Entries Tagged as 'orange'

Senso-ji in Asakusa, Tokyo

April 23rd, 2013 · 1 Comment

On our first full day in Tokyo, we decided to go to the Asakusa district in Tokyo to check out Senso-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple.

Legend says that “in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Senso-ji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon.”

The temple was completed in the year 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple. It should be noted, though, that Senso-ji was bombed and pretty much destroyed in World War II and had to be rebuilt later.

About 30 million people visit Senso-ji every year. I noticed a lot of people like us, pure tourists, but there were also a good number of worshipers. This is still a very significant temple for Buddhists.

Click for an interactive map.

Since this was my first temple visit, I didn’t know what to expect. Every time I saw something – the outer gate, the inner gate, a big lantern, some less significant hall – I thought, “That’s it!” I didn’t realize that a lot of these temples have very large grounds, many different buildings, and gates, and gardens.


Dallas at Kaminarimon Gate
Kaminarimon Gate

After exiting the Asakusa Station, we walked maybe a block before coming across Kaminarimon Gate “Thunder Gate,” the outer gate to the temple (point A on the map above). This gate was destroyed and rebuilt several times since it was first constructed in 941. The current structure was built in 1960. The giant red chochin (lantern) that hangs from the gate is 13 feet tall, 11 feet around and weights 1,500 pounds! This gate is not only well known around Japan as a symbol of Senso-ji, but also of Asakusa, as a whole.

Nakamise Dori after walking through Kaminarimon Gate.

soft_serve_flavors_japan nakamise_snack_shop

So many flavors of soft serve!! Vanilla, green tea, black sesame, chocolate, strawberry, ogura hokkaido (red bean?), custard pudding, vanilla and grean tea swirl, vanilla and chocolate swirl, vanilla and strawberry swirl, sakura (cherry blossom), rum raisin, grape, lemon, melon, blueberry yogurt, almond jelly, mango, cookies vanilla, chocolate and banana, tofu, mandarin orange, purple sweet potato, marron (chestnut), white peach.

Nakamise Dori, looking back at Kaminarimon Gate.

Making cookies!
nakamise_dori_making_rice_crackersMaking senbei (rice crackers)!

Fruity doughnut with red bean paste inside.

Shin-Nakamise (New Nakamise) is a perpendicular street to Nakamise Dori.

Spotted this kabuki display on a side street.

Looking back towards Nakamise Dori. There were tons of bicyclists in Asakusa.

View of Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa.
nakamise_dori_sakuraSpotted some real sakura (cherry blossoms)!!

After you walk through Kaminarimon Gate, there’s street called Nakamise Dori (dori = street). This street is lined with small shops selling everything from fans to woodblock prints to kimonos to sweets and snacks to tshirts, etc. It might seems kind of weird to have all of this stuff for sale on temple grounds, but these shops are actually part of an old tradition of selling to pilgrims to who walked to Senso-ji. There are 89 shops that line this 250 meter street! We didn’t know it at the time, but they say this is one of the best places in Tokyo to buy souvenirs.

Dallas at Hozomon Gate

Hozomon Gate

Chochin at Hozomon Gate.
An orange tree on the Senso-ji temple grounds.


Beautiful statues in the garden.

Nakamise Dori stretches between the outer gate, Kaminarimon Gate, through to an inner gate, Hozomon Gate (point B on the map above). Nearby Hozomon Gate is a beautiful garden by Bentendo Hall (point L) where I took the photos of the statues.

Me in front of the five-storied pagoda.

The Five-Storied Pagoda (point D on the map above) was originally built in 942. It was destroyed and rebuilt man times. This current structure is from 1973.

Dallas getting his omikuji.

Incense pot.

Hand washing fountain.

Standing in the entrance to the main gate, looking back at Hozomon Gate.

Finally to the main hall of Senso-ji (point C on the map above). I didn’t actually take any photos inside because I thought it would be disrespectful to the people there worshiping. The main hall building was destroyed in March 1945 in Tokyo air raids. In 1958 it was reconstructed. The walk up to the hall was very interesting. For a suggested donation of $100 yen ($1.00 USD), you can get your omikuji (fortune) by first shaking an octangular vessel. A stick comes out with a number on it and you match the number to the drawer with the same number. Open the drawer and pull out your fortune. There’s also an area for hand washing and purification with water. For a small fee you can purchase incense to burn. You’re supposed to waft the incense over your body for purification.

yakushido_hall_statue yakushido_hall

After visiting the Senso-ji main hall, we just started wandering around the outer grounds. I think these photos were taken nearby Yakushido Hall (point F on the map).



We stopped to take a break, but I saw these red banners off down the street and had to know what they were. A lot of this day went like that, actually. We just kept walking and walking and walking because we’d see something and get curious. These banners were outside of Zenizuka Jizo-do Hall (point H on the map).



