Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spotted in the shops

Here are some photos from a little wander Tania & I did around the markets. Octopus on a stick anyone ??

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

The Kiyomizudera Temple is a Buddhist temple to the east of the city. The complex was constructed in mid-1600s. The amazing thing about this place is that the construction did not use a single nail in the entire structure.

It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means "clear water", or "pure water".

The Heian Temple

The Heian temple is this amazing complex of temples & gardens that we spent a bit of time at.

The temple design has some Chinese Tang Dynasty characteristics. The gardens were great to wander around.

The Golden Temple

Kyoto has many temples & shrines within the city & one of the most famous is the Kinkakuji Temple....better known as the "Golden Temple".

A temple was first erected on the site in the late 1300's. The current temple was built in the 1950's after the original was burnt down by a monk. The temple was restored in its entirety although there have been some doubts expressed about the gold-leaf coating.

The temple is pretty amazing & is one of the most visited sites in Japan. The day we were there, there were over thirty school groups. Some of them wanted to talk English with us & get us to sign their notepads (I think it was a school project for them as this happened a number of times with us).

As with all the temple complexes, there were some amazing & tranquil gardens to wander around.

The Nightingale Floor & the Silver Temple

The day after the wedding, Tania & I took Marc's parents & a couple of other guests from the wedding on a tour of some of the temples around Kyoto.

The highlight was the Njo-jo castle: home of the famous Nightingale floor. This type of floor was designed to make a chirping sound when walked upon. The squeaking floors were used as a security device, assuring that no-one could sneak through the corridors of the castle undetected.

After the Njo-Jo castle, it was off to the Ginkakuji Temple. This temple is known as "the Temple of the Silver Pavilion". The building was meant to have a silver-foil overlay, much in the same vain as the Kinkakuji (Golden) Temple but for various reasons, this part of the design was never completed. The complex has some amazing gardens that you can wander through.


Following the reception, a group of us die hards headed off to the Gion (Geisha) district to this bar for drinks. The night was then finished off at a karaoke place singing a bit of AC/DC, Celine Dion & other songs that we're too embarrassed to admit we like or would sing to.

The Reception

After a very brief ceremony, we headed off to the reception area: at a resort backing onto lovely & serene park & garden, that we as guests, could wander around before we got down to the business of the reception. I could've stayed there forever: it was such a lovely garden (great gift shop there too).

Before we got to the meal, there was a ceremonial breaking of the sake barrel: the bride & groom had to break the lid off a barrel containing 18 litres of pretty good quality sake.

The meal was a sit down affair consisting of the following:

Seasonal Japanese delacacies with sea urchin

Five assorted seasonal temptations

Velvety savoury steamed egg custard with shark fin

Decorative freshly caught snapper, fatty tuna & squid

Fancy lightly crumbed fried lobster with herb infused amadai, complmented by a duo of seasonal spices & sudachi citrus dressing

Quality sirloin wagyu with fram fresh veges complemented by "shisuien" original sauce

Steamed mochi rice with red beans covered by yoshino sticky sauce & a side of Japanese pickled veges

Wedding cake with a selection of fresh fruit jelly served with coffee.

I've included some photos of the courses for your drooling pleasure:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Japanese Wedding

The main reason Tania & I went to Japan was to attend the wedding of our good friends Marc & Tsukasa. The ceremony was a traditional Shinto one , held at the Kamigamo Shrine. interesting thing happened on the way to the wedding. Tania, myself & Marc's family were all staying at the same hotel in downtown Kyoto. We got two taxis to take us to the shrine.

The problem was that we ended up at the wrong shrine. We went to the Shimogamo Shrine instead of the Kamigamo Shrine. It took us a few minutes to figure out our mistake.

Thankfully we managed to find two taxis that just happened to be dropping off some people to the shrine. A quick chat to the drivers explained our situation: "Right...we're at the wrong shrine. I've got the groom's parents with me & we need to get to the Kamigamo Shrine by 1.30pm. Can you do that ??" We were assured by the driver that he would get us there in time & he did....just !!

I can still see Marc frantically waving at us to get a move on as we exited from the taxis.

We were then lined up (groom's guests to one side & bride's guests to the other)& followed the priest (& assistant) into the temple complex.

The ceremony was a short one & I'm sure I offended several gods by taking photos where I wasn't supposed to, walking with shoes where I wasn't supposed to, etc....

The temple seemed to be quite popular for weddings as there were several groups of bride/grooms lining up for the walk to the shrine.

A week in Japan

Hiya folks,

Sorry for the lack of posting this last week but Tania & I have just come back from a relaxing week in Japan. The next couple of posts will be about our week there, based in the lovely & ancient city of Kyoto.

So...sit back & enjoy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Farewell Party for Shaun & Robyn

Last night, Tania & I went to a farewell party for a couple that we've become quite good friends with in the short time we've been here. The party was a "B" themed party & most people really got into the spirit. There was plenty of laughter, merriment, bad dancing & blow up animals. A lot of fun was had by all (including the blow up crocodile). The party & bad dancing continued into the wee hours.

Just so you know: Shaun is "Beer Man" & Robyn is "Bert".

And before you ask: no I was NOT bin Laden (as most people thought), I was a Bedouin.

We'll really miss you Shaun & Robyn !!

Champagne Lunches

Every now & then, on a Sunday, a group of us will go to one of the various five-star hotels that offers an all-you-can-eat & champagne lunch. Here's some photos of us from of the more recent lunches:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A house full of furniture

For those of you that have been asking....yes...we did get all our furniture. The last truckload of furniture (the one that was "seized" by the rabid unionists) turned up on the Monday (as was hinted by the furniture people).

The house now feels like a home as we've unpacked all the boxes. We only have about 3/4 of the cook books out on display & we need yet another bookcase for the rest of the books. This hasn't even taken into account all the books we'll be buying here & online.

We had our first dinner party last night with some of the folks we work with. It was a lovely evening with great food, lots of wine (as we are now members of the commissary & have access to lots of cheap wine) & great conversation until the wee hours.

The menu was:

spaghetti bolognese - enough to feed the entire embassy

oven roasted chicken with parma ham served with:
porcini oven-roasted potatoes (OMG !! They were so good !!)
perperonatta (stewed capsicum & onions)