Nara – Todaiji Temple: Kyon

Cute little Kyon giving death glare'

I went to Nara a few days ago with the intention to visit Todaiji Temple. Unfortunately the weather was not that good and as a result, the photographs have this overcast look to them. Still, it could be worse. The rain has been falling rather heavily in the past few days so the fact that I only got an overcast sky was a blessing in disguise.

The first thing that I saw when I arrived at the entrance were a bunch of Kyon (Deers). These creatures are amazing. They are really cute but I would not try pissing off one of them. As you can see on the picture above, that little guy was giving me the death glare for taking his picture while he’s trying to rest. Or maybe he was thinking “How dare you taking pictures of my kind while we are having private licking session“. Nevertheless, I didn’t care and continued taking pictures while maintaining a rather safe distance.

5 stories Pagoda5 stories PagodaTodaiji temple entranceLion StatueQuiet temple5 stories Pagoda

After I got satisfied taking pictures of these animals in various compromising positions, I decided to aim my intrusive camera towards the 5 stories pagoda. Unfortunately a bunch of tourist were sitting in the area and despite my attempt to give them the glare from hell, they would not move from the area. Back then I realized what those deers must felt when I took their pictures. As a result, the angle of the pagoda that I like the most contains shots of these attention-seeking exhibitionist. Oh well, it’s not like my composition skill was that good to begin with.

I then decided to move away from the pagoda and head towards a nearby temple. There was two lion-like statue guarding the temple which are actually pretty creepy up-close. Or maybe I just felt that way because because I was the only person who entered the temple ground and took pictures of the statue. I hope the temple wasn’t run by Oyashiro-sama. Still though, it felt amazing to be there surrounded by all the quietness. Although I always like to take a trip down to Akihabara, I think I like this kind of trip a lot better.

The Torii gate leading to the templeAss kissingThere should be a ninja perching on that roof

After the temple, I made my way towards the main ground of Todaiji temple. Before I arrived there though, I noticed this wall where I thought it looks similar to one of those places where Ninjas usually are spotted. Yeah I know it sounds silly but that’s what I thought when I first saw it and I couldn’t help myself from taking pictures of it. Anyway, although the Pagoda and the rest of Nara park are free, you are actually required to pay 500 Yen to enter the Daibutsuden (the Great Buddha temple).

When I visited the place that day, there were many school kids on excursion so it was rather busy to say the least. Unfortunately, I’ll have to end this mini article for now but I’ll continue this soon with pictures of the great Buddha and some ‘exciting’ statistical numbers about the statue itself. The pictures are quite dark though since there wasn’t any light inside the temple itself so don’t hope for an awesome shot of the Buddha himself. Having said that, there will be more pictures of When Deers attack.

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Food outlets

Pepper Lunch

In general, Japan seems to be obsessed with food. Almost everyday, one can see a variety program whereby the host will dine on sumptuous meal created by different chef from different restaurant. I also get the impression that Japan has some of the best cooks in the world since I haven’t had any bad-tasting food while I’m here. Prior coming to Tokyo, I’ve always heard that foods are expensive in Tokyo but I think this is an exaggeration. I don’t think it’s anymore expensive than foods in other big cities such as New York, Sydney, and is actually a lot cheaper than London. If you know where to go, you can actually taste some good food here. Failing that, you can always go to Supermarket and get yourself either some Fresh ingredients, if you have cooking equipments. If you don’t have access to cooking equipment, go to combine and get some pre-cooked foods ready to be heated in a microwave. After all, a large Onigiri (riceball) won’t cost you more than 150 Yen. Anyway, what I’ll list below are some of my favorite food outlets. They’re mostly just for my own reference but I hope you can find some use for it.

