To a city that houses one of the "Three Great Gardens" of Japan.
Which was quite impressive.
As was the fact that there was gold leaf everywhere....even on our sashimi.
Though we loved the dried/fermented/preserved fish here......cheesy-salty-savory....an umami bomb.
And of course there was "Japanese Breakfast".
Our next stop was a familiar one.....though we'd never been here during the spring. We lucked out and the Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom. As were the people, who seemed to be really enjoying themselves. In spring; life starts anew......and it seems like everyone celebrates....
Everyone is out having a great time; family, friends, of the two legged and four legged kind.
And in this day and age; you absolutely need a "selfie".....
After all; who can deny how beautiful this is.
It's enough to make you want to massage a...ummmm.....cat?
All joking aside; it can be breathtakingly beautiful.
Of course we had to stop at the Missus's favorite Yakitori spot.
And how about some "Kogashi" (burned) Ramen?
And even a nice Izakaya stop with a wonderful shirako ponzu...loved the shiso flowers; which added just enough of that anise-basil flavor.
And then some what sadly, our time was almost up. And we ended up back in the city where we kicked things off.....though this time, staying in our favorite neighborhood.
Which meant a visit to our favorite restaurant.
And one final day trip.....
On a misty morning that added an air of mystery and drama to things.....
The Missus wanted Yakitori for our last meal in Kyoto and I had a place in mind.
But first, some shopping.
Teramachi Dori, one of the major shopping streets, was strangely quiet on this evening.
The Missus managed to do some damage at this location of Lupicia.
After which we took a nice leisurely stroll up to the Juingu-Marutamachi Station. On street level above the station was a rather discreet, but popular place named Torito. I was interested in the place because of the rather polarizing reviews, some folks declared it yakitori for tourists, yet other said it was amazing....the strange thing about that yakitori for tourists thing is....well, you'll see by what we ordered.
It was out last evening in Kyoto, a place that makes us feel quite comfortable...we just feel relaxed and at home here and our trip to Japan was coming to an end.
The Missus decided to get a Hiball, I had a Suntory Draft.
We noticed that we noticed quickly was that the guy doing all the grilling seemed quite young....also, there were English menus.
But what was on those menus wasn't quite your tourist yakitori items....though the tourists we saw come in ordered stuff like breast and chicken rice bowls, we went full speed ahead and started with some very smokey chicken gizzards.
Which was fine....though a bit too dry for me.
The Nankotsu was very, very good....perfectly grilled, nice and crunchy, but really pleasant to eat.
And followed with Tori no Tataki, seared, basically rare chicken.
This was dark meat, very clean, but definite chicken flavor. A bit too chewy for my taste, I should have gotten the white meat, which I think is much more tender raw. Tourist food, huh?
The Missus absolutely loved the "Kimo" (chicken liver) and declared it the best She's ever eaten.
The Kawa-su, chicken skin salad was a nice refreshing change of pace.
Up next was more Chicken Skin....but not "just" chicken skin, but we chose "Chicken Buttock Skin".
Very interesting texture....a bit more chewy, but man, the flavor was so amazingly distinct......
Next up was our Tsukune....this is what I basically judge my yakitori places on. First thing we noticed was that the tsukune was made to order. That is, when the order is placed, the chef forms it by hand. Now watching this guy was amazing as he juggled both the grill and the deep fryer, never missing a beat. As you can easily see; this was the tsukune I've ever had.
From the light and crisp exterior, to the creamy interior....I'm wondering how much chicken fat is in this....a quick dip in the egg; more richness and flavor. This by far is the best I've had.
The Wing Tips were okay, though a bit too hard and chewy for us.
One thing we were noticing was the perfect amount of salt was being used.
I absolutely loved the Hatsu...the chicken hearts, which weren't grilled too heavily.....just the right amount of smoke and salt.
There's a part of the menu which features local, Kyoto bred chicken (the tsukune is on that part of the menu) and we tried the chicken thigh with quail egg.
There was a more distinct chicken flavor in this; something that's missing here in the States for the most part. Loved the little piece of cartilage left on the meat, it added a nice textural contrast, as did the quail egg, though I could have done without that. The Missus though, loves Her quail eggs.
