Kyoto, Japan | Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Kyoto, Japan | Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

I could tell you that we went to visit shrine Fushimi Inari because we want to pay tribute to Inari, the patron of merchants in Japan. In fact, each torii in the famed shrine in the base of the sacred Inari mountain is donated by business, each torii costing 400,000 to 1,000,000 yen, the donation proportional to the torii’s size. Statues of foxes abound the trails of toriis at Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. These foxes, or Kitsunes, are Inari’s messengers, holding in their mouths the key to the rice granaries. There are 5000 brightly painted toriis of different sizes in the seemingly unending picturesque trail, making it Kyoto’s most popular tourist destination.

Or I could tell you that I made sure we go here because I wanted to be young Sayuri, running under the toriis in Memoirs of A Geisha, except unlike the movie, this tourist area is packed. It’ll be quite difficult to run without bumping on somebody or getting almost decapitated by a selfie stick.

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Fushimi Inari 1002

And then there is Jr, who innocently asks…

“Kailan tayo pupunta sa mga lapis?” (When are we going to the pencils?)
“Anong lapis?”
“Yung madami.”
“Ahhh, the torii”

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Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
68 Yabunouchi-cho
Fukakusa Fushimi-ku, Kyoto

How we got there: Since we have a Kyoto City Bus pass, we rode bus #5 from Kyoto Station. It directly stops at Fushimi Inari Shrine

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VIDEO | Kyoto, Japan Travel Vlog – The Full Fall Explosion

VIDEO | Kyoto, Japan Travel Vlog – The Full Fall Explosion

When I was planning for Japan, I had a hard time booking our rooms. This was three sold months before the trip, so these were not last minute bookings, but somehow, all the rooms in good location are booked way ahead of time, on the particular week we were in Japan. And then I found out it was the exact week where autumn in Japan is in full fall explosion. There are two super high tourist season in Japan: that week in Spring when cherry blossoms bloom, and the week where the colorful leaves of Autumn start to fall, and we have unknowingly set our vacation right smack in the middle of that crazy fall booking season.

But this is Japan, and even in Kyoto where the bus system is much more convenient than subways, any hotel location is a good location as long as there is a bus stop. You can get anywhere fast as long as you know which bus to take, and armed with a 500 yen day bus pass, you can pretty much go anywhere in Kyoto.

While in Kyoto, we dropped by and drank our way on a free tour around the Suntory Distillery in Yamazaki. We also took time to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo groves. A Kyoto first timer visit wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the famous toriis of Fushimi Inari.

We got to see all of these wonderful Kyoto spots under all the colors of fall foilage. Kyoto is such a sight for sore eyes in autumn. Very dreamy.

Watch the video here:

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Universal Studios Japan and Butterbeer

FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Universal Studios Japan and Butterbeer

Never underestimate the Japanese’s love for their theme park. No matter how well you thought out your itinerary, thinking you’re saving yourself from the crowds by setting aside a weekday in Osaka to see Universal Studios, the Japanese will prove you wrong. There will be people, and they come in droves.

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USJ crowd 1

But we didn’t mind the crowds, because we went here for the sole purpose of visiting the then newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We came early to USJ. Rode the train to get here, which was hard to miss because there was a Harry Potter wrapped around it.

USJ train
USJ train 2

We were planning to just enjoy the park and thin out the crowd we knew were also coming for the new section of the themepark. We arrived at the Harry Potter entrance, only to realize you need a timed ticket to get in the area. Universal Studios was managing the large crowd and you had to get tickets from the kiosk on the other side of the park for the Wizarding World. You need to get another ticket if you wanna see Harry Potter after already getting a ticket for USJ. We trekked all the way back to the kiosk at 1 pm, which spat out the ticket which enables us entrance at 4 pm!

After 3 hours of strolling aimlessly through USJ, we got back to the Wizarding World. And did not disappoint.

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USJ harry potter 2

The whole area was lifted straight of the Harry Potter pages. As soon as you enter, the very familiar Harry Potter opening sequence soundtrack was playing setting the ambiance. You will feel like you’re walking straight to Hogsmeade. There was a store selling Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and that had a line. There was a ride inside the majestic looking Hogwarts, and that had a longer line. We settled for a still long, but manageable line selling butterbeer. We got to the end of the line and bought a pint to share in one of them souvenir plastic mugs. I’ve tasted many version of this Three Broomsticks drink, but none of them even came close to the one sold at The Wizarding World. If you were to ask me, USJ’s butterbeer tasted like melted Peter butter ball and sprite.

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USJ Olivanders

And then there was Ollivander’s, which was selling wands at JPY 3,500 each (or USD 30). It’s a little steep for something that will eventually gather dust in my home so I skipped and went back to my husband who was resting his tired feet and patiently waiting outside.

Jr: What’s inside?
Me: Wands.
Jr: Nice. Does it work?
Me: Ay, hindi ko napatesting. Wait, balikan ko.

Sabaw.


Universal Studios Japan
2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward
Osaka, Japan

How we got here: We took the JR Yumesaki Line train to Universal City Station

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Make it Suntory Time.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Make it Suntory Time.

Jr is a man of many interests, and among them are Japanese Whiskies. I, a pop culture geek, on the other hand, like to live out my movie fantasies. Those I see in movies I like to see in real life, and since we were in Japan, Lost in Translation played a part in our itinerary. So it only makes sense for us to make a short visit to the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery.

