ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.20

Day 6 (2/3).

From Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to Nakafurano (中富良野) where we would stay two nights to explore the rolling hills and farmlands of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛), we drove by Tokachi (十勝), a subprefecture in Central Hokkaido best known for its dairy and agricultural products such as wheat and red beans.  Also known as the land of cheese, some say Tokachi produces about 60% of Japanese cheese.  We didn’t plan to stay in Tokachi, but did make a stop in the subprefecture’s only city, Obihiro (帯広).  There was only one reason: to sample the delicious food of the region.  We weren’t after any fancy kaiseki ryori or seafood feast, but simple local dishes that make use of the best local ingredients of Tokachi.

IMG_0034There is nothing simpler to experience the best of Tokachi (十勝) than have a cup of fresh local milk.

IMG_9711In Obihiro, we made a first stop to Amamuekie, a simple pastry shop housed in a cool container.  Originally worked in the music industry, the husband and wife of Iwamoto family (岩本夫妻) turned their interest in nature and healthy food and opened Amamuekie.

IMG_7127At Amamuekie, healthy pastry made with plant based ingredients without the use of white sugar and animal ingredients such as dairy and eggs are sold, including this cocoa pound cake made with rice flour.

IMG_7836We picked up several items from Amamuekie, including this hojicha (green tea) biscotti, a tasty fusion of east meets west.

IMG_9713On our way to Obihiro, we made our second stop at Sweet Factory Green, a delightful sweets shop in the small town of Otofuke (音更町).

IMG_9715The cakes, chocolate and ice-cream were all so tempting.

IMG_9721Causal seating were provided on the lawn next to the sweets shop.

IMG_9717_01Sun was high and sky was blue, what a perfect moment to enjoy local ice-cream, a piece of fruit cake and a cup of good coffee.

IMG_9722Finally we arrived in downtown Obihiro (帯広), and parked our car in one of the outdoor parking lot near the main train station.

IMG_7105It took us a little while to figure out the correct procedure to activate the parking sensor for our stall.

IMG_9728Our destination, Butadon Pancho (元祖豚丼), situates right across the street from Obihiro Railway Station.

IMG_9726Butadon Pancho (元祖豚丼) offers just one thing in the menu: Butadon (豚丼) or pork bowl.  After about 20 minutes in the queue, we finally got a small table in the small restaurant.  Founded in 1933, Butadon Pancho claims to be the pioneer restaurant that offered butadon.

IMG_9725Originated from Obihiro, butadon is basically a bowl of rice served with several pieces of local pork, topped with sweet soy sauce and green peas.  The bowl also comes with takuan (沢庵) or pickled daikon radish and miso soup.  Nothing fancy, just a simple local dish but made a perfect lunch for us.

IMG_9732After a little over an hour on the road, we arrived at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, a vast resort compound that offers a variety of activities for visitors, from skiing in winter to hiking in summer.

IMG_7115The main reason coming to Tomamu was to check out the famous Chapel on the Water by architect Tadao Ando.

IMG_9730Unfortunately, the opening times of the chapel was quite limited.  Quite often, the chapel is occupied for private wedding ceremonies.  We had to leave it for another time, and moved on on our journey to Furano, where we would stay for the night.

 


TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2019.06.15

Day 1 (1/2).

Our flight landed in Tokyo Haneda at around 6am.  Before our next flight to Hokkaido’s Memanbetsu Airport at noontime, we had a few hours to spare in the Japanese capital.  Tsuyu (梅雨), the rainy season in Japan, was in full force in mid June.  Given the proximity to the city centre, we wouldn’t want to miss the chance of revisiting Tokyo.  We took the monorail and then transferred to the metro heading for Tsukiji Market.  40 minutes was all it took to reach Tsukiji.  It was pouring when we came out the metro at the Kabuki-za Theatre (歌舞伎座) exit.  We followed Google Map to make our way into the quiet lanes near the outer market.

Opened in 1935, the 83-year-old market has officially moved to the new Toyosu Market (豊洲市場) in October 2018.  With no intention to watched a tuna auction behind glass or checked out seafood and produce stores in a brand new shopping centre like setting, we preferred to revisit the old market at Tsukiji, where the Outer Market remained open for business.  At the market, generations of social interactions have developed a strong sense of community.  The chaotic turret traffic at the inner market, desperate tourists cramped in long lines for an early sashimi breakfast, cafes serving simple coffee on dark wood counters, street food stalls along busy lanes and covered alleyways, the spirit and ambience of the old market have drawn us back to Tsukiji again and again.  This time around, our Tsukiji experience took us to a craft coffee shop, a back lane sushi eatery and a historical Shinto shrine.

