26 Oct

Links for a Sunday Morning

It Doesn't Get Easier

What Will It Take to Run a 2-HOUR Marathon? – Runner’s World

The perfect sub 2 runner will have the most efficient VO2 Max, will be short and light, and will set the record on a cold day in Germany or Poland.

Canada’s Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame – Mother Jones

The broadcast was deliberative and deferential to the facts even when they were sparse. Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing what we knew and, most crucially, how we knew it.

When Gluten Sensitivity Isn’t Celiac Disease – NY Times

Recent studies have strongly suggested that many, and possibly most, people who react badly to gluten may have a more challenging problem: sensitivity to a long list of foods containing certain carbohydrates.

Going yoga: Columbus Blue Jackets add diversity to training – Fox Sports

The classes the team hosts each week focus on exercises that open the hips to address the demands on those muscles from all the skating in practices and games.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed. – Slate

Does an abstain-for-now message work better on young teens than the abstain-until-marriage message did? New research from the Wellesley Centers for Women shows that yes, a comprehensive sex-education program that includes messaging about abstaining for now produces impressive results.

Why Kids Sext – The Atlantic

“Our only way of being alone was to do it over the phone. It was a way of kind of dating without getting in trouble. A way of being sexual without being sexual, you know? And it was his way of showing he liked me a lot and my way of saying I trusted him.”

Stretching Doesn’t Work (the Way You Think It Does) – Breaking Muscle

In reality, we are not lumps of clay that can be molded by persistently tugging on things. This is because our nervous systems are running the show. That means that unless you are under anesthesia your ability to stretch at any range is determined by your nervous system’s tolerance to that range.

Why So Many Women Are Crying at the Gym – Time

For a generation of stressed-out working women, exercise is as much about emotional release as it is physical training.

One-Fifth of Detroit’s Population Could Lose Their Homes – CityLab

“Don’t you think the best way to stop blight is to keep people in their homes?”?

22 Oct

A funny thing happened on the way to the beer store

On Saturday afternoon I went to return months worth of empties to The Beer Store*.

The trunk of my little hatchback was piled high with empty beer bottles, wine bottles, and a shallow box of tallboys precariously placed atop them all. I was confident that nothing shifted around during the drive over, but to be safe I opened my hatch cautiously.

Naturally, there in the centre of the parking lot amongst a multitude of patrons procuring beverages for the upcoming Wings/Leafs game (or whatever they happened to have planned that night) dozens of cans tumbled out of my trunk and scattered all around, littering the asphalt.

I was beyond embarrassed and even more so when a relatively attractive guy came over to try and help me pick them all up and reorganize them. I thanked him and awkwardly tried to explain away my stockpile of over 150 empties.

I loaded all my boxes up onto a cart, except the cans which I perched on my palm like a waiter while pushing the cart across the parking lot with the other. I was doing well, until I got to the Beer Store entrance where I slammed my cart into the door and glass bottles started tumbling to the floor.

A man on his way out of the store with a case of Blue in one hand bent down to pick up my bottles in the other. Turned out to be the same guy who rescued my cans moments earlier. I mumbled something about being a bit of a mess and while he was gracious, I assume he thought I have a drinking problem.

10 minutes later, after I loaded all the empties onto the conveyor and the girl behind the counter counted them all I had over $15. It wasn’t worth it.

This about sums up the whole thing in 140 characters or less:

*Note to International readers, The Beer Store really is THE beer store, as it is one of only two retail stores where you can buy beer in Ontario– the other being the Liquor Control Board. True Fact.

18 Oct

Links for a Sunday Morning

Happy Sunday Morning!


This is your brain on money: Why America’s rich think differently than the rest of us – Salon

All humans all delusional. It is only the rich who have that delusion fostered. All humans are, to some extent, assholes. But only rich people can get away with it.

Canada’s true role in the Mideast conflict – The Globe and Mail

No one underestimates the Islamic State. But the issues are the best ways to combat it and the best contributions Canada can make. ?If the region sees military intervention as just another knee-jerk Western show of force, we all know what the long-term consequences will be.

Rise and Shine! What kids around the world eat for breakfast. – NY Times

Breakfast for a child in Burkina Faso, for example, might well include millet-seed porridge; in Japan, rice and a putrid soybean goop known as natto; in Jamaica, a mush of plantains or peanuts or cornmeal; in New Zealand, toast covered with Vegemite, a salty paste made of brewer’s yeast; and in China, jook, a rice gruel topped with pickled tofu, strings of dried meat or egg.

10 things female students shouldn’t have to go through at university – The Guardian

The truth is, in 2014, it shouldn’t be possible to write a 10-point list of the abuse women have to brave in the process of learning. There’s nothing funny about it at all.

Why all parties should have a seat in the prime minister’s cabinet – Globe and Mail

We live in an era in which centralization around party leaders has made it less evident to the public what potential prime ministers wish to do with power. After nearly 15 years of hyper-partisanship and absence of big ideas, national coalition governments could reinvigorate our country at a time of major global change.

Want a Bigger Deadlift? – Lift Big Eat Big

The best way to put pounds on your deadlift, is obviously by deadlifting. But here are some favorite assistance exercises that help.

Yoga helps war veterans get a handle on their PTSD – Washington Post

The beneficial effects are due to the increased ability to focus on breathing that, firstly, focuses a person on a present moment and breaks rumination on negative traumatic thoughts, and secondly, increases ability of ‘intraception’ – observing and understanding internal states and the ability to control them, or understanding them as temporal and passing.

15 Oct

The Perfect Waist to Hip Ratio

I’m reading this really fascinating book right now called Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain which explains, in simple English, all the things we know and don’t know about how the brain functions. It particularly focuses on how the brain works without our even being aware of it, and the importance of subconscious and instinctual functions to our existence as humans.

I’m only about 1/4 of the way through it but it is quite an interesting read.

One thing that jumped out at me was a chapter about beauty and how we are subconsciously attracted to people who display signs of sexual interest (ex. dilated pupils) or signs of fertility that are brought on by hormone changes (ex. full buttocks in women and broad shoulders in men).

Then there was this paragraph:

Our programs our so ingrained that there is little variation across the population. Researchers (as well as purveyors of pornography) have been able to discern a surprisingly narrow range for the female proportions that males find most attractive: the perfect ratios between the waist and hips usually resides between 0.67 and 0.8. The waist-to-hip ratios of Playboy centrefolds has remained at about 0.7 over time, even as their average weight has decreased. Women with a ratio in this range are not only judged by males to be more attractive, but are also presumed to be more healthy, humorous, and intelligent.

After reading this I promptly calculated my waist to hip ratio. And after calculating it I wondered why I bothered. On the surface I know that the number is irrelevant to my self worth and yet somewhere deeper down (perhaps in my subconscious) I was curious.

These photos were taken around this time last year. My measurements are nearly identical.

First, I felt relieved that my ratio was somewhere in the magic range and then immediately disappointed in myself for that relief. Because what if it were, like, 0.82? I probably would have been bummed out that my waist to hip ratio wasn’t statistically ideal. I probably would have frantically calculated it again just to be sure that, yes, in fact I was less attractive, healthy, humorous, and intelligent than a 0.7.

On the one hand, it’s sad that I still have these lingering feelings of tying my self-worth to physical appearance. But on the other hand, I probably would have stopped my train of thought right there. I probably would not have researched diets or workouts to get a bigger butt or smaller waist or whatever I needed for the ideal ratio. I probably would have told myself  that in the grand scheme of things, this is meaningless. I probably would have reminded myself of all my great traits both physical and not.  And I probably would not have let it get the best of me which I’d have done in the past.

I’ve come far in being comfortable with my body, but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me.

12 Oct

Links for a Sunday Morning

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

North Dakota high school eliminates dangerous threat to male students: Yoga pants - Salon

Dictating that young women change their appearance because they are “distracting” men inherently objectifies them, and it teaches girls to be ashamed of their bodies. Moreover, it sends the wrong message to boys: It tells them that they cannot control themselves or their desires; what’s worse, it also tells them that their inability to respect others is acceptable. No, not just acceptable — it’s worthy of protection. 

The Unsafety Net: How Social Media Turned Against Women – The Atlantic

For online harassers, this is often an overt goal: to silence female community members, whether through sexual slurs or outright threats.

How to make tea correctly (according to science): milk first – The Guardian

The most important discovery in the history of mankind. Fire is a close second, as you need it to boil water.

Mass Mobs fill pews at vacant Detroit churches. – NPR

There’s something special about coming to Mass with so many other people. “To be in attendance when it’s full, as opposed to just the sparse. There’s an electricity that’s amazing.”

Take Charge of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome With Strength Training – Breaking Muscle

Progressive strength training increases the size of skeletal muscle and might enhance the muscles’ ability to manage glucose.

Inflation to a Twenty Something – Marketplace

In real dollars we spend less on everything except rent than twenty years ago.

A Statistical Look at How Turnovers Impact the NFL Season – Minitab

Although they don’t explain everything, turnovers can go a long way in determining whether a team wins or loses. But for the most part, the frequency at which they occur is very random.

Men: How to Crush Any Workout and Win More With Yoga – US News

A strong yoga practice demands that you challenge yourself and work harder than you ever thought you possibly could without running for the door screaming.

Is Bulletproof Coffee Really Good for You? – Globe and Mail

There’s a reason why the Tibetans add butter to their tea: The hot drink wards off the cold temperatures and helps avert hunger during physically demanding days. I’m not sure a sedentary desk job requires a 240-plus-calorie cup of coffee.

07 Oct

Four Things


Teaching yoga to teenage athletes is my new favourite thing. I’ve been teaching vinyasa yoga to a local Minor Midget hockey team, Sun County Panthers, as part of their conditioning and stretching regimen. I had the opportunity to teach to a local high school football team as well. I love it. These guys are skilled athletes but their minds are all over the place and, as I say to them (over and over and over), “the ability to keep your head in the game is what distinguishes the good athletes from the great ones.” Yoga can get them there and it’s awesome to see that idea slowly start to sink in with them. Especially the ones that are serious about getting drafted. Not to mention that a lot of these guys need to build their upper body strength, stretch their inner thighs, and release tightness in the hips. All the things they’ll get out of a vinyasa class.


I’m getting weaker. At least, I feel like I’m not getting stronger as quickly as I’d like to. My grip strength is pathetic and it’s hindering my deadlifting. My squats have been mediocre. I don’t have a weightlifting partner so I’ve been relegated to the smith machine for bench pressing anything over 140lbs. Though I did recently manage a 140lb push press for 2 reps of which I was extremely terrified and subsequently extremely proud. So there’s that.


It happened to me again last week. Some guy at the gym said, “You look good! You look like you’ve lost weight”. While my mental response was “I always look good, sir.” my verbal one was “Thanks. I didn’t.” I’m still holding strong at 166lbs. My opinion on that whole scenario has remained mostly the same since the last time. I’m at the gym frequently enough that it’s not weird that people would notice my body shape; that’s not what is awkward. I appreciate that the man was trying to pay me a compliment but in it lies several untrue implications, including 1)That I want to lose weight, and 2)That I am more attractive when I appear thinner. I certainly don’t fault the guy for his compliment but next time he could try saying something like “Your deadlift form is impeccable.” It’s a compliment that would be much better received.


Everything I know about Danish politics I learned from Borgen. Or I’m starting to learn anyway. I just started watching this political drama from Denmark after reading nothing but good reviews. I want to say it’s like House of Cards except the just and fair main character, Birgitte Nyborg, is the exact opposite of first class asshole Frank Underwood. Maybe that’s why I like it already.

29 Sep

Japan Shrines and Temples

Which shrines and temples to go to and which to skip in Japan, based on my personal experience. Here goes. . .
(click to enlarge photos)


Senso-Ji Temple

Located in the Asakusa neighbourhood of Tokyo, Senso-ji is a Buddhist temple dedicated to Kannon. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of its most important.


Why should I go?

Senso-ji is a large and significant temple to see. The temple is busy so you can witness first hand how the faithful observe their religion and pay their respects. However, you can find spots around the large grounds that are quieter and peaceful.

The main street leading up to the temple is lined with shops so if you like browsing for souvenirs this is a good place to visit.

The temple is located right near Kappabashi-dori, Tokyo’s kitchenware neighbourhood. Who doesn’t love shopping for kitchenware? (The answer you are looking for is: no one)

It’s free.


Why should I skip it?

If you dislike crowds of tourists, this might not be the place for you.
So. many. people.


Meiji Jingu Shrine

This Shinto shrine from 1921 is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife. It is located at the centre of a forest near Harajuku in Tokyo.

Meiji Jingu

Why should I go?

The huge torii gates that mark the sacred ground are majestic.

The large grounds surrounding the shrine are covered by forest making the Meiji Shrine a refuge from the busyness of the city. It’s a good place to go to get away from it all.

The shrine itself is less busy than the Senso-ji temple, so you can appreciate it without having to fight the crowds.

You can see huge barrels of sake and wine that are donated every year to the shrine.

It’s free.

Meiji Jingu Sake Barrels

Why should I skip it?

You probably shouldn’t.

Meiji Jingu


Yasaka Shrine

This Shinto shrine is located between the Gion and Hagashiyama districts of Kyoto making it a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

Yasaka Shrine

Why should I go?

You’ll see a number of young women dressed in traditional Japanese dress, praying and paying their respects at this shrine. It’s worth the experience.

There are a number of lanterns through the buildings of the shrine grounds. If you go at dusk or night you can see them illuminated.

It’s free.

Yasaka Shrine

Why should I skip it?

I don’t think I’d go out of my way to get here, but if you’re in the area (which you probably will be, as the nearby districts have loads of tourist attractions) then why not?

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Kyoto shrine dedicated to Inari, the god of foxes, rice, and business.

Fushimi Inari

Why should I go?

This shrine is SO cool. The shrine itself is at the base of a mountain and includes 4kms worth of trails up the mountain that are tightly lined with bright orange torii gates.

You’ll never see anything else like it.

It’s free.

Fushimi Inari

Why should I skip it?

It takes about 2 hours to walk the trails and walking up mountain can be strenuous.
If you just walk in the lower part of the trails, you’ll encounter massive crowds and miss some of the serenity of the torii gates.
If you are able though, you really should make this a ‘must-see’.

Fushimi Inari

Sanjusangendo Temple

This is an iconic Buddhist temple in Kyoto is known for its 1,001 life-sized wooden statues of the goddess Kannon.


Why should I go?

It’s phenomenal to see 1000 identical statues liked up like this. You’ll be impressed, I promise.


Why should I skip it?

It’s not free.

You can’t take any pictures of the statues. (Though, probably not a valid reason to skip). You probably should put this one on your ‘must-see’ list too.

Tenryu-ji Temple

Located in Arashiyama, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a temple for veneration of the supreme Buddha surrounded by some of the nicest gardens.

Why should I go?

The gardens are beautiful and are original to the temple in spite of losing the buildings several times to fire. They include a large koi pond surrounded by rocks, pine trees, and mountains.

Tenryu-ji Temple

Why should I skip it?

It’s not free.

Nanzen-Ji Temple

Located in Kyoto this is one of the most important zen temples in all of Japan.


Why should I go?

The wooden Sanmon Gate that marks the entrance to the grounds is a large, beautiful structure and you can actually climb up the gate’s balcony.

There are several halls, temples, and gardens on the grounds that you can choose to visit for an extra fee like Tenjuan Temple, the Hojo, Nanzenin Temple, and Konchi-in Temple each with beautiful rock gardens. We visited Tenjuan Temple.

There’s an unexpected Italianate aqueduct on the temple grounds that makes for fun photo-ops.

You can visit Nanzen-ji then walk the canal-side “Path of Philosophy” to another popular temple, Ginkaku-ji.


Why should I skip it?

The grounds are free but visiting any of the temples and gardens will cost you.

Ginkaku-ji Temple

Kyoto’s Ginkaku-ji, or the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple originally built as a shogunate residence modelled after Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion.


Why should I go?

The meticulously formed “sea of silver sand” and the sand cone in the gardens are amazing, and easily the most impressive things you’ll see in any garden in Japan.

There is also a beautiful moss garden with ponds and streams.


Why should I skip it?

It’s not free.

It’s not actually silver.

Only the grounds, not the pavilion or the hall, are open to the public.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, is a former residence of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and currently is a Rinzai Zen temple. Its top two floors are covered in gold and the roof is crowned with a golden pheonix.


Why should I go?

It’s actually gold.

It is situated on a large pond and the sight of it is awe-inspiring.


Why should I skip it?

It’s slightly out of the way in that there aren’t many tourist attractions nearby. But there a few city buses that will take you right there.

It’s not free.

The gardens aren’t as nice as Ginkaku-ji, but you’re here just for the temple.


Danjo Garan Monastery Complex

The complex contains a number of temples and was built in the 800s as a place for secret training in Shingon esoteric Buddhism.

Daito at Danjo Garan

Why should I go?

The entire complex offers lots of placards with English descriptions of the buildings, their history, and their uses, making it the most informative religious complex that we visited in Japan.

The Konpon Daito (two tiered pagoda) is larger than it looks and especially impressive.

Why should I skip it?

Only if you happen to not go to Koyasan at all. Otherwise don’t miss it.

27 Sep

Links for a Sunday Morning

Exercise and the Bounce Factor – NY Times

I once thought I pinched a nerve while running because when I took my post-run shower, I felt a stinging in my back so sharp, it was as if that spot was on fire. It was just the water hitting a place where my bra had rubbed the skin raw.

Keep Cadillac in Detroit – City Lab

Cadillac would be better off positioning itself as a comeback story of an American icon—alongside the city where it is based.

Against Apple Picking – Slate

Encourage yuppies and their progeny to come pick your fruit—they’ll pay handsomely for the privilege, buy more than they’d ordinarily consume, and then shell out for all sorts of other value-added products. It’s the best use of child labor since Manchester’s early 19th-century textile mills.

4 Mental Exercises Olympic Athletes Use to Gain That Extra Edge – Emotion Machine

Meditation is an excellent way to train your mind to become relaxed, focused, and “in the zone.” It teaches you how to ignore distractions and instead focus all your energy and resources on the competition.

The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others – Zen Habits

Comparisons lead to feeling really bad about ourselves or others. This is heartbreaking, because we are good people, and so are they. It’s only in comparison that we take what’s wonderful and turn it into something cruel.

Weights before Cardio? – NY Times

The theory behind these claims [that aerobic and resistance-style exercise should not be combined in a single workout] is that each form of exercise interferes, physiologically, with the other, potentially blunting the desired training effects. But the best available science disagrees.

26 Sep

Koyasan and Eko-in Review

We left Kyoto behind from Kyoto Station bound for Osaka where we caught another two trains and a cable car to get to Koyasan.

I was really excited for this part of the trip as I wanted more immersion into Zen Buddhist culture about which I know very little, but was eager to learn. (Side note: I’m not religious but do find religion fascinating. Does that make sense?)

Koyasan is a mountain south of Osaka that is the heart of the Shingon (“True Word”) sect of Esoteric Buddhism—the epicentre of study and practice. The mountain was chosen for this purpose 1200 years ago and the monastic life here is still very vibrant with several monasteries and countless young monks.

It also is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists looking to pay respects to Kobo Daishi who founded the Shingon Buddhist sect and established Koyasan as its centre.

Consequently, many of the monasteries offer lodging to pilgrims (and interested but not-so-religious, tourists like myself).

Koyasan might be old but those monks have some pretty good modern marketing skills to attract visitors from around the globe. They even have a mascot (of course they do, it’s Japan!), Koya-kun, who (like every other mascot in Japan) is utterly adorable.

Koyasan Mascot

Eko-in Monastery

We stayed at Eko-in, a popular monastery among tourists and the place was nearly full the night that we were there. Almost everyone was a foreigner save for a single Japanese family.

Eko-in is run by a great group of young monks and they offer you activities to partake in during your stay. When we arrived we were shown right to our tatami mat room where there was tea ready for us and the heart sutra waiting to be copied.

Eko-in Sutra WritingCopying sutras is supposed to be a meditative practice and it is, in fact, quite soothing.

At 4:30pm the monks teach you Ajikan meditation techniques (meditating on the sanskrit letter ‘a’) and leave you to a 40 minute silent meditation.

A Shojin Ryori dinner is ready for you in your room at 5:30pm. Shojin Ryori is the sort of meal you would expect from monks: a simple vegan meal with a variety of small portions or, as described by our travel guide “lacking meat and any exciting vegetables like garlic or onion”. Yeah. The food was thoughtfully prepared, though not as exciting as the meals we had in the Kiso Valley and not as filling.

Eko-in Shojin RyoriShojin Ryori, Buddhist Vegan Cuisine at Eko-in

After dinner, you can opt to go on an guided night tour (in English) of Okunoin Cemetery. We opted instead to do that earlier in the day on our own.

Okunoin Cemetery

This was one of the coolest things that we saw in Japan. I’m a sucker for cemeteries (is that weird?) so I might be partial, but I’d put Okunoin as a ‘must see’ in Japan.

Okunoin is 1200 years old and the largest graveyard in Japan with over 200,000 graves.

Okunoin Cemetery - Koyasan

Okunoin Cemetery - Koyasan

The reason for the size is because Kobo Daishi (that guy I mentioned in the beginning who founded Shingon Buddhism and Koyasan) is believed to be resting in eternal meditation in a mausoleum in the cemetery.

Everyone wants to buried near Kobo Daishi. This is some seriously holy ground.

Okunoin Cemetery - KoyasanThis is a legitimate headstone among the newer graves in the cemetery. I kid you not.

The cemetery has gorgeous and opulent headstones that span the centuries and is surrounded by huge Japanese cedars that span the centuries as well.

Okunoin Cemetery - Koyasan

Okunoin Cemetery - Koyasan

We couldn’t take photos of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum but it is lit by literally thousands of lanterns which is striking. The silence and reverence of the pilgrims and monks that visit to pray and pay respects is part of what makes the space feel holy and serene.

It’s phenomenal.

Buddhist Ceremonies

Morning ceremonies back at the Eko-in monastery begin at 6:30am in the temple.

There might have been a wake-up call but we certainly missed it. I woke naturally in a at 6:25am realizing that it must be almost time to get up and was frenzied when I looked at my watch. Luckily, neither Matt nor I is unaccustomed to oversleeping so we were able to get to the temple on time.

Eko-in Morning ServiceMorning ceremony at Eko-in

The ceremony itself involved the monks chanting some sutras. It was cool to hear at first but after 5 minutes became about as exciting you can imagine as any religious service in a foreign language would be (not very).

The ceremony was followed up by the Goma fire ritual which was pretty cool. You watch as a monk builds and consecrates a fire for spiritual and psychological cleansing while another monk is drumming and chanting.

The whole thing is very primitive and mesmerizing.

Eko-in Goma Fire RitualGoma Fire Ritual


We had some terrible rain that morning which made us limit our site seeing of the rest of Koyasan and we left earlier than expected to Osaka where we stayed for the night before our flight back to Canada.

Osaka didn’t wow me. It was a busy big city with nothing too spectacular to see or do besides eat, drink, and shop (all of which we were tired of doing). We wandered a bit through Americamura (their America Town) and along Dotombori but mostly found ourselves bored and looking forward to the fancy room upgrade we were offered at the hotel.

Oh, but I should mention that in Osaka there was this:

Pablo CheesecakePablo Cheesecake

Pablo Cheesecake- It’s like cheesecake, but creamier and less tangy, and in a tart shell. A tart shell, you guys!

So good.

Matt and I bought a whole cheesecake thinking “what are we going to do with the leftovers”. We didn’t have any.

Stay tuned for the next post in my Japan series: Shrines and Temples.

22 Sep

Travelling to Kyoto

No one has anywhere to go in Kyoto. That was my theme for the 3 days that we spent touring around Kyoto because, unlike Tokyo, the crowds kept a (rather annoying) dawdling pace. Part of this had to do with the number of tourists that come to Kyoto to get a feel for historic Japan.

. . . And you really do get good glimpses of traditional Japanese culture in Kyoto.

There were numerous women walking about dressed in kimono. There is extensive preserved architecture as well as numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. After extensive research on ‘how to spot a real geisha’, I even spotted what I expect were maiko apprentice geisha out of their traditional dress (apparently the hair is the giveaway).

MaikoMaiko? I think so.

Our itinerary for Kyoto was almost entirely made up of visiting those various shrines and temples (stay tuned for a post just about them) but we also managed to see a few other really cool things in Kyoto which were more modern culture than historic culture.


Arashiyama is a neighbourhood about a 45 minute bus ride west of the central Gion district that draws tourists primarily for its bamboo grove.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

While the bamboo grove was a really cool thing to see, it wasn’t that large and we seemed to move through it rather quickly. (side note: The relentless rain may have also played a factor here.)

That just meant we had extra time in the Arashiyama area to go to the Arashiyama Monkey Park!

Arashiyama Monkey ParkSqueeeee!

The park is the natural habitat for 170+ Japanese macaque monkeys. A number of them are always hanging around the visitor centre where you can feed them (you have to be inside, behind the cage to feed them while they stay outside).

Just don’t touch them or look them in the eye. They don’t like these things, apparently. I didn’t test the rules to confirm.

Just feeding a monkey, nbdThis was super exciting for me. Trip highlight.


We got more of an otaku fix by finding a better Yodobashi Camera store than the one we found in Tokyo. And by better, I mean bigger toy section. Matt was in heaven.

Otaku at Kyoto Yodobashi CameraYodobashi Camera

We also spent time in the Kyoto Manga Museum which had a small exhibit about the history of manga and where it’s headed in the future. The museum is more like a library of pretty much every manga you can think of… most of them, of course, were in Japanese and pretty useless to us.

Manga MuseumMatt at the Kyoto Manga Museum

Nishiki Market

Another place that we hit up that I loved was Nishiki Market. It was cooler than Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo because a lot of the offerings were ready-to-eat and, let’s be honest, I really like to eat. Pickles, street meat, omelettes, tofu doughnuts, dried fruit, and so much more.

Tip: don’t go early. It seems like none of the stalls open until 10 or 11am.

Nishiki Market

Mowing down on some deep fried chocolate filled goodnessMowing down on some deep fried chocolate filled goodness at Nishiki Market


If you don’t know how much I love karaoke, then you really don’t know me at all.

At first I wasn’t too interested in doing karaoke in Japan because I figured all the songs would be in Japanese and I didn’t think it was worthwhile but we gave in one night in Kyoto and, obviously, it was awesome.

Karaoke KyotoKaraoke Kyoto

They had a decent selection of songs in English that were easy to find. You get your own little room that you rent by the half hour which is awesome because you can make a total asshole of yourself without being in front of a crowd of people you don’t know. You can queue up the songs you want to sing from the get-go or pick them as you go.

It was relatively inexpensive, like the equivalent of $8/person but I could see it racking up quickly if you get hooked (which, obviously you will) and drink a lot.

It was awesome. I wish we had karaoke rooms like this in Windsor.

Next stop: Koyasan. Stay tuned!