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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Taishaku-kyo Gorge

A couple of weeks ago, I went hiking in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and I had to share it with everyone because I had such a hard time finding a lot of information on it!

I don't remember how I first heard about Taishakukyo, but I went online to find out more about it and didn't have much luck. I found a couple of sites that had beautiful pictures and then maybe one paragraph about it that didn't really explain anything. I like adventures and exploring so I wasn't worried about trying to figure things out when I got there, but I do like to plan my day out so I can make sure I see and do everything on my list. Since the only thing that is really mentioned is the natural stone bridge though, my list was pretty short. Do some hiking and see this amazing stone bridge. Easy enough, right?

Two hours after getting on the road, my Google maps announced that my destination was on the right. Umm... that couldn't be since there wasn't really anything on my right and on my left was a small parking lot and what looked like a little udon restaurant. The good news was that I had seen a sign a few minutes before this so I knew I was on the right road at least. I drove on for a few more minutes and noticed a large parking lot on my right, but there wasn't really anything there. I'm thinking that the main entrance for this gorge would be pretty big and have some shops or a place where I could get some information so I keep driving. I get a little further up the road and I decided I should go back and check out the parking lot. There is a huge map there and what looks like the starting point for a hiking trail. I noticed on the map that there was a "Trail Center" not too far from this starting point so I decided this would be a good place to start. After hiking for about 15 minutes, I reached the Trail Center. Unfortunately, there wasn't anyone there and the only brochures they had were in Japanese. They did have maps though so I thought I could follow the map to find the main entrance that I was looking for.

Some pictures of what I saw when I hiked to the Trail Center -
The trail was pretty and there were a couple of awesome red bridges along the way!






I got back to my car and headed off in the direction I thought would take me to the main entrance. Did I mention I'm not good at reading maps? Yeah. My lack of map reading skills became an issue when, 30 minutes later, I still hadn't reached the main entrance. There's no way it should have taken that long. So, I pulled over and looked at the map again, but that just confused me even more. Then I tried to see if maybe the camp grounds near the main entrance would come up in Google maps, and they did! If only I had thought of that sooner! It took me back in the direction I came from and once I found the campgrounds, I was able to figure out where the main entrance was! Slightly frustrated about the wasted time, but so excited I had finally found what I was looking for!


There was a pretty large parking lot and a store with a small restaurant inside. This is what I expected to find at the main entrance. Since I lost some time trying to figure out how to get here, I didn't have a lot of time to waste so I parked and headed off to find the trail. Within a few minutes, I knew that this side of the gorge was going to be even more beautiful than the other side with the bridges (and I LOVE bridges!!)! I couldn't wait to explore and find the amazing natural stone bridge!

This was taken at the start of the hiking trail. Everything was really green and the water was so clear!

As I walked along the path, I saw some steps on the left that led up to something. It was a cave! Of course I checked it out, and it was so cool! There was a 250yen fee to go inside, but well worth it.

I continued on the hiking path and the scenery was so gorgeous that I couldn't stop taking pictures. Not sure how much of a workout I got with all of the stops, but I did get some beautiful shots!

See what I mean?? I could have stayed here all day!



After walking and stopping to take pictures for a few more minutes, I finally made it to the natural bridge. Wow! It was even more amazing in person!

My picture does not do it justice.

Since it was going to take me 2 hours to get home, I only walked for about 10 more minutes past the natural bridge and then I headed back. According to the map though, there is a waterfall further up the trail that I would love to see. I have also heard that this gorge is beyond stunning during in the fall so I guess this means I need to go back in the fall. Now that I know how to get to the main entrance though, I will definitely have enough time!

On my way back to the expressway entrance I realized that I had made a wrong turn when I got off of the expressway. If I hadn't turned when I did, I probably would have found the entrance to the gorge within 5 minutes of arriving. Google maps is usually great and gets me where I need to go, but this time it really failed me. There may have been a sign, but I was probably too busy chatting with my friend and didn't see it. Lesson learned for the next time I go somewhere I haven't visited before.

Here is the information I was able to gather. I didn't have time to explore the entire area like I wanted to so I am sure I missed a lot, but hopefully this will help you plan your own adventure to Taishakukyo gorge!

It does take about 2 hours to get there by car, and the tolls were a little over 4,000yen each way if you get on and off in Otake.
Address for the main entrance -
1940 Tōjōchō Taishakumido, Shōbara-shi, Hiroshima-ken 729-5244

Link to the pin on Google maps -
http://goo.gl/maps/dJqn5

There are campgrounds available at a few different areas around the gorge. They also have log cabins and cottages for rent. I saw the log cottages when I stopped to grab some lunch and they looked really nice from the outside. For more information and to make reservations to stay in the log cottages, please call (0847)86-0535. I would recommend asking someone who can speak Japanese to call for you as I'm not sure if they have any English speaking staff available. There are Segways for rent too, but you have to make reservations at least 2 days in advance. Please call the same number to make Segway reservations. Across the street from log cottages is a nice little restaurant and shop. The restaurant serves up beef dishes made with beef from a local farm. There was a little playground there and tables outside with grills in the middle. You can order a BBQ plate from the restaurant with beef and vegetables, and sit outside to grill as you eat. To get to the area with the restaurant, cottages, and Segway rental, just type in the phone number and it will come up in Google maps.

There was also a fishing area at the main entrance.

Fresh air, beautiful scenery, and plenty of activities for the entire family to enjoy! Tasihakukyo gorge is a perfect spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Japanese Curry... made by you!

