Barranca Mexican Restaurant

This is another quick post to let you know about a new Mexican Restaurant in Daimyo, called “Barranca”.  It had it’s grand opening on December 14th, and I knew about it but hadn’t gotten a chance to pop round and take a look until last weekend. It’s really nice!

It’s a large restaurant and bar, the interior is very spacious and interesting. I particularly like the Horse sculpture made up of pieces of wood in the centre of the ground floor. The menu also boasts 100 kinds of Mojito and 100 kinds of Tequila!

As I’d been a bit ill a couple of days earlier I opted for a non-alcoholic peach Mojito and it was very refreshing.  Also the food was good, we had chilli con carne and corn on the cob as appetizers, a fajita and quesdilla as a main, along with a pork chop. When the fajita was bought out they set it aflame, which personally I think adds to the flavour!

I’d really recommend going to check this place out, it may be worth making a reservation, when we went there were no tables free for 30minutes but then we got lucky with a cancellation.

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This fetching mask is actually like their business card

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The address is:

1-2-10 Daimyo, Chuo-Ku, Fukuoka-shi, 821-0041

福岡市中央区大名1-2-10

They also have a website, where you can see more photos, sorry I was too hungry and just wolfed everything down!:

http://www.opefac.com

Hokusai exhibition

So my favourite art museum in Fukuoka has a great exhibition on at the moment of work by Hokusai, the artist famous for his sketches and wood block prints. Included in the exhibition are the 36 views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景), the well known wave picture (The Great Wave Off Kanagawa – 神奈川沖浪裏) and red Mount Fuji picture (South Wind, Clear Sky -凱風快晴) are part of this collection. Also there are a range of pictures from his travels between Tokyo and Kyoto, some horror pieces and works by his contemporaries.

Entry to the exhibition costs ¥1,200. It runs until February 15th (Sunday). Also on at the moment is a Love exhibition that runs across 3 museums in Fukuoka, this is also interesting and is free to enter if you bought the ticket to the Hokusai exhibition. On it’s own this exhibition costs ¥200. This exhibition may prove a nice outing for Valentine’s Day! For more information about both exhibitions see the link below:

http://faam.city.fukuoka.lg.jp/eng/exhibition/exd_index.html

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Postcard bought at the Hokusai exhibition – one of the 36 views of Mount Fuji (South wind, clear skies blue version)
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Another postcard I bought from the exhibition, I don’t know the name of this picture in English
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Information leaflet for the exhibition

 

 

 

First Shrine Visit of the Year – Miyajidake Shrine

A bit late, but better than never, we made the first shrine visit of the year to Miyajidake Shrine. Going to visit a shrine in the first few days following New Year is a Japanese tradition.

Miyajidake is the shrine my boyfriends family usually visit. It’s on a hill near Miyajihama beach and you can see the sea when you climb the stairs to the shrine. Apparently the large straw decoration at this shrine is the largest in Japan. We came here to pray and ask for good luck for the year ahead. We bought some charms to give us good fortune this year and wrote some wishes on small wooden boards called “絵馬” a wooden plaque, pronounced “ema” (what a great name for it!) . We also paid ¥100 each for a “みくじ” (mikuji) or good luck fortune. It’s a little drawer with a lucky dip of fortunes inside, we both got a little luck, nooooooooo! Then my boyfriend tried again and got big luck woop! Not quite sure that’s how it works but anyway!

On the way up to the shrine
On the way up to the shrine

 

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People waiting to pray
People waiting to pray

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Wooden ema plaques

At the back of the temple are more little shrines, where you can pray for different specific things, like good health, love, wealth etc. This shrine also has a “古墳” (kofun) an ancient tomb. It’s like a burial mound, there are numerous large ones in Sakai in Osaka, where one of my friends used to live. I’ve never seen the inside of one before, they have made the entrance of this small kofun into another area to pray.

Fox shrine
Fox shrine

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Hopes for love in 2015
Inside the Kofun
Inside the Kofun

If you come here to this region, I’d recommend coming in summer, where as well as the temple you can go to the beach. It is very popular in summer and good for body boarding! Both the beach and shrine are not so far from JR Fukuma station, you could get a bus or taxi, it may not be that far to walk as well.

2015! New Year! Year of the Sheep!

