Weekly Learnings Roundup (June 25, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

6 Healthy Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Toxic by Mark Manson

Lots of valuable gems in here for anyone in a relationship (or looking to be in one). The first point “Letting Some Conflicts Go Unresolved” is a counter intuitive one. In his research of thousands of happily married couples, John Gottman (who’s basically the godfather of relationship research) highlights that “the idea that couples must communicate and resolve all their problems is a myth”. There will always be persistent disagreements and annoyances; it’s the couples that can let go of them that do the best in the long term.

Book that I’m enjoying —

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

An incredibly well-told chronicle of the gene. From the original discovery of the gene by an obscure German scientist to the DNA double helix by Watson and Crick to the current possibilities of gene editing, this is a fascinating look at the most important building block of all living things. There are massive implications in this book on the future of humanity. It’s a hefty read but worth the exploration.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

Finding your passion isn’t just about careers and money. It’s about finding your authentic self. The one you’ve buried beneath other people’s needs.

— Kristin Hannah

Product I’m loving —

Webber Naturals Magnesium Citrate Powder

In a previous Weekly Learnings post, I highlighted the impact that magnesium supplementation has had on my health and particularly my sleep. (In an upcoming post, I’ll share how my sleep efficiency increased by 83% likely due to adding 450mg of magnesium to my diet). Webber Naturals is the one that’s been working for me but there are a lot of quality options for magnesium citrate that are affordable. Make sure you add it to hot water so it dissolves properly and dulls the strong berry flavour.

Featured image via Pexels.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (June 18, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Trickle-down workaholism in startups by David Heinemeier Hansson

A piece by the founder of Basecamp, David Heinemeier Hansson (aka DHH), that has caused a fiery debate in the VC and startup space. Some argue that workholism is a part, if not a requirement, in the startup world. DHH argues the opposite and has great points to back it up.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

Life always gives us

exactly the teacher we need

at every moment.

This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.

Every moment is the guru.

— Charlotte Joko Beck

“ah-ha!” thought of the week —

Track your sleep for 30 days.

Something that I do on a daily basis is track my sleep. I use my Fitbit to create awareness of my sleep time and sleep quality. Whether you have a wearable tracker, app, etc., it’s worth spending 30 days to develop greater awareness.

In particular, observing what time you’re going to sleep over the course of 30 days will give you a rough idea of when your body is naturally going to bed. Your body’s natural clock will fit into one of four “chronotypes”. Based on your chronotype, you’ll have ideal and less ideal times to do certain activities.

By creating that awareness of when your body naturally goes to sleep, you can start building your unique schedule around it. You can also take this free quiz to find out what your chronotype is or dive into The Power of When by Michael Breus which provides a detailed look into the power of leveraging your chronotype.

Product I’m loving —

Uni-Ball Vision Needle Ink Pens

My favourite ink pen on the market. It’s a bit more expensive than your regular Bic pen but the performance is far superior. It writes super well on my Moleskine and Productivity Planner. I don’t go anywhere without one (or two).

Featured image by FWStudio.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (June 13, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Putting off the important things? It’s not for the reasons you think. by Oliver Burkeman

This article hit home for me. The reason why I put off an important project or task is not because I’m lazy – it’s because I feel the need to have everything lined up before I start. It’s what the author calls the “Importance Trap” which means “the more an activity really matters to you, the more you start to believe you need focus, energy, and long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to do it – things that, you tell yourself, you likely lack.”

It’s the reason why the Pomodoro Technique works so well for me. I reduce complexity and say to myself, “I’ll sit down for 25 minutes and see where this goes.” Making it a little easier for me to overcome the “Importance Trap”.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes I’m enjoying —

Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel on Audible

I recently discovered Esther Perel, a relationship expert, on a Tim Ferriss Show podcast episode. I really enjoyed her take on relationships and what can break them and what can maintain them. She has a new show on Audible (for free) in which she records conversations with real-life couples about their marital issues. It’s fascinating, educational, and very real. Anyone in a relationship should listen to this series even if it makes us a little uncomfortable.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

The simple act of being completely attentive and present to another person is an act of love, and it fosters unshakeable well-being.

