A bit 'off the beaten path' (I use inverted commas, because, let's face it, Japan is extremely well connected, and here 'off the beaten path' basically means 'there is no Shinkansen connection'1 - oh god the horror, I have to catch a bus), Kanazawa is not often frequented by overseas travellers. Or so, many online travel guides seemed to assure me. Nevertheless, I had 2 days to kill before heading to Nagano, and visiting Kanazawa seemed like a nice stopover. Furthermore, considering the time of year (28th of December), it would be pretty nice to be stranded in a ...READ MORE
Whilst talking to Shun in Takayama, I asked her where she had just come from; Kanazawa, it turned out.
'Oh, I'm about to head to Kanazawa! What would you recommend I see or do while there?'
'Well, I stayed at this amazing place; Guest House Pongyi. Best place I've ever stayed at!'READ MORE
I had bought a bus ticket leaving Takayama the next day at lunch time, heading directly to Kanazawa. Well, sort of - I decided to make a brief stop (about an hour) in Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site village comprised of centuries old gasshō-zukuri style houses. Remember the Hida-no-sato outdoor folk museum? Well, this is the (living) village that those houses were taken from.
Unfortunately, I spent a majority of my time crossing a suspension bridge across the river dividing the village.READ MORE
Having only one night in Takayama, and really wanting to try an outdoor onsen (also known as a rotenburo, or outdoor hot spring) in the scenic Japanese Alps, I found myself running at full speed from the center of Takayama to the Nohi bus station on the edge of the city, desperately trying to make the 1.40pm bus (with less than 10 minutes to spare).
And I was so glad I made it, because Hirayu Onsen is just as impressive (read: magical) as Takayama.READ MORE
Now this is a pretty big statement, but bear with me for a second; Takayama is (so far) my favorite place I've visited in Japan.READ MORE
On my last day in Kyoto, I decided to do a quick trip (45 minutes by train) to Nara, the former capital of Japan from 710-784, and perhaps even more known for its temples than Kyoto.
Oh, and also for its 1200 wild deer.READ MORE
My plan today was quite vague; go to Arashiyama to escape the city for a bit and walk down the bamboo path, visit Nijō-jō (Nijō Castle), and wander around for a bit that afternoon. It doesn't really matter, I told myself that morning, a bit sick of concrete plans. I'll just make it up as I go along.
And that's how I ended up watching The Interview, at midnight, at a hostel on the other side of the train station, with some pretty cool Australians I had literally just met.READ MORE
I woke up that morning at 7.30am, thanks to my Pebble vibrating violently on my wrist. I had arrived back at the hostel at 3am last night (due to the slight misfortune of leaving my camera behind at the izakaya - after a very harrowing 15 minute drunk Google Translate conversation with the restaurant next door, though, camera was successfully retrieved). Plus, with the amount of sake I had consumed, I was annoyingly quite hungover.
Ugh, and I had planned to fit so much in today!READ MORE
Kyoto train station is amazing. It's almost like a city in and of itself - nevermind the rest of Kyoto, just visit the train station and you're done. No, not really, that was terrible advice, please don't follow it - Kyoto has tonnes to offer.
But the train station truly is massive - there is a 7 story electronics store (BIC Camera), an 11 floor Isetan that includes two food courts (The CUBE and Eat Paradise) as well as a basement food floor (confusingly also called The CUBE), an underground shopping center, a hotel, a massive variety of restaurants, and ...READ MORE
By the time I had landed, bussed to the central train station, and checked into my hostel, it was dark and I didn't really know what to do. I'd heard that the Atomic Bomb Dome (the only structure left standing near the bomb's hypocenter, preserved as a memorial) was flood lit at night, so on a whim I decided to head down and check it out (and work out the cities tram system along the way).READ MORE
Tania has informed me that with that one title I've managed to offend not just the people of Okinawa but everyone on mainland Japan as well. But I'm keeping it, because it seems to sum up (at least in my head) the different feel of the two Japans.
It is cold. It makes you realise just how far the main islands of Japan are from Okinawa; arriving in Okinawa, I was greeted by 27°C sunny weather (and cursing my decision not to pack shorts). By the time I had left, it was a cool 16°C, and ...
We had grand plans for our last day; Melody Road, Goya Park, Chatan, Okinawa City, to name a few. First things things first though, I had to pick up the OIST electric car (I love driving the Mitsubishi i-MiEV) and go pick up Tania from church down in Yomitan. When I got in the car though, I immediately noticed the battery was only half full.
