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Restaurant Review: Kamado Takitate Gohan Doi (Kyoto Station’s ASTY Road, Hachijo-guchi, Kyoto – Japan)


It took me a while to choose restaurant for my lunch while in Kyoto Station’s Hachijo-guchi area. I ended up spending more than 15 minutes walking along the Asty Road, which is located at the far eastern part of that area. There were so many choices but I decided to pick something unusual for my lunch. I skipped Sushi, Tempura, Ramen and other “”common”” theme restaurants and decided to choose this restaurant with a quite long name: Kamado Takitate Gohan Doi (Google translated this into “”Furnace kettle with fresh rice””. I kinda got the meaning despite of I don’t speak or read Japanese very well). What’s unusual is this restaurant offers you all-you-can-eat Japanese pickles! Of course they also have “”normal”” main menus. I told myself I can’t miss this opportunity to try all of the Japanese pickles.


For the main course, I chose a complete set (“”setto””) of friend chicken (“”Kara-age””) with tempura and croquette (“”Potato korokke””). Despite of their interior looked low-key, their foods were a killer. I went back and forth to try the pickles in the island near the back of the entrance.


During my lunch here, I saw something that I can’t believe my own eyes. I saw someone whose resemblance similar like a young little girl that I saw in Kyoto station 10 years ago when I first visited Japan but now she looked like already a teenager (high school student perhaps?). At that time long back then, she was with her mother, going to eat lunch at Kyoto station! Why was this so special? Because what caught my attention was she looked almost the same as Shizuka from Doraemon Japanese Cartoon (if she ever became a real human). That incident really made my day. I got myself a good chuckle. Doraemon was something that was hugely popular among Japanese comics fans in the 90s during my school time.


Having lunch in Kyoto station was something that brought back my good old memories of the days that we spent in Kyoto back in 2007. It always be a different experience everytime we visit Kyoto but the nice atmosphere was the same. Unfortunately I can’t spend too much time in Kyoto that day since my friend is waiting for me in Otsu that afternoon (hence I didn’t get many photos of this place as I was in hurry). After my lunch, I went to second floor at Kyoto station to get to my next train to Otsu city from Kyoto. It was a very good lunch indeed.



Kyoto City Kyoto 600-0000 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashishiokōji Takakurachō,  8-3

JR Kyoto Station Hachijyuchi 1st Floor ASTY ROAD (Area: Kyoto Station)

Tel: 075-634-8545

(Please verify the address since I only got it from third party source and relied on Google translate/maps)



Hotel Review – Sunroute Hotel Kawasaki


This 3 stars hotel is located a few blocks away from JR Kawasaki station and Keihan Kawasaki station.

Japan Trip (Spring 2017) Day 1 – Kawasaki


We chose Kawasaki due to its close proximity to Haneda airport. We knew about Kawasaki area after watching some online videos about Kawasaki (including the official promotion video from Kawasaki city). The downtown Kawasaki area near the Kawasaki JR station and Keikyu Kawasaki station is pretty much crowded by many hotels and shopping malls. For examples, there are at Lazona Kawasaki Plaza, La Cittadella shopping mall, Azalea underground shopping mall, atré Kawasaki mall, Dice shopping mall, etc.

For hotel, we picked Sunroute Kawasaki hotel since we thought it was a decent hotel near the train station.


It took about a short 15 mins walk from the train station and the hotel was rather easy to find. When we arrived at the hotel, we found out that the Excelsior cafe where hotel guests normally could get their breakfast there was under total renovation and was closed for public. Despite that minor issue, we were quite satisfied with the room that we got. It was clean and had no smoking odor at all. The bed was quite comfortable. The only thing that was quite tricky is to use the thermostat. Apparently during cold seasons, the air conditioning in many hotels in Japan (especially in Hokkaido which was our next destination) only has heater mode. They however provided a portable air purifier which could function as an AC too.

