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sam and panda : Japan 2016

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Japan, 〒542-0071 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Dōtonbori, 1 Chome−4, 大阪市中央区道頓堀1丁目4−15
Okonomiyaki is the epitome of Japanese soul food—a griddled pancake made of a mix of vegetables, egg, and meat or seafood, and topped with things like bonito flakes, Japanese mayo, nori, and ginger. The dish may have originated in Osaka, but it...
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Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0076, Japan
A must go for foodie - the delicious Jiyuken Curry in Osaka. They even made rice crackers out of Jiyuken Curry flavor! Words can't describe the flavor... See all of our ideas for where to go in 2015.
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Japan, 〒542-8510 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Nanba, 5 Chome−51−5 高島屋大阪店 2F
I made several meals of just wandering the aisles of the Takashimaya department store basement, grazing on a variety of bite-sized foods. The Japanese really know how to snack. See all of our ideas for where to go in 2015.
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Japan, 〒531-6023 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Kita, 大淀中1−1−88 梅田スカイビル
Umeda Sky Building, Floating Garden Observatory has a glass lift that takes you to the top of a twin tower but connects to the other tower via an escalator.
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1 Chome-7-7 Dōtonbori, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0071, Japan
See all of our ideas for where to go in 2015. This Osaka restaurant is so tiny, it's tough to find any information about it. Tucked into an alley, the restaurant is hidden away, making it difficult to find even if you know its address. But for...
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Japan, 〒542-0086 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Nishishinsaibashi, 2 Chome−9−5 日宝三津寺ビル1F
There aren't enough unbelievable things I can say about Tres Bon. Taking its name from the French for "very good," it's also honest. Operated day-to-day by an 84 year old Japanese man named Jefe (Spanish for boss) who's always drinking and can...
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Japan, 〒542-0086 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Chuo Ward, Nishishinsaibashi, 2 Chome−9−5 日宝三ッ寺会館 2階
Something that can be frustrating if you're living in or travelling around Japan as a non-native speaker is the absence of English or picture menus. It can sometimes feel like the busiest and most popular restaurants with the locals are...
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Japan, 〒550-0014 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Nishi-ku, Kitahorie, 1 Chome−9−14 PAN1914ビル1F
Full Disclosure: Teih'anda Horieten is as close as I've ever come to Okinawan food. I was not able to make it to Okinawa in the year I spent living in Osaka. That said, this restaurant is routinely ranked among the best in the country outside of...
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2 Chome-4-14 Yariyamachi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0027, Japan
Fujiya1935 is the kind of spot that is often tragically overlooked by Western food tourists. It's not a high-end sushi restaurant or a specialty restaurant serving a uniquely Osakan food like okonomiyaki or kushikatsu. What it is, instead, is a...
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Japan, 〒542-0073 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Nipponbashi, 1 Chome−21−16 たこそうビル 2F
Kushikatsu (串カツ) or kushiage (串揚げ) is a Japanese cuisine of seasoned, skewered and fried meat, seafood and vegetables. The Shinsekai area of Osaka, near the Tsūtenkaku (TV Tower), is best known for its kushikatsu restaurants, including the famous...
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2 Chome-3-25 Dōtonbori, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0071, Japan
We've all heard about Wagyu beef, but not everyone has heard about Matsusaka Beef. Some may have heard Kobe Beef. All of these though are types of Wagyu beef, including a third type which is Omi. So if you visit Japan, you should try the big three...
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1 Chome-9 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0076, Japan

Back in the old days, the Japanese monzen-machi, stores and services, gathered around temple gates. Now they're on pedestrianized shopping streets. Namba, just beyond Namba Station in Osaka, is one of the biggest examples outside Tokyo. You name...