IMG_8560Miraitowa (future and eternity) and Someity (calm and powerful), the two official mascot of 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, greeted all visitors at the arrival lobby of Haneda Airport.

IMG_8576Turret COFFEE, a popular hub for everyone in Tsukiji who love coffee, offered us a decent dose of caffeine to start the day.

IMG_E8579We came just in time to be the first few customers at Turret.

IMG_8586The cafe decor was simple and the coffee was aromatic and good.

IMG_8593Named after the 3-wheel cart that once roamed in the lanes of Tsukiji Market, a real “turret” was placed in the centre of the coffee shop as display and also seating.

IMG_8599Kitsuneya Beef Rice, one of the most popular eateries in the entire outer market, offers visitors a decent alternative to seafood.

IMG_8601For many, leaving Tsukiji Market without picking up several pieces of tuna toro sashimi would be a big regret.

IMG_8617We ended up sitting down at a small sushi eatery in a covered alleyway.

IMG_8621Despite relocation of the inner market, the sushi at Tsukiji Outer Market was equally fresh as before.

IMG_8620Today’s uni (sea urchin): Hamanaka (浜中), Uchiura Bay (噴火湾), Akkeshi (厚岸), Nemuro (根室), Rebun (礼文), and Nemuro (根室).  Even looking at the names of the five fishing villages in Hokkaido would wet our appetite.

IMG_8607Before returning to the airport, we made a stop at Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社), the unofficial guardian shrine of Tsukiji Market.

IMG_8609Built in 1659, the Shinto shrine dedicates to Inari (稲荷大神), the god of fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture.  The Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社) was specifically aimed to ward off disasters and diminish incoming waves.

IMG_8612The 1-ton Yakuyoke Tenjo Dai-Shishi male lion is one of the main features of the shrine. During Tsukiji Lion Festival on June 10th, the lion head would parade across the Tsukiji along with the red female lion head.

IMG_8613The 0.7 ton female lion head is slightly lighter than the male, but equally impressive.  After coffee, sushi, and Shinto shrine, we took our time to return to Haneda Airport for the flight to Memanbetsu in Hokkaido.

 


DAY 1 (2/5): PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.24

Haveli in India refers to a large historical mansion built by a wealthy merchant over a century ago.  Designed to impress both the residents and outside spectators, these buildings usually come with ornate carvings, beautiful frescoes, intricate window screens, and an airy courtyard or lightwell.  While many have been fallen into disrepair over the years, some havelis have survived into modern times and become valuable heritage buildings.  Rajasthan has some of the most famous and well preserved havelis in India, and some of which have been converted into museums or hotels.  Situated in the old city near the Gulab Sagar Reservoir and Clock Tower Market, the beautiful Pal Haveli was our hotel in Jodhpur.  Owned by the Pal Family, the two-hundred-year-old haveli was the place where we first experienced the historical sense and beauty of the Medieval Jodhpur.  Antique housewares, paintings, textiles and furniture offered a charming ambience.  From the rooftop restaurant, views of the busy Clock Tower Market and the majestic Mehrangart Fort were breathtaking.  Outside the hotel, the market streets and square near the Clock Tower dominated the street scenes.

Just a stone throw away stood a simple omelette shop that has been frequented by foreign tourists ever since Lonely Planet named the local eatery as the famous “Omelette Shop” in 1999.  Since then, this simple eatery has been elevated into legendary status among foreign tourists.  The life of Ramkishan Gawlani the owner has been completely transformed ever since.  According to an interview with Reuters, Ramkishan Gawlani was used to be poor and drank all day.   For 24 years he cooked meat, rice, lentils and sometimes omelette.  After Lonely Planet’s listing however, his business boomed dramatically with tourists all over the world come to him for omelettes.  He gave up the other options in his menu and became an omelette specialist.  Just a decade after the listing, he was cracking 1000 eggs a day and earned much respect in the city of Jodhpur.  Interestingly, the famous omelette man is in fact a vegan and has not eaten an egg for years.  His story reflects an interesting phenomenon about the tourist and guidebook industry.   According to Reuters, Lonely Planet has sold over a million guidebooks on India from 1981 to 2007, and has inevitably bringing tourists to the same hotels and restaurants throughout the years, and has created tension and jealousy among businesses, such as the hostile feelings of the other omelette shop owners towards Ramkishan Gawlani.  For us, we did visit the famous Omelette Shop for our first meal in Rajasthan because of its convenient location.  While not as legendary one might imagine, Ramkishan Gawlani ‘s omelettes were indeed delightful and convenient for us.

