Saturday, November 27, 2010

Omuro eighty-eight

This is a hike up behind the Ninna temple by Ryoanji. It goes past 88 small temples that replicate a pilgrimage on Shikoku. It is a nice hike, of about 2 and a half miles. It is a loop and that is nice, plus counting the temples is a good way to pass the time for the kids- plus it helps them know how far it is: 44 to the top (more or less) and 44 back down. One way to go is to go into Ninna temple, go through the complex and out the west gate. Go straight out the gate for about 150 meters and up the hill to the right when the road reaches a T. Follow the trail and the temples until you get to number 88- the big one near a pond. Follow the road back to Ninna-ji. It is also possible to get to the start of the trail by going up the west side of Ninna-ji and finding the west gate there, but you might as well go through the complex- there is a decent bike parking lot near the main gate and plenty of buses go by (10, 26, 59) and the Arashiyama train line (the Kitano Hakubaicho line) also goes nearby.
Here is my "" map of the route.
Omuro 88 at EveryTrail

EveryTrail - Find trail maps for California and beyond

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving today (Labor Thanksgiving Day) because the kids were off school and it is fun to keep some connection to the traditions of home. It was a blast! Everyone chipped in and we played games while waiting for things to cook. We couldn't really do turkey unless we wanted to take a trip to Costco or get it through Foreign Buyers Club or the Flying Pig or something. Plus most people in the family aren't that keen on turkey anyway. (I like it but didn't think it worth the effort.) This is what we had:

Peppered pork tenderloin in a wine sauce.
Chestnut stuffing
Roasted sweet potatoes
Mashed potatoes
Green beans
and of course pumpkin (kabocha) pie
The chestnut stuffing was the most complicated because of the spices, but we found what we needed at Yamaya.

Here are a few recipes:
Chestnut stuffing:
1 1/2 loaves of standard 6 slice Japanese bread left overnight with crusts off
400g of chestnuts
1 celery stalk
1 onion
loads of parsley
sage (from Yamaya- unfortunately all they had was ground)
salt and pepper
100g of melted butter
1 egg beaten
mix thoroughly in that order (more or less) and season to taste.
bake for about 50 min at 170C mixing constantly (we used a metal mixing bowl)

Pumpkin (Kabocha) pie
2 c. Kabocha
(We used 2 half cuts of cooked kabocha: we boiled one and baked one- perhaps boiling worked best. Empty the seeds before cooking and scrape out the insides once it is soft.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (we couldn't find evaporated milk- but condensed milk is readily available.)
2 large eggs
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t clove

Use your favorite crust recipe- butter flour and water can be easily found
Prebake the crust 250c (15-2o min) then pour the filling in.
Bake at 250c for 15 minutes then 180c for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
We did one pie without spices and the other with- hard to say which was better...
This was possibly the best pumpkin pie I have ever eaten (sorry mom).

For the roasted sweet potatoes (absolutely fabulous)
parboil 2 cm thick slices of sweet potato rounds
preheat olive oil in a tray to 250c
add the potatoes in a single layer
cook for 10 minutes on each side

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kyoto Kaleidoscope Museum

We recently went to the Kyoto Kaleidoscope Museum, in part because I read in a guidebook that it was a good place to take kids. It was pretty cool but more appropriate for older kids. Basically it is a room with a bunch of artistic kaleidoscopes of various shapes and sizes-including one in the shape of a maiko. They also had kaleidoscopes that were projected onto the walls every hour on the hour. Some were quite beautiful, but the staff seemed a little anxious about S and J. The kids enjoyed it, but it held their interest only for a little while. One thing that might be fun would be to make your own kaleidoscope with kits they had there for Y350.
The nitty gritty:
Adults: Y300
Elementary and middle school: Y200
The museum website above has a map and a photo of the museum room.
It's not too expensive so I think it is worth a try, but it wasn't quite the hands-on-museum I was hoping for.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tacos in Japan