I know it’s a little slow but Happy 2015 everybody!!! I hope everyone’s first couple of weeks have gone well! I’m actually feeling a hint of pride, as I’ve managed to keep blogging for 1 whole year! It’s been a bit inconsistent but still I did it! I’ve looked back to last years blog post about New Year to check my New Year Resolutions, and they are basically the same as the ones I made this year oh no!

But of course there are things I let slide last year, we all do it, it happens! Actually my first and main New Years Resolution for 2015 is to be kinder to myself and others, so I’m not going to be too hard on myself for letting my New Years Resolutions slide last year. Also it’s good to make New Years Resolutions but not if keeping them is going to really stress  you out. I found myself a lot last year getting stressed very easily and feeling frantic, and also that I spent a lot of time just waiting for things to happen. This year I want to relax, worry less about tiny things and if I am waiting for whatever reason, use that time productively to get something done!

My others are similar to last year,

– speak Japanese.

– pass N2 level Japanese (which means study more!!)

– work out 3 times a week, if I can’t do that just find more drive to want to work out, so it doesn’t feel like a chore, make it more enjoyable for myself somehow!

– try harder at everything!

– watch less TV, use that time productively or if I really feel like I want to relax, read a book or watch something more interesting and thought provoking!

– be awesome! Don’t make excuses for myself, do my best and do it well!

I wanted to finish with something interesting so here are links to two websites.

The first is a list of questions that allows you to reflect on last year, and also asks you questions about what you truly want to get out of this year! If you are struggling to make New Years Resolutions this might help.

http://into-mind.com/2014/12/16/your-year-in-review-50-questions-to-help-you-reflect-appreciate-and-get-excited-for-2015/

The 2nd is a link to the best TED talks of 2014, I wonder what interesting topics there will be talks about this year.

https://www.ted.com/playlists/215/the_most_popular_talks_of_2014

Have a good year everyone!

A spot of Christmas mulled wine!

Crimbo is coming!!! Yeah!!! I love Christmas! It has already started to get very cold as well, and with snow predicted in the next few days, what better way to warm up then with a glass of nice warm mulled wine!

So outside Hakata station from now until Christmas Day, there is a Christmas market with some various cute stalls selling handmade Christmas decorations, beeswax candles, and other knick knacks. They also have some food stalls and they sell mulled wine there. I would say generally most things at this market are rather overpriced, I believe the wine costs ¥1000. You do get to keep the mug it comes in at least. If you don’t drink alcohol there is also a nice mug of warmed grape juice as well that is a little cheaper.

In Daimyo, recently a shop called “Ron Herman” has opened. They have a cafe and a shop that sells high end clothes, kitchenware, jewellery and bath products.  The cafe is really nice as well, again the food and drinks on sale are a bit pricey, a smoothie costs ¥1200. They also sell mulled wine though and it’s lovely!

Mulled wine in Ron Herman

Recently me and my friends frequented the “Moomin Cafe” in Canal City, my first time. It’s really cute! They sell Glogi, which is Finnish for mulled wine. You can get it hot or cold for ¥680, it’s non-alcoholic, but for an extra ¥50 you can make it alcoholic.

Glogi from the Moomin Cafe Snork Maiden and Sniff in the Moomin Cafe

Obviously you could always make your own mulled wine as well, we got a recipe off the internet last year and made our own! It probably works out more expensive to buy all the ingredients, however you will have a massive batch of wine rather than one cup! The wine we made turned out pretty nice!

This is my last post until probably after Christmas as I’m going back home for the holidays, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

Kuju-san

I’ve been off hiking again! This time me and my boyfriend’s family hiked Mount Kuju (九重山) in Oita prefecture. This trip was probably my fourth to this area, and I have to say Kuju and the Aso-Kuju National Park is beautiful! If you are not into hiking but have a valid driving license out here, it’s definitely worth a trip, the scenery in the park is spectacular.

Anyway we had rented a house, in a complex called “Forest Hills” in Yufuin, so we were based in the area so we didn’t have so far to drive. We woke up early, and the got to see Yufuin covered in a sea of morning mist, was quite a beautiful start to our day!

Morning mist in Yufuin
Morning mist in Yufuin

We drove from here to the start of our hike at the Makinoto-pass, which has a small shop to buy coffee and ice cream, but is basically just a place to leave the car while hiking the mountain. To the left side of the car park is the start of the route, and there is a box where you can fill in information about your party in case you go missing or have some accident while hiking.

Marker at the start of the hike!
Marker at the start of the hike!

