Japan Week 6: Spotted Pumpkins, Bamboo Forests, and Octopus-On-A-Stick / by Anna Terry

It’s already mid November... what the heck!?! Where is the time going? We finished up our week of traveling around with a visit to an amazing art island called Naoshima where we discovered one of our new favorite contemporary art museums! Then we continued on to Kyoto where we will be based for the next three weeks. So while I freak out about the fact that this trip is going by way too quickly, read my recap on the highlights of our 6th week in Japan:

There is a little island off the coast of Japan that’s a contemporary art lover's dream getaway. An hour train ride from Osaka and twenty minutes by ferry from the port of Uno, Naoshima is not easy to get to, but its worth the journey. You could spend a week here just biking/strolling around the island, checking out all of the art. Two of the most popular museums to visit are the Chi Chu Museum and the Benesse House Museum. After our visit, I think Chichu Museum is now one of my favorite museums! The minimalistic building was designed by the brilliant architect Tadao Ando and truly amplifies the pieces that are displayed inside. The Monet room is out of this world. I mean Monet is Monet, it’s one of a kind and beautiful on it’s own. But in Chichu, the whole room was designed so that you experience Monet’s paintings on a whole new level. The other installations are just as incredible. Mind was seriously blown. Benesse House Museum is about a 25 minute walk away and is equally impressive. This museum is also designed by Tandao Ando and doubles as a hotel. There are a lot more outdoor installations at this museum, like the insta-famous giant polka dot pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama or Kan Yasuda’s marble rock sculptures that have you taking a moment to lie back and just stare up at the sky. The views all around the island look unreal, almost like movie set backdrops. Giant cargo ships sail past a horizon of dark blue, black, and purple mountains. To end our day we grabbed a vending machine beer and watched the sunset over the bay. We definitely want to go back to Naoshima someday!


The Waking Dead
Try as I might, I just can't handle waking up early. I’m sure a lot of people can agree on this: mornings are the worst. I want to be a morning person so badly, to get up early when the world is still and get started on my day. But even if I go to bed at 9pm, I will not want to leave my cozy cocoon until at least 10am. This is problematic when we want to go to shrines and temples early before the hordes of crowds descend making it totally impossible to enjoy the sights. So, I was literally a walking zombie at 5am when we took off from our apartment to head out to the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. It was eerily quiet walking around the sleepy neighborhood with huge clouds of mist blanketing sections of the forest in the distance. We basically had the whole bamboo forest to ourselves for a good half an hour before the other tourists started to trickle in. The main section of bamboo forest isn’t very large, so once we were done we explored some of the MANY temples in the area and took a morning stroll down by the river bank. The whole area seemed to be out of a Japan tourism video. The calm blue waters trickling past, the autumn colors on the trees, morning joggers and walkers smiling as you pass by; meanwhile on the opposite side of the river, you can hear the wild monkeys getting up and causing a ruckus. We grabbed a coffee from the small coffee stand % Arabica and it started to give me some life. Okay, maybe early mornings aren’t all that bad. Especially when they’re like that one. 😊


Snug as a Bug

The past week of traveling around Japan has had us straying from our usual Airbnb loyalty and booking private rooms in hostels. All of them provided the traditional Japanese sleeping arrangements where you sleep on tatami mats. I'd heard that sleeping on tatami was a small step up from camping, you wake up stiff on the floor and cold. But, as  it turns out, I’m a huge fan! You are provided a futon mat to place between you and the tatami which was quite comfortable. Then you pile on the sheets and heavy comforters and you’ve got yourself a very warm, cozy cocoon. The hardest part was probably getting up in the morning and leaving the comfortable floor to head to our next destination.


Pickled Things and Octopus Stuffed with Quail Eggs

One of my favorite things about Japan has been all of the different foods we’ve been able to try. Sure, you have sushi, ramen, and gyoza which are classics and are always a safe bet. But to really get out of our food comfort zone we head in the direction of any big marketplace. Here in Kyoto one of the best is called Nishiki Market and is considered the “kitchen of Kyoto”. Here you can find all the ingredients the Japanese use in restaurants and in their own homes. From mysterious pickled things (which Shane and I are hooked on now. I swear when we get back to the US we’re going to buy a 10 gallon jar of pickled whatever and eat a little bit with every meal), salted cod row, dried fish, packets of unknown spices, and grapes that look too perfectly round; you can basically find anything and everything here. One pleasant new experience was trying tako tamago, little octopus on sticks with a hard boiled quail egg in it’s head. A little bit intimidating to look at let alone take a bite out of, but it’s actually quite oishi (delicious)! The octopus is lightly seasoned with some sort of sauce or marinade that tastes salty/sweet and the quail egg inside is a nice little twist. Definitely would recommend to any adventurous eater out there! 

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