Sunday, February 28, 2010

Osaka Castle Visit with Former Yokohama Mayor 前横浜市長、中田宏さんと大阪城へ

With the former mayor of Yokohama and charismatic leader, Hiroshi Nakada, in town, I stopped by the KKR Hotel in Osaka to attend his speaking engagement. Before Mr. Nakada took center stage, Hiroyuki Mametani of the Osaka Museum of History spoke about the history of Osaka Castle dating back to 1583. After receiving a lesson about the origins of Osaka Castle, Mr. Nakada spoke at length about what the citizens of not only Osaka but Japan can do to make the country a better place and instill "change" into society.

After the conclusion of Mr. Nakada's talk, most of the 80 participants joined him in taking a tour of Osaka Castle, which is located right across the street from the KKR Hotel. As it was my first time to actually enter the inside of the castle, I noticed that the interior was quite different from other castles that I have attended in the past. More of a modern museum than a castle, the castle is equipped with an elevator and souvenir shop among other amenities.

Following the tour, Mr. Nakada and I took a picture together in front of the castle to commemorate an eventful afternoon.




Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oriental Hotel Opening Reception         オリエンタルホテル オープニングレセプション

Last night I had the privilege to attend the opening reception of the newest hotel in Kobe, the Oriental Hotel. With the hotel open to the general public from March 5, I was able to get a "sneak peak"and experience all the hotel had to offer. Located right in the heart of Kobe, less than 10 minutes walking from Sannomiya Station, the Oriental Hotel's interior reminds me of Southeast Asia with its color hues, various plants, and furniture. The one aspect that sets this hotel apart from the other hotels in the area is the fact that the check-in desk is located on the 17th floor, which is the top floor of the hotel. With picturesque views of both the mountains and ocean, after one checks in, he or she can enjoy one of the four restaurants that are also located on the top floor in the lap of luxury.

In Kobe, the Oriental Hotel is marketing itself as the top draw for ambience and service. With the ever increasing competitive nature of the hotel industry, the Ritz-Carlton and the Hilton Hotel, both located in Osaka, are said to be the Oriental Hotel's competitors. For those residing or planning to visit Kobe, I highly recommend stopping by the Oriental Hotel. You will not regret it.




Monday, February 22, 2010

Instant Ramen Museum            インスタントラーメン発明記念館

Yesterday I had the opportunity to finally pay a visit to the Instant Ramen Museum located next to Osaka in Ikeda City. Definitely an experience and fun for all ages, one starts out by designing his/her own noodle cup with markers prior to heading over to the Noodle Factory to pick out one's choice of soup flavor and ingredients (see pictures above). After making all the necessary decisions, the staff package the cup noodle right in front of your very own eyes and the final product is presented to you just like one would find it at a supermarket.

After designing and making our own cup noodle variation, I moved up to the second floor of the museum to take part in making chicken ramen from scratch. First I was given an apron and bandana and asked to start designing the package design that the finished chicken ramen product would be put in. After that task was completed, I began to make and cut the dough (see picture above) before having the staff complete the final steps, which made my masterpiece a finished product. After all was said and done, the entire process took less than an hour. Again, another fun activity and highly recommended. Just remember that one needs to make a reservation in advance if wanting to take part in making your own chicken ramen.



Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend in Kyoto & Kobe           京都、神戸での週末

To kickoff the weekend festivities, I ventured out to Kyoto on Saturday evening to have dinner at the Shinkiro restaurant located not far from the downtown area in Kyoto but surprisingly in a part of town that I never knew existed. Within ten minutes by walk from the Shijo-Kawaramachi area, the architecture of the buildings in the neighborhood of Shinkiro take one back in time to that of ancient Kyoto. After getting settled in and enjoying the ambience over food and drinks, a 16 year old maiko by the name of Chika (shown in first picture above) came arrived as the main attraction halfway through dinner and spent a good hour interacting with us. As this was my first encounter with a maiko in a private setting, it was definitely an enjoyable experience.

With Kyoto situated to the east of Osaka, I headed to the west of Osaka to Kobe on Sunday to pay a visit to Yasuhito Fujiwara (shown in second picture above), owner of the Kobe Marine Air JAIRA Horse Riding Club. The horse riding club opened in May 2009 on Port Island in Kobe situated along the ocean with picturesque views of the surrounding Kobe landscape. With twenty some ponies and horses available for riding and training, I recommend all in the Kansai area to venture to JAIRA to experience horse riding in a state-of-the-art facility that incorporates not only design and functionality developed in Japan but also that from Germany as well. If planning a visit to JAIRA, please be advised to make a reservation for horse riding in advance.



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kimono Gallery in Kyoto           京都の着物ギャラリー

With yesterday being a national holiday in Japan, I paid a visit to a good friend of mine, Shigeyuki Kobayashi, whose family has been in the kimono business for five generations. Having never been to Shige's gallery before, I did not know what to expect but sensed that I would be in for an experience and I must say that he did not disappoint.

Located in his own five-story building on the second floor, the Zen Kimono Gallery and Atelier definitely carries an ambience of its own. With beautifully crafted one-of-a-kind kimonos and original accessories displayed throughout the store, I felt like being in an art museum rather than a shop. With women's kimonos priced around 1.8 million yen ($20,000) a piece, I realized that Shige's clientele was not the average consumer.

Definitely worthy of a visit, I highly advise any one visiting or living in Kyoto to pay a visit to the Zen Kimono Gallery and Atelier. Just remember that visitors must make reservations in advance.

For more about the Zen Kimono Gallery and Atelier (although in Japanese), please click here.


シゲのギャラリーは5階立て自社ビルの2階に位置し、「着物ギャラリー&アトリエ 善」は確実に独特の雰囲気をかもしています。美しく、精巧に作られた特殊な着物や自社製品の和装小物が店内を埋め尽くしており, 店の中にいるというよりは、美術館にいるような感じがしていました。「善」の女性用着物は一枚180万円くらいで、シゲの顧客が平均所得者ではないことがわかりました。

尋ねてみる価値は絶対にあるので、京都の観光客や在住者に「着物ギャラリー&アトリエ 善」の訪問を強くお勧めします。行かれるかたは事前予約を忘れないでくださいね。

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hotel Granvia Kyoto Promotion         ホテルグランヴィア京都の広告

The finished product from the photo shoot that I participated in last month for the Hotel Granvia Kyoto can be viewed here. Even though it was a little chilly out being the middle of December, I thoroughly enjoyed myself wandering around the city of Kyoto dressed as a ninja.

For those of you wanting to have a one-of-a-kind experience in Kyoto, I highly suggest you take part in the cosplay (costume play) program currently being offered by the hotel while it lasts!