Must-Visit Near Kyoto: Himeji Castle, Miyajima & Hiroshima

Situated on the mid southeast coast of Japan, Kyoto is an easy train ride to any number of cities—including the temples in the mountains of Koyasan, Kobe…and, as we learned, an easy train ride from Himeji Castle, Hiroshima, and Miyajima island. Himeji Castle How to get to Himeji from Kyoto: Take the JR shinkansen bullet train from Kyoto Station to Himeji Station (it takes 45 minutes and costs about $44 dollars—twice the price but also twice as fast as the local trains—but SO worth it just to ride …it goes 320 MPR…cool!!). Why to visit: A fairy-like white castle from the 14th century perched on a hill, the Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World ... [Read More]

VIDEO: Use Chopsticks in 3 (Not So Simple) Steps

Last night Olivier and I wandered into Kyotomi, a restaurant in the Gion neighborhood serving traditional Kyoto obanzai ryori (several small dishes of seasonal/local fish/rice/tofu as a prix-fixe menus). The chef was very kind, talking with us for the two hours we were at his counter; he has owned the restaurant for the last 30 years. But as he watched us eat, I could tell there was something wrong. He didn't seem upset...but just...anxious. Like he couldn't stand to look at us anymore. Turns out he actually couldn't. Every year the guy competes in Shiki Hōchō--also known as "the way of the knife," a knife cutting ceremony long performed ... [Read More]