Monday, December 1, 2014

More Yudanaka


Besides having SNOW MONKEYS Yudanaka is a very cute hot springs town. Parts seemed a little neglected, which could explain the HUGE prevalence of Communist Party posters all over town. The Communist Party wins a lot of local elections in Japan, so it's not abnormal to see posters for it, but there were the most I had ever seen in one place...

Near the MONKEYS I saw some beer along with soda in a vending machine. This would never happen in the city. Could be that the town is so small that if anyone under 20 bought a beer, the town would know about it soon enough.

Would you like a mystery soda? Didn't have the change to get this...

Dirty gachapon that looked non-functional but did work.

Sake brewery with free tasting of all their varieties! I approve. I bought some too :)

Sake vending machine, also without the age verification card readers that are standard in the city.

Nagano hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998, spawning this gymnasium in Yudanaka. It's now completely abandoned.

A shrine that looked abandoned, but...I took a shot of the inside from the window and the inside looked clean, so maybe not?

A second shrine that has seen better days.

On the main road in town a lot of buildings were well kept, and there were many of the usual souvenir shops and more expensive ryokan. Here's a cute free foot bath. (Being May, it was already too hot for us!)

The town started a collab with Monster Hunter for some reason..

We did stay in a ryokan, but it was a rather...hilariously outdated one. Trying to be frugal doesn't work sometimes...so, if you stay in Yudanaka, I would recommend just forking out the money for a nicer ryokan. It seems to be how the city makes money these days besides the MONKEYS.

When it was time to leave, I took the bus back to Osaka from Nagano city, which is run by Alpico (Japanese only). It was a three-seats-to-one-row bus, with a generous level of reclining, so I was even able to get some sleep.

Yudanaka boasts the cheapest izakiya dinner I've ever had - 1100 for me when split with two others, and including several drinks. Didn't take any pictures because it was standard izakiya fare, but the proprietor was very nice and spoke some English too.

I found people in Yudanaka/Nagano to be extremely friendly and kind - more than anywhere I've ever been...after I returned I discovered an always friendly coworker was from Nagano too...surprise, surprise :) I am really not a winter person so I doubt I'd go for Nagano's normal tourist draw of winter sports, but I'd like to get back someday. If you'd like to visit, this is a guide in English by a local non-Japanese resident.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SNOW MONKEYS in Yudanaka


Earlier this year a friend came from America. She wanted to see SNOW MONKEYS. Said monkeys are in Nagano.

There are only three routes from Kobe to Nagano.

1) train from Kobe to Osaka and bus from Osaka to Nagano by Hankyu (Japanese only), either day or night. Inexpensive, but takes 7-8 hours.
2) Shinkansen from Shin-Kobe to Nagoya and then the limited express Shinano to Nagoya.
3) Shinkansen from Shin-Kobe to Tokyo and Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano. This only makes sense financially if you have a JR pass (which I didn't) and the timing is right. Otherwise #2 may be faster.

As my friend had a JR rail pass, we took option #2 to Nagano. After Nagano you have to take the Nagano Electric Railway for a little over an hour, and you will reach the small hot springs town of Yudanaka. (I didn't spend any more than sleeping time in Nagano city proper, but Mitsu did.)

Go up a mountain, and you'll find....lots of MONKEYS. They're free to roam wherever they want. We went in May so there were also BABY MONKEYS.

And, despite what Japanese TV will have you believe, as late as May the MONKEYS will get in the hot springs. Here's the pictorial proof!

Next post I'll put up a few images of Yudanaka city, which was far more interesting than I expected.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Kowloon Walled City arcade - Kawasaki Warehouse

Much earlier this year I was in Tokyo and was able to stop by the arcade that was modeled on Kowloon Walled City.  I first read about it in this post a couple weeks before I went to Tokyo, so I was excited to have the opportunity to go.  A couple friends joined as well.

The arcade is in Kawasaki, inbetween Tokyo and Yokohama, in an otherwise nondescript neighborhood.  If you don't have the address you're unlikely to come across it.