— Sharon Salzberg

Featured image via Pixabay.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (June 4, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Just Move the Chains: Daniel Pink on the Science of Staying Motivated by Heleo

Daniel Pink shares his personal story on how he got started, how people stay motivated, what to look for in hiring salespeople, and the best thing to do when starting a new habit. Great piece if you’re a fan of Dan’s work and research.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes I’m enjoying —

The Relationship Episode: Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More (with Esther Perel) on The Tim Ferriss Show

A great episode on relationships featuring psychotherapist Esther Perel. The New York Times has called her one of the most important game changers in sexuality and relational health today. After listening to this episode, I’m planning on checking out her new Audible series Where Should We Begin which features real couples in candid conversation with Esther.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.

— Pema Chödrön

“ah-ha!” thought of the week —

Examine and eliminate your chequing account fees.

About a year ago I decided to consolidate a few of my financial assets into my chequings account. I had a number of Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) that I had been saving for a specific purpose (e.g. education fund, emergency fund, etc.) I did this primarily to keep my savings separate from my chequings account so that the money didn’t get mixed up. The return on investment was probably around 5% for about $1500-$2000 I had invested total. So about $80-$100 per year.

At the same time, I was paying $15 per month for my chequings account. Like most bank accounts, they had an offer to waive the monthly fee if I had a balance of $4000 in my account. However, I didn’t have a monthly balance over that limit so I was paying $180 per year in these fees.

I was basically losing $80-$100 (i.e. return on investment – chequings account fee) per year by not consolidating my assets into my chequings account.

I know that this really depends on how big your investments are so you want to make sure the math works. But for many young people building their assets in their 20s and early 30s, it’s worth watching out for these types of fees. Most banks offer to waive the account fee with a minimum asset balance so it’s good to take advantage of it and making a goal to hit to save money and build up a “buffer” in your budget.

For those curious about how I’m now handling the “mixing” of my everyday expenses and savings, I recommend checking out You Need a Budget. It’s the best budgeting tool that I believe is out there that helps you organize your savings in place and build up your financial assets. In terms of long-term savings like retirement or down payment savings, I use Wealthsimple as my low-cost asset management tool.

Featured image by Carl Heyerdahl.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (May 28, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment by Martin Seligman and John Tierney

An interesting look into the latest from the world of neuroscience and human behaviour. The authors share their thoughts on how humans, and our inherent ability to think about the future, is the key differentiator between ourselves and other species. A collective belief in the future is what allows us to develop things like language, culture, or technology. Individually, those who are stuck in the past are often depressed and by rewriting our past we can give hope for our future.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes I’m enjoying —

Transcript: Dr Rhonda Patrick on Exploring Smart Drugs, Fasting, and Fat Loss from The Tim Ferriss Show

I know I shared this episode in my Weekly Learnings Roundup (May 14, 2017) but it’s worth revisiting. Firstly, the link above is to the transcript version of the podcast episode. Since Dr. Patrick goes so fast in dropping knowledge that it’s helpful to have the transcript handy. Second, I wanted to post her top six recommendations for living a healthier life. It’s worth exploring further by listening to the episode or experimenting with each recommendation for a few weeks.

#1 – Eliminate refined sugar from the diet to the greatest extent possible.

#2 – Practice time-restricted eating and eat generally in accordance with your circadian rhythm.

#3 – Do everything in your power to maximize vegetable intake, possibly using the micronutrient smoothie method as a way to jumpstart the habit.

#4 – Enlist your physician in helping you monitor your vitamin D blood status and then attempting to titrate your dose to an above 30 ng/ml range, possibly trying to land between 40 and 60 ng/ml.

#5 – Try to get some form of meaningfully vigorous cardiovascular exercise, at least 30 minutes, a few times per week.

#6 – Get bright blue light during the day, as early as possible, and avoid that same blue light as much as you can in the evenings.

In June, I’m planning on adding in an element of #2 – time-restricted eating – into my daily habits. To make things easy as a beginner, I’m just going to make it a universal rule to stop eating by 8 p.m. each evening. I’ll be monitoring how I feel and any visible effects of this change over the course of the month.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

Every minute can be a holy, sacred minute. Where do you seek the spiritual? You seek the spiritual in every ordinary thing that you do every day. Sweeping the floor, watering the vegetables, and washing the dishes become holy and sacred if mindfulness is there. With mindfulness and concentration, everything becomes spiritual.

