Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sayonara Sale in Kyoto

We're leaving soon and that means a Sayonara Sale! We posted on craigslist, Kansai Flea Market and the bulletin board in the Kyoto International Center in Higashiyama.
Here is what we have.

metal rack: Y1500 (166cm tall X 56cm wide)
Toaster: Y500

Nice desk chair Y3000

Sony 29" TV Y3000 (75cm W 57cm H X 50cm D) PROBABLY NOT DIGITALLY COMPATIBLE

another table or desk- about the same size as above but not nearly as nice: Y2000
pair of chairs- Y2000
rear bike child seat Y1000

three drawer metal shelves Y1500 60cm wide X 80 tall

Lots of small things: pots and pans, dishes, cutlery, electric heater (1000), phone, and more.
We live in North West Kyoto- everything available by July 10- some things sooner. Must go by July 17th (Gion Matsuri)
I can help with delivery in the Kyoto area for an extra fee.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kid-friendly restaurants- Sweets of Ninja

Our kids like ninjas. They liked the ninja village in Koga. They like watching the Nintaro ninja anime (NHK education channel just after 6). And so when we found out there was a ninja themed restaurant in town, we wanted to give it a try. There are two restaurants and a ninja labyrinth. The basement is a restaurant with different course meals. Apparently they come with a little ninja magic performance. We went to the all you can eat "Sweets of Ninja" part. The staff are all dressed up and the decor is cool- like an old house with bamboo everywhere. For regular food they have Karage chicken, different kinds of spaghetti, curry rice, pilaf, french fries and salad bar. The focus, though, is on the sweets- with various cakes, crepes, waffles and ice cream. The kids were in heaven. They were very interested in the gift shop too- complete with grappling hooks.
They have a maze that you can go to as well. You have to wait by the outside door and they will show you in. You get a lamp and you need to try to find kanji scrolls to make a bingo before going out. When we were there the woman at the front had very good English.
It is a little hard to find. Here is one way to find it. From the north, head down Shinkyogoku (one block east of Teramachi) until you see the KFC turn right and then go right at your first chance. Here is a map.
The info:
The course meals are from Y2800 per person- probably not as kid friendly.
The buffet is Y1580 for adults (100 more on weekends.)
Kids 7-12 Y850
Kids 3-6 Y420
under 3 are free
Maze- Y300- but Y50 off if you eat there.
There are other branches in Tokyo and New York. Maybe we'll have to try the New York one sometimes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shipping things back home

Well, our time is drawing to a close and this means sending things back to the USA in our case. I thought it might be useful to share some of the things we have found.
Option 1: the post office
If you don't have a lot of stuff the post office is a good option. They have a very good English site and several different shipping options. Here is their rate schedule. If you are sending a lot of books, using a special mail bag might be a good option. Be sure to pack carefully though if you use the boat route- I had some minor damage from a breaking box on an earlier package. This can only be done at the central post office near the station or the Sakyo post office.
Option 2: shipping companies
These are usually based on the cubic meter and go by boat. Good for larger amounts of things. You can often choose to send it to your door, or for a cheaper route they can send it to a port near you. This does not mean that it has to be near an Ocean. I sent stuff to Detroit before. Here are some basic prices to the USA for your reference.
A friend used Economove. They quoted me about 75,000 JPY to the east coast of the USA door to port. They give you a big box to send things in.
We have use Japan Luggage Express before and were pretty happy with it. They quoted me about 60,000 to the east coast USA. For this one you don't get one big box, they just add up the dimensions of your packages (one cubic meter is a lot!).
I had another recommendation for Kuroneko Yamato, the ubiquitous takkyubin. (Sorry the information is only in Japanese) For door to door service they have about .7 cubic meter for 75,000 to the west coast, New York of Chicago or and 110,000 for the rest of the USA. From what I hear this is a very nice option.
Anyway- I hope this helps. This time I think we will go the regular post office route.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fantasy Kids Resort- Rokujizo