In the far north-east of the Senso-ji temple grounds, just past Zenizuka Jizo-do Hall, is the shibaraku statue. Shibaraku is a popular piece in kabuki. This statue is of the 9th Danjuro Ichikawa (1868 – 1903), a famous kabuki actor. He is shown in the role depicting shibaraku, which was his specialty.

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Greenwell Kona Coffee Farms

March 25th, 2011 · 4 Comments

After lunch Cory, Caroline and I made the spontaneous decision to tour a Kona coffee farm. You can’t be a coffee drinker in Kona and not do this, right?

Greenwell Kona Coffee Farm was located just down the road, so we decided to go there. When we arrived there was a little gift shop and a small parking area. We parked the car and walked up. The free tour was just about to begin. Great timing! We were invited to take a taste of the coffee ahead of time and to bring a sample on the tour with us.

There were about 10 people on the tour, so it was a nice, small group. Our guide, Gloria, covered what was involved in the coffee-making process, plus a bit about the history of Greenwell Farms. She walked us across a small street to an area where they had some coffee trees growing. On the way Gloria pointed out some other things they grow at the farm – macadamia nuts, oranges, huge avocados, bananas.

Gloria told us that most of the their coffee is grown up the mountain. Greenwell Farms buys coffee cherries from 300 farmers in the North and South Kona Regions. Down by the tour site was the original farm and we could see the original, vintage coffee trees. Greenwell farms has been operating on this land since the Greenwell family was there back in the 1800s.

In the early spring time the orchards are in full bloom with white flowers. A lot of people call this “Kona Snow” because the orchard in full bloom looks like a snowstorm hit! In the fall the flowers turn and the trees are then covered with “Coffee Cherries.”

These red cherries are hand-picked and harvested from August to February. Farmers from all over Kona come to Greenwell Farms with their day’s picking. Gloria told us that all Kona coffee must be picked by hand and that is why it’s sometimes so pricey. Other coffee farms plant their coffee tree rows wider and send machines down to pick all the berries – green, red, or otherwise. This leads to the coffee being less consistent in taste. Kona pickers pick all the red berries off the tree and leave the green ones or overripe brown ones. Then they’ll revisit the tree again later on and pick the ripe berries again. It’s a longer, more laborous process, but leads to a more consistent quality and taste in the coffee.

Greenwell Farms operates pulping and drying facilities, a mill, and a bean grading and sorting facility. Though they employ many modern industrial coffee practices, some things they have are still super old school. Like the Hoshidanas, which are platforms used to sun-dry the coffee.

Greenwell Farms also has a roasting facility that is used to roast coffee that is sold retail and wholesale. They also roast for a bunch of other coffee companies in Kona. They even sell green beans to the coffee industry and have established themselves as a premiere source of Kona Coffee. Gloria told us that Greenwell Farms produces 20% of all Kona coffee sold worldwide. As a sidenote, in order for a coffee to be packaged and labeled as a “Kona blend” it has to contain at least 10% Kona coffee.

After the tour we got to taste all of the coffee products at the Greenwell Farms Store. Other than coffee, we tried chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and chocolate-covered coffee beans. The nuts and beans are grown on-site and all of the chocolate products are made from Kona-grown cocoa beans at the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. They also sold some Big Island Bees honey.

Gloria told us a story about how they noticed that the Kona coffee pickers had really young-looking hands. They did some studies and found out that the fruit of the cherry is a natural anti-aging substance. They used to use this as a mulch or fertilizer, but now they sell it to a Kauai company, Malie, who uses it in anti-aging creams. I was interested in trying this, but it was $50 for just one ounce!

The coffee fruit is also chock full of antioxidents and nutrients, and so Greenwell Farms also sells the coffee fruit to KonaRed who makes a “wellness beverage” from it. I thought it was interesting how this side-product industry has popped up. Where before they would take the pulp and work it back into the ground, they now sell it for a profit.

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Starbucks Vivanno

July 22nd, 2008 · 9 Comments

Our local Starbucks was really pushing this new smoothie they’re selling, the Vivanno. I was walking by one day and decided to give it a try on a whim. There are two versions, one is Orange Mango Banana and the other is Chocolate Banana. I tried the Orange Mango Banana one. It’s made with a whole banana, which I actually saw them blend and use. I liked that it was fresh and not some frozen banana who knows what. The banana is blended with an Orange Mango Naked Juice that is made just for Starbucks, protein powder, fiber powder, milk and ice. I think they usually use 2% milk, but I requested skim. You can only get the grande size. Some of the nutritional information for the Orange Mango Banana Vivanno is 250 calories, 2 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of fiber. Since I used skim milk, I think that the calories and fat grams were even less. The cost was about $4.50.

Now, what about the taste? I thought it was good. Very banana, less mango and orange. I don’t think that there is anywhere else in our neighborhood that you can get a smoothie, so I might try another one some time. Then again, I rarely ever get smoothies even when they are available, so who knows. I thought $4.50 was a bit much, but I always think that smoothies are expensive so maybe that’s about what smoothies cost?

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