 Thích Nhất Hạnh

Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist

Product or service I’m loving —

Instapaper

My favourite app for saving and reading web-based articles. It basically pulls the text from the article and arranges it into a minimalist format for easy reading. It’s easy to add highlights for future reference and you can also setup custom folders to organize your articles if you’d like. This app is particularly helpful if you visit websites like the New York Times or Harvard Business Review that cap your articles after a certain number per month (since Instapaper saves the article separately).

For IFTTT users out there, Instapaper can be linked to other apps. For example, when I see an article that I’d like to read later, I schedule a tweet through Buffer with the hashtag “mustread”. Once the tweet goes out later in the day or late in the week, I’ve setup an integration with Instapaper which sends any article with that hashtag to my Instapaper account. End result? I have a running list of the articles that I’d like to read throughout the week.

Featured image by Lorenzo Carafo.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (May 21, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Everything We Know So Far About How Facebook Affects Your Happiness by Jenny Chen

Facebook can be a great tool for staying connected with friends and creating a stronger digital community around yourself. But it also has downsides around social comparison and feel like your life is not as great when looking at photos and videos of “highlights” from friends. The article provides the latest research into the impact of Facebook and a surprising finding that those who are engaged on the platform (e.g. comment, invite, discuss, etc.) are more likely to feel happier than those that passively interact with it.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of god. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.

 Paul Hawken

American environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author.

“ah-ha!” thought of the week —

It’s okay to “reset” occasionally.

This past week I had a busy week with work that derailed me from being able to attend a couple of my friends’ events – including a birthday and a fundraising party. While did have the time to go and attend the events, I was feeling exhausted and didn’t feel up to it. I beat myself up a little bit for not being stronger and showing up. After all, these are people I care about.

While I could feel bad about it for a few days, I know it’s not helpful to feel that way. Nor does it help with the relationship in the future if I’m holding this guilt and projecting it onto my friends. So this weekend is an opportunity for me to “reset” and get back at things 100% for the upcoming week. I need to be kind to myself and know it’s okay to have weeks like that. That said, I can always plan ahead better and be realistic with my time and energy.

Product or service I’m loving —

Calm

I highlighted Calm about a year ago as one of my favourite meditation apps and it still is one of my favourites. They’ve made some really nice improvements to the app including a new daily meditation and an open-ended meditation with timed bells of your choosing. If you go with the Yearly pricing – 59.99 USD – it’s really affordable on a monthly basis. You can also use it for free with their basic programs which is something that I do.

Featured image by Scott Webb.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Trip to Japan: Highlights and Recommendations

It’s been six years since I had the chance to travel back to my home country. This time around, I had the opportunity to travel with my girlfriend which was a really special experience. We both saw Japan in a new way (for my girlfriend it was her first time) as we explored parts of the country that we’d never been to before.

The itinerary of our trip was Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Koyasan, Kobe, and back to Tokyo. Kobe is my hometown so I had some friends and family to meet up on the trip. For most travelers the major destinations will likely be Tokyo, Kyoto, and perhaps Koyasan (these are the three areas this post will focus on). I really enjoyed all stops on the trip but I particularly enjoyed the stay in Koyasan.

While the sights and sounds of Japan are amazing the trip to me was a big foodie trip. Amazing food everywhere and an endless supply of ramen, sushi, and so much more. I probably don’t need to eat any ramen for the next 5 years now! (Just kidding).

For a detailed look at our itinerary, feel free to refer to this spreadsheet. If you go to the Lodging and and Transportation tabs in the spreadsheet, you’ll be able to see how much we paid for those on our trip. Finally, I’ve also included a price range next to each food/drink/accommodation recommendation so you know roughly what to expect when you go.

¥ = Cheap; ¥¥ = Moderate; ¥¥¥ = Pricey

Without further ado here are some of my reflections and highlights:

Tokyo (東京)

Tokyo may have become my favourite city in the world. There’s so much to do in fairly condensed area and the extremely efficient subway system makes it easier to get anywhere. Considering how Japan is one of the more homogenous countries in the world Tokyo feels more international than any other city I’ve visited in Japan. As someone of mixed heritage (or for foreigners living there) it’s nice to feel like you blend in.

Recommended sites:

Our time in Tokyo started with a visit to Tsukiji Market (築地市場) – the biggest fish market in the world. We took a tour with Mr. Naoto Nakamura who took us on a renegade (i.e. unauthorized) tour of the market. We got to see things that normal folks don’t get a chance to see and got up close to certain auctions. It was a bit worrying thinking that we might get kicked out at any point but it was definitely worth it. We wrapped up the tour by lining up for a special sushi breakfast at Daiwa Sushi.