From here we walked up a rather steep concrete path for around 15 minutes, before the real hike began and the concrete vanished and we were walked a dirt path with many rocks and boulders in our way. There were also ladders and wooden steps we had to climb at one point, but after the initial climb the way stayed fairly flat until we arrived just under the summit of Mount Kuju.

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We could see many other hikers on the path ahead of us

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There are good signs the whole route of this hike, something I like about this one is the road forks several times, at one point there are 2 other routes available both easily signposted. We were quite keen to try Hossho-san, as the route looked quite challenging, maybe next time!

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There it is – Mount Kuju!

The path stayed fairly flat until we got to just underneath Mount Kuju, here we had a descent that was extremely rocky and then levelled out to a nice rest stop. Here there was a toilet and many people were scattered around looking at the views over Aso and eating lunch.

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Smoke from Mount Aso rises in the distance

Then there was another very rocky ascent, this part of the way is quite tricky as you can’t see a particularly clear path. You just have to keep looking at your feet and picking the best way between the rocks. From here we managed to hike to the top fairly fast.  While climbing the rocky ascent the path forks and if you go to the right, you can climb Naka-dake instead if you wish, this is the highest peak on Kyushu island at 1791m, 5m higher than Mount Kuju.

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We did it!

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The summit – 1786m!

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We did this hike in the last weekend in November and had glorious weather, unfortunately the weather has turned and it’s much colder now. The way up from the rest stop to the summit of Kuju-san has yellow spots painted on rocks en route, in case of bad weather so you can more easily find the path. Also this hike took us about 6 hours with some stops for food, coming back to the car was very quick.

There is a apparently a bus you can take that drops you at the Makinoto pass, that goes from a number of different cities in Kyushu. It’s called the Kyushu Odan Bus, you can’t catch it from Fukuoka but you could get the train to Kumamoto or Beppu and go from there, although it’s probably easier to hire a car.

http://www.kyusanko.co.jp/sankobus_top/

I really enjoyed this hike, and as I said at the beginning of this post, even if you are not planning on hiking the area, the region is really beautiful. As the winter season is here, going for a drive through the mountains and stopping in some onsen towns is also an option.  Chains are recommended on your tyres if you are driving in the region while snow is on the ground.

Think the next hike on my list is Yakushima, not exactly that close to Fukuoka, for now I think the hiking is on hold until it gets a bit warmer!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

So I’m a MASSIVE Harry Potter fan! This post is just a short piece about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka, and what you need to do in order to enter that section of the park.

You need to get a special timed entry ticket to enter this area of the park during busy periods.  Using the Loppi ticket machines found in certain convenience stores, you can reserve in advance a fast pass ticket booklet.  If you get the set of 5 or 7 fast pass tickets, these include entry to “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” inside Hogwarts. This will allow you entry into the Harry Potter area as well, and will let you queue jump the line for this attraction once you’re inside.

However when me and my friends went to USJ, it was a Sunday on a three day weekend in October during Halloween season! All these fast pass booklets were sold out!!! In this case though it is still possible to get a timed entry ticket into the Harry Potter area!

There are machines inside the park, around the entrance to the Amityville section of the park, where one member of your party can queue up with all of the party’s entry tickets, to select a time slot to enter the Harry Potter zone. We arrived around 8:30-9am and were still able to get an entry slot for around 10am! So if you arrive around the park opening time you should definitely be fine! I would say arriving in the afternoon could mean you miss out though.

You can enter between the times listed on your timed entry ticket, and once inside you can stay as long as you like, but once you leave you can’t re-enter the Harry Potter area. And I believe they only issue one timed entry ticket per person per day!

Even though it was really busy when we went I thoroughly enjoyed it!!! All the food available to buy inside is delicious!! One point is there is a very long line for the sweet shop, if you only want to buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans there is a small separate cart selling those.

Below are pictures, if you don’t want to see spoilers of inside the Harry Potter area, don’t scroll down!

The Hogwarts Express!
The Hogwarts Express!
Oishi Butterbeer!
Oishi Butterbeer!
In "The Three Broomsticks"!!
In “The Three Broomsticks”!!
Hogwarts!!!!
Hogwarts!!!!
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Queue for ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” going through the Hogwart’s greenhouses.

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Inside the Castle!
Inside the Castle!

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Waiting to enter the sweet shop!
Waiting to enter the sweet shop!

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The Ford Anglia
The entrance to Hogwarts!
The entrance to Hogwarts!
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