dsc_9991We arrived at Pal Haveli hotel straight from the airport in early afternoon.

dsc_9990Through the grand entrance, we entered into the main arrival courtyard of the hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the roof, Indique Restaurant is a well known establishment with good food and great views of the old Jodhpur.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hotel reception lobby is situated right at the courtyard.

dsc_9977Despite its modest size, the reception lobby of Pal Haveli is decently decorated with traditional furniture and antiques.

dsc_9978Even the light switches reflect the long history of the building.

dsc_9980Our room was located right by the courtyard.

dsc_9984Inside the room, walls were decorated with traditional miniature paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust a stone throw away, the legendary Omelette Shop was busy serving foreign tourists.

dsc_9994Stacks of eggs and signs of “Lonely Planet” and “Tripadvisor” suggested we had come to the “right” place, but not one of the imitated ones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARamkishan Gawlaniwas busy making omelettes at the stove.

img_8605Made with several eggs, mayo, cheese, spices and bread, we tried the tasty Alibaba Omelette.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Omelette Shop was the entrance into the Sardar Market or the Clock Tower Market.

dsc_9997_01Across the street from the Omelette Shop, we could see the side facade of our hotel Pal Haveli.

dsc_9998Dozens of tuk tuks or auto rickshaws await for tourists at the heart of the old city across the street from the Omelette Shop.

dsc_0003After a few rounds of bargaining, we hired one of the passing auto rickshaw for Mehrangarh Fort, the single most iconic sight of the city of Jodhpur.

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 5 (4/5): YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Other than the Hida beef and sake, the other two places we planned to visit in Takayama were the Miyagawa Morning Market (宮川朝市) and Yoshijima House (吉島家住宅).  According to guidebooks, for anyone who are interested in architecture and design, Yoshijima House is a must-go in Takayama.  The Yoshijima House has been published in various design magazines and is considered an excellent example of machiya or traditional townhouse architecture of the Hida region.  Built in 1907 by master carpenter Nishida Isaburo (西田伊三郎), the student of the fourth Mizuma Sagami (水間相模), the timber house of Yoshijima exemplifies the supreme craftsmanship of the traditional Hida carpentry.  Today, the house is designated as a national important cultural property and a popular tourist attraction.  From Sanmachi Suji (三町筋) or the old town, Yoshijima House is just a few blocks to the north beyond a water channel.

 

DSC_7098The sugitama (杉玉) outside of Yoshijima House reveals its original identity as a well known sake breweries in Takayama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom outside, a traditional outer wall conceals the inner garden of the Yoshijima House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the entrance vestibule, we entered into a large and airy hall.  The middle part of the hall with hard flooring indicated where the sake shop was once situated, whereas the raised tatami areas belonged to the living spaces of the Yoshijima family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were told by the museum staff to take the wooden stair and visit the upper level first.

DSC_7106On the upper level, we walked through a series of tatami spaces.  These spaces were used by the children of the family back in the old days.

DSC_7109The simplicity of design details and building materials express a sense of minimalism that is still dominating Japanese architectural design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOccasional design elaborations such as the painted cupboard panels provide a touch of artistic beauty and focus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Level difference is being used as a means to define two separated spaces.

DSC_7117The wood stairs are beautiful but a little steep.

DSC_7125Small architectural details throughout the building  highlight the level of family status and quality of the carpentry.

DSC_7122The ground floor of Yoshijima House reveals the flexibility of partitioning in a traditional Japanese house.  All rooms are interconnected with sliding doors, allowing utmost freedom for space planning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no specific function for each 6-tatami room.  When a table is set up in the tatami room then it will become a dining room.  And when bedding is arranged, the same room will be transformed into a bedroom.