I've had quite a few people ask me how to make Japanese curry so I thought I would take some pictures and blog about it.

It's actually quite easy and doesn't take a lot of time at all.

This will make a pretty big pot so if you just want to make a little bit, just use half the box of curry seasoning and use only half of the amount for each ingredient.

For my version you will need the following:

3-4 medium onions
3 carrots
7-8 small potatoes
2 chicken breasts
2 chicken thighs
1 box of Japanese curry seasoning
4 1/2 cups of water
2 TBSP olive oil
Rice (cooked) to serve over

Cut onions into chunks. I usually cut it in half and then cut each half into thirds. Slice carrots. I slice them until I get to the thicker part and then I usually cut that in half and then continue to slice.

I cut my potatoes in half, and then cut each half in half again.
Remove skin and as much fat as you can from the chicken. Cut into bite sized chunks. Sometimes, mine are a little bit bigger than bite sized. I'm not all that great with a knife.

Pour the olive oil into a large pot and place on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onions and carrots and chicken to the pan.
Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on everything (optional). Stir everything with a wooden spoon and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups of water and the potatoes, and let it come to a boil.
Once it starts to boil, turn it down a little bit. It should still be boiling, but a light boil.
Let it boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Skim off any foam or fat that floats to the top as necessary.

Now you're ready to add the curry blocks. Remove the pot from the heat and add blocks of curry. Stir until it has all dissolved. It's very important that you remove the pot from the heat before adding the curry blocks. It helps with the thickening process.

Once the curry has dissolved, place the pot back onto the stove and bring to a light boil. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.

Put some rice into a bowl and ladle some curry over it, and dinner is served!!
ITADAKIMASU!

***Experiment with different brands of curry seasoning and add different things to your curry. This is my favorite way of making it, but every now and then I will make it with beef. You can also add mushrooms if you like. I also switch up the brand of curry that I use. I haven't had one that I didn't like yet. I also mix half a box of mild curry with half a box of medium curry. My son likes a little kick and I'm a wuss so this is my compromise. You can also adjust the amount of vegetables and meat you add in. I prefer mine to have lots of veggies and chicken so I typically add more than normal. If you do purchase a different brand of seasoning, check the recipe on the back to find out how much water it calls for. This one calls for 1000ml which is about 4.25 cups. I added 4.5 because I knew I would be skimming stuff off of the top. I've used curry that only called for 800ml of water before so they're not all the same.

Try making some curry for your family and let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

PIZZERIA DA HACHI

I have been meaning to blog about this delicious pizzeria for a couple of weeks now.


































My friend, Kazumi, told me about this cute little restaurant and we made plans to try it out for dinner. Good thing she made reservations, because they were full.

We decided to order a couple of different things and share. So we ordered a little appetizer platter and a pizza. Ordering the pizza was a little difficult because we wanted to try at least half of the pizzas on the menu! We finally settled on the "Amadeo". It's a smoked mozzarella cheese and mushroom pizza. I have never had smoked mozzarella before so I was very excited! I was also intrigued by the Italian lemon soda on the menu so we decided to share one of those too.





The lemon soda was really good!







Then they brought out our appetizer plate -
It really was a little appetizer platter, but everything on it was delicious.

When they brought this to our table, I really wanted to skip the picture and just eat a slice!
This pizza was one of the best pizzas I have ever had. I loved the smoked mozzarella and the crust was really good.

Since we were sharing everything, we decided to order the dessert sampler plate and share that too.
Yummy cheesecake, chocolate cake and some chocolate ice cream! Perfect for sharing.

We kind of closed the place down so I was able to get a shot of the inside while it was empty.
It's not a very big restaurant, but I think there were about 6-7 tables.

This post would have ended here, but I overheard the owner telling some other customers that they should come for lunch because lunch is cheaper. So.... I made a lunch date with my friend Tani and came back a week later. My dinner with Kazumi came out to about 3700yen total so I was curious to see how much cheaper lunch would be.

So, with the lunch set you get an appetizer/salad plate, you choose your pizza, and you also get a drink and dessert. I assumed the pizzas would be smaller since Kazumi and I shared a pizza and we were pretty full since we had the appetizer plate too. The cost of the lunch set was also cheaper than what we paid for our pizza at dinner. Less than 1600yen for the lunch set. I think we paid 1650 or 1680 just for the pizza at dinner.

Here's the appetizer/salad plate we got -

This time I ordered the "Quatro Fromage" (four cheese) pizza and Tani ordered the Margherita pizza.
Both of these pizzas were very tasty! By the way, they were the same size as they were when I went for dinner so this really is a better deal!

The dessert that came with our set -

I also got get this shot when I went back for lunch -


I highly recommend reservations for this place. It's fairly new and very popular! Their phone number is (0827) 24-7288
I don't think they speak a whole lot of English so you might want to ask someone who speaks Japanese to call for you.

To get to Pizzeria Da Hachi, go out of Main Gate and continue straight until you hit Three Corners (T intersection). Turn right and continue straight. You will cross a bridge. After crossing the bridge, take the second right turn. There will be a little vegetable stand on your right and a small bank on your left as you turn onto the little side street. The restaurant will be on your right. You can't miss it.

They do have limited parking. There are 3 spaces available right across from the restaurant and there are 3 more spaces at another location. I never found it and ended up calling the restaurant. They told me all of their parking was full, but I could park at the bank on the corner so I parked there. If you go at night, you can definitely park at the bank since they are not open.

Their hours are 1200-1500 for lunch/1730-2100 for dinner.

Check out Pizzeria Da Hachi and let me know what you think!