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180620062528 As part of the conference we attended in Sendai, we had a bus tour taking us further up North, to the World Heritage sites of Hiraizumi. Our first stop was Chuson-ji, a Buddhist temple located on a wooded hill. 180620062243 Continue Reading »

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Back in Sendai

180619034106 After almost six months, we’re back for a (all-too brief!) whirlwind trip to Japan.
This time, we traveled basically directly after arriving in Narita up to Sendai in the Tohoku area to attend a conference. We had been there once before – ages ago – for a Silver Week Sightseeing trip. This time we were a bit unlucky, chancing on a mayor outage of the (usually famously punctual) Tohoku Shinkansen, which resulted in a 5 hour delay (most of which we spent in Kooriyama Station in Fukushima Prefecture). But since then, things have been going smoothly.
We finally made up our earlier negligence by trying the local sweets – Zundamochi – small mochi balls in a green paste made from Edamame. It almost seems a healthy snack! And it’s quite good, we went back for seconds.

ZundaMochi

Eating zundamochi at Sendai Station

We even went back for a very brief stint to the scenic Matsushima Bay, for a dinner with lots of local seafood.
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Looking towards Matsushima Bay

After paying our respects to the giant Unicorn Gundam on Odaiba in January, we had also visited The Gundam Base, where an enormous variety of Gunpla Model Kits are on sale. While not generally model kit aficionados, we still felt compelled to get something. The bar of entry is set low, as the cheapest and simplest kits that just snap together and require neither glue nor color can be got for just a few hundred yen (i.e. a few $/EUR). We got two of the simplest ones for the kids, which have moveable limbs, but for example no knee joints. For myself, I splurged on the next level, which came to about 7$.

The unopened Gunpla model kit of Wing Gundam Zero.

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Of course we’ve been numerous times to Akihabara back when we lived in Tokyo, but we’ve never used it as a starting point for a walk through town. Today’s walk was a walk of contrasts, showcasing the many faces of Tokyo. Akihabara is so colorful with anime illustrations on many buildings and full of young people. From there, we walked to the Kanda-myōjin (神田明神), a historically important shrine. Today, it was still crowded and busy due to ongoing New Year’s celebrations.

Gate of the Kanda Myojin

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Day Trip to Kobe

Even though Kyoto is reputed to be the most beautiful city in the world, we decided for once to spend our Sunday not in the old town, but to go see something new instead. Kobe, at only 28 minutes ride by Shinkansen, presented a nearby option. We arrived at Shin-Kobe Station which is located on the slopes of the surrounding hills, and went right on to the Shin-Kobe ropeway, which whisked us up over wooded hills to the Nunobiki Herb Gardens, which present a view of Kobe lying below and its port and bay. The garden itself is in this season not much of an attraction, but one can imagine that it must be nice when it’s all in bloom. The view is of course also good in winter, even though we did not chance upon a clear day.

Kobe Meriken Park and surrounding hills seen from a cruise ship on the bay.

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Unicorn Gundam

Since September of last year, a new giant Gundam statue is standing near the Diver City mall on Odaiba: a 19.7m tall RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. After having paid a visit to the original Gundam one year ago, we obviously had to see the new one, too! It is quite impressive due to its sheer size. Every two hours, its head changes (along with dramatic music and pulsating lights) from Unicorn Mode to Destroy Mode (two horns). Continue Reading »

Lucky Bags – Again!

The shops have reopened in Japan and an enormous amount of people has stormed them right at opening time, as we witnessed at the Matsusakaya department store. The main reason isn’t that the shops had been closed for a full day, but because today the Lucky Bags go on sale. They contain a bundle of goods you might or might not be able to see beforehand at a steep discount.
There were enormous queues forming at the bakeries and some of the sweets shops. And the amount of bags I’ve seen some old ladies carrying was absolutely stunning, they seemed to be carrying more than their own weight.
We have been very conservative compared to others, with just a bakery lucky bag, a tea lucky bag, a rice condiment lucky bag and two senbei lucky bags.
All sorts of stores offer them, including clothing retailers, but the idea of getting a random outfit that might not at all suit my taste doesn’t really make sense to me, no matter the discount. So we rather went for food we knew we would like in any case.