Visiting Japan: Kōya-san

    Part of an on-going series highlighting some of my recommendations for travel in Japan.

    Contemplation

    Perhaps my favourite destination in Japan, Kōya-san (Mt. Kōya) is situated to the east of Wakayama Prefecture, south of Osaka. It is the centre of Shingon Buddhism, and the perfect place to pause for a little while. I recommend staying in one of the many templates and, if you rise early enough, attending morning ceremonies.

    The train journey from Tokyo to Koya-san is a leisurely one on local trains, winding, over the course of many hours, through Nara Prefecture, ending with a cable car up the mountain itself.

    Dark Mode

    I’ve been playing around with supporting ‘Dark Mode’ in this site ever since it was introduced in macOS. If nothing else, it’s a fantastic way to showcase photos. With its introduction on iOS last year, I finally bit the bullet and added full support.

    Debugging Dark Mode can be troublesome though, as testing often necessitates toggling it on and off to check a design in both modes; something macOS (unlike iOS) doesn’t provide a convenience for.

    Fortunately, iDownloadBlog.com has a fantastic article describing how to use Automator to add a button to the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar that executes the following AppleScript:

    tell application "System Events"
    tell appearance preferences
    set dark mode to not dark mode
    end tell
    end tell
    

    Their approach adds a Service to the Services Menu, and then describes how to get this to show up on the Touch Bar. It doesn’t–in my opinion–go quite far enough though, as they don’t add a global keyboard shortcut for moments when the Touch Bar is unavailable. You can do this by selecting ‘Services’ in the ‘Keyboard’ section of ‘System Preferences’, finding your new service, and recording the key combination you’d like to use:

    System Preferences → Keyboard → Shortcuts

    Check out the original article for full instructions.

    London Travel Ideas

    Last year, a friend asked for recommendations for a trip to London. Here are just a few of the places I personally enjoy. They probably skew less touristy, as I know the city well, but I’ve tried to include a few tourist of the attractions that I still enjoy to this day.

    Eating

    • Hawksmoor (Sunday Lunch)

      Hawksmoor was, at least when I was living in London, one of the best places to go for a traditional British roast Sunday lunch. I’m a big fan of the one on Air Street which has a wonderful Art Deco interior.

    • Yauatcha, Soho (Dim Sum)

      Yauatcha is an absolutely great dim sum restaurant–I’d recommend the one in Soho. (It also looks like they’ve also got one in Houston, Texas.)

    • Bone Daddies (Ramen)

      London doesn’t have many good Ramen restaurants, but Bone Daddies is a fine example of the art form. The one in Soho also right next to Gosh Comics, and I always enjoy combining a trip to Gosh! to pick up some reading material before settling in for a beer and ramen.

    • Leong’s Legend (Taiwanese)

      Leong’s Legend is a fantastic Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown. Always worth a visit.

    • Dishoom Shoreditch (Indian)

      The Dishoom in Shoreditch is probably my favourite of the–now many–different branches. There’s almost always a long line, but they’re pretty good at keeping you content in the queue by bringing around sherry, hot chai, etc.

    • Addis (Ethiopean)

      Addis is located near Kings Cross Station and is a great Ethiopian restaurant. It’s a pretty informal place inside and the food is fantastic. You’ll not go hungry either.

    Coffee

    • Monmouth Coffee

      I’m a huge fan of Monmouth Coffee. There are a few, but I love the one on Monmouth Street, Seven Dials (which is just north of Covent Garden). It’s a tiny place, and you have to be willing to share the little booths with other customers, but I’ve always found that to be part of its charm. I recommend their filter coffee and truffles.

    • Look mum no hands!

      Loom mum no hands! is a nice coffee shop come co-working space. Good to drop into if you’re in the area.

    Drinks

    • Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden

      There’s a pretty awesome little hidden bar and garden atop the Southbank Centre. You’ll almost certainly not find it unless you’re looking for it, but it’s got a great view over the Thames, the London Eye and Parliament. One of those places that seems supremely British to me—woodland type flowers, very informal, outdoor drinks.

    Shopping

    • Neal’s Yard Dairy (Cheese)

      If you visit Seven Dials, I’d recommend a trip to Neal’s Yard Dairy. It’s a great little cheese shop and the staff can talk in detail about everything they sell, and will happily give you samples. Also good if you’re looking for foodie British gifts as they have a collection of things like oat cakes, etc.

    • Neal’s Yard Remedies (Skincare)

      Also in Neal’s Yard—you can tell I’m a fan of this area of London—is Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s a great place for fancy soaps, etc.

    • The Tea House (Tea)

      Yet another one in the Covent Garden / Seven Dials area is The Tea House. I still order my tea from here.

    Museums

    London has a wealth of great museums. This is only a small sample, but they’re the ones I still enjoy visiting.

    • Science Museum

      I have many fond memories of visiting the Science Museum annually with my father and it still feels supremely British to me—I believe the main hall still has a focus on steam engines and the industrial revolution.

    • Victoria and Albert Museum

      The Victoria and Albert museum is first-and-foremost a design and fashion museum. They often have some interesting temporary exhibitions.

    • Design Museum

      Yet another design museum–I’m showing my personal preferences here–with more of a focus on contemporary industrial design. There’s almost a myopic concentration on British designs but, even with that, they had a large collection of Apple, Braun and, Sony products when I visited last year.

    • Natural History Museum

      The Natural History Museum has some fantastic permanent exhibitions and located in a stunning collection of buildings.

    • Tate Modern

      The Tate Modern feels quite different to SF MoMA and I very much enjoy stopping by when I get the chance. It’s located in an old power-plant which makes for a pretty striking main exhibition space in the old engine hall. I worked in the building behind it for a few years so this was a pretty regular haunt.

    Arts

    • Shakespeare’s Globe

      The Globe is a reproduction of the original Globe Theatre, and the first thatch roofed building permitted in London since the Great Fire. It might seem a little kitsch to see Shakespeare in this way, but I always find it to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I’m always impressed. They have seated and standing tickets.

    • Royal Albert Hall

      Even though it’s a very traditional space, they do a great job of opening the Royal Albert Hall up to modern performances such as Cirque du Soleil and—if I remember correctly—the Blue Man Group. It’s well worth checking out what’s on when you’re in town.

    • Royal Opera House

      They’ve recently finished a renovation of the Royal Opera House—located in Covent Garden—and you can be sure to find some stunning performances here.

    Places to Stay

    I’ve always found staying in London to be very hit-and-miss. The expensive hotels tend to be a disappointment—at least they never seem deliver for the price.

    • St. Pancras Clock Tower

      The St. Pancras Clock Tower is definitely a fun place to stay. It used to be an AirBnB, but they seem to have switched over to private rental. I’d just drop them an email if you’re interested in staying. Pricing was not cheap, but pretty reasonable given the location.

    Events

    • The Tweed Run

      Saddle

      I’ve chanced upon the Tweed Run a couple of times, and it’s certainly entertaining to see a large collection of Brits with waxed moustaches, penny-farthing bicycles and tweed. (See my London album for some photos of an earlier year.)

    General

    Some general areas that are just worth wandering around include Covent Garden, Kings Cross (which has really blossomed in the past few years; walk North of the Station to find a canal and collection of restaurants), South Bank (just wander along the river, enjoy some Brutalist architecture, and perhaps check out the London Eye).