We recently took a rainy day and went to Fantasy Kids Resort near the Rokujizo station (subway, Keihan and JR-the subway is the closest). This is a bigger and better Yu Kids Island bouncy inflatable play area bonanza. They have several big inflatable bouncy things with slides and what not, but that is not all: ball pits, indoor sand box (advertised as sanitized), manga collections, picture book library, mega sized blocks, play structures, houses, and more. One highlight for J was a photo studio where you can dress up in all kinds of fancy clothes and take photos (using your own camera). There is no extra fee for this, though if you want to print out hard copies you can do so for a fee. S particularly loved the electric cars that even 3 year olds can drive on their own- but all three had fun on those. At the end we also discovered that all the video games there were included in the entrance fee. They had the taiko drumming game, a Gundam shooting game, driving games and several others. I wish we'd discovered that earlier. Afterward we checked out the food court for dinner. Not a great selection, but they had McDonalds, ramen, curry and some others.

The nitty gritty:
Good for ages 2 to 12- better for 3-8ish but with the added video games- even older kids could have fun.
Open 10-7, 7 days a week.
Near Rokujizo subway station- end of the Tozai line (about 30 min from Karasuma Oike).
See map here. Take the subway exit 3- head toward the river (the opposite direction from the giant big Ito-Yokado supermarket.) Look for the big mall- the Kintetsu Momo mall on the opposite side of the river. Fantasy Kids Resort is in the annex on the far side of the mall.
Requires a family membership Y315 per year.
Three payment options:
Play all day: Y990
After 4pm: Y660
Pay by the hour: Y420 first hour Y210 per half hour after
We did the after 4 package. The kids might have lasted longer, but I don't think we would've.
You get a point card and the fourth visit is free for up to 4 people. They also gave us a coupon for one free person when we left.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

buying on and paying at a conbini

I've mentioned buying toys and books on So here are some instructions for paying at a convenience store.
First of all, you should know that you can get most of the info in English if you look for the "Display this information in English" link on the right of the page. This can be a little tricky to spot, but it is there. Search for what you want and then put it in your cart and checkout. Go through the steps and input your address etc. When it comes to the payment method, choose pay at a convenience store. NOTE: If it is a non-amazon (or marketplace) seller then you can't use this option.
First, you will get an order confirmation email. The next is probably the "payment number." Scroll down until you see your email address, a long number and the amount due. Write down the long number and take it to any convenience store. In my experience Lawson's red kiosks are the easiest to use, but for us Family Mart is closest. Here are some instructions for Family Mart.
Here is the machine:

Just touch the screen to begin. This is the section for paying on Amazon on the first page:

Go to the next page by pushing on the down arrow. Look for the Amazon logo

The first page you need to input your payment number.

On the next page you need to enter 888 for some reason.
Then push the confirm button "確認” (A good Kanji to learn by the way) on the bottom left.
The machine prints out a ticket that you then take to the counter to pay.
I hope this helps. As soon as you pay they send your package- we have got ours the very next day sometimes.
Here is a useful post from Surviving in Japan about vocab for ordering online.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


To help foster an appreciation of the glorious history around us we have encouraged a fascination with ... NINJAS! Of course the Lego Ninjago series helps encourage this fascination too. We've checked out wikipedia, the library and got a book. Now we needed to visit the place where it all began- Iga and Koka. These were rival ninja towns between Kyoto and Nagoya- they are each about a day trip away. It might be tough to do both in a day unless you get out really early in the day- never our strong point. We chose to hit the closest- Koka. The selling point for us was the ninja obstacle course at Ninjutsu mura. It was a blast! Highly recommended. We went to the throwing star range (Y300 for 8 stars). Got a tour of a ninja hideout with secret passages and traps. The kids all did the obstacle course-climbing castle walls, sneaking along walls, escaping down wells, and crossing moats (Okay I did too- hey, it looked too fun). Accomplishing these feats earned them each their ninja licenses. It was a bit confusing at first, in part because the ninja village is designed so that you can never get a sense of the entire place to confuse enemies. Plus all the signs are in Japanese. I would recommend just exploring and seeing what you find. The guided tour of the obstacle course was called "Ninja Dojo" and they announced it over the loudspeaker. If you hear something over the loudspeaker go to the gift shop area to meet the group and just do what everyone else does. The ninja hideout house (Karakuri ninja yashiki) was also with a guided tour- the house is just uphill from the gift shop to the left of the giant hand statue. They do regular tours there so just look for a group.
The gift shop was a major draw too. E got a throwing star, J got a ninja Hello Kitty, and S got a squeaky sword.
The nitty-gritty:
Adults Y1000
Elementary: Y700
Below: Y500
Rental ninja outfits for the day: Adults Y1000 kids Y600. Available opposite the gift shop. We didn't do this, but it would have been fun for the kids- maybe next time.
Call from the Koka station (JR Kusatsu line) for a free shuttle. Cabs would work too.
Ninjamura: 0748-88-5000