Since we arrived at Kawasaki late afternoon, we took some rests after we checked in. I was worried that we would not be able to wake up if we take a nap. My worry was proven right. We overslept until almost 8PM despite of we had set wake up call alarms! We didn’t realize it that most shopping malls around Kawasaki area closed at 9PM local time. When we got out from the hotel, it was already past 8PM. We found a small restaurant next to the entrance of atre Kawasaki mall. The food was good and not expensive. It was somewhat a mix between Japanese and Chinese foods. When I mentioned the food was “”oishii”” (delicious), one of the workers in restaurant told the chefs that a customer gave a compliment. They took it with great appreciation.


At one point, we diverted from main roads to go through alleys on the way back to hotel. There is a big pachinko establishment near the hotel and the area was full of night clubs and karaoke places. We didn’t feel quite safe while walking in those alleys. Few times we were approached by some men who offered their services. We politely refused it. After such incident, we decided only to go next to main roads walkways.

The next morning, we checked out from our hotel and requested for luggage storage since we want to go for lunch (skipped breakfast) at the nearby mall. We took a longer route to go to the Lazona shopping mall. On the way there, we stopped by at La Cittadella. Since it was still early morning, many stores and restaurants were not opened yet. La Cittadella indeed was beautiful. I felt like it was heavily influenced by Spain architecture but still maintain the Japanese flavor.


From La Cittadella, we walked north and then took a right turn towards the atré Kawasaki mall. I passed by Nikko hotel and also the small restaurant that we dined last night. From atré Kawasaki mall facade, there were escalators that go to upper floor where the Kawasaki JR station is. It was already crowded by people but the rush hour traffic was already reduced as it was almost 10AM. I observed the elevator was located at the far right corner of the station (which was important for us since we were carrying luggages). We walked towards the corridor that connects the station and Lazona mall.


As we were standing in the front of Lazona mall, the atrium was an open space, surrounded by many stores which was at the 3 – 4 floors wings of the mall, I noticed each of store’s employees were already standing in front of the store entrance. As the clock hit 10AM (it rang a bell but I wasn’t sure if there was a real clock or just an automated announcement via PA speakers), the employees were making a bow to salute customers. It was pretty impressive sight. What an amazing thing.

We entered the mall from the third floor. There was an amusement center near the entrance of third floor. As we walked around the third floor, I realized that we were hungry. We started exploring the mall and found the directory map and as usual, the food court and restaurants can be found at the basement level.


When we reached the food court, it was still empty and not too many people were eating there. To my surprise, I saw a familiar brand there (besides McDonald): Panda Express! There were many varieties of foods in the food court. Starting from Ramen, Udon, Chinese foods, Thai foods, Korean foods, Sushi, and all the way to Steaks. We ended up eating Japanese style bento. Of course, I chose Fanta Melon with bright green color which we don’t have it in USA!

With the stomach full, we walked back towards our hotel to grab our luggage and headed to Kawasaki JR station to go to Shinagawa JR station to catch Shinkansen to Kyoto! Surely there were many other things we could do in Kawasaki, but the time was already almost noon. We were lucky to be able to get Shinkansen by 2PM. When we reached our hotel in Kyoto later, it was almost 7PM. We definitely will visit Kawasaki again in future.

Japan Trip (Spring 2017) – Haneda Airport (International terminal)


We usually use Narita airport every time we visited Japan. However this time, we chose Haneda airport for our arrival in Japan. We were attracted by its close proximity to Tokyo Metropolitan. Narita airport is much bigger than Haneda airport but it is also much farther.

I arrived in Japan much earlier than my family (about few days early) since I had to meet some Japanese friends first in Kyoto and Osaka. My arrival time at Haneda was around 3PM afternoon. My flight from San Francisco was quite smooth. Perhaps I was so excited and forgotten about being sleepy due to time difference. Tokyo was already in future time (if compared to Pacific Standard time).