Tip: If possible, schedule the Tsukiji Tour for the morning after you arrive in Japan. The tour starts at 3am so you can leverage your jetlag for an early wake-up in the morning.

After our morning at Tsukiji, we walked over to Roppongi Hills to visit the Mori Art Museum. The walk over to Roppongi was beautiful as we got a chance to see the Tokyo Tower and explore some of the residential neighbourhoods along the way. The beauty of Tokyo is that if you have the time and energy you can cover a lot of ground just on foot. The Mori Art Museum is a beautiful contemporary museum and a nice reprieve from the busy streets of the city. We had a chance to see a beautiful exhibit by Indian artist, N.S. Harsha. Exhibits rotate every 3-5 months and tickets include access to the Tokyo City View observation deck. So no need to spend money on going up the Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Skytree!

After our stop at the Mori Art Museum, we headed back over to the Ginza area to see if we can watch a traditional Japanese kabuki show. The Kabuki-za (歌舞伎座) is one of the principal theatres for kabuki in Japan and you can get a single-act ticket on the day of. Kabuki shows typically last 5-6 hours but with the single-act ticket you can get a taste of the experience. I recommend lining up for a ticket about 30-40 minutes before ticket sales start. There’s usually 3 acts that you can get tickets for so go to the theatre and find out when those tickets go on sale and get in line at the appropriate time. You can also rent an English translation device so you can understand what’s being said on stage.

On our second day, we decided to Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑) to see if the cherry blossoms had made an early bloom. Shinjuku Gyoen is a beautiful park only about a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station. It’s got a variety of gardens and is a great place to visit at any point during the year. Luckily we were able to see a few cherry blossoms that were already in full bloom.

From Shinjuku, we walked towards Meiji Jingu. We stopped along the way at Tokyu Hands which is a department store with a eclectic selection of the latest stationary, toys, travel goods, high-quality livingware, and so much more. You might enjoy browsing around and finding some funny items like a rice ball shaped hat (check out below). It’s also a great place to pickup postcards to send back home.

Meiji Jingu (明治神宮) is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan and worth a visit. The main shrine was under repair when we visited so we couldn’t see the entire building but the walk up to the shrine and the big Torii gate along the path it make it for a nice experience.

Harajuku (原宿) is about a 10-minute walk from Meiji Jingu if you’re looking for a completely different experience from the calmness of walking the Meiji Jingu grounds. Harajuku is the mecca of Japanese fashion and you’ll see a lot of young people wearing the trendiest clothing or sometimes even in costume. There are a ton of retail stores in this area if you’re looking to do shopping. My girlfriend loves cats so we also decided to drop into Cat Café MoCHA where you can sip a cup of tea while playing with adorable kittens.

For evening activities there’s plenty to do in Tokyo as most restaurants and shops are open much later than they are over here. One of the areas worth checking out is Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) which is an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku. It’s an area that a lot of people come to drink and party and it’s generally safe as long as you don’t go looking for trouble or getting wasted. My girlfriend and I had fun just walking around seeing the ridiculous storefronts, various clubs, izakayas, and popping into video game arcades. If you’re looking for a whacky (but uber popular) show, check out the Robot Restaurant where they give you a full sensory overload of costumes, dancing, robots, and scantily clad women.

Recommended places to eat and drink:

In Tokyo, you can’t really go wrong with the food because the competition is so fierce only the cream rises to the top. Here were our favourites from the trip:

Daiwa Sushi in Tsukiji (¥¥¥)

If you’re at the Tsukiji Fish Market, make sure you get a chance to eat the freshest fish at this sushi bar. You can go with the chef’s “omakase” (chef’s choice) for ~¥4000. The fatty tuna piece was to die for. If you’re like me and not a fan of sea urchin (“uni” in Japanese) make sure you let them know so they can replace that piece for you. It’s expensive but well worth the experience.

Gonpachi close to Roppongi (¥¥)

This izakaya is one of the most popular in Tokyo. It’s well visited by expats and had a really nice, lively atmosphere when we went there. If you’re familiar with the Kill Bill films, the architecture of Gonpachi inspired the scene with Uma Thurman fighting off the 100+ yakuzas. As with any izakaya, the selection is very broad so you can experiment with a variety of tapas style dishes or order a set menu item as well.