English language books

Our son E loves to read but it is hard to keep him in books. We brought some with us, but those went fast. So we had to find new ones. We live close to the central library, which is good for rainy days too. They have English versions of the Harry Potter books and selections from the classics: Treasure Island, Arabian Nights, King Arthur and oddly, Roald Dahl's BFG. They can also order other English books from other branches. There are also several bookstores that have good English selections. Junkudo in BAL on Kawaramachi just south of Sanjo has perhaps the best selection, but the other big stores have several English books as well. We have also been to the bookstore in Aeon Mall south of the station. As always Amazon is a good option too. We got some good "One Piece" mangas via Amazon.
There are some used choices as well-the YWCA (west of the palace) has a book exchange that has some young adult books. We've also trawled Green eBooks (on Marutamachi east of the Kamogawa) for the few young adult novels they had. Their inventory changes and they might have more on other occasions.
Finally a good option is to exchange among friends. We do this with our friends and it multiplies the number of books each of us have.

Kid friendly restaurants- Cafe Frosch

This month's "Leaf" (May 2011) has a special issue on kid friendly activities and cafes etc in Kyoto and Shiga. "Leaf" is a good resource for Kyoto restaurants and so forth, and it is nice to have one focused on kids. One find in there was Cafe Frosch. This cafe near Kitano Tenmangu is in an old Machiya, so the ambiance is great- plus it has an indoor play area (best for under elementary school age). The food is cafe style but very nicely done. We had curry and sandwiches, but the pasta looks delicious too. On our way out we bought whole wheat bread and a bagel. The bread was wonderful and the bagel was the best I have had in Japan.

Open everyday but Monday. Wednesday night is English night. On Saturdays they do international brunches with a different theme each week: Mexican, Cuban, German, etc. The proprietor is extremely nice and speaks perfect English, German and a bit of Chinese. Free Wifi

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Osaka Aquarium- Kaiyukan

Now to catch up on some posts I've been meaning to do for a while.
One of the best day trips to make with kids from Kyoto is to the Osaka Aquarium. It is a full day but a lot of fun. I recommend getting the day pass from the Keihan or Hankyu lines. These are available at the information counters in the respective stations. Keihan: Demachiyanagi, Sanjo, Gion Shijo. Hankyu: Kawaramachi and Katsura. They are 2800Y for adults 1400Y for elementary school and include transportation on one of these lines, all subways in Osaka and entrance to the Kaiyukan- you don't even need to wait in line to buy the tickets. Just going to there and back saves you about 500Y but the deal gets better the more you do in Osaka. The tickets get you discounts at other attractions as well.

We went on a weekend. I don't recommend doing that if you can help it. Even though we had the passes, we had to wait in line for about an hour just to get in. Once in it was really crowded for the first few floors. On crowded days I would suggest going down to the bottom and going back to the top later.

When we went we also had dinner at the Turkish restaurant in the Tempozan mall right next door. It is another all-you-can-eat place. Great food and Turkish ice cream for dessert. They even had belly-dancer. J really liked that.
Adults:1680Y, ages 6 and up 890Y. Kids under 5 eat free. Kosher and Halal.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake Disaster

My heart goes out to all who were injured, became homeless or lost loved ones in this recent disaster. We are so far from the devastated area here, and that is a relief, but the images we see (along with the rest of the world) are very sobering.

This post is merely to give some options for information on the disaster and especially information on the nuclear disaster. Right now a lot of the media in the west is very alarmist at times and there are nasty rumors circulating on twitter and via email.