Because the last post was about Takao- this time I'll talk about tacos. :-) Mexican food is rare here, especially good Mexican food. I had decent tacos in Tokyo and Nagoya (at Frijoles, a place in Roppongi, and Los Tacos in Nagoya) but that is unusual. So anyway we decided one day to make our own. Yamaya has taco seasoning and salsa and we made our own tortillas off an internet recipe. To make the meat we fried onions and garlic and then added the minced meat (usually a combination of beef and pork). To that we added the seasoning, canned tomatoes, and touch of ketchup. I even added some soybeans in mine- not bad. For toppings we had cabbage, tomatoes and the salsa from Yamaya. Not bad. The highlight for me was probably the homemade tortillas.
Here is one recipe:

  • 2 cups of white flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Takao in the fall

Takao in the Fall

Takao is one of the best places to see the fall colors in Kyoto, as such it gets incredibly crowded on weekends this time of year. Today was a nice sunny day and so we decided on the spur of the moment to head up there after school. We caught the JR bus from Marutamachi Senbon at about 2:10 and arrived in Takao at about 3. (The bus is Y500 from Kyoto station.) Takao was gorgeous as usual. Our first stop was Jingo-in temple. To get there, you go down in to the valley then across the river and up a huge flight of stairs. Along the way we had tempura maple leaves (surprisingly tasty-but more tempura than maple leaves), roasted chestnuts and mikan. Jingo-in is gorgeous this time of year (this time I really will include pictures). One highlight was tossing small discs off a cliff to make sure your bad karma goes flying away. On the way back we decided to go the 3.3 km down river to Kiyotaki and head home from there. This might have worked if we'd had a full day, but it gets dark early these days. Half way there we couldn't see too well, despite the nice moonlight. Still we made it back to Kiyotaki for the 6:20 bus back home. We got ramen at a nice place near the bus stop and made it home to finish homework.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Movies in Kyoto (without breaking the bank)

So the latest Harry Potter movie is coming out and E is pretty interested. What to do? Movies are normally pretty pricey in Japan (often JPY 1800), so if we don't want to pay $100 to take everyone to the movies we have to plan ahead. There are several movie theaters in Kyoto and many of them have special deals on certain days of the month. Kansai Scene has some info: But here is what I have found. (These prices will not work with premium tickets like 3D- in many cases they add 400Y for 3D)

Movix in the Shinkyogoku/Teramachi arcade regularly has 300Y coupons outside the theater with times for all the films they are showing. They have Ladies day on Wednesdays (1000Y) and 1000Y movie days on the 1st and 20th of every month and late shows (anything after 8pm!!!!) are 1200Y.Regular prices are 1800 for adults, 1500 for high school and college students, 1000 for middle and elementary students and 1000 for 3 and up.

Toho Cinemas Nijo, west of the Nijo station (in Bivi) has Movie Day on the 1st and 14th of every month (1000Y), Ladies Day on Wednesdays (1000Y), and late shows are 1200Y. Regular prices are 1800 for adults, 1500 for high school and college students, 1000 for middle and elementary students and 900 for 3 and up.

Both also have mama's clubs for early matinee showings with lower volume for babies, but I don't know too much about them.

There are also theaters in the Aeon mall south of the station with deals similar to Toho and cool art house cinemas: one just south of Shijo Karasuma and one near Toji on Ku-jo.
Buying tickets early at convenience stores can also save you some money- I noticed a Circle K (I think) was selling Harry Potter tickets for 500Y off.
I think we'll shoot for either the 20th or the 1st for Harry Potter...

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Halloween is so much bigger now in Japan than I have ever seen it. When I was first here in the 90s no one had really even heard of Halloween and now it is all over the place. I guess people have seen the marketing advantages it has. Anyway, so there were pumpkins all over the place, Halloween treats and even a Halloween themed section of the 100 yen store. In fact it was at a 100 yen store where we got our costumes- witch, pumpkin and old man.
On the Saturday before, we went to the local shopping street where they had a trick or treat activity. We went to a community center where we received a post card with a picture, every store had a picture posted outside, if the pictures matched we could get a treat from that store. It was a lot of fun. Some stores that we frequent gave us treats even if our pictures didn't match. Afterward we went to the community center to make some Halloween crafts.
On actual Halloween some neighbor kids came over for some American candy. It was raining and pretty miserable, but they came anyway- along with their parents. They all said it was fun and we had fun doing it too. Later on a Japanese language blog I saw pictures of Japanese kids trick or treating in their neighborhoods, so maybe its catching on.