Tip: Place a reservation before you go! We waited about an hour and a half to get in as walk-ins and we saw many people skip the line-up with reservations. Save yourself the time.

Numazuko in Shinjuku (¥¥)

An excellent “kaiten” (i.e. the sushi comes around on a revolving conveyer belt around the restaurant) sushi restaurant in Shinjuku. It’s a bit on the pricier side but the quality is excellent. If you’ve never had sushi in this style of restaurant, it’s definitely worth a visit. The sushi comes in pairs and the colour of the plate indicates the price of that sushi. It’s also very popular with foreigners so there’s English signage and menu to help you out.

Tip: If you’re looking to be cost effective, make sure you keep an eye on the colour of the plates! You might not be too happy with the bill if you keep eating the most expensive dishes.

Kikanbo Ramen in Akihabara (¥¥)

This was probably my favourite ramen place in Japan. It’s known for their (optional) spicey broth which you get to decide from no spice to “hell-ish” spice. The pork belly also just melts in your mouth. If you aren’t too spice tolerant go for the “less” or “little” option as it’ll still give you a bit of a kick.

Annam Indian Restaurant in Ginza (¥¥)

What?! An Indian restaurant on a Tokyo restaurant list? Yes, you’ve read this right. This hidden gem in the Ginza area probably served the best naan that I’ve ever heard. With competition generally fierce for restaurants in Tokyo, ethnic food restaurants like Indian really have to prove their worth to stay in business. We went around 2pm which seemed like it was the best time to go as there were plenty of seats available. We ordered the butter chicken and vegetarian curry; both were fantastic.

Recommended accommodations:

Airbnb – Bright, Quiet Studio in Juban (~100 USD per night)

Fantastic little apartment studio located in Juban. The Oedo subway line is only a 5-minute walk away and the Roppongi area is only a 15-minute walk. It’s quiet and super convenient.

Tokyo Stay Shimbashi (~140 USD per night)

We stayed here on our last night in Tokyo before heading home. It’s clean, comfortable, and convenient with the Shimbashi station only a 5-minute walk away. If you’re headed to Narita or Haneda, you can buy your Airport Limousine ticket at The Royal Park Hotel Shiodome for ¥3100 and jump onto the bus at the hotel.

Kyoto (京都)

Our stop in Kyoto was brief but still memorable. We stayed at a fabulous Airbnb located just a 5-minute walk from the main downtown thoroughfare. Kyoto is a little bit more difficult to navigate than Tokyo as the subway system is not as robust. Depending on where you need to go taking the bus, walking, or even hopping on a taxi might be the best choice.

Kyoto is well known for its beautiful temples and gardens. Once the capital of Japan, it’s still the cultural capital of the country. At many of the historic places in Kyoto, you’ll feel like you’re hopping on a time machine. As with any popular place in Japan, it can be very busy with tourists – especially in the high season between April and September. So just be prepared for some crowds.

Recommended sites:

Given that we only had a day and a half, we decided to keep our activities pretty simple and focus on one area. We took a bus in the morning to Ginkaku-ji Temple (銀閣寺) also known as the Silver Pavillion. The nice part is that it’s a bit less hectic compared to the other sites which makes for a nice walk around the grounds. At the end of the walk, there is a gift store and tea area where you can enjoy some traditional Japanese matcha tea.

Following Ginkaku-ji Temple, we walked along the Philosopher’s Walk or Tetsugaku-no-Michi (哲学の道) which is a pedestrian path. It’s a beautiful walk along a canal lined with cherry trees. It was still a bit too early in the spring for us to see the cherry blossoms but it was a wonderful walk nonetheless.

The entire walk takes about 30 minutes and it’s all on flat ground (no inclines or declines) so you can go at a leisurely pace. There are plenty of benches and areas to relax so really take it up as an opportunity to escape the city hustle! Along the path there’s a small Buddhist temple called Honen-in (法然院) that is highly recommended. At the end of the walk, you’ll be about a 5-minute walk from another impressive temple called Nanzen-ji (南禅寺). Nanzen-ji is a sprawling complex with multiple smaller temples and gardens. The most impressive is the main gate called Sanmon which you’re able to go up and see the view from up top. Note that some of the smaller gardens and temples may require a fee to enter.