Here are a few good articles and blog posts to help:

English language news sources:
○Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet

○NHK World

Disaster related vocab for watching the news in Japanese:

Some perspective from someone close to Nagoya:

An op ed in the Wall Street Journal about why there will not be another Chernobyl

a good blog post with info about the radiation

From the nuclear power industry:
(not the most reliable necessarily, but technically useful)
perhaps more reliable- from scientists

The image above was drawn by my wife and posted on her blog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cooking Japanese Food

I've been talking a bit here about places to go out to eat with kids, but what about eating at home. Yes, there is curry and spaghetti, but we also like to eat Japanese food every now and then. It is easy to get the ingredients and it is pretty tasty. We have a cookbook that we got when we were here before: Kodansha's bilingual *100 Recipes from Japanese Cooking.* It is a good cookbook for homestyle cooking and we have a few favorites. We particularly like Kinpira gobo, Gyudon, simmered kabocha, and a few others. We usually avoid the fried stuff, but have done tenpura on occasion. Of course another good way to get recipes is from the web- there are a lot out of good sites out there as any good search will show., the soy sauce maker, has a good selection. Here is a particularly interesting site. In this blog a Japanese woman gives her entire daily menu with several recipes. It offers some insight into what things people eat and gives good menu ideas.
Update: I just found this blog with recipes by someone making food with Japanese ingredients in Nagano. It looks pretty useful. you can also check out this blog, and do a search for "Gaijin Chef." The blogger basically just made an off shoot blog for food, but there are still good posts in the archive of the old one.
Here is a list of food related blogs published by Surviving in Japan.

Toy Stores in Kyoto- Yodobashi Camera

Where do you go for toys when there is no ToysRus in town? Well, this was a question we faced when we first had a birthday in the family. At that time we found something on, but for Christmas we wanted something else. The first place we found was Vivre on the Kita Oji bus terminal. They also have toys at Kyoto Family Aeon Mall on Shijo and Aeon Mall Kyoto Hana Jusco on Shijo. (But there is a serious shortage of toys at the Kyoto Sakura Aeon Mall south of the station.) The best thing we found though is the new Yodobashi Camera north of the station on Karasuma- just north of Kyoto tower. The west half of the third floor has everything you could want- at decent prices too. They have Ultraman figures, Kamen-Ranger, Legos, Pokemon, Anpanman, Bey-blades, Barbie, and other dolls whose names I forget. Part of the floor is also devoted to Gundam models and the like. They also have a video game section and the largest selection of gacha balls (plastic ball vending machines) I have seen. Last time we were there we checked out the new Nintendo 3DS- pretty neat.
PS- is pretty great too. Most things are free shipping (anything over 1500Y). It is possible to pay via credit card, but also through payment centers in convenience stores- the red ones in Lawson for example. We have bought books, legos, an office chair, a heater and more through Amazon. Usually even with the free shipping it arrived the day after we paid at the convenience store.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

When kids have to be hospitalized

Okay- so no blog post for a while, I guess February was not so great on the blog updates. I'll try to catch up a bit, but frankly we haven't been doing much. One big exciting thing from last month was a hospital ordeal: 3yr old S swallowed a lego. We didn't see it happen, but could tell he was having a little difficulty breathing. He told us that a lego went down and that legos made him burp. He quickly regained mostly normal breathing and so no need to call an ambulance. I took him on my bike first to a nearby hospital and they recommended that I go to one of the big ones because they didn't really have a pediatric specialist. They suggested Second Red Cross (Just west of the imperial palace and just north of Marutamachi) or the Prefectural Medical School hospital (on Kawaramachi just south of Imadegawa). I chose the latter. (Next time- I think I'll just go there first- though I am profusely knocking on wood so that there is no next time). We went to the emergency room and they took some X-rays and MRIs, found what they thought was the lego down the bronchial tube. This meant S had to go under to get it out and that meant he had to be hospitalized. So after a long wait to make sure he had digested his breakfast-they put him under and stuck a tube down his throat and got that pesky lego out. They doctors and nurses all did a stellar job with everything. Afterward we had to stay for two nights. (One night in the ICU and then one in a regular ward in the children's hospital-this may be the only hospital with a building dedicated for kids, but I'm not sure.) I guess they wanted to make sure everything thing was ok. This was tough-he had IVs in and wanted to take them off. He was confined to his bed and wanted to get out, couldn't run around etc. The first night made sense, but I thought the second was a little excessive.
Anyway- here is some information for those of you who might have to deal with this (heaven forbid). They have a pamphlet about it in Japanese, but I didn't read it until later. Main points:
You need to bring a cup and utensils for the meals (I wasn't expecting this), as well as changes of clothes, toiletries, diapers, towels, etc.
They ask that you limit toys to two, plus a favorite stuffed animal etc for comfort.
They have shared tatami rooms (separated by gender) for parents to sleep in at night, but you need to have your own sheets and pillows- they have blankets. I slept for part of the first night there, but night 2 I shared S's tiny bed.
There is a shared bath in the ward- like a sento, but we didn't use it.
We still haven't received the bill yet, but it won't end up being over 3,000Y because S is under elementary age.
All in all, I thought the hospital did a great job and a follow up visit showed no secondary issues- all good! Thank you nationalized health care!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yu Kids Island in Aeon mall