The facilities in Haneda airport international terminal was quite new. The restrooms were clean and modern. If there was one thing that I was not prepared, it was the temperature inside the immigration area. It was steamy hot like sauna. I was wondering if they turned on the heater by mistake or just simply not enough air conditioning. As I was sweating, I told myself to bear the heat for few minutes. I went through immigration pretty fast. Only got asked for how long I would be staying and what was the purpose of my trip. After getting my luggages, I took a cart and put my luggages there (I like that using cart is free, unlike in Seattle airport that you need to pay), walking towards the customs. I was only asked whether I brought any foods or things that must be declared. I told them I brought gifts and souvenirs for my friends in Japan and showed them the bag which I carried with me all the time.

As soon as I stepped outside the customs area, there were so many people waiting outside the arrival gate. I quickly took my cart near the Tourist information area. I was looking for JR office to exchange my JR Pass voucher with the actual JR Pass (I got a 14-days pass) as well as some brochures and maps for Tokyo and Kawasaki areas.

Soft launching of TravelMaga (Rebirth of our travel blog)


We decided to resume our travel blogging after more than 6 years of hiatus, to commemorate a special promise that we made to our friends which encouraged us to resume our blog. We stopped our old travel blog on the day of Fukushima incident in March 2011. It didn’t mean that we stopped travelling. It was just we had been looking for something missing after such trauma for the meaning of our life. Many life perished that day. Our friends in Japan were affected by it tremendously. Upon our first visit to Japan in May 2007, I made a promise, in front of a rare occurring of “”Diamond Fuji”” phenomenon, that I will visit our friends again in 10 years. I did not know why I suddenly spoke such weird promise but it seemed to be a premonition. Why 10 years??? I had no clue. And here, we are about to make our trip to Japan again in March 2017. I told them it is way too long to wait for 10 years to visit them, despite of constant communication between us to keep our friendship alive. Many things had happened since then. We honestly do not know what would happen during our trip this time but we had done our planning many months before this. As our trip is nearer, the excitement builds up.

This time around, we are planning to go to Hokkaido (Hakodate, Sapporo, Otaru), Tokyo (Kinsicho and Sumida areas, Yokohama, Hachioji, Odaiba, Kawasaki, Shinagawa), Kyoto, Otsu, Osaka, Mt Fuji (Kawaguchiko and Fujinomiya), and Narita city. Two of our contributors will join us in this trip. Since our days will be full, perhaps our blogging might be disrupted by few days, so please bear with us. For this trip, we are bringing our TMobile phone with us to test its claim of coverage in Japan which is supposed to be part of our plan without extra charges for data roaming and text (voice has additional charges which varies but incoming calls are supposed to be free). It is quite daunting. We will report our finding later. Previously we were considering to rent smartphone or mobile-wifi but it’s not cost effective and we were already spending considerate portion of our budgets for accommodations, transportation and foods.

We will also post our past trips that we made during our hiatus whenever it’s possible. Our trips are not strictly for Japan and USA but we had traveled to Australia and New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada,  China, Taiwan, Europe (multiple countries), etc. Also hopefully we could bring the old archive from our previous generation of our travel blog into this new media. Enjoy!


TravelMaga Team

Travel Gear Review: LowePro ProTactic 450 AW Camera Backpack


We managed to get this versatile camera backpack just right before our trip to Japan earlier this Spring 2017. The primary requirements for the ultimate camera backpack that we were looking for were:

  • it should be not too big but can carry at least 2 DSLR bodies with zoom lenses
  • lightweight but strong
  • can carry 15 inch laptop
  • preferrably should have back entry rather than front entry (for security)
  • tripod and action camera straps/mounts
  • have waistbelt
  • not expensive but also not from cheap materials

We reviewed many backpacks that matched those criterias and got at least 5 candidates (we’ll review each candidates). In final, we found LowePro ProTactic 450 AW was the final contender. There are however few drawbacks/issues that we encountered during our trip to Japan while using this backpack. Hopefully LowePro will address them in future for next generation of ProTactic (or new backpack series).



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