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Osaka 2011 – Day 3


Sorry for the delay in this post! I returned from Japan on Saturday, and spent most of the weekend catching up on sleep before shooting a wedding yesterday evening.  I do have my ‘Scenes from Japan’ collection up on Nonstop Honolulu right now, which features some images from the previous days, as well as previews of the not-yet-posted Day 4, but let’s get on with Day 3!

My day started with walking across the street from our hotel, the Dōtonbori Hotel, to grab a coffee from the Lawsons convenience store. I’ve never seen such a wide selection of canned coffee and tea – for me, it’s heaven. After settling on my coffee of the day, I joined Burt and Mari for a quick stroll around the area. I even stumbled across a Lush, which I’ve also been to in Florence, Dublin, Vancouver, and Auckland, besides the American locations. It’s now on my travel checklist to always try to find an international Lush!

We settled on having lunch at Kukuru, a location famous for its takoyaki. We ordered its three featured flavors: original, shrimp, and bacon with cheese!

After lunch, it was time to venture back to Kyoto! However, when we got into our train car to Osaka’s Umeda station, we began to notice something…

“Um…Burt? What’s that behind you?”

Oops! But the women in that train car didn’t make a fuss about it, so all was well!

We then took the express train to Kyoto. I still find the different lines and seat rules confusing, but we did score priority seats because there were no elderly, disabled, or pregnant women to give them to!

Upon our arrival in Kyoto, we jumped in a taxi and headed to the Rinzai Zen Daitoku-ji temple grounds, which contains several sub-temples and has been the setting for many historical figures, including tea ceremony master Sen no Rikyū. Despite the nearly overwhelming summer heat in Kyoto, we spent quite a while wandering the grounds, examining temples and enjoying the gardens.

I was particularly excited to discover one Japanese maple tree in completely red foliage! It’s always been a dream of mine to see the Japanese maples in Kyoto in their autumn glory, so even though this tree was early, I was very happy to be able to photograph it.

Once we couldn’t take the heat anymore, we caught another taxi to Nishiki Market, a famous covered market street featuring a huge variety of Kyoto’s specialty foods and crafts. Though our initial goal was to find some kakigori, or shave ice, to beat the heat, we ended up sampling our way up and down the market until dinnertime! Foods we sampled included iced teas made with well water, yuzu (a Japanese citrus) juice, fresh senbei (rice crackers), tomato kakigori, tofu doughnuts and hot dog, and more. It was also fun to people-watch in the marketplace, as we spotted one particularly interesting character.

For dinner, we ate at a seafood-specialty restaurant, Daiyasu, and met up with Sophie, a Hawaii Twitterer who has been in Kobe for a summer study abroad! There, I ate my first raw oyster, as well as a grilled oyster, some spectacular sashimi, and ebi that still had their heads and tails attached! I think Burt has a video of my pulling apart my first ebi-with-eyes.

Once we were finished eating, we backtracked down the market to find a dessert shop we’d spotted earlier, Mochitsukiya. There, we ordered a selection of yuzu kakigori, yuzu juice with warabi mochi, and a type of noodle served in ice water and dipped in a black honey sauce. Thanks to my mobile WiFi rental, I learned that warabi mochi is not made from mochi flour, but from a starch made of brackens, aka ferns!

Happy and satisfied with our dessert, we finally decided to head out of the market to the main event of the night: The Gion Festival. I’d noticed throughout the afternoon in Kyoto that there were numerous people already dressed in yukata for the festival, and sure enough, there were a variety of colorful yukata being worn on the streets.

A few of Kyoto’s main streets were closed to vehicle traffic, and were thus absolutely packed with people walking around, buying food from street vendors and playing festival games. The gigantic Gion Festival floats were also on display in the side streets.

It’d been a long day, so we finally headed to the station to catch a train back to Osaka. This time, because of the festival, the train was more crowded than it had been previously, so I had my first experience standing up for a Japanese train ride, though it wasn’t as packed in as the stories I’ve heard! We noticed an advertisement for traveling to Hawaii right next to where we were standing, and two of the planes illustrated in the ad were obviously Hawaiian Airlines! I thought it was fitting to see.

Back in Osaka, we had to take one more train from Umeda to Namba, where Dōtonbori is. While Mari went back to the hotel, I spent a few more minutes walking around with Burt to take some photos of Dōtonbori by night.

Special thanks goes out to Ashley Smith of Taryn Reid Photography for loaning me her fisheye lens for this trip!  Go follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, she’s awesome!

And more from my travel companions:

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