{travel} November ’16: Takao

I feel like I’m never going to catch up with all of these exchange semester posts. Ahhhhh. I arrived in Germany on the fifth (Sunday), and I have been kind of busy since then. Had Monday to unpack and relax a bit before having to head to the Netherlands for university. I didn’t find an apartment in The Hague (but I also kind of didn’t look hard enough), so this semester I will be commuting from Düsseldorf to The Hague. It works out kind of well because it’s only about two and a half hours by train, and because I only have classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning I can just sleep over at friends’ Tuesday night and hence have to do that train trip only once per week. Sure, it’s a bit sad because I will literally have no social life because I won’t see my friends, like, ever, except on Tuesday during my free hours and maybe Wednesday morning … but at the same time I’m kind of excited to get to live with my family and bother and annoy them a bit. I can also work at my old summer job place again (a vegan restaurant), so yeah, got the money part covered, too. And since this semester is the last, but also the busiest because I have to do an important project and write my bachelor thesis, maybe it’s kind of good to be living with my mother who’s going to cook and do my laundry and stop me from jumping out the window (love you, mom ♥). So yeah.

Anyway, this post wasn’t technically supposed to be a life update, but another snippet or whatever from my life in Kyoto. So let’s get into that. Today I want to write a bit about Takao. Takao is a mountainous area, located in the North of Kyoto. (kind of behind Arashiyama? Kind of. Or at least not too far off. *geography queen, obviously*) There’s three famous, historic temples in that area: Kozanji Temple, Jingoji Temple, and Saimyoji Temple. Like pretty much everything in Kyoto, Takao is most beautiful (and most popular) in fall, particularly in November, when the fall foliage starts coming out. So that is why a friend and I decided to go in early November, to get the most out of it.

Takao is connected to central Kyoto by bus. There is the JR bus that leaves from Kyoto Station, and also the City Bus 8 that leaves from Shijo-Karasuma. Both busses take around 45 to 50 minutes to reach Takao.

My friend and I decided to take the city bus, but the bus was so crowded and stuffy and hot that after approximately twenty minutes I felt super sick and asked to get off early. (Pretty sure my friend hated me in that moment, oops.) And then, since busses don’t come that frequently, we decided to just walk the remaining distance to Takao instead of waiting thirty minutes for the next (probably crowded) bus. The weather was amazing and the surroundings beautiful, so it wasn’t all too bad.

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{travel} November ’16: Shoren-In Fall Illumination

One of the reasons why every travel website out there will tell you that November is one of the best months to be in Kyoto is that, throughout that month, a lot of temples in Kyoto organize beautiful, otherworldly (lol, that word choice) fall night illuminations, where they extend their opening hours until after sunset and light up part of the temple and temple garden. Today I want to talk about one of those illuminations I visited with some of my friends in early November: the Shoren-In Fall Night Illumination.

Remember my blog post about Chion-In? Shoren-In is essentially right next to it. I took another google maps screenshot to illustrate. I’m loving these screenshots, as you can see.

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The temple is only a twenty-minute-walk away from Sanjo Keihan Station at Sanjo Bridge, and also pretty easily and quickly accessible from Maruyama Park, Yasaka Shrine and Gion. To enter the temple, we had to pay 800 yen, which at first might seem quite expensive – but trust me, it was totally worth every single yen. Continue reading

{food} Vegan In Japan [1]: Morpho Café, Kyoto

Konnichi Wa! Today is the day that I want to introduce you to another “series” *pretentiouuuuus, me sorryyyyy*  (or whatever this is). Vegan In Japan, as the name already indicates, will be all about my vegan restaurant finds, my struggles with finding food and some (hopefully helpful) tips for leading a plant-based life style in Japan.

Being vegan in Japan is pretty challenging, even if you are able to read product labels. That’s because the Japanese seem to love putting animal products into everything, even when it’s probably completely unnecessary. Like, why is there milk and egg in virtually all the bread you can find in regular super markets? If it’s sweet bread, sure, I get it … but do you really need to put milk and eggs in regular toast bread? Also, why is there milk in most pasta sauces, even if it’s just a simple one? Why is there gelatin or fish stock in almost all salad dressings? WHY JAPAN?

So yeah, you can imagine that veganism – even just vegetarianism – is a concept that is still very unknown to the general Japanese public. However, thanks to globalization and the increased flow and moving around of people across the globe and blabla *international studies student right here* concepts and ideas such as plant-based, cruelty-free and animal rights have become known to more and more people. As a result, more and more vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafés have started to emerge, especially in big cities, and convenience stores and super markets are offering more and more vegan- and vegetarian-friendly products, such as soy meat for example.

Kyoto in particular is known as the vegan capital of Japan. Famous foods of Kyoto include a variety of different types of tofu and vegetables. Since there are also many, many, many temples in Kyoto, there are many Buddhist monks living a strict vegetarian lifestyle, which is why it is also easy to find traditional shojin ryouri, (vegetarian) Buddhist temple cuisine.

In- and outside of the city centre, there are also a lot of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, most of which are easily accessible and quite affordable. Today I want to talk about one of them: Morpho Café, probably one of my favourite restaurants in Kyoto.

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