As a contrast to the serene temples and gardens you can explore during the day, Kyoto also has a vibrant downtown core area. If you’re looking for somewhere to explore local foods and goods, look no further than Nishiki Market (錦市場). This long arcade-style market has a ton of interesting stores you can explore at your leisure. From local delicacies to hand-crafted knives, it’s a good place to scope out potential souvenirs and gifts to bring back home too.

Recommended places to eat and drink:

Ippudo (¥¥)

There was no shortage of good ramen in Japan and this restaurant was definitely right there for me after Kikanbo Ramen in Tokyo. The ramen broth is excellent and the gyoza (fried dumplings) complemented the ramen perfectly. It’s usually quite busy so going during the off hours like 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. is probably your best bet to grab a seat quickly. Otherwise, expect to wait at least 10 to 20 minutes.

Sama Sama (¥¥)

A really cool Indonesian bar just off the Kamo River. The atmosphere is warm and cozy and the selection of drinks is fantastic. We ordered a couple of their specialty Indonesian drinks and they were delicious. The owner and most of the staff speak English so it’s a nice way to reconnect to speaking English again. We didn’t try the tapas-style food there but it seemed very authentic and tasty.

Recommended accommodations:

Airbnb – Great Location in Kyoto 3B (~120 USD per night)

A great apartment located just south of the Nishiki Market area. Hosted by a father and daughter duo that both speak English and are very helpful and responsive. It’s a really nice value for the price.

Koya-san (高野山)

Personally, Koya-san was the highlight of the two-week trip. Located in the heart of the mountains in Wakayama prefecture, the journey to get there is part of the magic. Koya-san is well known for being the world headquarters of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. For Japanese people it’s a sacred place and many make a visit to pay their respects to Kobo-Daishi a Buddhist grandmaster who is said to be still alive and praying at the Okunoin mausoleum for over one thousand years.

Koya-san is a big change of pace from the rest of Japan. Going from the ubiquitous urban sprawl to a small town in the mountains literally felt like a breath of fresh air and calmness. Koya-san has a vibrant tourism industry but it’s not overwhelming at all.

The town is also well known for its “shukubo” (i.e. Buddhist temple lodging) that are in wide supply. The shukubos provide visitors with an opportunity to experience staying in a traditional Buddhist temple and eat traditional vegetarian meals prepared by the Buddhist monks called “shojin-ryori”. For foreign travellers, I recommend taking a look at Ekoin which is a shukubo that is very accustomed to hosting foreign travellers and most of the monks there speak English.

Recommended sites:

Some of our favourite activities in Koya-san included participating in a meditation class at the Ekoin (¥500 for non-guests), morning prayer at the Okunoin (free), a hike on the Women’s Pilgrammage trail, trying our hand at “shakyo” (Japanese caligraphy) at the at the Daishi Kyokai, and night tour of the Okunoin by the monks from Ekoin.

There is plenty to do in Koya-san so take the time to spend a night or two there. You can find more interesting spots to visit on the Koya-san official website.

Recommended places to eat and drink:

Bon On Shya International Cafe (¥¥)

A very nice vegan cafe located in the heart of Koya-san. They’ve got a delicious lunch menu set that comes with coffee/tea and dessert. It packs up pretty quickly so make sure you go a little early for lunch.

Tonkatsutei (¥¥)

If you’re looking for non-vegetarian meals, try Tonkatsutei located at the edge of town past the Okunoin. The family-run business specializes in fried pork cutlets and shrimp.

Recommended accommodations:

Koyasan Guest house Kokuu (¥¥)

An incredible little guest house with a minimalist design and decor. They provide small rooms with a double bed or individual “capsule” style bunks. It’s a very friendly place for travellers who are looking for a comfortable place to stay in Koya-san without having to stay at one of the local shukubos. We really enjoyed our time here.

Ekoin (¥¥¥)

A shukubo in Koya-san which caters to foreign travellers. Most of the monks there speak English and provide translations for the various services they provide. As mentioned earlier, the meditation class and Okunoin tour are offered by the monks from this shukubo. We didn’t stay there but the temple lodging looked very nice.


There you have it! I hope this serves as a helpful “starter pack” of information as you plan out your trip to Japan. There’s certainly more that you can dig into through various guidebooks and websites that are available. We found the latest Lonely Planet Japan Travel Guide to be quite helpful and I recommend picking one up before you leave.

