Day 4 began in Osaka, where I had a light breakfast and headed to Umeda station to get on the Hankyu express to Kyoto.
And. I also had a potato salad. Everything was magically delicious, and the veggies were really fresh and crispy.
I love Japanese houses. The apartments in Japan are pretty similar to the apartments in Korea, but the houses are noticeably different. First of all, there aren’t a lot of residential two-story houses in Korea, and if there are, they are usually very old houses that look run-down and not-so-pleasant to live in. In Japan, I saw a lot of these types of two-story houses that are very compact, but look very charming. I assume they aren’t cheap to live in, because I heard that housing is overall, pretty expensive in Japan. But, they looked so neat and clean, so now I have a dream that maybe I can live in a compact two-story house in japan in the future.
After about a 40-50 minute ride, we arrived in Kyoto, at Shijo-Karasuma station. Most people get off at Kyoto station, but since our hotel was located at Shijo-Karasuma, we decided to check in first. I don’t have any pictures of our ordeal of getting to the hotel, but let me just take a moment to thank the woman that understood my broken Japanese and took time out of her day to take out her iPad and search for the exact whereabouts of our hotel. THANK YOU. This is another reason why I love Japan. If you ask for directions, people will go out of their way to help you (at least the people I met). One time I wasn’t even lost, I was just looking at a map and a old man came and asked if he could help. Thank you, good people of Japan and all the good people of the world.
So, after walking around in the hot sun, we finally got to our hotel, Court Hotel Kyoto Shijo. I booked one night from hotels.com, and it cost about 70,000 won per day for two people. The hotel was actually pretty spacious (but I’m a little person, so maybe my standards are different). At least moreso than the apartment we stayed in Osaka. The subway station was about a ten minute walk away, but the bus station was right around the corner. So all in all, I would highly recommend this hotel for anyone looking for a clean, convenient hotel to stay in a couple of nights.
After checking in, we stopped by a local eatery for brunch. This particular restaurant had all sorts of pre-made food that you could grab and put on your tray, and then when they’d ring you up, you could ask for any size serving of rice. I chose teriyaki chicken, one large umeboshi for my rice, a side dish of some sort of vegetable and aburaage mix, and a bowl of miso soup with lots of tenkatsu topping.
A perfect start to our first day in Kyoto.
What I really liked about this place was that it was cheap, lots of assortment, and if you came alone, there were plenty of single seats where you could eat comfortably.
Now off to Fushimi Inari we go!
I heard people say that if you want to visit Kyoto during the cherry blossom season, you must make reservations in advance. Like a year in advance. After walking around the Gion area, I can imagine how beautiful Kyoto would be in Spring. All along the river, there are lots of weeping cherry blossom trees (my favorite kind of cherry blossom). It really made me want to think of going back to see the cherry blossoms in the future.
On the train to Fushimi Inari. One good thing about going to Kyoto during the summer is that because it is so popular during the spring, not a lot of people go during the summer so there’s lots of empty seats on the subway, the bus, and not so many people around the city overall.
Around the station just before getting to the temple, there are so many charming cafes and shops. I could probably spend a whole day here and be completely satisfied. That’s how much I loved the place.
For photographs of the actual temple and gates, I have a separate post here.
Now, back in Gion.
Bamboo shades(?) I don’t really know what they’re called, but they’re made out of bamboo and have a purpose of protecting the walls and windows of a house from rain.
I also love the minimalist nature of the signage in Kyoto. In Osaka, everything was loud, bright, and very obnoxious, but in Kyoto there was elegance in the simple calligraphy of the signs. The only bad thing about this is that if you don’t know the area and if you don’t know Japanese, it’s impossible to see what kind of restaurant/shop a place is.
Mini figurines made out of clay.
After walking around for about an hour, I finally saw a restaurant that served a pretty affordable kaiseki course (about 4000 yen per person, or 40,000 won). Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese course meal and Kyoto does its own take of it using seasonal, local ingredients with an inexplicable attention to detail both in flavor and presentation. Needless to say, I was very, very, very excited.
We sat on the counter seats and I immediately loved the place. From the outside, the restaurants in Gion are pretty mysterious. Most buildings don’t have windows, and even if they do you can’t really see anything. Even just by looking at the decor and the table placements, there was an extraordinary attention to detail that made my kaiseki-ryori experience that much more memorable.
Even the napkins were cute. Different napkins with different local Kyoto vegetables illustrations.
To start things off, a cold beer.
From right to left: thinly sliced cucumber with what I presume was jellyfish, a thin root vegetable with shiitake mushroom, and peppers with baby sardines. All the dishes were very lightly flavored and served cold. A beautiful start to the course.
It looked like tofu but was actually a version of chawanmushi, i believe. A very soft and fluffy egg custard with various ingredients added into it including some sort of fish, with a mysterious leaf, a perfectly cooked carrot (how do carrots taste this delicious?), and the zest of a green yuzu. The custard was put in a very light and delicate dashii stock.
The next course almost made me pee my pants because it was so good. Tuna sashimi, a mysterious but delicious fish I can only hope to find out what it is, and cuttlefish sashimi. The cuttlefish in particular was delicious. The meat was dense but as you chewed it, it kind of just melted away. It almost felt like I was eating butter. The daikon triangle served as a garnish also tasted delicious, sweet with no bitter taste at all. In the little bamboo cup they served strips of nutty bean curd.
Before leaving I went to the bathroom and was surprised, once again by the attention to detail.
Toothpicks and oil blotting paper for guests in the bathroom.
Why are you so fluffy? And so rich and delicious? Why are the combini cakes and desserts so delicious? WHY? WHY Korea can’t you make desserts like this in the convenience stores? I miss you, roll cake.
Stay tuned for day 2!