Now, though the tour was free, it’s best you schedule a tour when you want to visit the factory. And we tried to. Since only a local number was available, we asked our reception if he could arrange a tour for us. To our dismay, it was fully booked on all the days we were in Kyoto. So what do we do?

We go anyway.

Jr and I are stubborn people. We had a day set aside for the visit, and we thought we might as well go to the factory and try our luck, At worst, we can have our pictures taken outside. It was supposed to be a short train ride from Kyoto Station to Yamazaki station. Until, I realized we rode an limited express train to Osaka just as we passed by the station we were supposed to alight to. We alighted on the next stop in the middle of Japan nowhere and waited for the next train to Kyoto. We rode the train and missed our stop again.

Good thing Jr likes whiskies because Japan trains can get frustrating.

We rode another train in Kyoto station, this time making sure this train stops on every stop and finally, we alighted at Yamazaki station. From there, signs leading to the distillery were everywhere and all you had to do is follow the alley parallel to the train tracks, then cross the train tracks to Suntory’s gates.

We arrived at 2:45 pm and approached the front office and asked if there were available slots for tours. They asked if we had reservations (again, we had none) and were told we can get a slot at the 4 pm tour. Jackpot! Then the kind lady talked to somebody on the radio and told us we can join the 3 pm tour and handed us a couple of translation device. Double Jackpot!

Sometimes, bullheadedness pays off.

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After fumbling with the device, we followed the Japanese guide through the factory grounds. They gave us an extensive tour of the distillery and a brief history as to why Japanese whiskies are the best in the world. It’s all about the water source, said the guide. Those found here in Yamazaki, and Suntory’s other factory, Hakushu, are the most optimum water in Japan for whisky making. They toured us around the distilling stations and the old barrels where they age the liquor. By the end of the tour, they brought us to a hall of wooden tables and chairs. We settled in and were served with biscuits and chocolates. Wait, what is the meaning of this?

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Yes, apart from the free tour, the tasting was free as well. And it was bottomless! “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.” indeed.

Just make sure you don’t get too drunk. Remember, you’re taking those confusing trains back to Kyoto.

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Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
Directions:

•JR Osaka Station to JR Yamazaki Station (about 25 minutes)
•Hankyu Umeda Station to Hankyu Oyamazaki Station (about 40 minutes)

•JR Kyoto Station to JR Yamazaki Station (about 15 minutes)
•Hankyu Kawaramachi Station to Hankyu Oyamazaki Station (about 25 minutes)
*The distillery is located about 10 minutes on foot from JR Yamazaki Station and Hankyu Oyamazaki Station.

Pro-tip:
It’s still best to call. And make sure to visit their website to be aware of factory closure for maintenance.

map

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Leica Store in Gion

FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Leica Store in Gion

I started taking pictures with a chunky Kodak digital camera I borrowed from my auntie on a trip to Anilao. That’s how I sort of fell into photography. When I got my own money, I started buying gear to my heart’s desire. For a certain time, I was a Nikon girl. I started with a d40, and forayed a bit into wedding photography with a d90. While travelling, I realized that the gear — body, lights and lenses — weighed me down, so I switched to Fuji when they got their digital shit together. I bought the then top of the line Fuji x100 and it brought me and those I took pictures of, great joy. That thing served me well for 4 years until the power button overshoot its lock last year and fixing it would cost just about the same as getting a new camera.

That’s how things seems to work, or unwork these days. It’s better to buy something new than repair old, outdated things. Everything is disposable.

As with all pricey posessions, I made sure I do my research before I buy anything. I’ll keep in mind what I’ll use it for, and make sure my new purchase will serve me well. When my 100x gave up on me, I knew my next purchase will still be a Fujifilm, just because Canon shoot too cold for me while Nikon was notoriously too warm. Like Goldilock’s taste for porrraidge, Fuji shoots just right, in fact, amazing straight off the cam. I also wanted it to be light and travel friendly. And because I knew I wanted to get into vlogging, it will help if it had a flip out screen. When I saw that Fuji came out with an x70, it was a match made in heaven. I was in love.

While I am extremely happy and contented with my latest purchase, for everyone who ever held a camera, there’s always that lingering thought of owning the edgiest shiniest thing. I never upgraded when the newest model come. With all the times I bought a new camera, I never upgraded just for the sake of upgrading. A new model will always come. I always upgraded based on necessity. My fuji x70 fits my current bill perfectly and I’m not looking to buy soon. Not in the near future. But I can always look.

Of course, as the say, the best camera is the one you have. Also, it’s the indian, not the arrow, but it never hurts if the arrow is a Leica.

And while I am not buying a Leica soon, or ever, I thought that while in Japan, for anyone who dabbled in photography, a visit to Leica’s flagship store in Gion is a must. Tucked in the midst of Kyoto’s untouched neighborhood, a district known for entertainment and most notably, geishas, the Leica store in Gion is a ode to one of photography most iconic brands. This museum blends and almost disappears into the old district. It’s easy to miss, if not for the red dot on the fabric door Leica is famously known for. If you’re in Kyoto, and if you’re into photography, you must go here. One must “Magbigay pugay“, so to speak. And though your heart wants but your pockets can’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t look, or touch.

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Leica 009

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Leica Store Gion
Japan, 〒605-0074 Kyoto Prefecture
Kyoto, 東山区祇園町南側570-120

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