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41 Shichiku Shimotakedonochō, Kita-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 603-8412, Japan
Set in a textured neutral palette that feels like a japanese interpretation of early american colonial era, this hard to find shop/cafe is worth the hunt. Just cozying up in here for a moment in an experience in its own, but the vegan treats with...
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294 Kiyomizu 1-chōme, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0862, Japan
This is one of my favorite places in Japan, and in the world. It is one of the most beautiful temples. It's very nice to come here when it's not crowded. I often try to come here during the rain, as odd as that sounds (that's when it is least...
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68 Fukakusa Yabunouchichō, Fushimi-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 612-0882, Japan

Fushimi Inari Taisha on Inariyama mountain is dedicated to the Shinto gods of rice and sake, but Inari is also the god of merchants and that brings a lot of businesspeople to worship here. Everyone else stops by to see the thousands...

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Japan, 〒604-0982 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Matsumotochō (Gokomachidōri), 御幸町通夷川上る松本町577
The cozy Kaboku Tearoom at the Ippodo Tea Company's main store in Kyoto is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy Japanese green tea served with a confection. Friendly servers show guests how to cool boiling water to the proper temperature for...
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Arashiyama Genrokuzancho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-0007, Japan
In western Kyoto, there is a very large forest of bamboo. As you can see in the photo, the shoots grow very tall, making those who stroll by look quite small. I'm sure there are times when this road is crowded, but when we were there, people were...
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375 Hanaseharachichō, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 601-1102, Japan
You’ll feel zen from the moment you drive in from nearby Kyoto, along a narrow road through Japanese cedars and past temples and shrines, to the moment you sink into a hot bath at this intimate ryokan. Refreshed and relaxed, you’ll...
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Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Higashiuoyachō, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609番地
What's not to love in a covered arcade, jam-packed with stalls selling pickle, roast fish, toasty rice crackers, fresh fish, grilled meat, every fruit and vegetable, roasted chestnuts, freshly grilled mochi, sashimi on a stick, kushikatsu, green...
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Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-0000, Japan
Monkey park? Yes, a monkey park. A short train ride to the outskirts of Kyoto bring you to a part of town called Arishiyama. This area has a beautiful bamboo forest and a monkey park. At the enterance to the park they warn you not to make eye...
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Japan, 〒606-8435 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, 南禅寺福地町
A Japanese friend recommended the tofu restaurant at the Nanzenji temple in Kyoto. It took us an hour to find the place, which is tucked away in a quiet corner of the beautiful complex. We enjoyed an exceptionally delicious yodofu meal!
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294 Kiyomizu 1-chōme, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0862, Japan

Kiyomizu-dera on Mount Otowa is one of the most famous temples in Japan, a place that appears in every sequence of Japanese travel photos. The landscape is all cherry trees and forest; it is among Kyoto's loveliest spots. The current structure...

