Department stores

Japan is a consumer market, people love to spend, buy, they love brands, but they also love details, nice things, brands, luxury, quality. Along with that, for over a century, there have been a lot of department stores (Takashimaya, Matsuzakaya, Isetan, Mitsukoshi, etc)

My favourite remains Isetan for the B1F, food department and the 5F, tableware. I must say I also like Takashimaya historical building in Nihombashi for the architecture and the style.

They sell beautiful cakes made by Dominique Ansel and delicious Swiss Chocolate Laederach that I highly recommend

If you ever read The Ginger Tree, wonderful book written by Oswald Wynd, you will read part of the development of these stores in the early 1900’s

 

Takao #2

There is one place I love when going to Takao san, it is their restaurant Ukai! This is a beautiful way to finish the day in style, you can either hike in the morning and have a lunch or hike at leisure and get an early dinner, the last order is at 19h00 so dont miss out,

the restaurant is composed of old traditional houses they brought to create a village, each house is a “table” and there are houses for kitchen, service, etc. it is set in the woods with lovely gardens, it is a moment in time

 

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Food is about traditional cuisine, tofu, grilled chicken, river fish grilled in the park, tatami room, waiter in traditional attires, count between 7500 and JPY 10000 all included depending on your menu choice, it is a real experience, good food, good service, but extraordinary day!

 

Okayama #2 – Kurashiki

Kurashiki is only 15mn train away from Okayama, it is the Little Kyoto on canals with the famous ivy square, it is also know to be the place for Momotaro denim and handycraft

Beautiful village, you have to walk about 15mn from the train station to find the historical area and the shops but it is very well signposted.

Even the Telegraph wrote on how slower the pace is there, it is quiet, peaceful, relaxing, very nice day out, we spent half day and it was enough but we enjoyed very much the place

 

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Okayama #1

Okayama is a city located 30mn away from Kobe and 45mn from Osaka to the south. It is said to be the city of eternal spring, beautiful weather at all time.

After spending a week end there, I can say it is a quiet place worth 2 days and 1 night. We stayed at the ANA Crowne Plaza and loved it, very friendly team, very good breakfast, the hotel is directly connected to the station so very convenient.

What I liked about the city

  • Okayama castle, just another castle to me, but this one is all black and very elegant
  • Korakuen which is one of the 3 most beautiful gardens of Japan, it is smaller than the one in Kanazawa but also worth a visit, it took me 2 hours to explore, it is very peaceful, I got to see the tea plantation, but also red head cranes, beautiful and there were prayers in the temple which I loved, it added to the peace
  • Food is good although nothing really special outside of the yellow chives and of course the peach/momo (with the story of Momotaro)
  • People are friendly, easy going, you feel no stress
  • One thing that surprised me and I did not know is that the region produces blue jeans, called Momotaro Jeans, and you can see them everywhere, did you know?

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Kappabashi

This is an area in the north of Tokyo, close to Asakusa and Ueno, walking distance from both and at metro stop Tawaramachi where you can find all you need to cook

This long street is full of kitchen utensils shops, initially dedicated to restaurants but that grew for tourists and individuals. anything you want is there at very good prices

worth a visit, if you are into cooking, I spent 3 hours there wandering on a Saturday

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Tea Ceremony

This will remain as one of the highlights of my 2018 stay in Japan. A friend invited to join a tea ceremony class in April.

I was blown away by the level of quality, precision and meditation in there. We spent a couple of hours and every minute was inspiring, full of information. I was told this is one of the Zen pillars and I wish I would have time to continue the journey and take this class on a regular basis.

 

from the way you present the matcha in its box, to the  type of bowl you will use depending on the season, the way you open the door, close it, listen to the sound of water, respect the kakemono, walk across the room, everything is thought. loved it, absolutely loved it

Happo-en Tokyo

On a Saturday lunch time, I went out to picnic in the Shirokanedai area, in the Tokyo University park. Across the road, I discovered the wonderful Happo-en.

This is a place that gives you serenity, calm, peace in the heart of the city, suddenly, you forget about the noise, the cars, and the daily life.

The park has a collection of bonsai, a banqueting space and a tea ceremony house that you may book although I have heard they dont always reply