We’ve finally entered autumn – after a scorching and humid Auckland summer that saw every kiwi panic. Every type of fan sold out (yes-there is a first time for everything) and opportunists were reselling them for 50% above retail price on Trademe. Oh, New Zealand. This soft rain and cloudy afternoon weather takes me back to winter in Japan. Trawling through the 5,000 or so photos we took, I found these Osaka Castle gems that I was supposed to post but never did. One can never get enough of the beauty of Japan. Though if you are sick of me and my embarrassing four-month long holiday withdrawals and would rather see some burgers and brunching, deal with it please let me know.IMG_9209IMG_9227IMG_9228IMG_9214IMG_9217IMG_9221IMG_9232IMG_9235IMG_9247IMG_9249IMG_9251IMG_9261IMG_9268

Tip 9: Entry into Osaka Castle is 600yen. As with all other hotspots there is queueing involved, so take the stairs instead of waiting for lift.

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A quick Instagram stalk of Hello Friends + Allies will tick all the boxes – latte art, avocado, eggs bene, cake cabinet. The breakfast bruschetta ($19) is 100% on looks. It comes with an overwhelming load of feta cheese, and added saltiness with the smoked prosciutto leaving me incredibly thirsty. Unfortunately the beautiful fig and awkward puddle of honeycomb did little to help balance things out. The cafe has an enticing baked goods cabinet. The passionfruit cake ($6) is fluffy but the filling sandwiched in between is heavy and bland. I just wish there was more of that delicious tangy sauce. While the staff are friendly, the service can be slow. It’s spacious with an extra private room out back.

Hello Friends + Allies
93 Great South Road, Epsom, Auckland 

P3240143.jpgP3240148.jpgThe simplest things are forever the hardest to get right. Like the eggs bene and the mushrooms on toast. Or the humble burger and the fish and chips. Burger Burger and Fish Fish have hit the sweet spot on the latter two respectively. According to our Instagram grid, we are well rehearsed in the BB game and thanks to the panko-crumbed gurnard with tartare sauce last Thursday night we will soon be FF frequent grammers too. The seafood is fresh, the chips thick cut. It’s the fish and chips you actually wanted need for the beach. Not the slimy, thick battered ordeal from the corner dairy.  A slaw is good to throw in the mix, and so is something from the specials menu. The prawn and sweet potato fritter is incredibly tasty with its spicy vinegar sauce. Not as enjoyable if you are the type of person that believes whitebait fritters stare into your soul, the prawns here are also. There aren’t many seats but you can order online and takeaway – good for that horrendous Ponsonby parking.

For those on the shore, watch out for the BB and FF powerhouse opening soon!

Fish Fish (menu here)
Ponsonby Central, Auckland

If you thought you’ve had your fair share of wild animal encounters with stray cats and dogs and the trip to the zoo, you are horribly wrong because there are wild deer in Japan! Bambi, as we imagine is gentle and undeniably cute. So naturally we had zero precautions when meeting the real deal at their home in Nara Park. We came across a sign that said beware of head-butts, kicking, and keep your children safe but we laughed and thought nothing of it. Surely enough 10 minutes in we witnessed the headbutting, the pushing, the food snatching. We saw screaming children running away with food in their hand and the deer pounding after them (okay maybe not pounding but definitely following the tears). We also witnessed a near deer-car-crash and were shellshocked but traffic resumed as if it happens on a day-to-day basis. It was of course an amazing sight, seeing hundreds of deer roam around and pick on people. It’s worth the short trip out from Kyoto and an easy pitstop for a night on the way to Osaka. Enjoy!IMG_9790IMG_9791-2IMG_9825-2IMG_9826IMG_9827IMG_9828IMG_9829IMG_9835IMG_9836IMG_9869IMG_9870-2

Tip 8: If you are unsure about the train fare, purchase the cheapest ticket and pay the difference at your final stop with a fare adjustment machine. This will save a lot of time spent staring at the JR map and money too.

Holidays are defined as no-alarm-clock-days unless you have a million shrines to get to. Fushimi Inari was the only shrine that we woke early for (we are embarrassing 12pm risers) and you can see it was quite worth it. The gates line the path up to the mountain and back down. It’s almost the same view all the way, so if you are on a tight Kyoto shrine schedule like us it’s best to not make the commitment.IMG_0881IMG_0882IMG_0884IMG_0889IMG_0893IMG_0898IMG_0906IMG_0923IMG_0925IMG_0948IMG_0960IMG_0962IMG_0971IMG_0973IMG_1024IMG_1013IMG_1034IMG_1010IMG_1022IMG_0992IMG_0976IMG_0977IMG_0996IMG_0980

Tip 7: General etiquette in Japan is that you don’t eat or drink while walking. You will therefore notice that there are no rubbish bins on the street. (If you are in a dire and desperate situation there are recycling bins next to vending machines.)

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