Beautiful Japan

Beautiful Japan

The city of Tokyo is more famous for its technology and fashion. There is a lot more to this city including its history. If you are planning to visit the country there are a few place you might want to visit if you are interested in knowing about the city's history.

The first destination is the Edo-Tokyo Museum. You will get the complete history of the city from the time it began to the city as it is now. To enter the exhibition hall of the museum you will have to cross the Nihonbashi Bridge replica. The elderly guides here are one of the delights, sharing tear jerking stories of the past they experienced. The Kabuki-style stage boasting several cultural pieces and you should make sure to get a glimpse of the very detailed model of Edo.

Little Edo is located approximately half an hour outside the center of Tokyo. This town is the best place to get the authentic Japanese culture outside the city. The town if in Saitama Prefecture. Some of the place to visit in the town are places such as Penny Candy Alley along Kashiya Yokosho that has a nineteenth century feel and design. The alley intersects with Kurazuki Street that still has some buildings that date all the way back to the seventeenth century. Most of these buildings are today used as locations for restaurants with the Toki ni Kane bell tower chiming every hour on the hour. Fifteen minutes outside this district sits the Honmaru Goten, the residence of the Lord. This is the only remaining remanence of the Kawagoe Castle. Used today as a museum, this building was the last addition to the fourteenth century castle in the eighteenth century. This location provides the atmosphere and ambiance of a traditional castle.

The once Falconry site of the families of the shogun, the Hama Rikyu Garden is now completely surrounded by high rise buildings and has the feel of the old Japan mix perfectly with the new. This place is best visited in the spring time when the cherry blossoms are in bloom as well as the fields of the yellow rapeseed. Riding the traditional water buses of the Sumida River is still the best and most fun way of getting to the garden. The water vehicles float from Asakusa to Obaiba to Central Tokyo.

The Imperial Palace East Garden is located at the base of a hill in the Imperial Palace. The palace is where the emperor of Japan resides and the only public area of the castle. The garden has a Japanese style design with micro bridges, trees and ponds similar to those of authentic castles. The location offers free bicycles on Sundays between the hours between ten and three pm. This first ones to get to a bicycle is the one to get it. There is also a free walking English speaking tour between the hours of one and three pm.

The Rikugi-en Garden is a eighteenth century style strolling garden that reproduces eighty eight scenes of Japan's history. The garden was built for the comfort of the fifth Tokugawa Shogun. The best time to visit the garden is in the fall season. From November to the early days of December when the maples are changing color from gold to red. The beautiful landscape that circles the moss green ponds that are stocked with white and orange carp. The artificial hill provides an exceptional view of the forested areas and the islets on the pond that accentuates the visuals of the garden. You will be able to make a rest stop at one of the many teahouses that sits on the banks of the northwestern shore on the pond.

Asian Brewing

Asian Brewing

There is really good suds to be had in Asia, from Hong Kong to South Korea. There are breweries here that will that will provide brew that is sure to delight any palate. Japan is the leading craftsmen in this trade. They have been making excellent beer for a long time with their leading beer the standard for Asian brews since the mid nineteen nineties. Tokyo's Popeye stocks mostly Japanese brew among their seventy types and might be a great place to start your visit. The Beer Belly is the also a great place to visit. It is found in Osaka where you can also visit Minoh Brewery that is down the road. The Beer Komachi is found in a hidden alley in Kyoto and the serve all local brews.

Like China's economy their beer craft has increase so much in so little time. This nation has one of the most intriguing beer scenes in the east of Asia. Most of Chinas craft beer small breweries are located in Beijing with Great Leap Brewing number one. The Slow oat Brewery is next in line and the Tipsy Face follows them closely behind. In Chengdu you can find the Beer Nest and the Master Gao in Nanjing. The ideal place to visit may be the Beijing's NBeer Pub that is located on the first floor of the Huguo Xintiandi.

