ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “sakura

DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT, Yangon, Myanmar

After Shwedagon Pagoda, we took a taxi back to Downtown Yangon.  Despite the taxi driver got lost on the way, we did eventually find our way on foot to LinkAge, a social development restaurant and art gallery that offers delicious food to customers and cooking training to local street kids.

DSC_3354Established by NGO Forever Humanitarian and Development Projects, LinkAge is situated on the upper level of an old apartment block on Mahabandoola Garden Street.

DSC_3349The time was a bit late but there were still several tables of customers in the restaurant.

DSC_3346The ambience was causal and relaxing, a perfect venue to have a local beer and chill out after a long day of sightseeing in Yangon.

DSC_3352We ordered lentil soup and curry shrimps.  The food was decent and reasonably priced.

DSC_3356After the meal, we wandered around Downtown Yangon where streets and shops were still quite busy.

DSC_3358We walked past some of the street vendors who had spent the entire day on the streets.

DSC_3360We also passed by some of the city’s spectacular colonial architecture.  Standing beside the High Court since 1917, the Myanma Post and Telecommunications (Central Telegraph Office) is another piece of fine architectural gem.  Today, the former communication hub still offers counters for sending telegrams and emails.

DSC_3362Soon, we arrived at the Ayeyarwady Bank building (former Rowe & Co. Department Store) again.  The former Rowe & Co. Department Store was covered with splendid Christmas lights.

DSC_3364Across the street from Ayeyarwady Bank, the street market along the east side of Maha Bandula Park was still running.

DSC_3374The north side of Maha Bandula Park across the street from Sule Pagada and City Hall was much more crowded than the morning.

DSC_3380A large crowd gathered for the live music performances on the stage where we passed by in the morning.

DSC_3390When we arrived, the performer was playing the guitar and singing in Burmese.  For some reason, the Burmese songs did sound a little like Japanese to us.

DSC_3402Where there were people gathering in Yangon we would always find street food vendors.

DSC_3403Many cars just stopped by the roadside to absorb the atmosphere of the performances, even public buses.

DSC_3412A little further from the main stage, other vendors were selling festive stuff like illuminated wands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course there were also helium balloons for the festival crowds.

DSC_3418Just a stone throw away from the crowds at Maha Bandula Park, Sule Pagoda continued to bathe in its peaceful spirituality.

DSC_3426On our way back to Loft Hotel, we climbed onto the pedestrian overpass north of Sule Pagoda.  The overpass was originally constructed by the junta government where soldiers could shoot at an out-of-control political demonstration in front of the Sule Pagoda, an iconic and popular venue for massive protests.

DSC_3443The Christmas tree in front of Sakura Tower reminded us that Christmas 2017 was just around the corner.

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DAY 1 – FEAST UNDER THE SHADES OF SAKURA, Mount Yoshino (2 of 2), Japan

If one wishes to burn some calories with uphill hiking, Mount Yoshino may not be a good destination, especially during the hanami season.  In fact, hiking on Mount Yoshino during cherry blossoms would likely become a journey for tasting local delicacies. DSC_8733This vendor was selling made-to-order imagawayaki. It is a popular Japanese snack like a thick pancake with sweet azuki bean paste. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe tried a few kinds of freshly made mochi.  They were perfect complement to a cup of warm green tea. DSC_9058A store is selling fresh amago (Angel Fish) on the sidewalk. Amago is commonly found in the mountainous rivers and streams. With its vertical strips and pink dots, Amago is highly recognizable. DSC_8719Grilled amago (Angel Fish) skewer was a popular snack. DSC_8736This store was selling sakura products of all kinds: sakura tea bag, sakura salt, sakura candies, sakura scened papers… OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARice crackers, round or square… OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFresh ingredients are the soul of Japanese cuisine. Spring must be the season for fresh mushrooms and bamboo shoots. During our hike, we met a vendor grilling fresh mushrooms. He waved at us and asked us where we came from. He introduced  his own organic mushrooms to us. We picked up a bag of dried mushroom from him. DSC_8743 The skewers in the pictures are fresh bamboo shoots. After we placed the order, the shop owner dipped a bamboo shoot skewer into a tempura batter and deep fried it.The bamboo shoot tempura was served with sakura salt. It was very delicious. No wonder why there was a long queue in front of the store. DSC_9057We couldn’t bring the local sake back home but we were lucky to have a chance to sample some local sake. DSC_9068It was almost sunset and most visitors had started descending. On our way back to the train station, we passed by a store selling kusa mochi, a Japanese sweet made from the leaves of Japanese mugwort.  Through a side window we could see some of the preparation process.  The store was near closing and the chef was preparing the dough.  We couldn’t resist but bought a few freshly made mochi with red bean filling. IMG_0268“Persimmon leaf sushi”, sushi wrapped in preserved persimmon leaf, is popular in the Nara area since the Nara period. it can last in room temperature for about 2 days, kind of perfect for hiking.  We bought a box of persimmon leaf sushi from a store near Yoshino train station. The store put up a big sign that said  “自家製”, meaning “homemade”.  Obviously it  caught our attention. IMG_0274We bought a box of persimmon leaf sushi from the Yoshino station before our hike.  We couldn’t find a good time to open it during our hike.  Instead, we had the box of sushi as breakfast in the next morning. Each sushi was neatly wrapped.  At first, we were skeptical about the taste as we never had “overnight” sushi before.  They turned out to be a pleasant surprise. These sushi had been preserved with seasoned rice vinegar.  A subtle aromatic flavor from the persimmon leaf lingered in the rice.

