Kyoto Handicraft Center: Sichimi
While in Kyoto, Lauren and I visited the Kyoto Handicraft Center, a set of two six story buildings full of all of the crafts for which Japan is particularly known—-right across the street from an awesome sword shop with neat sets of preserved samurai armor.
Each floor of the center was bursting with various toys, dolls, prints, clothes, jewelry, and food items. While walking around and looking at everything was fun, but the highlight was the class we took on the making of sichimi, a blend of spices which is typically Japanese and used in everything from stir fry to soup, but especially in noodle dishes.
For once, I had someone to explain what each of the ingredients were!
My finished sichimi!
Two weeks ago we visited Kyoto, our farthest travel destination of the summer thus far. Though Japan has some of the best, fastest, and most comfortable trains in the world, they’re also expensive and, with our student budget, their $300 round trip price tag was a bit of a turn off so we opted for the slow, adequate overnight bus. On Friday night we took the Tsukuba Express into Tokyo and caught our bus to Kyoto. We’d paid the $10 extra to get one step up from the cheapest seats (but one step down from “Cocoon”) and we spent the first twenty minutes of the trip happily exploring the functions of our enormous pink seats.
Once arriving at the hostel, we split up to hit the sights on our to-see lists and Lauren and I quickly found a beautiful area of picturesque streets, temples, and tea shops.
While we were exploring, we were stopped by a group of young girls in kimonos who asked us a list of questions in English (including “Where is your favorite place to visit in Kyoto?” to which we answered “Here.” because it was the only place we’d gotten to so far) before requesting a picture and moving on with many arigatos.
Here’s Lauren and me with our interviewers.
While exploring, we frequently stumbled upon interesting scenes like this and always wondered uselessly (explanatory signs always being in Japanese) about the meanings of the beautiful displays. The Japanese people I meet always suggest that I visit this or that temple or shrine, but I so often don’t understand the significance of these sights.
I’ll have to read up on it—-looking for a good book on the subject if anyone has suggestions!
Today we got two earthquakes in a row! If you go back in time at the link you’ll be able to see details—these two happened around 2 and 3pm while I was in the NanoBio lab, which is on the second floor of a building a few minutes from where my office is located.
When I got back to my fourth floor office, one of my lab-mates filled me in: it feels a lot bigger when you’re up a few floors. I wonder how Lauren felt up on the eighth?
Now this is how you wear a kimono!
Last Sunday, we visited Harajuku again and, while Daryl and Alex got lunch, Paige, Lauren and I wandered around Yoyogi Park, famous for its… eccentricities. Yoyogi Park (and all of Harajuku) is a sharp contrast to other areas like Tsukuba where every school-age person is in a uniform and every man on the street is in a suit.
Yoyogi park was a treat. In addition to the countless groups practicing musical instruments (ranging from band instruments to ones I had never seen or heard before that day) there were also people putting on shows and dozens of people, curiously dressed, just wandering around like we were. We spied a handful (platoon?) of Storm Troopers purposefully walking in what I could only assume was the pursuit of a couple of escaped Jedi (or lost droids), but my favorite group was undoubtedly the greasers.
This past Sunday, we returned to Harajuku in hopes of checking out its famous cos-play scene. Almost immediately, we found a used kimono market. The embroidery was amazing and I loved looking at all of the fabrics!
I bought these on the street while we were in Asakusa this weekend hoping that they were meatballs. Actually, they were gelatinous rice balls—-like mochi, except no ice cream and covered in barbecue sauce.
Last night we went out to sushi for dinner. The only conveyor belt sushi we’ve been able to find in Tsukuba is Hamazushi, right across from Lala Garden and next to the McDonalds. It’s a quick bike ride away, the selection is impressive, and every plate in 99 yen! (except for the cake)
Posing next to the worst fish imaginable.
Tower of (past) sushi!
Sold by the Sengen cafeteria at NIMS for only 90 yen, this juice is my favorite so far.
The can comes out of the machine cold and the taste is sweet without being stick-to-your-teeth overly sugary (something that many of the Japanese drinks have problems with).
A mouthful of this juice is like taking a big bite of a fresh Georgia peach. Delicious and refreshing! Not to mention the adorable can…