(I had my much better camera with me in Tokyo but forgot it, so the pics are from my old iPhone 4 ;-;)

The level of detail that went into this place is stunning.  Even the change machines match the theme.  

There were signs saying not to photograph but we couldn't waste the opportunity and did anyway ^^;;  Several arcade staff saw us but didn't tell us off. I think as long as you're not getting in anyone's way they won't. We also took purikura, so we gave them a little money :)



Most of the other patrons seemed to be locals, busy at consoles or pool or darts.  (This place had pool and darts which is a bit rare for an arcade that's not a mega complex like Round One or Phoenix Plaza.)

If you're in the area and are into arcades or interesting design, this place is worth a stop.

Kawasaki Warehouse is at 神奈川県川崎市川崎市日進町3-7

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I love my rope wig

...to think I almost didn't buy it.

This is a rope wig.  Mine is from the company in the link (prisila) but it seems possible to find them in English-speaking countries via our friend Google.

With a rope wig, you can be rock!


(Still trying to get the faux Mohawk right though)

You can wear it for your wedding party with your friends!


You can wear it when you wear kimono!

All it takes is some pins.  People see what they want to see - that is, if the color's close enough they'll always think it's your real hair.  Even if the rope is visible.

Using the wig takes far less time than trying to get my hair to do some style I found on YouTube and failing and getting angry and then having to put my hair back to the way it was before.


Here's a video from prisila on the various ways you can use rope wigs:

(They seem to have commissioned their own pop song in English x.x)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pre-typhoon food


Went out with my writing group in Kobe the day before the typhoon. (It's raging out right now...)

First, a restaurant I've passed many times but never gone into. The plain named 野菜と魚 (Vegetables and fish) on Tor Road, near Cafe Ageha which I talked about before.

Since it's fall now, I had sanma fish. You pick three sides out of a huge variety to go with your meal, and everyone gets rice and soup. You can specify your rice amount (a little/normal/a lot), which was nice. Only a few places I've been to offer that.

Worth noting was that the coffee here was decent! Coffee in Kobe is often awful. For winos they had a nice lunch deal of 290 yen for a glass.


We were on a quest for a cafe with electrical outlets later and stumbled upon Cafe Hachi torwest, which has curry. (Meat stock probably, yawn.)

...also french press coffee (!!) and really good chocolate drizzled french toast that looked better in real life than in the menu. Whoa, I'm going to have to come back here.


That night, another set of friends came to my house and we made Malaysian fish curry.

Bring it on, typhoon. I've got enough calories for you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

still here


Well, this happened.

I got a new job that requires me to commute to Osaka every day - the job is more or less doing what I did before, but there's enough newness to make it very interesting. That, and the entire wedding circus had me feeling like my life was a little out of control for a while.

So I kept to tumblr and twitter and instagram, which don't require as much concentrated thought.

It's time to come back, though. I think I know what I'm going to be doing in the morning from now on.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

welcome to 2014 / Tea House MUSICA


It's been a while, hasn't it? Some radical things happened:

- I got married (just paperwork; we are having a small family ceremony in August)

- Work was craycray (in a good way, I've done so many fun things this school year! Overtime and tiredness tho >->)

- My job ends in August and I am in the tiresome process of figuring out What to Do After. Another job?! Language school!? If not a job, then what is going to happen with my/our finances?! <-- boring adult problems.

I've still been doing fun stuff....I just haven't had the time, or the energy to post it. But I'm trying to get myself back as it were, including learning the current makeup even if I'm ignoring the current clothing trends.


Tea house MUSICA is another favorite of my writing group, and has been around so long that it's listed on the Kobe city tourism website. The cafe is small, the seats perhaps a little cramped, but the ambiance is very much of a dignified tea shop. You can even buy their (expensive) imported tea to take home.

Their tea cozies are so cute!

Peanut butter cocoa (!!!). Not as sweet as I would have expected, but delicious.

Cheese toast. ALL THE CHEESE. They also offer sandwiches and Indian curry but I've never been for a meal.

A goodbye to my first drink (mint flake tea).