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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino 
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka


DAY 1 – HANAMI, Mount Yoshino (1 of 2), Japan

After some light sleep on a 4-hour red-eye flight, we landed at Kansai International Airport at 6:30am on a Saturday morning.  Our vacation officially kicked off.  As we stepped out of the plane, we took a deep breath of the cool and refreshing air which reminded us of a familiar smell of the North American spring.  At the airport, it took us over an hour dealing with all the business related to train passes (Haruka & ICOCA, JR West Wide Area Pass, and Hanshin Tourist Pass).  At last, we hopped onto a Haruka Express and headed towards Tennoji Station in Osaka. A promising weather forecast for the afternoon prompted us to make up our mind on our first destination of the trip – a leisure stroll among the famous Mount Yoshino’s (吉野山) cherry blossoms.  After dropping off our luggage at our hotel, we walked over to Abenobashi Station hoping to purchase tickets for a limited express train to Yoshino.  Unfortunately, the staff of Kintetsu, the private corporation that runs exclusive train services to Yoshino, told us that all the morning limited express train tickets for the entire weekend had been sold out.  Not a surprise to us as hanami (flower viewing) is very popular among the locals.  We had no choice but to take the slower express train departing in 20 minutes.  We rushed into a convenient store in the station and grabbed several onigiri (seaweed wrapped rice balls with a variety of salty fillings) and a can of hot coffee. The train ride took about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  We arrived at Yoshino Station at around 12:30pm.  The station and its forecourt were packed with visitors and food vendors.  Two options laid in front of us, either queuing for the short cable car ride or stepping on the paved path that meandered all the way from Shimo Senbon section (Lower Thousand Trees) at the base, to Naka Senbon (Mid Thousand Trees), and up to Kami Senbon (Upper Thousand Trees) and Oku Senbon (Top Thousand Trees) near the top.  We chose to walk.  Along the way, cherry blossoms were everywhere, both along the footpath or upon mountain slopes across the valley.  Despite the peak of blossoms were already over by about a week at Shimo Senbon and Naka Senbon, thanks to the cooler micro-climate, the upper sections of Kami Senbon and Oku Senbon were still at their peak.  Souvenir shops, food vendors, restaurants, and ryokan, along with religious shrines and Buddhist temples lined up the uphill route.  This unique combination of cherry blossoms, historical temples, and handmade local delicacies made Mount Yoshino a worthy destination inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List. 1Loads of visitors arrived at Yoshino Station from cities all over Kansai. 2Mount Yoshino has the country’s oldest surviving aerial lift. 3After a night of rain, much of the remaining cherry blossoms at Shimo Senbon (Lower Thousand Trees) had fallen. 4.1Some cherry blossoms still managed to cling onto the branches at Shimo Senbon (Lower Thousand Trees). 4The gateway signified the entrance into Shimo Senbon’s main street, where vendors lined up along the way uphill. 5Kinpusenji Temple contains Japan’s second largest timber structure.  We were fortunate to enter the main hall and have a glimpse of the three gigantic Zao gongen statues. 7.5Clear sky finally arrived at about 3pm. 7As we approached Kami Senbon (Upper Thousand Trees), more lookouts allowed visitors to enjoy the panoramic views of cherry blossoms across the valley. 8The beauty of Mount Yoshino came from the multi-layering of blossom colours. 11Local Japanese, be it a group of family members, a couple or a solo visitor, usually take their time sitting under the cherry blossom to eat, drink and chat. 12A photographer set up a platform next to a tea pavilion offering free photo shooting for visitors at the top of the Hami Sendon section. When posing, most of the locals invariably made a “V” sign with their fingers. The owner of a tea house set up an outdoor patio in an open area where visitors could dine under tree canopies. This also turned out to be a perfect lookout for an unobstructed view towards the valley.  All visitors were required to take off their shoes before stepping onto the patio’s bamboo mat. There were many small wooden pavilions designed as resting areas on Mount Yoshino. They were thoughtfully designed with low walls and large openings that serve like picture frames, capturing the beauty of mountainous landscape. There were many street vendors selling beverage and snack but this one was the most special among all. The vendor had his little stall set up at an lookout point. The vendor furnished the open area with bright red chairs, floor mats and paper umbrella. We bought a sakura flavored ice-cream and sat down to rest a bit. 16Sun break.  Finally, near sunset.

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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino 
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka