Vegan at SAS | & the meat norm of in-flight meals.

bild 3SAS cater to a wide range of dietary requirements on their transatlantic and Asia bound flights. Give them 24 hours notice prior to departure to have a meal free from beef, gluten or even honey. Sounds pretty dreamy, eh?

One roll of bread and three types of condiments later

Now I don’t know if it was just as we were flying out of Copenhagen, a city that is generally quite – pardon my French – crap at providing vegan friendly food but thank goodness I had brought a whole bunch of snacks. What I was served on my near 11-hour flight between the Danish and Japanese capitals was rather ridiculous, particularly seeing as they do claim they cater to special diets and I have paid just as much for my ticket as fellow passengers in economy. Should I not receive the same amount of food?

It seemed all they had really done was to take the food items containing animal by-products and replace them with… jam. In different varieties. I mean, kudos for the effort of providing a poor vegan with the choice of different flavour jams but I am yet a little puzzled how exactly it will make my bread roll more filling? (My breakfast is pictured in photo above; while omni passengers were served filled baguettes, yoghurt with granola and a piece of frittata.)

The exaggerated meat norm should not board

And by no means is this a bash particularly aimed at SAS. (In fact, on my return flight from Tokyo the amount (and taste) of food was definitely improved.) In general it puzzles me how flight companies are thinking when planning their menus. The standard when it comes to in-flight meals on offer seems to be a choice between two. Meaning, as some people refrain from eating beef for a range of reasons, the alternative meal option will be something as far fetched as *drum roll* (or should I say drumstick) CHICKEN!

With a growing vegan population, and in regards to the fact that it is suitable for most religious- and dietary requirements, as well as just a more environmentally friendly way to eat — does it not make sense to provide a vegetable meal? Some grainy salads and for the bread roll opt brie for some tub of hummus. It is by no means original. But then again, neither is meat as an alternative to meat.


Until then, my dear special dieters – I reckon we are best off getting one of those bags Hermione carries in the deathly hallows and stuff it with snacks.

First two are outbound meals, third is return flight dinner from Tokyo.

Japan Photo Diary, Day 10-12: The Lost in Translation One & Museum Hopping in Hakone

Koya-San

I put so much effort into planning our route FROM Koyasan, that I seem to believe getting TO Koyasan sure cannot be that difficult. All I know is that we need to take three trains.

Of course, taking rural countryside trains are a bit more of a hassle than the metro that run every 5-or-so minutes with clear signs even foreign eyes can comprehend.
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After catching the first two departures alright, I seem to have a flick on the third and get us off one station too early. We end up seemingly in the Middle of Nowhere, or at least that is what I imagine this train stop would translate to in English. Getting off a station too early is not a big deal. Unless the next train will not arrive for another hour.

This one event seems to be the first in a long row of domino bricks of mistakes. To make a long story short: We leave Kyoto around 7am and arrive on top of Koyasan just after 4pm…
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Getting to Koyasan is a bit of an adventure on its own. (Like, without the extra detour to Nowhereland). For the final bits the train winds its way up the mountain, with its wall on one side and steep valleys on the other. At the final station, you catch a cable car to reach all the way to the top.
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Most people visiting Koyasan will stay in shukubo (aka temple lodgings).
As a) I do everything last minute and b) this is high season, we however spend the night at a capsule style backpackers called Koyasan Guest House Kokuu.

It has a design that brings chapels slash stables to mind along with the best English spoken staff encountered the entire trip. (One has even studied in Scotland and gets muy excited when hearing about me arriving from Granite City!)
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The biggest attraction is undoubtedly Oku-no-in — where the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi resides surrounded by circa 200’000 tombstones and monuments. Kobo Daishi was the founder of the Shingon Buddhism that Koyasan is a pilgrammage for; he was last seen in year 835 and according to legend he is to this day sat in meditation inside his mausoleum awaiting the arrival of Miroku (the Future Buddha).

It is a really atmospheric, almost eerie feel walking about the cemetery as the sun begins to descend. Despite knowing we are most certainly not alone as visitors of the mountain, it sure feels like it as you vanish into the large grounds.

You can also watch the monks do their morning chanting in the early am’s over at Okunoin, as we did the following morning. Brings me back to my week at Doi Suthep in 2014.
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Koyasan has recently gotten a new supermarket that stays open until late, but other than that everything closes early (like 5pm max). Which in this case means I did not have time to try out Shojin-Ryori — a traditional buddhist veggie (vegan actually) cuisine — typical for the region. Alas, the more reason to visit again!

On the bright side, it brings people inside and together — we spend the evening drinking copious amounts of tea at the hostel, chatting to fellow travellers about our Japan feels.

Hakone

DSC_0114DSC_0081Fresh out of the chanting, we hurry off to catch the cable car back down to the train station. With the disastrous logistic failures of the day past, we were on a roll. The perkiest bit was when I realised we could get off the shinkansen already in Odawara, instead of travelling all the way back to Tokyo to swap trains. Ha-le-lu!

It is still quite the bus trip to reach the top of the mountain though. Once we are checked in at our hotel Mount View, we head straight out and into Museum of the Little Prince just up the road. Which must be the most unpredictable of locations to find a museum dedicated to a French childrens tale?
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Apparently the founder was so fond of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book that she felt a museum was in order. It is a full on experience, with a French style townscape and gallery of St Exupéry’s life doings. (Most of the accompaning captions with the works found in the latter are in either Japanese or French though… Of course I do not really mind just watching photos).
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Back at the hotel (it is so alien to me staying in a hotel that my fingers automatically add an extra s in there) we change into our yukatas to get into the groove. We head downstairs for dinner, then spend the remains of the evening in the public outdoors onsen.

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The following morning I dress up in my most museumy outfit and we take the bus to Hakone Open Air Museum. It is a very hot morning and thus the sun creates some really harsh shadows over the works unfortunately.
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Hakone turns out to be a right mekka for art museums – there seems to be something for every taste, at every other bus stop.

This makes me completely forget what we really came there for – to catch a glimpse of infamous Mount Fuji…
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Unfortunately the installation I am most keen to watch, The Symphonic Sculpture, is having maintenance work made on this very day (what are the odds?!) so there is no entry.

They do host an enchanting photography exhibition by Kishin Shinoyama – a series of portraits of fellow artists, including Yoko Ono, in their right element. That along with the vegan friendly sushi bar down the road makes it a pretty decent excursion anyway.


This was part 6/7 of my Japan Photo Diary, the previous entries can be found below:

Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.
Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.
Neon lights & deers of might.
A historical hike & a last, lazy day in Kyoto.

Why a Shawl is your best Travel Accessory.

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetWhenever going travelling I try to think what I can get maximum use out of, and those are the items that will end up in my packing, often leaving little to no space for accessories. But there is one that always gets to come along on different venturings. The Shawl.

What else can you squeeze into your backpack that takes up so little space, yet get so much use of? Hear me out:

1. Dry shampoo, who?

Whether the hostel you stay has shitty water pressure in the showers, you have to get up in the early am’s to catch a flight or is just a fellow member of the Lazy Gals Club™  — hair washing mightn’t sound so appealing. And this is why we wrap it up! The instant cover up of greasy hair. Dry shampoo, who?

2. Quick Cover up.

So ponder you are out for an evening stroll at your latest destination and by chance you pass by a majestic church or temple that you would just love to have a peek inside? In most places and cases it is considered inappropriate to enter with bare shoulders for instance. Luckily for you, a simple swirl of the scarf over your shoulders and you are good to go! Getting changed quicker than Superman in his phone booths.

3. Lighten up an outfit.

When packing for a shorter trip, I usually end up with an all black wardrobe of items easily mixed and matched between each other. A colourful scarf can easily lighten things up a little, plus you feel kinda fancy like you were on your way to the opera. (No, just me?)

4. Sun Protection.

Heading out for a trek? Protect your head from strong rays and  by wrapping it up in a turban. And don’t forget so bring some water with you!


What are your best useful travel accessories?

Japan Photo Diary, Day 8-9: A historical hike & a last, lazy day in Kyoto.

Magome – Tsumago

DSC_0840DSC_0841DSC_0847Saturday morning we take the train northbound once again, from Kyoto to Magome via Nagoya. Our aim is the 7.8 kilometre hike between Magome and Tsumago.
DSC_0849DSC_0852DSC_0858The hike is part of the old Nakasendo route. Nakasendo in turn used to be one of five highways during the Edo period, this particular one connecting Edo (present day Tokyo) to Kyoto.

Plenty of restoration work has been made to give the hike as an authentic feel as possible, with Magome and Tsumago being some of the most picturesque villages along the route.
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Although loads (like, literally) and loads of buses full of tourists are found at our Magome starting point we quickly descend from them.

Throughout the hike we only meet a dozen of other hikers, and an equal amount of warning bells ↓ to ring in order for the bears living in the surrounding areas to stray elsewhere at the sound.
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Passing waterfalls, tiny villages, a dog or two, bamboo groves, cemeteries and (lucikly) no bears- it is a really beautiful hike, and a perfect day trip away from the big cities.


Kyoto

Come Sunday, I am completely knackered from acting constant tour guide. The cold that had been harassing me with seemingly new symptoms ever since our long flight, seems to have finally given in and left. Possibly he felt I was not paying him enough attention.

(But what conditions for a cold though; subway stations with cross drafts, slushy snow, hours of hiking in damp socks, sun and clouds overlapping one another — I am so lucky it did not completely knock me off my feet, forcing me to spend the holiday in horizontal mode munching on penicillin rather than onigiris!)
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So we make our way into town after a little lie in, go for coffee at % arabica before the queues hit the shop and then sit outside the narrow alleyways of Gion, people watching under the sun, sipping our liquid joy.

Side note: let me just point out that the latte acting model in this photo above is mum’s dairy one; their soy drinks looked no better than what comes out of caffè nero.
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As the afternoon nears, we decide to go see a Geisha-performance at Kyo Odori. At this venue the shows are held annualy between the 1st and 3rd Sunday throughout April, luckily our visit coincides with the very first.

The show lasts circa an hour and we are not allowed to photograph. We are sat on the balcony in the very stuffy theatre. In combination with the loud music and my aching menstrual belly, it all feels a bit claustrophobic.
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For a late lunch we go to Kamisa — a little cafe and shop within a yoga studio. They offer set lunches from circa ¥1’000; the translations only say “brown rice lunch” or similar, but it does not really matter when the entire cafe is profiled vegan. It comes with soup, salads and soy meat.

From the café, we bring some freshly baked orange flavour muffin and coffee to enjoy down at the river along with fellow worshippers of the sun. Truth be told, the winds are way too cold for such activities but who ever learns.
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For our final Kyoto activity, we walk up to Ginkaku-ji (the silver pavillion) which is crowded now just before sunset. We skip the ¥400 entry fee because of this; as you can see an equally beautiful sunset from Kyoto Station free of charge.

As the spring is yet cold, we are all watching the cherry trees with great anticipation, hoping they will bloom soonest. So when you stumble over what is seemingly the town’s one early bloomer, expect a camera fest galore.
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Then we argue over sushi, go back to the airbnb to pack and check train time tables… Yet unknowing of the horrendous amount of mix ups I am to do regarding said time tables the following morning. Until then!


This was part 5/7 of my Japan Photo diary; the previous entries can be found below:

± Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
± Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.
± Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.
± Neon lights & deers of might.

 

Japan Photo Diary, Day 7: Neon lights & deers of might.

Remember my post the other week from a rain covered Osaka? Well, here is the prologue leading up to that evening. Welcome to Friday and day seven of our Japan trip, an intense day travelling from temple sites to urban jungles.

Nara

DSC_0701DSC_0703We start off the morning touring Nara – Japan’s first ever permanent capital; today renowned for housing one of the world’s largest bronze statues and about 1200 deers who roam around the town as they please.
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The Bronze Statue in question is the near 15 metre tall Daibutsu (‘giant Buddha’). To give you an idea just how giant it is, one nostril measures about 50 centimetres(!). While we are on a number dropping spree, the statue is also kept in one of the world’s largest scale wooden buildings. Pretty impressive, hey?

Originally the creation was completely covered in gold leaf, making it a construction that brought Japan close to bankruptcy back in the 8th century.
DSC_0733DSC_0759The deer on the other hand were in pre-buddhist times believed to be messengers of the gods; a reputation they are still enjoying the benefits of as they wander around town; slowing down cars and chasing (particularly the children of) tourists that are unfortunate enough to carry food around.
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Nara is a fairly compact town, so we manage to do a loop around its main sights before the rain does so.

We have lunch at Kinatei; enjoying our warm meal with the dusky weather hovering outside, then place the first ever pins for “Umeå” on the owner’s map over her guests.

Osaka

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On impulse, we catch a train to Osaka rather than returning to Kyoto for the afternoon. I really had no expectations for this 3rd largest city of Japan (rather than it being a massive urban jungle), but boy am I glad that we went!
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After spending some time lost in one of the city’s many stylish-enormous-shopping complexes, we reluctantly head out to the rain and winds outside, trying to catch some sights of the town.
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We followed Lonely Planet’s “Sights of Minami”-city walk, covering about 2.2 kilometres of the city. First on the hit list was the Amerika-mura neighbourhood, which (as you may have guess from both name and photographs) translates to American Village. The name derives from shops that started to appear in the area after the second world war.

The general vibe is sort of futuristic and hip (I feel SO OLD whenever I attempt using the word hip?!), with many things to rest eyes upon; from murals to peculiar street lights and not to forget the miniature Statue of Liberty surveying it all from the rooftops.
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Continuing on, the map takes us down the Shinsaibashi-suji arcade – a market street that routes all the way down to the Dotombori-gawa canal and where you will encounter the bridge Ebisu-bashi.

Take a moment to stop on the bridge for photos of the glittering neon signs reflecting in the canal (well, on a clear day I imagine so) and look back at the crowds making their way down the market arcade.
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Finally, as we were walking down the infamous and buzzing Dotombori Street, I thought to myself

All that glitters is not gold.
Sometimes it is NEON
and that is a heck of a lot better!”

As mentioned, we end the evening at Le Coccole – the cherry atop this pleasant surprise-afternoon, before taking the train back to Kyoto; with drenched socks but with eyes and bellies very well-fed.


This was part 4/7 of my Japan Photo Diary, if you enjoyed this post you can find the previous parts below:

Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.
Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.

Japan Photo Diary, Day 5-6: Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.

Alternative title, ‘A 2-minute Stroll Scroll down the Kyoto tourist attractions.”

Despite the early morning and having done no research other than which stop to get off at, we do not have to neither worry nor read maps when arriving to Arashiyama rail station as there is already a decent amount of tourists out and about.

We target a couple with pretty looking cameras and then shadow them; trying our best to walk slow enough not to surpass them, yet fast enough to not lose them behind the next corner. All while crossing our fingers they are, in fact, also on their way to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
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Perhaps you recognise the grove; it can be found on several top lists on essential things to see whilst in Japan. These lists also tend to bring up the topic of how difficult the task of capturing this place on photo in a way that does it justice is.

Well, they are right. Now you guys know also.
DSC_0492DSC_0494Back in the city, a train ride and four espressos later, we slowly make our way to the Nishiki Market – a narrow arcade market stretching for five blocks.
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DSC_0501DSC_0518 Via Happycow (as per usual) we find the all vegan restaurant Hale that is located within the market. The place is pretty well hidden if you do not know what you are looking for. Actually, it is proven difficult to find even if you DO know what you are looking for, as I have to walk past several times before finding its entrance.

Once inside, the place really feels like an oasis compared to the market chaos just outside.
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On our way to Gion, aka the “Geisha quarters”, we stumble (quite literally) over Ryozen-Kannon when its massive sitting statue of the Goddess of Mercy surveying the city from her height of 24 metres suddenly hovers over us.
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(My kind of philosophy if I ever open up a business ↑)

After this we collect our bags to check-in at our new airbnb out in suburbia and that is the end of that Wednesday.
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Thursday calls for yet another early morning. We are at Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple, well before the gates open.

A security guy tells us to walk around the sides of the complex for 15-or-so minutes and there will be another gate that opens before 9am. Either he was pulling an early April’s Fool prank or something very essential got lost in translation, as we end up in the hills without a single alternative gate in sight. Atleast we got to enjoy a decent view from  up there.
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Back at the temple grounds, still mere minutes after its opening, the place was pretty darn crowded (I can only imagine how it would be like going around noon!) and thus it felt very much like we were sheep being herded around.

I guess that is the thing with this kind of trip; you have a limited amount of time and you want to squeeze all the must-see sights in, yet you end up feeling completely un-original chasing down the same postcard views as everyone else. But hey, I guess that is how tourism works ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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In the afternoon we join the crowd queueing up outside % arabica – the award winning coffee shop. (They also have a shop out in Arashiyama if you are needing a caffeine hit whilst exploring the Bamboo Grove!) These guys are really passionate about their doings, and it is easy to tell why the queue more often than seldom swirls its way down the street.

Also, check out the look of that sleek espresso machine?! Divinity.
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Following along the tourist trail, we take the train out to Fushimi-Inari Taisha to climb up through its seemingly endless amount of torii gates in time for the sunset.

This one was a top pick from the trip’s bucket list. There are four kilometres of wooded pathway that crosses over Inari-san. The bottom bit is well crowded with people wanting to have their photos taken, you are basically a potential photo bomber every 6th step you take (but don’t quote me on those numbers!). The higher you proceed, the lesser the crowd. Top tip of the week.
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About halfway up the mountain there is a beautiful pit stop with a view over Kyoto. DSC_0662DSC_0665
We climb up as the sun declines from the sky. Suddenly the crowds seem to have vanished and you can hear birds chirp and the light buzzing as power travels through the electricity wires.
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For both brunch and dinner that day we went to Choice, which I think you can tell is a pretty top notch grade. I will write a seperate post dedicated to this place a bit further on.


This is part 3/7 of my Japan Photo Diary, the previous posts can be found here:

× Japan Photo Diary, Day 1-2: Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
× Japan Photo Diary, Day 3-4: Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.

Next time we will do a daytrip to Nara & Osaka, and head out on a historical hike. Until then! x

Le Coccole | A must for any Vegan in Osaka.

DSC_0826Have you ever stepped into a cafe or restaurant so cosy you have been immediately struck by a strong urge to move right in?

That is Le Coccole for you.

It is, undoubtly, also an urge that is massively enhanced after having spent a good half hour trying to navigate yourself around the rain filled streets of Osaka before sundown. Looking up from google maps felt like a right blessing when Le Coccole appeared in front of us.

Because surely Paradise too would be decorated with light bulbs as many.
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Where French Bistro meets the Traditional Japanese

The owner, who singlehandedly runs the place this very April eve, appears a little whimsical (but who would not be on such a multitasking job; seating guests, taking orders and cooking the food fresh simultaneously) but oh-so-lovely!

Having studied the culinary arts in La Belle France she speaks a bit of French alongside her English. Nonetheless, she is a very skillful chef. You can tell the time in France comes through in the style of cooking. Albeit ingredients quentissentally Japanese, there are items typically French, such as quiches and creamed cabbage, to be found on the menu.
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No GMO’s here, no thanks!

Le Coccole prides itself on using locally grown and organic produce to the extent possible. With Japan being one of the world’s largest importers of GM crops, it is ravishing to hear that for most part of the year, the veggies used at this green space are provided by the owner’s own brother and his farm some umpteen kilometres away. (In Nara, where we had just spent the morning — felt like the day had come to a full circle!)

There were a little bit of confusion in regards to the menu. Like Fried Rice around the one thousand yen mark seemed a little over the top. That is, until you realize what a hell of a fried rice it is! I have never in my near 24 years tasted anything like it. Creamy, peanutty undertones and roasted veg.

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We also had a deli plate consisting of hummus stuffed capsicum, a selection of pickled, pureed and cremed vegetables and a tofu quiche. So many delightful flavour combinations! Unfortunately we were in too much of a rush to get back to Kyoto to have time for dessert. There is a version of the menu available in English here.

Plants, light bulbs and mismatched kitchen tiles

Last but not least… the interiors. Oh, we have to talk about the interiors! The deep colours of orange and brown bringing a funky 70’s vibe, knick-knacks like retro coffee tins and souvernirs in shape of fancy hot air baloons (same as I saw in Copenhagen last summer!) from her many travels fill up the space. Plants, light bulbs and mismatched kitchen tiles. There is simply not a dull corner in within this wee gem!


Le Coccole
Where |3-4-1 Kitakyuhojimachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Subway | Hommachi Station
Website
Cuisine | Vegan, Traditional Japanese-French Bistro infusion