I realised I haven’t posted about my Japan trip in quite some time so it’s time for a new one. I’m very slowly going through all the photos and I’m now a little over half way through the trip. Phew. I always tell myself to not write as much for each post but somehow it always ends up being very long. There’s just too many things I want to share with all of you! This post follows on from Kyoto part 1 where I talked about Kiyomizudera and the light up festival.
Brunch & first night dinner
It is now the second day Yuye and I were in Kyoto and day 7 of our trip. As always, we woke up quite late and only had enough time for brunch. There were many restaurants mind you but Yuye liked what we ate on the first night here (the night we arrived it was already 11pm and this place was one of few still open) so much that we decided to go eat there again. It was a restaurants called Tenka Ippin (天下一品) which is a famous ramen chain across Japan. There are many outlets that can be found on their website, although it’s in Japanese. The one we went to was the Minamiza Zen Shop (南座前店) right around the corner from where we stayed.
It’s another place that uses an automatic ticket vending machine as the ordering system and you simply pass the tickets to the waiters as you enter the shop. It wasn’t the most western friendly, however there are a few photos of the most popular dishes.
On the first night I just ordered the Chashu Ramen (920 Yen) which is the 2nd one down on the left. Not the cheapest out there but then Kyoto’s mostly more expensive than Osaka and a lot of other cities in Japan anyway. It was a very delicious ramen. The broth was thick and full of porky goodness and hit all the right spots. I was a happy person.
Yuye ordered the same as me except in a set with an extra mini rice topped with dried salmon flakes for only 30Yen more. Why didn’t I get this as well? The rice was also quite nice although not as spectacular as the ramen itself.
As a side we ordered a set of 6 gyoza for 300Yen. Don’t be fooled by the slightly charred surface, it was actually quite tasty and well seasoned. The gyoza were put upside-down to prevent the crispy bottoms from getting damp in the juice and heat.
Dinner didn’t end there. We also ordered two boiled eggs for 50Yen each. The yolks weren’t as runny as I’d have liked but were still very nice. At least it wasn’t overcooked. I dislike hardboiled eggs with powdery yolks. We just put the eggs in our ramen soup which soaked up all the flavours. So delicious!
For brunch on the second day in Kyoto, I ordered another ramen, this time it was the Assari Ramen for 730Yen which consisted of two pieces of chashu and a clear soy broth compared to the usual tonkotsu (pork bone) broth which is more milky in colour. This one was a bit oily. You can see floaty white bits on the top which, don’t be alarmed, are pork fat and lots and lots of garlic. Gosh that was a lot of garlic, but it was so tasty! I love garlic.
Yuye ordered the usual chashu ramen with the mini rice set. This time the rice came with whitebait as a topping. I liked the salmon rice better but this one was also quite nice. Definitely worth the 950Yen that’s for sure. Oh and of course we ordered eggs again, how can one not eat eggs with their ramen?
Tenka Ippin – Minamiza Zen Shop (天下一品南座前店)
For more shops visit website
Kinkakuji – the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺)
After brunch, we proceeded to Kinkakuji, probably the most well known and photogenic temple of all the ones in Kyoto. This wasn’t as fabulous for me since I’ve been once before and I can tell you, there’s nothing at this temple apart from taking photos of the main floating pavilion which is said to be covered in a layer of gold. The pavilion has been heavily damaged on several occasions in the past, the most recent time was in 1950 when a monk set it on fire. The current pavilion was rebuilt in 1955. There is also a similarly named temple called Ginkakuji – The Silver Pavilion not too far away, however this temple is not covered in silver.
We took bus number 15 (I think) because it was right outside where we stayed and it conveniently passes right outside Nijo Castle, a former residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period, although we didn’t have time to stop by. The trip did take a long time, roughly 40-50 minutes so take a bus if you have enough time on your hands. Each bus ride costs about 200-240Yen, so if you’re travelling multiple times in a day, it’s worth buying the daily ticket which costs 500Yen. Bus tickets can be purchased on the bus or at many hotel receptions. Bus is probably the most convenient form of transport in Kyoto (or walking) as it runs throughout the city, however if you’re short on time, it’s probably better to take a train and then taxi. For more bus information, please visit Kyoto City Bus Guide and this pdf version of the map.