Pepper Lunch

Pepper Lunch (addendum 13/06/10): Pepper Lunch is now available in Sydney – LOL) serves quality cut grilled beef on top of rice and vegetables. In order to order food from this place, you have to use the nearby vending machine and choose the kind of dish that you’d like to eat. After paying the price, the machine will produce a ticket that you must hand in to the waitress. The price of the meals ranges from 680 Yen to around 1050 Yen depending on the quality of the meat that you choose. Anyway, after handing in the ticket to the waitress, she will usually give you a ticket for free soft drink, which you can use the next time you visit the place. Back then, however, I had to be content with a glass of water while waiting for 2-3 minutes for my food. Once the waiting is over, you’ll be presented with sizzling and only half-cooked meat and veggies on top of a hotplate. If you want, the waitress will cook the meat for you. However, it’s a lot more fun to cook them yourself and add your own sauce, etc. You can find Pepper Lunch outlet on almost every big city in Japan, especially inside the train station. If you’re in Tokyo, however, Akihabara has at least two of these outlets.

Pepper LunchSoba UdonSoba Udon

Soba Udon

Judging from its name, it’s not hard to guess that Soba Udon serves well, Soba and Udon. This place, however, is good because it provides some cheap food for those who don’t have the budget to spend too much. For only 200 Yen, you can get a cold Soba with a sauce and an additional 100 Yen can get you a Kakiage (Fried vegetable tempura). I don’t know about other people’s stomach capacity but in my opinion the portion that they gave to me was quite generous and I was both full and satisfied with the quality of the food. Of course if you have the money, you can always order the more expensive dish such as Curry Udon. Just like other eateries, you’ll usually get a glass of water free and you can refill it as much as you want. You order the food through vending machine and hand in the ticket to the waitress as usual. Although if I remember correctly, you have to tell the waitress yourself if you want a kakiage to go with your cold soba and pay the 100 Yen to her. Soba Udon can be found in various Tokyo station. There is one underneath the Ueno station.

Omosubi Gonbee/Omosubi Honnori

These two are basically food outlets selling Omusubi (Onigiri/riceball) using the finest ingredients you can find in Japan. You can read more about Omosubi Gonbee here. I really like Onigiri although the one one can get from the combini is usually not the best quality ones. Gonbee and Honnori, on the other hand, are two places that I usually go to if I want some good Onigiri. They have a wide range of selection from Fish roe to tuna to chicken. However, because they use the best ingredients available, the price of their Onigiri tends to be more expensive in comparison to the ones you can get from a combini. For example, a typical Onigiri from a combini won’t set you back more than 150 Yen while the one from these outlets can cost you up to 200 Yen. However, I think it’s worth it to give it a try from time to time. And these Omosubi/Onigiri are very filling so most people don’t need more than two Onigiri if this is all that they intend to have for lunch. Onigiri is also perfect as a light breakfast when consumed with Takuan (pickled daikon) during breakfast.

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Parakiss Shop + Venus Fort

Yukari/George, Paradise Kiss

Right, as I promised, I would write about The Parakiss Shop, which is located inside Venus Fort. It’s been a few days since I visited the site so the detail is kind of sketchy. But basically you can just walk from Odaiba to Venus Fort and it’ll basically take you around 5 to 10 minutes. You won’t get lost because all you have to do is to look where the giant Ferris Wheel is located. Once you find that, you’ll pretty much find Venus Fort. Venus Fort is basically a shopping mall for those who are interested to purchase good brand name clothing at a good discounted price. Well, when I went there, most of the items were discounted so I got that impression. But then again it’s probably because it’s January/February, the time when big discounts usually are on offer by most shops.

I actually didn’t have any intention to come here. But while I was inside Fuji TV building, I saw a brochure advertising Paradise Kiss. Upon asking the shop attendant, I found out that Venus Fort is only within walking distance from the building, so I set out to find the place. It was a good decision too because I was looking for a long coat since I didn’t have any warm clothing on me besides a jumper and a thin jacket and the weather was cold. Oh right, Parakiss shop. The shop is located on the ground floor, IIRC. You have to get deep inside the shopping mall and you know that you’re close to it because you’ll see a tree decorated with blue lights. It’s not really a ‘shop’ but more like an open exhibition. The place basically showcases Yukari’s, George’s, and Miwako’s dress from Paradise Kiss series.