Do you have any recommendations for traveling in Japan? Feel free to post below with any additional recommendations you might have.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (May 14, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

How to Find Your Ideal Carb Intake by Bulletproof

For anyone contemplating a keto or low-carb diet, this is a helpful article as a starting point. If you get started on a keto-style diet, the key will be to make sure you track your daily macronutrients to see where your carb consumption lands.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes I’m enjoying —

Exploring Smart Drugs, Fasting, and Fat Loss — Dr. Rhonda Patrick from The Tim Ferriss Show

This is a true masterclass in health, nutrition, and biohacking. Dr. Rhonda Patrick jam packs 2.5 hours with knowledge on heat/cold exposure, supplementation, time-restricted eating, anti-aging strategies, inflammation, and so much more. It’s a little overwhelming for anyone just getting to understand nutrition but for those who are looking to take their health to the next level with the latest science, this is a must listen.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

When you let go of the belief that you should or need to know who you are, what happens to confusion? Suddenly it is gone. When you fully accept that you don’t know, you actually enter a state of peace and clarity that is closer to who you truly are than thought could ever be. Defining yourself through thought is limiting yourself.

— Eckhart Tolle

“ah-ha!” thought of the week —

The importance of magnesium in my diet.

Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems in the body. Key biochemical reactions like protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation require adequate amounts of magnesium. Most adults are deficient in magnesium so it’s important to consume a lot of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower to make sure you don’t become magnesium deficient. I’ve been getting better sleep and higher energy during the day recently after adding 450g of magnesium citrate into my daily supplementation.

Featured image by David McBee.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (May 7, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Everything is Fucked and I’m Pretty Sure It’s the Internet’s Fault by Mark Manson

When the internet was supposed to provide unparalleled access to information and subsequent transparency, why does it feel like we’re even more divided and tribalistic than ever before? And more importantly, what do we do about it?

A quote that’s inspiring me —

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

— Viktor Frankl

Austrian neurologist and Holocaust survivor.

“ah-ha!” thought of the week —

Building your focus is like strength training – it takes time.

I recently wrote a blog post for actionable.co about the most valuable resource that knowledge workers in the 21st century have: our focus and attention. With our full focus and attention we can be more thoughtful and creative, and find solutions we didn’t even know existed. But getting focused isn’t as simple as “okay, I’m going to concentrate now” and off you go into a deep thinking state. It takes practice and it takes the right environment to get into that “flow”. So take the time to practice building your focus. Remove all distractions, create space for silence, and use something like The Pomodoro Technique to keep you on track.

Product or service I’m loving —

Bulletproof Upgraded Collagen Protein

Due to injuries I experienced playing sports in high school, I’ve been dealing with inflammation from osteoarthritis in my left knee. Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve started supplementing collagen protein into my diet and it’s made a big difference. There is robust research around the effectiveness of collagen on joint health so it’s an essential supplement for anyone that experiences pain in that area. I like Bulletproof’s product because it comes from pasture-raised cows and the tasteless powder makes it easy for me to mix it into my drinks.

Featured image by Jahoo Clouseau.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

Weekly Learnings Roundup (April 30, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Real Productivity Isn’t What You Think It Is by Heleo

This article brings together two really smart people – Cal Newport and David Burkus – as they discuss the importance of “deep work”. Checking email, updating social media, going to meetings, etc. are all things that any new, smart university graduate can do. In the knowledge economy that we’re in, success is contingent on how well we can think deeply about the problems that we face. Cal Newport provides some of his thoughts on how you can practice the skill of deep thinking. Excellent article on a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, cliches, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

— David Foster Wallace

American novelist and short-story writer

“ah-ha!” thought of the week —

Don’t auto-download podcast episodes.

Let me clarify myself first! I love podcasts and I regularly listen to some of my favourites like The Tim Ferriss Show, Waking Up with Sam Harris, and The Bill Simmons Podcast. But I realized recently that I was becoming a robot by passively letting new content automatically download onto my phone.

What I realized was that I was 1) not all episodes were interesting to me and 2) I need to be more proactive in choosing what content I wanted to listen to. So what I’ve done is to stop the auto-download of podcasts and instead downloaded the interesting episodes that I want to listen to throughout the week.

We have way too much information sent our way these days and this helps minimize information overload and also be much more pickier with what information I invite into my life.

Featured image by Ana Zivick.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.