The Chicken wings were just ok.....especially after having all the previous dishes.
The skin on these was a bit too rubbery for us.
The Missus loved Her "finishing" dish (Shime), going with the rich and velvety chicken bone broth with meatballs.
She still talks about how rich and lovely this soup was.
I went with my standard; a nice, nutty, smokey, yaki onigiri.
A perfect end to a wonderful meal for us.
As we were finishing dinner, the Missus declared this Her new favorite yakitori shop. So I'm guessing we'll be back whenever we're in Kyoto.
The shop is rather discrete. From what I understand....you know, I'm basically about the food...Torito is a species of bird. So the best thing is to find the carving of a bird outside the door of the restaurant.
Torito 9-5 Higashi Marutamachi Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
As I mentioned earlier....Kyoto has a way of making us feel comfortable....in spite of all the tradition and sometimes, well, interesting stuffs.....
We'd always had a visit to Arashiyama on the books and on our last full day in Kyoto, we decided to head out early in the day. We ended up taking the rather fun Keifuku Tram Line to Arashiyama Station.
It was a slightly hazy, but beautiful day....the air so clean. We walked out of the station and headed down what looked like Arashiyama's main street. And walked over to the Togetsu-kyo Bridge.
We headed north alongside the picturesque Oi River and took a right along a rather random street.
It wasn't very crowded, so we just took in the sights a bit.
We headed out front, looking for the Bamboo Forest. I walked up to a traffic officer and asked for directions to the Bamboo Grove. In the typical Japanese way....he insisted on walking us most of the way there.
It was very pretty....but for some reason, I expected it to be a bit more grand.
I guess having grown up around various bamboo forests......
The place does take some really nice photos though.
Heading back down to the street, we found another entrance to Tenryū-ji. This is the garden area and is quite beautiful.
By now, we'd had enough for the morning and headed back to downtown Kyoto. We walked around a bit and decided to have lunch at a place I had specifically marked down. We'd really enjoyed Ippudo in Osaka and there just happened to be a location in downtown Kyoto.
Call us boring, but we'd enjoyed ourselves so much on our previous visit to the Osaka location that we basically got the same thing. The Shormaru Special, what I call a classic tonkotsu with chashu and egg. And of course, the Missus got Hakata Chikara Meshi, chashu rice and an onsen tamago.
The broth was nice and rich, but not oily nor too fatty. The flavor is rather delicate. The chashu was tender and nicely flavored, the noodles just perfectly al dente for my taste.
I gave the Missus my tamago....now that's love. And when She cut into it....well, we had a perfect "egg porn shot".
Our meal was the perfect foil for the cool autumn chill.
Feeling nice and warm, we headed on out to do some shopping. We found an underground passageway to Takashimaya Department Store.
Of course this lead right to B1 and the food floor.
We were wandering around the third floor of Takashimaya Department Store and I noticed this.....
Oh my....it was Din Tai Fung!
And there was no line.....
The Missus and I looked at each other......why not, right? We still had a bit of room in our bellies, so we went for a second, rather light lunch.
I was wondering just how good this was going to be. We got the pork and crab version of the Xiao Long Bao. When it arrived, it looked like the XLB on the left had leaked, but it had not. As for the wrappers....well just look at the classic "XLB hang". The wrapper were very nice, for some reason they seemed a bit thicker than the wrapper at DTF here in the states. I really couldn't complain about the amount of soup, nor the flavor (a bit too sweet for me), or the texture. This was pretty good. Much better than anything we have here in San Diego.
The Missus has got to have Her veggies, so we got some greens. Nice and simple, very mildly seasoned.
Din Tai Fung (Third Floor of Takashimaya Department Store) 52 Shincho, Shijo Kawaramachi-dori Nishi-iru Simogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8001
I guess that's fun part of trips...you make basic plans, but leave time to wander and explore. You never know what you'll run into.