DSC_7127When all sliding panels are removed, the ground floor will become one large space for special uses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many Japanese houses, a courtyard flanked with verandas provides pleasant semi-outdoor spaces for the house users.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring our visit, artworks and magazines about the Yoshijima House were on displayed at the former sake making and storage area, where beautiful jazz music was playing in the background.

DSC_7133The most famous feature of the Yoshijima House is the prominent posts and beams at the main hall.  The spaces with the charcoal brazier set were used as living and dining room for the family.

DSC_7150The high windows allow light to create a pleasant ambience at the main hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beauty of wood is essential to the interiors of the house.  The wood beams and posts are covered with thin layer of lacquer, and have been periodically polished with cloth by the family since completion.

DSC_7157The antique clock on the wall reminded us the Meiji Era at the turning of the 20th century when Japan opened its doors to welcome Western technologies and knowledge and went through a rapid process of modernization.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 2 (4/4): EBISU YOKOCHO (恵比寿橫丁), Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

Small alleyways of tiny izayaka (居酒屋) and eateries situated a block or two away from train stations, yokocho can be found in many districts in Tokyo.  From 6pm to sunrise, yokochos offer a relaxing venue for drinks and snacks after work.  We knew it would be chaotic, cramped, noisy, and messy, but we loved to have a yokocho (橫丁) experience during our Tokyo stay.   We picked Ebisu Yokocho, a popular indoor alleyway just a block away from Ebisu Station.  Since 1998, Ebisu Yokocho has successfully converted the declining Yamashita shopping centre into a popular venue for food and drinks.  Just like other yokocho, eateries in Ebisu Yokocho serve different Japanese cuisine, from sashimi to yakitori.  As soon as we entered the covered alleyway, we were overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette, sake and grilled meat in the air.  Entering from the relatively dark and empty street, the warm and crowded yokocho felt like a completely different world.  We were lucky to find a table available at one of the eateries.  The food wasn’t as cheap as we thought, but the experience of enjoying beer and small dishes of Japanese food in a crowded alleyway was pretty interesting.

01The main street entrance of Ebisu Yokocho is just a block away from Ebisu Station (恵比寿駅).

02It was about 20:00 when we arrived at Ebisu Yokocho.  It was still early in the night but the place was already quite packed.

03Most visitors were locals, but there were also some foreign tourists enjoying the local cuisine and sake.  There is however no English menu at the eateries and most staff don’t speak English.

04Most yokochos in Tokyo are outdoor.  Ebisu Yokocho on the other hand was established in the former Yamashita Shopping Centre.

05Many visitors seemed to be groups of colleagues having a break after work.

06The yokocho was cramped and noisy, but the atmosphere was energetic and fun.

07There are two other entrances from side streets into Ebisu Yokocho.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASlot window and a wall mural illustrating the floor plan of Ebisu Yokocho.

09.JPGColourful neon signage of the eateries.

10A man walked by the colourful side entrance of Ebisu Yokocho.


DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China

In the morning, we hired a taxi to head north of Xian.  Our taxi took the airport highway, passed by a number of new residential developments and coal power plants, and arrived at another popular attraction near Xian, the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum (漢陽陵).  As the capital of 13 dynasties, there are many royal tombs around the area of Xian (formerly known as Changan).  Other than the Mausoleum and his Terracotta Army of the First Qin (秦) Emperor, royal tomb complexes of Han and Tang Emperors are also impressive in scale and significant in historical values.  Belonged to Emperor Jing (漢景帝) of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 9 AD), Han Yang Ling Mausoleum is a major archaeological site to study the Han Dynasty.  There are 86 outer burial pits (22 of which are opened for visitors) around the central mausoleum mount.  Over 50,000 mini terracotta figures were found in the pits along with other valuable artefacts, allowing historians a glimpse what Han China might be like under Emperor Jing.  During his reign in 157 – 141 BC, the Han Dynasty underwent a relatively peaceful period.  Influenced by Taoist beliefs, his policies of non-interference with the people and heavy tax reductions allowed the Han society to rejuvenate itself after years of internal power struggles and civil wars.