Oh crap.READ MORE
I'm not really sure how it happened, but at some point reminiscing over Hanukkah (this is the second year in a row I've been away from home during Hanukkah) turned into a fully fledged plan to make latkes, find jam donuts, and somehow construct a Hanukiah.
As you can imagine, this was a pretty big mission for somewhere like Okinawa (specifically, central Okinawa) - Google searches returned nothing but Facebook posts from Kadena airbase lamenting the lack of instant latke mix and the horrible variety of kosher meat available from the base commissary.
Giving up on the jam donuts ...READ MORE
It was my second last day at OIST, Michael had left earlier that morning, and not being able to book the OIST car, we didn't really have much to do. The weather was horrible (described as 'rain with periodic stopping and starting' by Google), and sick of lounging around my apartment, I met up with Tania outside Jimmy's (the closest we have to a 'shopping outing' here) where Tania mentioned checking out the Onna Industrial Festival.
I have to admit, I was a little hesitant - all I could imagine were guys in suits, lecturing the public ...READ MORE
My last week at OIST has just finished, and due to a 30 minute presentation I had to give on Friday, my research productivity amped up leaving little time for posts. I even fell into the same hole I had in my honours project - namely, last minute research the day my presentation/thesis was due (both times involved entanglement simulations, strangely enough).
In typical me fashion, with my presentation scheduled for 3pm, I wisely decided to stop doing research at 2:15pm and instead start my slides.READ MORE
Today whilst working, I had this website playing in the background:
Soothing music with tranquilizing flowing backgrounds; oh, and in the foreground you can watch the Rouble plunge to terriying new lows. All in real time!
In case you haven't heard, the Russian rouble has been free-falling for the last couple of weeks, losing ...READ MORE
Having hired a car for the second Saturday in a row, our plan was (we thought) pretty simple - drive to Goya Park for lunch, continue north for hiking near Hiji Falls and Cape Hedo (at the northern tip of Okinawa), before driving south back to OIST via Melody Road.
We fully expected hiccups to occur, but not so soon and definetely not as ridiculous as this; after an hour and an half of driving, having arrived at Hiji Falls, we realised we completely forgot to go to Goya Park. Goddammit.
Ravenously hungry (that morning I had given up completely on ...READ MORE
Recently, OIST and the University of Tokyo signed a a memorandum of understanding, resulting in a set of informal seminars between eminent UoT scientists and their OIST counterparts. This actually took place over Friday and Saturday, and whilst I initially mourned the loss of a weekend sleep in (The morning session starts at 9!?), the physics related lectures were pretty enjoyable.READ MORE
As soon as we entered Ajijiman Mihama, a cool little izakaya we had been wanting to visit in Chatan, we saw that the restaurant was designed in traditional Japanese style, with low tables separated by hanging blinds. Although, this meant having to take off my shoes and stash them outside of our dining 'cubicle', which Tania has started taking slightly too much delight in (Ha! You have to take off your shoes in here hahaha).
Ugh, the perils of travelling through Japan with winter hiking boots for Russia.READ MORE
The culmination of our previously detailed baking problem ended with us in possession of a packet of yeast after a 10pm jaunt to MaxValu in Ishikawa. Determined to use up the two packets of flour we mistakenly bought, still out of bread (courtesy of the ever reliable Jimmy's), and on a high from our baking successes, we were ready - it was time to bake some bread.
My sister had sent me the challah recipe she uses, and we slowly formulated a plan. It was midweek, and rather than do it after uni, Michael argued we needed an early morning ...READ MORE
I've been in Japan almost three weeks now and I am still yet to have a single piece of sushi. Perhaps that's testament to how strongly Okinawan cuisine differs from standard mainland cuisine? Almost everywhere I go offers the ever ubiquitous taco rice, a selection of bento boxes and curries, Okinwa soba (not to be confused with mainland Japanese soba), sea grapes, goya champuru, a bewildering array of pork dishes, sweet-potato-flavoured-everything (even ice cream), and more.
Yet the sushi section at the local supermarkets is barely the same size as that of Woolworths or Coles (in fact, they ...
Some time last week, a routine visit by Thomas to our office deviated slightly from discussion of our projects to where we can get an authentic Okinawan breakfast (a topic brought on by our recent escapade to Jakkapoes pancakes.)