After having a fun evening with Kat and Satoshi we got up fairly early and headed out. The Missus wanted to revisit Kiyomizu-dera to check out the fall colors. We got on the Keihan Line and got off at Kiyomizu-Gojo. The Missus was up for walking all the way up to the temple. But I had already done that the last time and I talked Her into taking a cab! Whew.....
We decided to check out a few areas we missed the last time we visited.
We headed to the Jishu Shrine, which is dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a gentle-hearted god, who along being "in charge" of farming and business, is the prime deity of match-making.
Here we found the "Love Stones"......you can read all about it....
The stones are actually set about 10-15 meters apart. If walk from one to the other with your eyes closed, you'll find true love.....miss...and "sorry Charlie".
Two young ladies actually tried when we were there.....to rather humorous results. I'm kind of relieved the Missus didn't try. With Her sense of direction, I'd probably go up in a puff of smoke!
Speaking of true love....check out this affectionate little guy.
He is truly a pampered pooch......
The main reason folks come to Kiyomizu-dera is for the view. Man, the main viewing hall was a lot more packed than the last time we were here.
The views, whether from the Main Hall or along the trail are quite beautiful.
We meandered along, stopping now and then to take a photo. We'd been here before and it seemed so familiar. And yet, we were able to stop at places that were quite busy the last time around. Like the Three Story Pagoda. I think folks were focused on the views and I don' blame them in the least.
Even with all the folks around us; there's a sense of tranquility.
You get to appreciate the beauty of it all.
Soon enough, buses of non-Japanese visitors started arriving and the noise level started increasing. It was time to head on out.
Just as on our previous visit, we headed back via the side streets of Sannenzaka and Nannenzaka. There's always something interesting to see.....
On this day, there were a couple of wedding photo shoots going on.... This one went for a more dramatic, glamorous look.
While this couple and their photographer were really friendly and nice.
And when I went a displayed my camera, even flashed nice smiles for us. It was adorable.
We headed on back to Shijo-dori. There was some shopping the Missus needed to get done. It was, however, still a bit early. As we passed a coffeeshop, I noticed that the place had "morning service". We'd enjoyed the morning service at Komeda's Coffee in Kamakura, so we decided to stop and get some breakfast. From what I understand, this practice of providing toast, perhaps an egg, salad, yogurt, or something similar originated in Nagoya.
We shared the toast, yogurt, salad...the Missus had a coffee, I got tea. I don't recall what the name of this place was, but this held us until dinner!
Soon enough, a couple Salarymen came in and started smoking....it was time to get the Missus's shopping done.
We then headed back to the apartment, took our usual afternoon siesta....and headed off to Nagoya for dinner. Which we'd be having at a place with ties to San Diego.
We had a nice walk over and met Kat and Satoshi. The place was much more busy than on our last visit.
And we spent a good deal of time catching up on things and just having a good time.
After all, places like this were made for friends gathering, sharing "pupus".
You can read all about this in Kat's post....and it also shows how far behind I'm at with my travel posts as well!
So from here on; it's most it's mostly photos.
Man, I love basashi.....
At the end of the meal, we gave the owner some Mac Nuts....even though we were sure he wouldn't remember us, he'd given us so much samples on our previous visit, we wanted to make sure to show him our appreciation...so of course he busted out the home made ume-shu......
The Missus was rarin' to go during our first full day back in Kyoto. We'd put in a it of mileage on this day, but She did let me (us) catch the Keihan Line two stops to Demachi Yanagi. We got out, had a quick cup of coffee and headed East. Thru a few winding streets somehow ending up at Hyakumanben Chion-ji Temple.
From which we were to get our bearings and head back down Higashioji-dori taking a turn onto Imadegawa-dori.
In spite of being a pretty large street, things were very quiet on this morning, with very few people, and this rather unhappy fellow around.
We knew we were getting close as the street went over the river.....
Before heading back down that street and to the Philosopher's Path.
The path ends in the Nanzenji neighborhood and we walked on over to Sanjo Dori, crossing over the Kamo River. I was in search of our lunch destination.
