Holidays are defined as no-alarm-clock-days unless you have a million shrines to get to. Fushimi Inari was the only shrine that we woke early for (we are embarrassing 12pm risers) and you can see it was quite worth it. The gates line the path up to the mountain and back down. It’s almost the same view all the way, so if you are on a tight Kyoto shrine schedule like us it’s best to not make the commitment.IMG_0881IMG_0882IMG_0884IMG_0889IMG_0893IMG_0898IMG_0906IMG_0923IMG_0925IMG_0948IMG_0960IMG_0962IMG_0971IMG_0973IMG_1024IMG_1013IMG_1034IMG_1010IMG_1022IMG_0992IMG_0976IMG_0977IMG_0996IMG_0980

Tip 7: General etiquette in Japan is that you don’t eat or drink while walking. You will therefore notice that there are no rubbish bins on the street. (If you are in a dire and desperate situation there are recycling bins next to vending machines.)

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There are an insane amount of museums in Japan, not just the art and science type but cup noodles, beer, and animations museums galore. The Ghibli Museum (pronounced Jee-blee) essentially showcases the life of Miyazki and beautiful presentations of his and his team’s work. Photography is not allowed inside, which makes it even more fun and magical as you’re not preoccupied with getting snaps and also would not have seen the exhibits online anywhere prior.

The tickets are only available 3 months ahead of time. They sell out very quickly so try your best to book them with your local reseller early. We bought ours via a friend in Japan and picked up at a Lawsons with the Loppi machine (Loppi doesn’t have an English menu so make sure you read through these instructions first). They are around 12NZD each, so well worth it. As always we were late, but rest assured the entry period is 30 minutes from your start time. In total we spent 2-3 hours at the museum.

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Tip 4: There is a shuttle that runs from Mitaka station to Ghibli Museum but we wouldn’t recommend it. By foot it takes the same amount of time (15 minutes) with cute Totoro signs guiding you and beautiful parks to walk through on the way there.

Tip 5: If you miss the gift shop at Ghibli Museum because of the crowd or you forgot, but in hindsight really want a cat bus or mini Totoro to take home, there is an excellent store on the street to Kiyomizu Temple (make sure you watch out for the Studio Ghibli sign as the shop is hidden at the back). They also have a very small selection of Totoro soft toys at the Metropolitan Government Office.

Tip 6: A number of different types of trains go through the same platform in Japan. Try to recognise, memorise, or save these categories to your phone to ensure you don’t hop on the wrong one. Here’s a good explanation from http://www.japan-guide.com:

Local (kakueki-teisha or futsu-densha)
Local trains stop at every station.
Rapid (kaisoku)
Rapid trains skip some stations. There is no difference in the ticket price between local and rapid trains.
Express (kyuko)
Express trains stop at even fewer stations than rapid trains. Japan Railways (JR) charges an express fee in addition to the base fare.
Limited Express (tokkyu)
Limited express trains stop only at major stations. A limited express fee usually has to be paid in addition to the base fare. It is typically between 500 and 4000 yen. JR railway companies always charge this fee, but some other private railway companies do not.
Super Express (shinkansen)
Shinkansen are only operated by JR. Shinkansen run along separate tracks and platforms. A limited express fee has to be paid in addition to the base fare. It is typically between 800 and 8000 yen.

It’s been a while hasn’t it. We swapped your Ponsonby hipster cafes and cursing Auckland traffic for some sashimi, zen inducing shrines and 24-7 mosh pit train situations. Over five weeks we travelled to Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Seeing it was our first time in Japan we got overly happy and shutter crazy (you really can’t blame us in such a picturesque country), so expect to see a gazillion more photo diaries whenever I get round to it (disclaimer: it could be never). I can’t say we are now expert travellers of Japan nor can we recite you the JR railway map but we can impart some what-not-to-do knowledge on in hope that you won’t make the same stupid mistakes (though who are we kidding, those poor decisions often become hilarious memories).

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Tip 1: Try not to get on the train in the wrong direction (particularly if you are only travelling to the next stop, we were obviously too excited on our first day and hopped on any train we saw). Make sure you take note of the colour line your destination is on and the next station from your starting point. More train tips to come.

Tip 2: Do not over plan your days. You should consider the season you are travelling as it can get dark very quickly during winter i.e. 4pm. Also there is a lot to see so allow time for exploring and checking out cute little stores. Most places close at 9-9:30pm.

Tip 3: If this is a shopping trip, make sure you have your passport handy. Japan is jam-packed with tax-free shops (look out for the red n white logo and the minimum spend, typically 5,000yen).
Pro-tip: don’t purchase anything tax-free if you intend on using it during your stay as they seal your products up.