Whilst we didn't learn much in terms of Okinawan breakfast custom ("Okinawan breakfast? Hmm, I'm not sure if breakfast is really a thing here. Although, the Kafuu Beach Resort does a wonderful breakfast buffet!"), a local burger shop was mentioned, known for it's delightfully healthy sounding Heart Attack Murder Burger™ (or HAMB).
Sold on the name alone, Michael ...READ MORE
After exploring the aquarium and Kourijima earlier that day, we were invited to the 30th birthday party of Jérémie, one of the post-docs in Thomas Busch's group. The main event everyone was looking forward to was the whole roast pig Jérémie had ordered, from a local Okinawan butcher down in Naha.
Well, I was only spectating, but it would make for an interesting sight nonetheless.
We had only just arrived back at OIST around 6pm, and were instantly greeted by the sight of Jérémie anxiously pacing back and forth in the carpark, awaiting his pig delivery.
And it was ...READ MORE
The longest bridge on an open road in Japan, connecting Kouri Island and Yagaji Island - Okinawa2go
We had always planned to head to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium - part of the Ocean Expo Park in Motobu - on Saturday, the largest aquarium in Japan and one of Okinawa's biggest attractions. In fact, the largest aquarium in the world until it was surpassed by the Georgia Aquarium in 2005.
The only problem; this was the first weekend we were unable to book the OIST car.
We toyed with hitchhiking, but the odds of finding someone who speaks English and happens to be going to Motobu (almost 30km north of Nago) appeared almost astronomical. Plus, there were four of ...READ MORE
Wanting to eat some proper Okinawan/Japanese food outside of the daily bento box at OIST, Tania managed to hire the OIST car on Friday night and off we set for Ishikawa, where a booking at Grill Tacoma awaited us.
Grill Tacoma, a high end teppanyaki restaurant, is as its name suggests; a bizarre mix of traditional Japanese cooking and Americana design. Recommended by our students in our group, the chef had just moved to this more 'exclusive' location (the restaurant only has two grills and nine seats!) from his previous haunt of Jams Steak House on the other side ...READ MORE
When we first arrived at OIST, we struggled a bit for the first day or two with how isolated the campus is; outside of lunch (where several bento box vendors descend on campus with a selection ranging from katsu chicken, soba, to taco rice), the only shop available on campus is Jimmy's, an American style bakery that also sells Tim Tam's (of all things).
However, our apartment contains a small but decent kitchen, and after stocking up on kitchen supplies from Daiso - the most glorious store I've ever set eyes on - we slowly adjusted to cooking at ...READ MORE
I held my arm out across the highway, my thumb pointing upwards, facing the sky. Would this even work in Japan? I remember reading somewhere that hitching in Japan was either extremely rare or culturally taboo; I hoped it was the former, at least we had a chance then.
Even then, the chance of someone pulling over that speaks English seemed rather thin.
We had just walked down for OIST towards Tancha beach, with the vague idea of going somewhere north (Nago, perhaps, or even Pineapple Park). Yet without access to a car or public transport, we were pretty pessimistic ...READ MORE
It was 6.30am on a Saturday morning, and there was a heavy fog rolling in from the ocean, engulfing Tancha beach. Yet we moved forward with ambition (At least it's not pouring, I remember remarking). Tania had arrived from UWA the day before, and through some absurd intern voodoo magic had managed to book the OIST car for a full day (a full day! In comparison we were told it was booked out for the entire weekend).
We had the car from 7am to 6.30pm, so the current plan was to go everywhere we could south of ...READ MORE
It doesn't matter if you get pulled over. The cops can't talk to you anyway! - Thomas
Since my first full day in Okinawa coincided with a public holiday, after exploring the campus I decided to take a walk along the beach towards the Onno No Eki farmers market in the town of Nakadomari (suggested by Thomas).READ MORE
Taking out the trash is insanely complicated. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.
There are vending machines everywhere, for almost everything. So, at least I know I can never starve - there is a Cup Noodle vending machine on campus!
It's not just a stereotype. Toilets are way fancier! Mine has a seat warmer. And plays music. I didn't even know I needed that before I had it.
Japan truly is a cash based society. The only ATM on campus accepts only local credit cards, meaning I'll eventually need to head to a post ...