On the top floor of the Aeon mall they have this amazing playground for kids in 2nd grade and younger. It has all sorts of inflatable moon bounce kinds of things that keep the young ones entertained for as long as the adults can stand it. It is a pretty fun place to go on a cold winter day. Our younger two could have stayed all day bounding from play area to play area
Here is the info:
500y per hour per child UNLESS you are a member in which case the price is the same but there is no time limit.
Membership is 1000Y BUT if you get a multiple use pass (available in 5 or 10) or one/three month pass then membership is free.
We got a five visit pass for 2000Y with the included membership. For each visit we can us two tickets for each child. (I guess we'll have to pay for one the third time we go.)
They have them all over Japan and apparently, even one in San Fransisco (though I can't find out any info about that one- whacha think sis?)
Aeon mall website
Company website (in English)
They have another branch inside the Kyoto Jusco Family Mall, west of the Saiin station on Shijo.

Sanjusangendo archery

Every year on the Sunday closest to the 15th there is an archery competition at Sanjusangendo- the temple of 1000 Kannon on Nana-jo south of Kiyomizu. This dates to the 1600's when the competition was to shoot the entire length of the temple. Nowadays you only have to hit a target half the length, still a difficult task from what I saw. Anyway, the event is from 9-3:30 and there are thousands of contestants who give it a try. The contestants are usually people who became 20 this last year and thus who celebrated coming-of-age on Seijin no hi. They appeared to be members of archery clubs from colleges across Japan. It was worth it just to see the kimono they had on (the same one's they wore for their coming of age ceremony earlier in the week I am sure), but the archery made it especially cool. Part way through they switched to a few rounds with really good archers and smaller targets. They still had difficulty, but hit the targets much more often than the 20 year olds before them. We only stayed for about an hour, but were glad to have seen it. It was crowded, but we were able to find a place to watch a little of it on the stands about midway across the field.
Also, FYI the entrance fee to the temple is free on this day and they have several stands for Tai-yaki, okonomiyaki, tako-yaki, sweets and so on for hungry kids.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Renting bikes with child seats in Kyoto

The kids grandparents came over new years and we had a lot of fun. When I was looking for bike rentals for them I found this place by the Eiden Demachiyanagi station that also had child seats on some of their bikes. Here is the website. By the way, it was also the cheapest place I found. 500Y per day, 2000Y per week, 2500Y for 2 weeks and 3000Y for a month.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Ramen

Our kids love ramen and pretty much all ramen places are the same in their eyes. Since ramen shops are pretty much ubiquitous this makes finding somewhere to eat pretty easy. Unlike the kids WE have some places that we prefer more than others- when we find places that stand out I'll post on them here. In the meantime, (on the suggestion of another Kyoto parent) here is a useful phrase to help order for kids: Negi nashi kudasai- no green onions please. (Nashi is a useful word to put after things the kids don't like- some of our kids don't like ketchup: so we use it a lot. "Kechappu nashi kudasai" "Sōsu nashi kudasai" etc.)