Places worth visiting:

  • Omotesandō is hands down our favourite place in Tokyo so far. It is full of boutiques, a galore of secondhand shops – stocked with clothes so well looked after they could be selling as new, many small cafes and restaurants like the popular Omotesandō Koffee and numerous other branded stores that all fit into the trendy street character (see last photograph above).
  • Meiji Shrine is a typical tourist attraction. The shrine is beautiful though and worth a little relaxing walk through. It is big enough so that it doesn’t feel crowded with a lot of people.
  • Takeshita Street, also a staple crowd gatherer, is where you can purchase some delicious fresh fruit crepes and check out Japan’s crazy fashion. Good for the first time only.

That’s it for now, till next time!

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Geeks have nailed it. The beautiful food, the indoor outdoor space, the easy parking, the casual vibe. It’s exactly how brunch is supposed to be. The place is jam-packed on a sunny Saturday but there’s no rush, no crazy Ponsonby queues of cars and people. I highly recommend the Eggs Benedict, it’s perfectly portioned and doesn’t weigh you down like a typical hollandaise drenched dish would, though the bacon is a little on the chewy side. The blueberry smoothie is delicious and the ice chocolate is something to keep going back for. As always, food on other people’s tables are that much more exciting and we are eyeing up the mushrooms on toast and the banana waffles for the next time we make the trip over to Sandringham.

Geeks on Sainsbury
1/55 Sainsbury Road, Auckland

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This is the first sign of Summer. Yesterday, Food Space made its debut on Daldy Street. From 11am-late there were food trucks, music, and drink stands. Essentially, a baby Silo Park (see here, here, here). At 4pm most of the food trucks were either sold out or ‘sold out’ – read, holding it out for the dinner crowd. So it’s best to go when they first open or at dinner time. Tiger Burger is a must. Though maybe only if you are die-hard kimchi addicts like us. The Kimcheese burger ($11) is melted cheese between toasted brioche buns, with a juicy beef patty and shreds of kimchi. Nothing extravagant but just so damn good. On the Kimcheese fries ($8) there’s some amazing chilli sauce, spring onions and of course more kimchi – highly recommend. Another food truck to make a beeline for is Ryan’s Kitchen. Get the brioche s’more, the Eaton Mess, and the chicken salad i.e. everything on the menu. Food Space was definitely missing some kind of juice/smoothie truck but Goodnight Cocoa’s cocoa was perfect for getting through yesterday’s strong wind situation. While Goodnight also offered s’mores, which were exciting to watch being prepared, nothing could compete against Ryan’s brioche combo. That s’more is the answer to your late night Buzzfeed food video cravings.

Food Space
www.foodspace.co.nz – watch out for when/where they set up camp next!
The Street Food Collective
www.thestreetfoodcollective.co.nz – for permanent food truck cravings

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Any mid-Winter escape is pretty darn awesome, and during the week when Auckland is raging storms – even better. Port Douglas maintained a cool 29 degree heat during the five days we were there. The Lagoon pool at the resort was the place-to-be. On the third day of the trip we went scuba diving and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. It was spectacular and pretty scary for us first-timers. I was hyperventilating for a good five minutes. We saw nemo swimming along happily amongst the anemone, held a sea cucumber, and knelt down on the reef floor so it was all worth it. In the half submerged glass bottom boat we spotted turtles and sharks! As a typical Aussie holiday goes, we patted some wallabies, watched some koalas sleep, held a snake and heard lots of crocodiles’ jaws snap. We also travelled up to Kuranda Village for an afternoon via the Skyrail. The rum & raisin ice cream from the Kuranda Homemade Tropical Ice cream truck could get you tipsy after two. Cliff asks whether you are a) Driving and b) Over 18. Definitely having withdrawals in this chilly Auckland spring weather.

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Okay let’s be honest here. When we think of Indian food, we think takeaways, butter chicken, and naan bread. It’s always plastic containers and never beautiful ceramics. We hardly find ourselves craving for Indian food, but Cassia has totally changed the game. The interior is almost the same as when it was a dumpling bar but the entrance is wider and more inviting. For restaurant month we were served five courses for $55. It was an amazing meal and kept us talking for days. The beef short rib with madras curry was heavenly. The beef fell apart easily, it was soft but still retained texture, and packed full of flavour. The fish was fresh, and perhaps a little dry but it was a light dish and the perfect predecessor to the beef. A definite favourite round the table was the raw scallops and prawn pakora with green chilli. We ended with a yoghurt panna cotta. It was refreshing with grapes, cubes of pineapple and a buttermilk sorbet. We were well and truly satisfied. The food is served in brilliant bowls, though at times not quite handy for fork and knife action.

Trust us, you have to go.

Cassia (book online, it’s super easy!)
No.5 Fort Lane, Auckland Central

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