Having reached Naha - the capital of Okinawa Island - and then taking a two hour bus ride from Naha Airport, I eventually reached the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, or OIST (pronounced /ɔɪst/), my home for the next month. Literally five seconds after arriving and finding my apartment, I was invited by the other postdocs on their weekly supermarket shop over in Ishikawa, a town approximately 20 minutes away by car.
It seemed somewhat important, so I tagged along, soon finding myself trying to do my first weekly supermarket shop in Japan straight after almost 24 hours of travel.
To say I was slightly overwhelmed would be an understatement.READ MORE
Note: the seat you have chosen has additional leg room, and you may be moved prior to departure.
I was so determined to leave the airport when I arrived in Hong Kong, I had planned everything meticulously; rush through immigration (30 minutes), take a taxi to Lantau Island (10 minutes), take the glass bottom cable car on a quick return journey (1 hour), and then rush back to the airport. I've got almost 5 hours in transit, I kept telling myself. Easy.READ MORE
Okay, how about this. We start in Japan, catch the Trans-Siberian across Russia, and finish in Europe!
I've just updated the embedly-cards Pelican plugin to version 0.2, adding markdown support; the new version can be downloaded from GitHub or PyPi (if you have already installed it via
pip, it can be upgraded via
pip install embedly-cards --upgrade).
Pelican tends to favour reStructuredText extensions in it's configuration (I guess due to the 'pythonic' nature of reStructuredText), and so setting up the embedly-cards markdown extension is slightly more convoluted (but still pretty simple, at only 2 lines!). Simply add the following to your
from embedly_cards import EmbedlyCardExtension MD_EXTENSIONS = ['codehilite(css_class=highlight)', 'extra', EmbedlyCardExtension ...
In my previous post, when discussing Embedly-cards, I enthusiastically exclaimed
The produced embeddable cards support almost any source - articles, Amazon products, YouTube videos, PDFs, forum posts, etc (even Google+ albums!).
Well, turns out I was getting a bit ahead of myself. After playing around with it a bit more, I found it doesn't deal so well with Google Maps and Places - useful embeddable objects if you are blogging whilst travelling, for example. So, after checking if anything better exists for Google Maps integration (and not finding anything whatsoever), I decided 'why not!'.
So, here is the result of an ...READ MORE
This blog is built using Pelican , an awesome static blog generator written in Python, requiring no database or server-side scripting - in fact, all content is generated from simple reStructuredText or Markdown files (including this page, if you look at the source). Compared to a CMS like Wordpress, this results in increased speed, the ability to use static "web-hosts" (like GitHub or Dropbox - not strictly what they were designed for, especially Dropbox, but it works - and they're free!), and, depending on your point of view, easier content management/backup. Of course ...READ MORE
- May January
- Mon 29 December 2014Temples, shrines, and Irish pubs (oops)
- Sun 28 December 2014Temple run and too much sake
- Fri 26 December 2014Hiroshima
- Wed 24 December 2014Things I've noticed since coming to regular Japan
- Mon 22 December 2014Last day in Okinawa
- Mon 22 December 2014A very Okinawan Hanukkah
- Sun 21 December 2014Onna Industrial Festival
- Sun 21 December 2014Last week at OIST
- Tue 16 December 2014A surprisingly good time to go to Russia
- Mon 15 December 2014Cape Hedo and Hiji Falls
- Mon 15 December 2014Vires Acquirit Eundo
- Mon 15 December 2014Chicken skin (and other assorted delights)
- Sun 14 December 2014Bread 1.0
- Sun 14 December 2014More things I've noticed since arriving in Okinawa
- Tue 09 December 2014The Heart Attack Murder Burger
- Tue 09 December 2014Spongebob and the birthday pig
- Mon 08 December 2014Kourijima
- Mon 08 December 2014Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
- Sun 07 December 2014Americana teppanyaki
- Sun 07 December 2014Searching for yeast on a Friday night
- Mon 01 December 2014Pineapple Park
- Sun 30 November 2014Castles, pancakes, Naha and more
- Fri 28 November 2014Attempted drive to Ishikawa
- Thu 27 November 2014Walk through Tancha
- Tue 25 November 2014Things I've discovered since arriving in Okinawa
- Tue 25 November 2014Settling in at OIST
- Mon 24 November 2014Accidental business class
- Sun 23 November 2014Delayed in Hong Kong
- Sun 16 November 2014A Siberian adventure