Here is an unusual place- Mamezen. It is "Kyoto style" ramen with soy milk broth,with yuba and plum as toppings. We saw it on Kyoto Foodie and gave it a try- very delicious. It worked well because we were the only ones there, but the small space might not work so great with other diners. The couple who run it are super nice and have a young child of their own, so they looked with understanding at the antics of ours. The other downside is that they open late: 7:30 and we usually prefer to eat about 5:30 or 6. Lunch would be great though. They do have a kid's set that was perfect for our 5 year old.

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Other all-you-can-eat places

After the post on Obanzai I thought I would post about other similar places. Some of which we have tried and others we haven't. As I said before, these are good because the kids can pick and choose.
1- Harvest in Porta (under the Kyoto train station)
We went here early on in our stay and really enjoyed it. It is about twice the food for about twice the price. They have a decent array of deserts too. Drinks cost extra and there aren't many choices (basically tea and coffee). Lunch: 1468Y (1888Y on weekends and holidays) Dinner: 1993Y Elementary school kids: 838Y Younger than elementary school: 523Y
They also have a slightly cheaper branch near Shijo Kawaramachi.

2- Hasegawa Obanzai on Sanjo: south side of the street just east of the post office and the Kyoto museum. Similar spread to Obanzai, perhaps a little harder with kids because it was a smaller space.
Lunch: 950Y Dinner: 1500Y

3- 808 Cafe in Aeon Mall south of the Kyoto station
We haven't tried this yet, but the huge selection of deserts (including a chocolate fountain) certainly caught the eye of the kids. We'll certainly give it a try one of these days.
Lunch: 1280Y Elementary school: 640Y under: 350Y
Dinner: 1580Y Elementary: 790Y under: 400Y

Update: We gave this a try as promised and it was great. The food is primarily vegetable based and a hit with the adults. They had chicken karage and curry that went over well with the kids, but the kids really liked the all you can eat ice cream and cakes after dinner. (We did make them eat one plate of food before hitting the deserts- what meanies!) Maybe the best of the bunch.

4- There is another up the road from the Randen (Arashiyama line) station in Arashiyama, but I know nothing about it.

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Obanzai

Obanzai is an all you can eat natural food (mostly vegetarian) place near Karasuma Oike. It is mostly home style "natural food" cooking. Unlike other all you can eat places we have been to, it doesn't have a huge array of dishes but I liked what we had there. It is nice that the kids can choose what they want and when they find something they like, they can eat a lot of it. We also went for lunch and it may be the case that they have more for dinner. I think we'd probably stick with lunch anyway. They have a single price for kids and adults, but they didn't charge us for the kids under elementary age.
Nitty gritty:
Lunch: 840Y on weekdays 1050Y weekends and holidays
Dinner: 2100Y (closed Wednesday evening)
It is three blocks west of the Karasuma Oike intersection and almost a block north (on the east side of Koromonotana Street). Basically go north after the Roukin bank with the rainbow on it. It is a little hard to find so just keep your eyes peeled on the East side of the street.
I think Obanzai must be in Lonely Planet or something because there were several foreigners there.
phone: 075-223-6623

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Buta Gorilla

I think I'll try to post a series on restaurants that we find to be kid friendly. The first is a neighborhood one: Buta-Gorilla or "Pig Gorilla," a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) place. This restaurant has a family set for either 3 "san nin" (2980Y) or 4 "yo nin" (3980Y). The 4 person family set was plenty big enough for us, and it includes several cutlets, a croquette, hot dogs, shrimp and all the miso soup and rice and cabbage you care to eat. The 3 person set was the same, but without the shrimp. B-G even has kids books based on Disney and Ghibli movies, crayons and pig-gorilla's to color while you wait. We have usually gone when it was pretty early, but there has always been seating.
Buta-Gorilla is just up the street from the Marutamachi-Shichihonmatsu intersection, easily accessed from any bus stopping at either Marutamachi-Shichihonmatsu or even Senbon-Marutamachi.
Phone: 075-812-7757

