to me.  Needless to say, it was one of the first things consumed when I returned from my trip!  In my opinion, it is a very good quality sake - very smooth and fragrant!  My friends thought it was a bit strong though.

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The other tourist attraction is the Teradaya Inn, where Ryoma Sakamoto was attacked and injured.  It was also where his future wife, Ryo Narasaki, saved his life. 

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Ryoma Sakamoto - also a display at the train station
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Teradaya Inn
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another well-known sake brewery
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A yakitori place I wanted to try but didn't coz I wasn't hungry :(
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another sake place next to the yakitori restaurant
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It caught my attention when everyone lined up for the water
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so the water is famous...
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of course, I have to get myself a bottle...
it was really good quality water so I went back later before I leave for more!
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old fashion cigarette store... i wonder how many of these are still around
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the shopping street is so modern I almost can't make the connection
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hehehe... Momofuku... (I am thinking the Momofuku in NYC)
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takoyaki vendor
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a sake shop, which also offers tasting
unfortunately, they are closed on Tuesdays :(
Similar to Kibune and Kurama, Uji and Fushimi are quite small.  Since I was pretty tired, I had an early dinner at Genya.  After shopping at Aeon for dinner #2 (just in case), I returned to the hostel.  Thinking back, I should have visited Kodaiji in the evening.  Oh well...

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Genya
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spicy sake ramen
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My guess is Aeon has super sales every Tuesday.
It felt like the whole town was there but the deal is unbeatable!
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I picked up a mochi dessert from there for later too :)
Shopping of the day:

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my teas, sakes, and snacks
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all bought from Aeon (except the mochi)
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for my body aches and tired feet... I felt old... :'(

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