Ferris Wheel on the roof of Venus FortBlue treeYukari's gown
Yukari and George's costumeButterfly ringAll costumes

Yukari’s showcase dress looks okay in my opinion. I think I was a bit disappointed with it because IMO the dress would have been better if it was darker in colour. But then again, I’m not the bloody author/designer, so what do I know? George’s shirt looks good for exhibition piece but is too over the top for my taste so I don’t think I’ll touch it with a ten foot pole. There is also a Blue Rose that Yukari wears in the fashion show being sold for 8,925 Yen (around $90). Last but not least, the butterfly earring that George gave to Yukari retails for around 39,900 Yen ($400). For visitors who just want less extravagant items to purchase, there are Happy Berry statue, notebooks, clear plastic files, etc. I’m not really a Parakiss fan so I decided to save my money for more Honey and Clover items.

Anyway, sorry for the lousy photographs. Just like anywhere else in Japan (except outside temple areas), I’m not sure if I’m allowed to take photograph. But there was no forbidden sign so I was in a hurry to take as many photographs as possible before the store attendant flashes the ‘Batsu’ (X) sign. After taking those photos, I moved on since I did need to buy a coat. As I said before, Venus Fort itself is basically a place for anyone who intends on shopping for clothes. So it was kind of lucky that I managed to get one quite easily before moving on to take some more photograph. There is this rather nice Venus statue/water fountain in the middle of the shop. Almost every single tourist that stumbled upon the area was busy taking pictures so it was hard to take a good angle. It doesn’t help that I’m not a professional either to begin with.

Venus statueVenus statueVenus statue
Exhibition AreaVenus fort shopping mallFor pregnant women, the elderly, and alien

Eventually I’ve had enough of everything and decided to go back to my hostel especially since I already promised a friend to meet later on that night. On my way back, I decided to take the subway and realizes that the special seating area (where pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly normally sit) is actually marked with a sign that looks like an Alien’s head. Okay, it’s actually a picture of a chair but for a second I thought it’s some kind of subliminal messages that it’s also special area for Gaijin. :P Anyway, I think I’ll talk about food on my next post since I realized that I have some eateries in Tokyo that I visited quite often. Maybe after that I’ll talk more about Akihabara and anime shops.


Hachikuro Cafe + Odaiba

Hachikuro Mascot
Hachikuro merchandiseHagu statue

Anyone who read Memento on a regular basis will know that I really like an anime series titled Honey and Clover. The series was one of the most popular series in Japan last year. For some reason, the popularity propels some people to create a cafe called, Hachikuro cafe. The cafe is located in Odaiba, in order to get to Odaiba, you can either take the JR Yamanote line or the Tokyo Metro’s Ginza line to Shimbashi station. From this station, you can take the Yurikamome Monorail which will drop you at Odaiba Koen. After this, walk towards a building called Decks. The building consists of cafes and shops and is divided into several areas. If you go all the way here with the intention of finding the Hachikuro cafe, you need to go the the 3rd Floor of an area called ‘Island Mall’. Near its entrance, you’ll find the cafe.

The first thing that I noticed is that this is a very small cafe which doesn’t have that many chairs/tables in it. After I took some pictures, I approached the souvenir sections. There are several goods on sale here but unfortunately I am not interested in most of them because they are the kinds of things that I don’t collect (stuffed animals, shot glass, mug, cell phone straps, etc). I did buy some clear files. I’ll try to scan them and post the picture on Memento once I go back home. The cafe is decorated with pictures of the characters (with signatures from the voice actors) and a big Hagu statue. There’s also a big stuffed animal in the form of Hachikuro mascot placed on the entrance of the shop so you can’t possibly miss the shop when you enter the ‘Island Mall’ area.