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Omiya Traffic Park

Today we went to the Omiya traffic park. It was a blast! It is a decently large go-cart track and playground. The playground is fun, but the real draw is the go-carts. The track goes around with real stop lights and pedestrian crossings etc., designed to teach about traffic safety.
The park is open everyday but Tuesday. The catch is that the go-carts only run on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays (including summer vacation). Individual tickets are 200Y for one person go-carts (for 3rd grade to Jr high) and 250Y for two person go-carts. Individual tickets are sold in the vending machines, but the window sells three ticket packets for each- 500Y for one person carts and 600Y for the two person go-carts. For the two person go-carts you need an adult and a child- two kids can't ride. We went through two packets of each and still got two more two person tickets for a final race around the track. It is pretty addicting. E said that he is now almost ready to drive after so much practice and I don't know that I have ever seen 3 year old S so happy.
Here is the link.
It is pretty far north, north of Kitaoji AND Kitayama streets and west of Omiya. The 46 bus goes right to it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year’s Eve: Kinkakuji in the snow and Joya no Kane

We had a very snowy New Year’s Eve and so we took the advice of a friend and went to see Kinkakuji in the snow. It really does take your breath away.
Our neighborhood:

That night, 9 year old E and I, along with visiting grandparents, went to ring out the old year with Joya no Kane. There are 108 sins in Buddhism and with each toll of the bell one sin is erased so after 108 you are cleared to start sinning again in the new year. We went to two places. One was a small temple just east of Shogoin. They served hot Amazake- sweet nonalcoholic sake with ginger. They started ringing at 10. Then we went to Kurodani temple a little further east. Kurodani is a major magnet for Joya no kane, though not as big as say Chionin. They have a nice large bell and a great view of the city. We got to Kurodani at about 10:40. There we waited in line to get a ticket (they started handing out enough for 108 tolls at 11) and then went into the big hall for some chanting by the monks. Then we all lined up at the bell to ring out the old year at about 11:45. It was fun to ring the bell and E really got a kick out of it. We tried to get some Toshikoshi soba (new years noodles) at a place near Heian shrine, but apparently it was closed, so we went for regular udon at the visitor’s center across from the shrine. We went to check out all the people at the shrine making the first visit of the new year, but didn’t brave the crowds to go all the way up to the front to pay our respects. We did however- brave the crowds at Kitano Tenmangu on the first. That was fun and the food was better too.

Osechi Ryori- Japanese New Year's Food

New Year’s Eve in Japan is celebrated by getting ready for the coming year. Major cleaning and cooking, basically everything you can do to make sure to start off the new year with a fresh start. This year I was thinking of ordering an Osechi ryori box (special New Year’s food- more on that later) but we decided to make our own after finding a pretty looking three tiered box at the Daiso 100 yen store. That meant that I had to start cooking the meal on the 30th and finished on the night of the 31st. We made a lot of things but got some at the store and the Nishiki market. This is what we made and what we bought- with links to some recipes in English.
Kuromame- black beans (From Savory Japan)
Kuri kinton- mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts
Kohaku namasu- vinegared daikon and carrot
Iridori- simmered chicken and root vegetables
Ebi no sakamushi- sake cooked shrimp (from Japanese food section)
Kobumaki- rolled kelp
Nishin konbumaki-rolled kelp with herring
Kamaboko- fishcakes
Namafu- gluten – in this case in the shape of a flower
candied citrus
flower cut vinegared lotus root
Datemaki- egg roll
Tazukuri- simmered dried sardines
Tai no shioyaki- Salted Red Snapper
I didn’t bother with Kazunoko because no one in our family would eat them. As it was most of the Tazukuri went uneaten. I wanted to do Tataki gobo, but there wasn't time. There are by the way other good sites out there for osechi besides Savory Japan and Here are two others: shejapan and petit chef.

The Nishiki market is a really fun place to visit on New Year’s Eve, even more insane than usual. They had lots of the traditional new years foods on display and some decent discounts. Here is an image of an almost $240 salted red snapper. Some of the more interesting New Year's foods they had that I DIDN’T get were tiny octopi stuffed with quail eggs, fishcakes with rabbit designs, vegetables cut out in auspicious shapes, and of course the giant salted red snapper.