Before we were interrupted by Typhoon Vongfong on our previous visit. I had planned having a lunch at a place that did Obanzai; basically a place that made seasonal dishes, many of them simple, rustic, and vegetable based, created to minimize waste. The dishes I saw just reminded me of stuff I ate growing up. this was almost the antithesis of the very popular Kyoto Kaiseki.
Just simple, home style dishes....soul food, if you will.
The place I chose was Mimasuya Okudohan......which had a display of "yasai" (vegetables), displayed outside a typical Machiya in the area north of Nishiki Market and the shopping arcades.
There was no one waiting when we arrived at opening time. The fragrance of steaming rice permeated the air as we were seated.
There was a simple two multi-course menu for lunch.
Like the "okazuya" I grew up doing take out from, things were prepped and set-up for a quick service.
And the place filled up fast.
We got one of each of the two lunches.
So many of the flavors were so familiar to me...and the Missus, since I make quite a bit of Japanese nimono style dishes at home. What we really remember is how good the rice was here....I mean, really fragrant, slightly nutty, just amazing.
And the miso soup....more of a red (aka) miso, with a savory bite to it.
And of course those items the Missus loves so much like Kabocha. I really enjoyed the nasubi (eggplant), which had so much savory and earthiness to it.
One of the lunches came with a not so traditional dessert.....which the Missus enjoyed as well.
As we left, we noticed that quite a queue had developed outside the restaurant. It's nice to see folks wanting to try obanzai. For me, it was like stepping into Baban's kitchen. And that's priceless.
Mimasuya Okudohan 318-3 Sanjocho, Nakagyo Ward Kyoto, Japan
The Missus and I have our favorite cities, Kyoto is one of these. It strangely felt almost like coming home, we feel so comfortable here. We again stayed in the area near Higashiyama Station. We enjoy the less hectic pace here, yet the location is close enough to everything.
After dropping things off at the apartment and getting a load of laundry going we headed off to an early dinner.
We headed up Higashioji-dori to a familiar sight.
The place was just opening up. The gentleman running the place was just getting things in order, towel rolled over the back of his neck. There's a comfortable, well-worn vibe to this shop.
Just as on our previous visit, we were greeted with a smile, seated, plates were pointed out. Then he pointed to the self-service dishes on the counter telling us "helpu you self....."
It was apparent on our last visit that rice bowls and fried chicken was the way to go here.
The Missus enjoyed the chashu gohan here the last time; but had really developed a taste for mentaiko in Hokkaido. So She surprisingly chose that!
Very nice savory tones, perfectly cooked rice.
So I ordered the chashu gohan....love the balance of salty-sweet in this version of chashu.
And the wonderfully crunchy, super moist, umami laden chicken karaage.
Surprisingly light, with a faint flavor of ginger, a hint of sweet and major deep savory tones, must be Shio Koji.
A pretty inexpensive meal as well; about $12 for two!
Karako 12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho Kyoto
After dinner we crossed over the Kamo River and made our way back to the shopping arcades and the Nishiki Market area. It was quite relaxing to revisit those now familiar places, like the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine.
It was such a crisp and clear evening. The bright lights of the restaurants and bars on Ponto-chō reflecting beautifully on the Kamo River.
The last time we were in Kyoto our visit was slightly interrupted by Typhoon Vongfong, I promised the Missus that we'd return and finish off the plans we'd had. And so we decided to visit during autumn, where we'd see the wonderful changing of the seasons.
But first, let's have a Mt Fuji break. As I mentioned previously, when leaving Tokyo for Kyoto or anyplace in Kansai for that matter, get a seat on the right side of the Shinkansen....... On a clear day, there's nothing more picturesque than passing a snow topped Mount Fuji.
We left from Tokyo Station quite early in the morning.....I call this shot; "Onigiri at Sunrise".
And a little something from the "Ekiben Stand".
One of the really great things about train stations in Japan is....well, besides being super clean, are the availability of lockers. We stowed our luggage in a locker and headed off, back to Tōfuku-ji. I guess checking out the autumn colors is serious business here as we walked past quite a line to get in.
Of course everyone wants to view things from the Tsuten-kyō Bridge (The Bridge to Heaven) which looked absolutely packed.