Inside the cafeFrom outsideMessage from Yuki
Hachikuro cafeRainbow bridgeMcDonald's Ebi burger

Unfortunately it seems the menu on the cafe has changed from the first time it was opened. I remember that it used to have a much more fun and diverse menu. Nowadays, however, the cafe only serves drinks and snacks. *sigh* I was so looking to have that blue-cheese/honey Pizza. Oh well. I ended up only ordering the lemonade since I wasn’t that hungry back then. The lemonade was pretty good although it is rather pricey for a lemonade (around 350 Yen). Since there’s nothing else to see inside the cafe, I decided to walk around the building and after a few minutes, decided to get out of it. There seems to be an interesting area on the top floor that tries to imitate the back alley of Hong Kong inside a shopping mall. I was too tired to do further investigation, however, so I didn’t bother to take any picture. Maybe next time.

Having said that, it’d be silly to come all this way just to see the Cafe. Odaiba itself is a landmark place. From the Decks’s observatory area, you can clearly see the Rainbow Bridge. Yes, this is the bridge where Seishirou and Subaru from X TV staged their final fight against one another. Since I took the monorail, I actually went through the bridge. The view was really good although I’ll bet it’s even better at night. If I have time, I think I’ll try to go again during night time. There is actually a Ferris Wheel nearby in Venus Fort. I don’t think this is the one that the gang from Hachikuro went to. However, I think Mayama mentioned about it in the series. Anyway, eventually I got hungry and I decide to have McDonald’s for a change. Besides, McDonald’s in Japan tends to be better than the ones in other countries.

Fuji TelevisionVenus Fort's Ferris Wheel
The view from the escalatorYour Shounen Jump friends

True enough, I actually managed to have a rather decent burger here. It’s a new one they introduced for the season called Ebi-burger. It’s a burger filled with prawns, topped with some kind of thousand island sauce. This and Teriyaki Burger has to be some of the better McDonald’s burgers, I’ve tasted. After lunch, I decided to head towards the Fuji Television Building, thinking that they may have some good merchandise there. The building itself looks really good. There is some kind of tower which you can go up to (after paying 500 Yen) if you want to take a good look at Tokyo’s Metropolitan area from a high place. I personally think it’s a waste of money though so unless you’re that desperate to see it, I suggest that you save your Yen to buy other things.

After the tower, I decided to go to Fuji TV’s shop, which I kind of hoped will sell either Hachikuro or Nodame Cantabile merchandises. Unfortunately, the shop doesn’t seem to have that many merchandise for Noitamina series or for that matter, the more mature series aired on Fuji TV. I did, however, see many One Piece and Dragonball merchandise so if you like both series, you’re in luck. There’s also some kind of exhibition on the new live-action Saiyuki starring Katori Shingo. Anyway, since there isn’t that many things to see inside the building, I decided to go to Venus Fort, where apparently Paradise Kiss shop is opened. That, however, will have to wait until the next post since I have to go now.


Japan Take 2

Nippon Ichi-ban

Well, I never thought I’ll be going to Japan again but here I am sitting inside my hotel’s internet room typing this. I have to say that I really miss Japan. It’s only been six months since I was here the last time around but I feel that it’s been longer than that. I was flying using JAL (Japan Airlines) and I have to say that it’s been one of the nicer flights I’ve had. Well, I didn’t actually enjoy the flight itself because I had the misfortune of sitting in the window seat with 2 seats next to me. So it was rather hard to do anything. However, the flight provides free overnight stay at a hotel here complete with complimentary breakfast before I leave to go to UK tomorrow. And much to my surprise, the hotel is clean and comfortable. It’s not big but it’s not small either. It’s pretty much my ideal hotel room.

Chotos, bento box, and an unidentified dessert

The first thing that I did after dropping my bags was going to combini right away. I couldn’t help it. I’ve been missing combini foods far too long. I am also on a budget so I can’t afford to go around spending 2700 Yen just to have dinner at a restaurant. Especially not when I have to go to England first before I revisit Japan next week (tonight is just a transit night). I can’t wait until the time when I get back here. I have bought JR pass again and this time I think I’ll go to Wakkanai or Sapporo just like Takemoto from Hachikuro. The only difference is, I’m not going to be riding bike. Not in this kind of weather. I am also curious about England since this will be my first time visiting the country. Thankfully I have a lot of friends living in that part of the world so I’m not going to be alone most of the time.


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