A few other photos I took while there:
Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)
As it was still cold in Japan, the sun set reasonably early. We were running short of time to visit one of my favourite places in Kyoto – Fushimi Inari Shrine. We caught bus 101 straight to JR Kyoto Station, then took the JR Nara Line to JR Inari Station where the shrine is located. It’s only 2 stations away from Kyoto Station and might be a good stop over if you’re heading to Nara from Kyoto or vice versa.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is the dedicated to Inari, which is the Shinto god of rice. It is protected by foxes (kitsune) throughout the grounds as foxes are thought of as messengers of Inari. You can purchase miniature gates and fox statues at the stores just outside the grounds of the shrine.
The main attraction for this shrine is its thousands of torii gates which cover many paths leading up Mount Inari. One of the most photogenic shrines in Kyoto in my opinion. Each torii gate has been separately donated by someone and thus there are names and donation dates carved into each one on the back. According to www.japan-guide.com, the donation amounts range from 400,000Yen for a small gate to over 1millionYen for a large one. That’s a lot of donated money since there are countless torii gates! It just comes to show how dedicated people are in Japan to religion.
Of course, even smaller torii gates are available for those of us who wish to donate but are limited by budget. These are all over the place really, too many to even take photos of.
The paths surrounded by torii gates weave up Mount Inari like a never-ending path into the sky. Yuye and I climbed and climbed but we eventually gave up because it was just getting too dark. I was afraid that by the time we get to the top, we’d be stuck there. The whole trip back and forth will take roughly 2-3 hours so plan plenty of time for this hike.
Even though we didn’t get to see the view from the top, we did manage to catch quite a few small shrines along the way and many cats too!
Not sure why there was a Japanese garden inside the shrine but it was very beautiful. There was even a koi pond nearly. The koi was huge!
On the path leading from JR Inari Station to the shrine, there are sometimes food stalls along the roads next to many souvenir shops. Gluttony got the better of us and we snuck in a few snacks before dinner at this taiyaki stand.
Of course, taiyaki filling is traditionally anko (red bean paste) but since we had the choice, I got chocolate while Yuye chose peanut butter. It’s the most wonderful feeling when you stuff the hot taiyaki in your mouth and the sweet filling just oozes out. The surroundings wasn’t quite cold enough, or else it would be a worthy scene in some Japanese drama or movie.
It was our last night in Kyoto and we still hadn’t been to the main shopping area of Kyoto in Shijo yet. Although it was a bit too late to shop (shops closed surprisingly early) but the arcades there had many restaurants we could choose from for dinner.
We came across a fantastic looking restaurant with windows full of food moulds. It was probably the main thing that attracted us there, although I was dying to try some local omurice (rice omelette) anyway. And look at all the parfait moulds in the background! I was so excited just staring at the shop window! This restaurant primarily serves youshoku, which means western food but I don’t really see western cities serving rice omelette, although parfaits might be more prevalent.
I started off the night with a very artificial melon flavoured soda. Not the best and very sweet, but it somehow seemed right for the type of food we were eating.
Yuye ordered a croquette rice omelette with half creamy and half sour sauce. I wasn’t too sure what the sour sauce was made of but it tasted somewhat like plum. It was quite sour on its own but tasted good mixed with the creamy sauce. The croquettes were very crunchy went well with the rest of the dish.
I chose a chef recommended dish which was also one of the most popular dishes on the menu, the rice omelette with cheese and demi glaze. It was so rich and drenched in sauce that I felt like I was in heaven. Yuye and I both agreed this one was better. I would do anything to get my hands on one right now but I have no choice except learn to make it myself. The rice filling was the same in both omurice which is usually a style of tomato based fried rice.
What a great way to end the night with a strawberry parfait. There were way too many choices on the menu but after a great deal of scratching heads and changing minds, we finally settled on the Happy Strawberry Shortcake Parfait (860Yen) purely because of its name. Yes, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the title of my blog – Ichigo Shortcake – really means Strawberry Shortcake in Japanese. This was also the only dish that I recorded the price and proper name of (sorry readers!) as I was a bit excited upon seeing it.
Taste wise it was just average. I’ve had better parfaits than this although it’s by no means bad in any way. The strawberry heart shaped meringue was a bit powdery and dry, suggesting it wasn’t the freshest. The shortcake was nice along with the fruits on top and wasn’t actually as sweet as I thought it would be which was good. There was also strawberry jelly at the bottom and that’s actually vanilla soft serve you see on the top, not cream.
Overall a wonderful and cheap meal, every dish was below 1000Yen so it didn’t have too much impact on our wallets.
My next Japan post will bring us to the hidden beauty – Shirakawago, where snow piles were almost my height and we stayed at a fantastic minshuku (homestay) with our first taste of a kotatsu (Japanese style heated table)! Stay tuned!
Restaurant Star (レストラん スター)