South Korea has some very strange beer laws. By their laws it is literally against the law to operate a micro-brewery. Breweries have found a way around that and do produce and sell their products in taprooms around the country. The brewing here is a unique one thanks to the income levels but have a quality and standard the can easily rival those of higher tier. The place to visit is Itaewon. The Craftsworks Taphouse is located here and the Magpie Brewing Co is down the road. You can get a map of the city's beer craft bars at Seoul Hiomebrew.

Until a few years ago the only beer that was accessible on the Taiwan market was the country's own brew. It was a drinkable beer but had a bad name and was a boring drink. Micro brewing was basically against the law in the country but now the nation's craft beer scene is showing signs of potential. The only drawback that you may find with some of these breweries are that they are still very simple in construction. There is a plus to this though as many of them incorporate some very interesting ingredients in their concoctions. The place to visit would be the Le Ble d'Or if you are looking for the best in local brews. The Jolly Brewery and restaurant along with the brew from the Red point Brewing Company is served at the Beer and Cheese Social House.

There is a problem of space and the overall daily lifestyle of the Hong Kong people and the city seems not too compatible with micro brewing. The Tipping Point Brewing Co. provides a few brews including the Ales that are crafted the way they do in the Americas. The place to visit is The Globe pub, they have a long list of imported brews as their local stock never seems to last any significant time. The HK Brewcraft stocks home brewing equipment for the fast growing business of home brewing. HK also stocks a large selection of home brews themselves. HK Brewcraft is your local homebrew store in Hong Kong. Whether you are a brewmaster, an aspiring homebrewer, or just want to have some fun making your own beer. HK Brewcraft Central is your local homebrew store and bottle shop with 80+ homebrewing ingredients and 60+ homebrewing equipment available for your brewing needs. 

An escapade to Oki Islands

An escapade to Oki Islands

Japan always portrays an image bustling big city for travellers. If one is tired of the hustle and bustle of city crowds, head over to Matsue, located west of Honshu and take the next ferry trip to indulge in slower life pace over at remote Oki Islands.

The island was recently designated as Unesco World Geoparks Network, and offers rugged coastal lanes, old trees, sparkling beaches and exciting water activities for the sporty type. There are also the famous Shinto shrines, a centuries old enclave rich in cultural customs and shrouded in squid legends. There are 4 main islands to explore around Oki Islands.

First in the list if the biggest island among all, which is the Dogo island. It is famous for aging cedar trees, well taken care by locals with zeal. Near the port town named Saigo lays a 2000 years old Yao-sugi huge tree, with branches popping up outside the Tamawakasu Shrine. Another giant tree estimated to be 800 years old lay near the area called Chichi sugi tree, believed to house a deity. Younger cedars (by hundreds of years) can be found in Shizenkaiko forest. Tokage-iwa can be explored. It is more commonly known as the lizard rock due to the appearance of a lizard clawing up the cliff.

Dogo's beaches are great walking terrains for nature lovers. Pine trees and other plant life can be found along the walking path. You will be able to experience the deep sea vistas along Shirashima coast. Sea kayaking, boat tours and diving plans can be arranged during the summer. The island also organizes bull sumo showdown where two bulls lock horns in a battlefield. It is a centuries old custom held nearby the Shinto shrines. The bulls head butt each other and one sole winner is announced the moment one party walks away. There will be professional handlers preventing bull injuries at the side.

Nishino shima is home to the breathtaking Kuniga coast. Tourists love hiking up Matengai Cliff to escape the urban cities like Osaka and Tokyo. Options are available for boat tours for an inner view of the rock formations. Yurahime Shrine is also another landmark at Nishino shima. Legend has it that a crowd of squids will gather at the bay to seek forgiveness from a deity for nipping her fingers. Photos of squid crowd can be seen at the lovely shrine. There is a covered ring for sumo wrestlers just outside the shrine. The ring has deep roots for Japanese culture. Tradition has it that wrestlers will fight twice, where there will be one win each. Tournaments are rarely held, maybe once in many years, and luck is needed to predict the timing of the matches if it ever happens.