After arriving at Han Yang Ling, we walked on the designated boardwalk to have a look at the ruined foundations of the Southern Double Gate Towers (門闕).  The earth foundation structure of the two huge gate towers survived to the present, and is now protected under a huge structure constructed in traditional Chinese style.  The ancient gate towers were gone, but from the interpretative displays and a close look at the remaining foundations, we could imagine the scale of the original structures.  We followed the boardwalk to walk around the mausoleum mount, which had yet been excavated.  Saving the best for the last, we found our way down to the underground museum which brought visitors to have a close encounter with the outer burial pits.  We put on the museum shoe covers and entered the underground world of the tomb.  Inside the museum, we followed a designated route where we could look through the glass floor to the artefacts in the burial pits.  Artefacts seen included mini terracotta human figures, terracotta animals such as pigs, cows, horses, dogs, etc., skeletons of large animals, ancient tea leaves, barley, wooden tools, etc.  It was such a big contrast compared with the Terracotta Army of the First Qin Emperor, who died 69 years before Han Emperor Jing.  The Qin royal tomb was all about presenting the Emperor’s military might and his fear of revenges from his enemies in the underworld.  The Han tomb, on the other hand, was a mausoleum built during a time when China was beginning to enter its first peaceful golden age.  It was a time to celebrate good economy, abundant food, and agricultural advancement.  It was weird to see the thousands of naked arm-less terracotta figures until we realized that their wooden arms and clothing made of fabrics had long perished.

dsc_7774Boardwalk heading to the ruins of the Southern Tower Gate (hidden within the museum constructed as a traditional Chinese building.

dsc_7785Foundation of one of the two Southern Gate Tower.

dsc_7786Looking at the passageway between the foundation of the two Gate Towers.

dsc_7773Stone structure of the burial pit was visible from the plain aboveground.

dsc_7787Boardwalk leading to the foot of the mausoleum mount of Han Emperor Jing.

dsc_7798Walking into the underground museum of Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

dsc_7801A model of the reconstructed Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

dsc_7804Interior of the underground museum.

dsc_7807Looking into the burial pit through the glass.

dsc_7814The burial pits were long and linear with rows of artefacts inside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesignated route with glass floor in the underground museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStanding above one of the burial pits.

dsc_7821Terracotta livestock and pots in one of the burial pits.

dsc_7835Terracotta human figures at Pit 18.

dsc_7839Partially excavated terracotta figures at Pit 14.

dsc_7844Closer look at the terracotta figures and cows.

dsc_7858Terracotta livestock with pigs, cows, horses, dogs, etc.

DSC_7862.JPGDisplay of the terracotta figures, with the middle one wearing clothing in the Han style.

dsc_7863Thousands of artefacts were unearthed at Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

 

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 2 – BELL TOWER, Xian, China

After the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, we taxied back to the city centre of Xian.  Before dinner, we decided to pay the beautiful Bell Tower a proper visit.  Situated at the heart of a roundabout, the Bell Tower could only be accessed via an underground passage.  We paid the admission and climbed the stair up to the podium deck of the building.  Ornate architectural carving, including the magnificent window screens, were well restored.  Since construction in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty, the Bell Tower had been restored a number of times.  The tower was damaged in the Second World War, and since then five restorations had taken place to restore the building into its former glory.  Originally built to house the bells to announce time for the city, Xian’s Bell Tower had also performed multiple functions throughout history: stage for public announcement, military beacon, temporary prison, and even the first ever film cinema in Xian.  We stayed on the podium deck for quite some time to admire the architecture and the urban scenery at all four directions, until we were urged by hunger to leave for a dumpling dinner nearby at a traditional restaurant called De Fa Chang (德發長).

dsc_7638Bell Tower in the centre of the roundabout with Drum Tower in the background.

dsc_7646Close up of the colourful timber architectural elements of the Bell Tower.

dsc_7650Across the street from the roundabout stands the equally important Drum Tower.

dsc_7661The Bell Tower and roundabout in 1960.

dsc_7664The beam and purlin system that supports the big roof of Bell Tower.

dsc_7668Close up of the beams and purlins.

dsc_7665Walking out to the deck of the upper level.

dsc_7705A smaller version of the famous Jingyun Bell (cast in AD711 during Tang Dynasty) was on display on the Bell Tower.

dsc_7708Stair back down to the base of the Bell Tower.

dsc_7736Bell and Drum Tower Square adjacent to the Bell Tower roundabout.

dsc_7743The Drum Tower as seen from the Bell and Drum Tower Square.

dsc_7750Dumpling dinner at De Fa Chang Restaurant.