Monthly Archives: January 2013

kelseydo a night out in kyoto on the cheap

Things in Japan can be really cheap but they can also be really expensive. There’s something for everyone’s budget I guess. Being a student means I have to put a lot more thought into where I spend money, especially when I have literally no budget for going out.

Of course it always costs less to stay in, but that can get old pretty quickly. Plus it’s important to get out and be social. I think if we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, we should spend at least that much time socializing.

Owning a bicycle and not being afraid to ride it in a variety of conditions is important. Free transportation is the first key to success when it comes to going out in Kyoto on the cheap.

Bicycle to and from your evening excursion Pros: It’s free,you don’t have to worry about missing the last bus home and you don’t have to shell out for a cab Cons: Bicycle parking can be rare downtown Kyoto and if you park illegally it is highly possible your bike will be impounded. Also, if you drink too much you will either injure yourself severely, have to walk that bike home, or leave it downtown and get it the next day when you don’t want to get out of bed.

Parking spot?

Parking spot?

Eat a deep fried snack at the izakaya There are many cheap and cheerful places to enjoy drinks and food but a couple of my favorites for a spontaneous (AND CHEAP) night out are Torikizoku and じぽんぐ (Jipongu).

Torikizoku has a couple locations in Kyoto, including Kitano Hakubaicho & Kawaramachi so depending on how far you want to get from home you can take your pick. I like Torikizoku because everything on the menu is 280 yen ($3.11) including large jugs of beer, a plate of fries or a couple skewers of delicious meat + onion…you can’t go wrong. The ambience is also good even though its a cheap chain it still has a bit of a rustic pub feel with the wooden interior.

Everything 280 yen

Everything 280 yen

280 yen beers

280 yen beers

Jipongu is great for meeting up with large groups but can be busy around 9-11pm on Friday or Saturday night. A pint of beer is only 200 yen ($2.22), which is usually all I order here but you can get small plates for under 500 yen ($5.54). The atmosphere is nice and actually seems a little upscale considering your only paying a couple bucks for beer.

Wall Art @ Jipongu

Wall Art @ Jipongu

Usually I’ve had my fill of beer by now and its time to engage in some other activity beyond sitting and drinking.

Dance at Butterfly & get a free drink If you go to Butterfly on a Friday or Saturday night before 10pm there is no cover for women and only 500 yen ($5.54) cover for men, both get a complimentary drink. The music is generally top 40 club and rap anthems so after about an hour it starts to get repetitive but until then it is a total riot. If you go after 10pm the price for entry increases and it doesn’t seem desirable to me at all.

At Butterfly Club

At Butterfly Club

Find a hole in the wall There are many small bars on the 3rd and 4th floor of random buildings and they are usually always interesting for at least one drink. Usually drinks at these types of places are about 600 yen ($6.65) so I like to order a Long Island Tea which is generally just 4 ounces of alcohol, you will only need to order one: money well spent! A couple smaller bars I like in Kyoto: ING , AF JAM (still searching!) and some busier drinking spots: HUB, RUB A DUB, A-Bar

ING Bar

ING Bar

Ooh where does this go?

Ooh where does this go?

I still can't find The Dylan I

I still can’t find The Dylan I

Sing your heart out If you didn’t bike downtown, and you missed the last bus, you have the choice to pay for a cab or stay out all night until the first trains start in the morning around 6am. The best thing to do at this point is to go home (if you have that kind of self-will at this drunken moment) but if you’re still in the mood to party- head to Karaoke. It’s open all night, so you and your friends can get a private booth, take turns singing and curling up to catch some zzz’s on the comfortable couches. I like to bring in a snack and a drink from the nearest convenience store (this is something you should enjoy without the karaoke staff knowing). Generally you will pay around 1000 yen ($11.08) to hang out at Karaoke for the rest of the night and the morning train will only be around 200 yen ($2.22) to get home.

Karaoke Room

Karaoke Room

Something I always forget to do when I get home: SHOWER and WASH MY CLOTHES! Smoking is allowed at most establishments in Kyoto and you are going to smell like an ashtray when you get home. Having a shower and throwing your clothes in the wash is a must. There is nothing worse than waking up hungover and having everything smell like cigarette smoke. Barf.

There are lots of 食べ放題Tabehoudai/飲み放題Nomihoudai’s (all you can eat/drink for around 2500 yen/$27.70) which are great for large 飲み会nomikai (drinking parties) but I am more interested in the hole in the wall type places at this point. Apparently Osaka has a lot more nightlife but I have yet to travel that far for bar hopping!

The tornado wiener at Chifaja Yakiniku

The tornado wiener at Chifaja tabehoudai…weird, very weird

All-you-can-eat ice cream at Chifaja tabehoudai

All-you-can-eat ice cream at Chifaja tabehoudai

All-you-can-eat Kalbi Beef

Cooking our Kalbi Beef at Chifaja tabehoudai

Cooking our food at Chifaja all-you-can-eat yakiniku + salad + ice cream for 2000 yen ($22.16)

Cooking our food at Chifaja all-you-can-eat yakiniku + salad + ice cream for 2000 yen ($22.16)

I am still searching for good, cheap places to go to in Kyoto, so if you have any recommendations or you want to come find some fun spots with me  feel free to join in! かんぱい!kanpai!