Chiburi jima is the smallest island. A local slogan is given to the island name that is carefree Chiburi. One must stop by Kawai Jizo spring and admire the bodhisattva statues. The springs made it to the best 100 well preserved water from Shimane. After a refreshing drink, one can take a carefree walk up Sekiheki, also known as the red cliff. The cliff used to be covered in red magma, and its color changes which is dependent on lighting. Tanuki, a raccoon dog from Japan could be spotted as well. Mt Akahage, the top point of Chiburi jima, offers spectacular sea view and adjacent islands. Aigaki stone walls can be seen across the hills. It has been preserved since the days of sustainable farming rotating techniques many centuries ago.

Nakano shima at Oki Island is home to many famous exiled government officials over many centuries. Emperor Go Toba was once exiled after a failure in launching a rebellion to recapture his glory. 700 years later, the Oki Shine was built to commemorate his legacy and has become a hot spot for the island. Nakano shima has more exotic fresh water at springs all over the island. One can see the volcanic rock brimming in red.

If one were to plan the trip, be sure to look for Nishino shima office for tourism or Oki Island Gepark official site for more details and information source.

A crash course on Japanese noodles

A crash course on Japanese noodles

Tokyo is a global hub for tasty and delicious noodles and the city's population could go on strike and stop functioning without its famous noodles. Tokyo urbanites gobble down incredible amounts of noodles every single day for their entire lives. Some of their favorites include the ever common staple soba as well as udon. Japanese are also very fond of Chinese noodle variant known as ramen. A large variety of noodle shops operate around whole of Japan ranging from tachikui (or more popularly known as standing and eating parlor) bars specializing in sale of specialty noodles to highly upper class restaurants filled with shining pottery and elaborate gardens. The noodles bars require you to purchase tickets early for a full meal while in posh restaurants, you can tailor your orders from the ever friendly waiter or waitresses.

Soba, the traditional Japanese noodle, are thin in texture with brownish colour. Udon, on the other hand, is the complete opposite where it is thick and white. Kanto and Tokyo region is the origin for Soba, where it is closely linked. Udon is said to come from Kansai, regions near Osaka. Nevertheless, restaurants operators with noodle serving on their menu will have both noodle styles. Some of the typical noodle serving styles includes Kake soba or udon, where noodles are served inside a huge round bowl filled with bonito flavor soup base. Mori soba or udon is the complete opposite where noodles are served cold and laid on bamboo mat. It is the perfect noodle serving one can have during warm weather which instantly refreshes the mind and soul.

A very popular cold noodles liked by many local Japanese is zaru soba. It comes with dried seaweed as the common topping. A side dish accompanying the noodle is a cool broth filled in a small cup and spring onions served with wasabi on a small plate. The best method for eating zaru soba is dipping the noodles into the cool broth after having gently stirring the liquid. It is a mistake to pour the cool broth all around the noodles unless you want to make a mess around the dining table. Towards the final part of the meal, the waitress or server would provide a small glass of sobayu, also known to many as the boiling water used to heat up the noodles, in order for the patron to mix the broth with water. You can then enjoy you glass of broth mixture similar to enjoying a cup of hot tea.

Not many people are aware of the origins of Ramen. In actual fact, it comes from China, but has gained widespread adoption and recognition in Japan. The most basic form of Ramen is noodle served in a huge bowl of broth. The broth has many flavor variants. Topping can be added to the noodles such as sliced roasted pork meat (chashu), bean sprouts (moyashi) or leeks (negi). Ramen toppings are wide and varied and do not be surprise to see Ramen served with fresh butter corn from Hokkaido or wontons or even Chinese vegetables. Each person has their own favorite taste of Ramen and is loyal devotee to their own ramen flavor, but one thing for sure is that Western instant noodles preparation procedures are poor choice of noodle selection compared to the real delicious ramen.

Eating loudly and making loud sounds when you are in the middle of a meal is looked down upon as rude in Western countries. However, when you are in Japan, be sure to slurp down you noodles as it serves as a cooling tactic for hot noodles and is said to enhance noodle flavor.