As were the trails....though things were covered by the autumn foliage.
And yes indeed, the crowds were no joke.
Though this is Japan, so things were rather orderly.
And views were quite stunning.
And in spite of the crowds, things were rather quiet. So you could find that little peaceful space to admire.
Satisfied we left and headed back to the station to catch the train back to Kyoto Station.
Stopping at a few temples along the way like Taiko-an.
Back to Kyoto Station, they were gearing up for Christmas.
The chill in the air called for ramen and we headed up to 10th floor of the Station Building to Kyoto Ramen Koji, basically Kyoto Station's own "Ramen Street". There are 8 different ramen shops on this floor. Having already had Seabura (Pork Backfat) Ramen, flame torched chashu Miso Ramen in Sapporo, and Iekei Ramen, I wanted some nice Fukuoka style Tonkotsu. So I talked the Missus into Hakata Ikkousha. Yes, I know they have a location in Orange County, but I believe the menu is slightly different.
They were also the busiest place on this floor. We went to the ticket machine and put our money in and got our ticket and waited in line for about 10 minutes.
As is somewhat typical for us; there's no way I can finish a whole bowl myself; we got the Ajitama (soft boiled egg) Ramen and a side dish to share. The presentation at Ikkousha is interesting. They lie four thin slices of chashu on top of the bowl, making it look like a single large layer of pork.
Man, that egg was just a perfect soft, runny boiled thing of beauty. The pork was not my favorite, especially after having so much during this trip as it was on the bland side and rather dry. The noodles were good, a tad past how I prefer them prepared, but way better than anything here in the states. The broth was rich, but I found it less satisfying than Ippudo (we'd go to the Kyoto location later during the trip). I found it less porky and not quite as rich, even though it seemed nicely viscous. It was not bad by any means; quite good, as it still had that "aaaah" factor.
The Karaage was decent, good flavor, but the texture was a little too soft for our taste. Again, we'd have our favorite version again while in the city.
Overall, a nice bowl, decent karaage, it was autumn, the air crisp, our bellies warm.....
Hakata Ikkousha Kyoto Ramen Koji Kyoto Station Building (West Zone), 10th ﬂoor
Well, this is the home stretch. We're (hopefully) home by the time this gets posted. It's a place where Mother Nature intervened the last time we were here, so we wanted to take care of some unfinished business.
Which we managed to do. Along with enjoying the colors of the season.
We managed to revisit a couple of our favorites.
And got to meet up with one of my favorite food bloggers and catch up on things.
And try a few we had on our list as well.
We even made a side trip to a place with ties to San Diego!
So please enjoy Cathy's and Ed from Yuma's posts while I regroup.
The Missus had made some plans for our third day in Kyoto. Unfortunately, the impending arrival of Typhoon Vongfong made us change our plans a bit. Masae, the owner of our Machiya kept us apprised of the Typhoon situation, as did Kat. So instead of doing the Philosopher's Walk, we headed off to Shijo-dori to wander around and do some shopping.
Strangely, most things seemed like business as usual. We walked through the Gion and over the bridge, first heading to Nishiki Market, which, unlike the mass of humanity we encountered on our first day in Kyoto was quite sedate at this time of the day.
A handful of businesses were closed, but for most it was just another day it seemed. Like these two who were out scrubbing the walkway in fornt of their shop.......right before a Typhoon?
My favorite stop was the knife shop....with all the handmade scissors and knives.
At the east end of Nishiki Market on Teramachi street is Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine.
The lanterns are quite stunning.
The water that comes from the deep well in the shrine is supposed to be so pure and clean that it has no odor and the temperature is usually at a steady 65 degrees.
The shopping arcades were quite empty at this time of the morning......in startk contrast to our previous visit to the area.
We couldn't help but notice all the "Kyoto drip" gear in a shop called Holly's Cafe as we walked past.
The Missus, who's become a bit of a coffee nerd over the last year just had to stop. So I had a nice Kyoto cold brew....which was very cheap compared to the states....like about $2.50 or so!
It was a nice and relaxing break.......sitting and watching the folks walk by on a slightly wet Sunday morning.