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Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Higashiuoyachō, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609番地
I’m starting to believe in the weight loss properties of matcha. Something about how it triggers thermogenesis; perhaps it’s the restorative antioxidants. It’s the only way I can explain how I was able to eat my daily half of a FU Baum, a matcha...
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Japan, 〒604-0923 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Kamikorikichō, 木屋町通御池上る
The nested jubacko boxes were unfolded and opened like Russian matryoska dolls on the granite countertop: sushi grade sashimi and tamago, steamed vegetables in all shades of nature’s color-wheel, crispy ethereal tempura vegetables, miso soup: this...
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Tetsugaku-no-michi, Jōdoji Ishibashichō, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 606-8406, Japan
When we arrived in Kyoto in mid-April, most of the cherry blossoms were no longer coloring the trees but sprinkled on the ground. We got lucky, though, spotting a few along the Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku no michi) still afluff with pink...
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Japan, 〒600-8234 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, ホテルグランヴィア京都 烏丸通塩小路下ル東塩小路町901
Kitcho has 3 Michelin stars and they serve Kaiseki style meals in private dining rooms facing formal Japanese gardens. Our Kitcho adventure involved a tight time frame, a frantic run to the bullet train and the most luxurious meal I've ever had...
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Japan, 〒600-8555 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Higashishiokōjichō, 京都市下京区烏丸通塩小路下ル東塩小路町
This hidden restaurant is located in Kyoto near the Gojo Ohashi Bridge. They serve Kyo-fu, which is made from wheat flour and has a tofu type of consistency. This was an important source of protein for Buddhist monks dating back to the 1350’s and...
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If you’re looking for some good ramen in Kyoto, head to Hakata Nagahama Ramen Miyoshi in Kawaramachi (Kyoto). Hakata ramen is a specific style of Kyushu ramen (Hakata being a ward in Kyushu), with a rich and creamy pork broth and firm, straight...
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Japan, 〒603-8378 Kyōto-fu, KyotoKita-ku, Kinugasa Goshonouchichō, Kita-ku Kinugasa Gosyonouchi-cho 2
Much like Dorothy in the film, The Wizard of Oz, I felt that I had embarked on a magical and special place once setting my sights on Kyoto's landmark tourist attraction, The Golden Pavilion. Having traveled 45 minutes from Yokohama, by underground...
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584 Komatsucho, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0811, Japan
Founded in the 13th century, Kennin-ji is the oldest Zen Buddhist temple anywhere in the world. Located not too far from the Gion District (where you will find the majority of Kyoto's geisha) it is considered one of the most important temples in...
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32-1 Tanaka Kamiyanagicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8205, Japan
Kyoto's Kamo River and its banks are alive with activity when the weather is nice. Even though there are plenty of bridges with pedestrian access to get from one side to the other, take a more exciting route by hopping across river stones shaped...
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While planning my recent trip to Kyoto, Japan, I came across the New York Times article "36 Hours in Kyoto" and was mildly intrigued by the recommended deep-fried skewer restaurant on a dead-end lane. Expecting an hole-in-the-wall izakaya cranking...
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Tai O, Hong Kong
If you have half a day and would like to experience a different side of the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, head out to Tai-O on Lantau Island. You can get there by cable car or by a somewhat vomit-inducing bus ride from Tung Chung. The sleepy but...
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121 Peak Rd, The Peak, Hong Kong
A view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak, or simply "the peak." It's a must to go here to see the city skyline and the harbour. There are shops, restaurants, and a Madame Tussaud's in the peak galleria. The best way to reach it is by the peak tram,...
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Ngong Ping Rd, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
It was humid and hot when we finally arrived Tung Chung train station of Hong Kong to take the cable car as a last step to reach Big Buddha. After a beautiful trip in the cable car finally he appeared slowly in front of us through the thick fog...
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Man Mo Temple, 124-126 Hollywood Rd, Tai Ping Shan, Hong Kong
Man Mo Temple was built by wealthy Chinese merchants between 1847 and 1862 as a tribute to the God of Literature (man) and the God of War (mo). Both deities were worshiped by ambitious students eager to succeed in the rigorous civil examinations...
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129 Second St, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
If you think of gin and tonic as a nothing-special default cocktail, Ping Pong 129 Gintonería, across from exit B2 of the Sai Ying Pun station, just might change your mind. In a cavernous subterranean exping-pong training center that’s been given...
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Hoi Tao Court, 15-27號 Cannon St, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
You haven’t tasted Hong Kong until you’ve sampled a treat from the side of the street. There's always a crowd waiting in line for fresh waffles and eggettes at Yi Heung Yuen, located on the street behind Sogo department store in Causeway Bay. But...
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Aberdeen, Hong Kong
There's no better way to chase the sweltering Hong Kong summer heat than at the homegrown Ocean Park. At the Waterfront is Aqua City, where you'll find an Old Hong Kong town, perfect for capturing those holiday photos. By night, cool down with the...
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Central, Hong Kong
No visit to Hong Kong is complete without a visit to Lan Kwai Fong. LKF is where expats are seen drinking, dancing, and partying the night away on any given night. The area forms a small rectangle in the Central districts with D'Aguilar Street and...
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5 Chi Lin Dr, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong
A tranquil oasis in the middle of Hong Kong with exquisite gardens and temples, this was crafted just 14 years ago without the use of nails or any other intrusive metal fastening devices. It is also worth a visit to its vegan cafeteria—the food...