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kelseydo Tea Ceremony

Today the Ritsumeikan High School students held a free temple tour and tea ceremony at the temple 春光院 Shunkoin  in 妙心寺 Myoushinji. This temple complex is located very close to my University and I occasionally bike home through it. Every time I bike through the complex I feel like I am on some kind of Edo period film set, but then I realize I am actually riding my bike through something that was built over 300 years ago. No big deal, totally casual.

The students introduced the culture of Zen Buddhism in relation to the art and architecture of the temple. They explained that the art in each room has never had to be restored because the paint is made from minerals and sunlight does not enter the rooms. Also, all of the paintings are done from the perspective of someone seated in the middle of the room on the floor as they would have been viewed. Because there was no electricity, a lot of gold paint was used so that when the doors were opened, the light would reflect off the walls and brighten the room. The wooden beams and doors are each made from a single tree, making them extremely solid and valuable.

妙心寺 MYOUSHINJI

妙心寺 MYOUSHINJI

Wall Painting

Wall Painting

Chair for the assistant to the Master of Ceremonies

Chair for the assistant to the Master of Ceremonies (I got to sit here and ding the dong)

Wall Painting

Wall Painting

Wooden Doors

Solid Wooden Doors

I really enjoyed the tea ceremony because I have heard how formal and long tea ceremonies can be, but the high school students were informal (although still dressed in Furisode– a Kimono for unmarried women with long sleeves) and gave us more of a tutorial version which I appreciated for my first time. We shared some sweets made of rice flour and then mixed our own matcha. Matcha is powdered green tea. It is quite bitter but not so hard to swallow after eating sweets. Apparently matcha was drank by Samurai (military nobility of Japan) before going to battle so that they could stay alert while fighting.

Traditional Sweets

Traditional Sweets

My sweet- a spring flower that blooms before the winter cold ends

My sweet- a spring flower that blooms before the winter cold ends

My matcha- before stirring

My matcha- before stirring

My matcha- after stirring (it was not easy!)

My matcha- after stirring (it was not easy!)

A common saying used in the tea ceremony is “Ichi-go ichi-e” 一期一会 which means “once in a lifetime chance”. I really do feel like my year in Japan is a once in a lifetime chance! Thank you to everyone for supporting me, I couldn’t have done it without you. ありがとうございます!

A Kindergarten at the Myoushinji complex

A Kindergarten at the Myoushinji complex

Statues outside of a Kindergarten in the Myoushinji Complex

Statues outside of a Kindergarten in the Myoushinji Complex

kelseydo Yatsuhashi

Omiyage (souvenirs) are a huge thing in Japan. Every city or village has it’s own special local souvenir that can only be purchased there and is a must-buy for anyone passing through that area. Usually omiyage are some kind of wagashi (Japanese confectionary). Kyoto’s famous omiyage is Yatsuhashi– a sweet made from mochi rice flour, sugar, cinnamon and azuki bean.

I got a chance to make some Nama Yatsuhashi last weekend at the Utano Youth Hostel (more like a resort) near my dorm.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Rolling out the rice flour

Rolling out the rice flour

My ugly Yatsuhashi

My ugly Yatsuhashi

Someone else's perfectly shaped Yatsuhashi

Someone else’s perfectly shaped Yatsuhashi

My Yatsuhashi didn’t look very good but I took a quick photo anyway and managed to gobble them up before anyone else noticed how bad they were. They tasted delicious though, so it wasn’t a total fail!

At most temples in Kyoto there are omiyage shops that have many Yatsuhashi samples. Usually there is green tea as well so you can fill up on a sweet snack and warm drink for free before or after your temple visit. Yatsuhashi comes in many different flavours, more traditionally: cinnamon, sesame or green tea, but also chocolate banana, hazelnut (my favorite) or strawberry.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try to make it at home:

Nama Yatsuhashi

Ingredients 

3 oz  Joshinko (Rice Flour)
1.5 oz  Shiratamako (or Mochiko)
5 oz  Sugar
5 fl oz  Water
1 tbs  Cinnamon

Directions

1: Mix joshinko, shiratamako, and water in a microwave-safe bowl till smooth.
2: Add sugar and mix well.
3: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave it for 2 minutes.
4: Stir the mixture and microwave it again for 1 minute.
5: Stir the mixture and microwave it for another 1 minute.

Caution: The mixture will get really hot!

6: Add cinnamon and knead it well.
7: Flatten the dough with a rolling pin.
8: Coat it with cinnamon and cut into squares or rectangular pieces.

You can fill the squares with Azuki bean paste and fold them into triangles if you like.