Refreshed we headed off, across the Kamo River for the umpteenth time.
On the corner of Hanamikoji and Shijo streets the Missus found a bustling shop.....full of make-up and other stuffs. One of the objectives of this trip was to stock up on various brands and products, so the Missus was in heaven.
The store was a outpost of Yojiya a time honored Kyoto brand known for their facial blotting paper. The Missus had a blast and purchased a good number of gifts.
We'd done a pretty good job of passing the time and the Missus was getting hungry. She was still craving that karaage from Karako, so we headed up Higashishoji-dori, first stopping off to unload our purchases.
Unfortunately, Karako was closed due to the impending storm. I recalled a couple of shops across the street and we found one of them open. We decided on eating here based on the plastic food display.
No English spoken, but not a big deal..... I had the Tempura Soba, which was nice and hot.
The Missus had been wanting to have a Katsudon, one of Her favorite dishes since we got to Japan, so She got Her wish...though what She really wanted was a Chicken Katsudon, which seemed to be pretty rare.....anyway, She finally got a katsudon.
She actually enjoyed the miso soup the most. As for the katsudon? I think it did the job, though She did tell me; "you know what....you make a pretty good katsudon."
Usually, when we travel, I get some aches and pains from all the walking......with the Missus making fun of all the "grandpa" noises I make. On this trip, I could tell that all the walking was taking a toll on the Missus as well. Somehow, it just made all my aches feel that much better....I guess sharing the wealth does that to you.
Heading back for a post lunch nap we passed this shop.
This place specialized in Yatsuhashi, one of the most well known confections of Kyoto.
We decided to get a few nama yatsuhashi....the soft, unbaked version to try.
I'm not big on sweets and the Missus doesn't care for cinnamon flavored confections, so while it was nice to try these, I don't think we'll be racing back to buy any.
We headed back in a rather roundabout way, taking our time. It had started to rain intermittently, the sky was getting pretty dark, and the wind was starting to pick up.
Even the ducks in Shirakawa Canal seemed to think something was up as they all faced the same direction....upstream.
We headed back to the machiya, the Missus took a nice long bath, and I worked on a post. We'd been going at a pretty good pace so an easy day was a nice treat and just what we needed.
After a short nap we awoke and decided to take a walk around. It was starting to rain pretty hard and the wind was blowing pretty good.....but there were still quite a few people and cars out and about.
We wandered around a bit, then headed back....
Meanwhile, many of the shops in the shopping arcade started closing up early. Even with all of this; things just seemed to happen at a very relaxed pace. Before leaving Tokyo, we chatted with Reiko about the Typhoon. She said, "yes Kirk-san, there will be some rain, maybe some wind......." Some rain? Maybe some wind?
Darkness seemed to fall quickly, like someone pulling a shade down. The big question was, "what are we going to eat?" There was always picking something up at Family Mart....you could basically live out of convenience stores in Japan....though I'm not quite sure what your sodium levels would be after a couple of weeks.
We'd noticed a gyoza shop right around the corner from the shopping arcade the previous day. This seemed like a simple, light meal.
Just one of the many shops you see everywhere.... Serving basically one thing; here it's gyoza, with a few small "salads" on the menu. And cold beer......nice, cold, and refreshing beer.
The gyoza was as good a gyoza can be; crisp on the bottom, the filling nice and light....nothing like a good guotie, mind you, but still good.
We actually enjoyed the onion salad more.
Earlier in the evening, Kat sent me a text, reminding me to pick up some snacks since we wouldn't be going out and about this evening. Thanks Kat! So on the way back, we dropped by the market, which was pretty busy........ I guess everyone was buying some snacks on typhoon night!
So that's what we did as typhoon Vongfong passed. The Missus was upstairs reading....while I turned on a television for the first time during this whole trip and watched storm reports....
While having a couple of beers and some snacks.
Sometime before drifting off to sleep the Missus said, "you owe me......another trip to Kyoto". I told Her, "no problem, we can come back anytime you want." We have unfinished business here. Which I'm hoping to take care of in the near future.