Category Archives: Kyoto

12th Anniversary Gifts

japanese paper gift wrap Every year, Naoto and I exchange gifts based on our anniversary year. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before…) We use this list as our guide, just to keep it consistent. Some years, we are spot on, and other years we leave things open to interpretation. I follow the modern gift guide for Naoto and he follows the traditional for me. The modern gifts for the twelfth anniversary are silk or linen. So I bought Naoto a linen shirt and a chef’s hat. I wrapped his gift in some paper from a shop in Kyoto. (It’s their shop paper that they wrapped our purchases in. It’s been in my paper hoard since…2015?) There was a Kyoto link in our gift-giving this year, as you will see. I think this proves that we are both itching to go back to Japan again. chef's hat, naoto's 12th anniversary giftSadly, the chef’s hat was too small…even for me! But the shirt fit nicely and there’s a new, larger hat on its way. vintage brooch, blue stones, fireworks brooch My gift was supposed to be pearls, but Naoto found this vintage “fireworks” brooch and I love it. Pearls are lovely, but really, I have some pearl earrings (from our wedding) and a necklace (from Naoto’s Hawaiian host mom) and I think that’s plenty of the most fragile “gems” on earth, so this was a good substitution. kyoto gin, ki-no-ri distilleryAnd he gave me gin from a distillery in Kyoto! We’re finally opening it tonight so I’ll have a full report soon. Stay tuned.

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Kyoto Part 3: Our Anniversary Lunch

IMG_3181Would it be weird to start blogging about my 2015 trip again? Maybe? I’m going to write anyway. I’ve been going through my pictures and reminiscing about all of the fun we had last spring and I realized that I’ve never really closed the book on that trip. I have a few last things to mention about Kyoto and some new editions of Spending the Yen.

We were in Kyoto for our anniversary last year and Hisae (my sister-in-law) took us out to lunch at Yuzu-ya, a restaurant and ryokan near the Yasaka Shrine. At street level, it looks like a black storefront (pictured above) but once you go through the doorway, you see that you walk up a rocky stairway to get up to the restaurant. IMG_3174IMG_3173Once you’re there, you forget that there’s a busy street below. It’s surrounded by lush greenery and trees and feels so removed and peaceful. ambiance, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThere is traditional seating near the windows where you can appreciate the trees and fountains outside. We sat at a regular table, but we still had amazing views. IMG_3158The meal was very traditional, using locally-sourced ingredients and lots of yuzu, hence the name Yuzu-ya. (Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, in case you don’t remember me talking about it before.)  Our first course was an appetizer of traditional Kyoto-fare. As you can see, it was presented beautifully on a tray of tiny plates adorned with leaves. Each bite was so different in taste and texture but it all worked together perfectly. IMG_3161Next, we had smelt grilled alongside bamboo leaves on a tiny table-top grill. IMG_3162(It was looking at me.) On the side was a yuzu sauce. I picked off as much meat as I could, but Naoto finished it off for me. (He ate every last bit, including the eye and the bones!)Then we had porridge with rice and fish and egg and chives, again cooked table-side and finished with a squeeze of yuzu. IMG_3167It was incredible. dessert, mochi, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThe dessert course was green tea and a brown sugar mochi. A simple but delicious way to end the meal.

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Kyoto Part 3: Golden Pavilion + Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

IMG_3372 Our last day in Kyoto was a perfect weather day–clear blue skies, gentle breeze, perfect temperatures… We had spent the previous day hitting all of the shops in the city, so we decided that our last day should be spent enjoying nature. A trip to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion and Sagano Bamboo Grove was the perfect way to pass the day. This area of Kyoto was a bit farther away from most of the other things we did in Kyoto, almost an hour on bus and train. IMG_3384 The Golden Pavilion is a Zen Buddhist Temple founded in 1397, though the structure was rebuilt in 1955 after the original was burned down by an arsonist in 1950. The top two floors are adorned with gold leaf and my pictures do not do justice to the building’s golden brilliance, especially in the sun. It is one of the most popular things to see in Kyoto and trust me…it was selfie stick mayhem when we visited. As you walk to the viewing area (you can’t go inside the pavilion and can only see it from across the water), the area is pretty calm, but the viewing area is a crazy frenzy of picture taking and shoving and chatter in every language imaginable. You have to be super-patient and a little aggressive to get a good shot. IMG_3391Naoto and I were feeling very zen and didn’t want to fight the crowds so we decided to take a selfie on one of the paths leading away from the pavilion. This was the best picture we could take without a selfie stick…you can barely see the pavilion beyond Naoto’s shoulder. IMG_3388 IMG_3393We spent a little bit of time in the area surrounding the pavilion, enjoying the tiny waterfalls and the extremely blue skies.  IMG_3394Before we moved on to the bamboo forest, we enjoyed some green tea soft serve (Naoto got golden sprinkles on his) to cool off and get ready for another walk. train to Arashiyama Bamboo ForestTo get to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, you have to take a charming, old-fashioned train. Once you get off, there are tons of little souvenir and snack shops in the station area before you venture out to the forest. It’s very bustling and touristy, but retains some of the charm of old Japan. Arashima Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, JapanArashima Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, JapanThe bamboo forest was heavenly. The first time I went in December of 2008, I don’t remember it feeling so relaxing. But the tall bamboo blocked out the sun and provided a little respite in the warm afternoon. Arashima Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, JapanIt was neat to see the new bamboo poking through the ground. IMG_3413

And because there was a gentle breeze, we were lulled into relaxation by the sounds of the bamboo swaying in the wind. The video above will give you a little taste of the sounds (until the railroad crossing gates interrupt our zen moment at the end!)  IMG_3428 IMG_3443After the bamboo forest, we walked around the little shops and ended up going to Tenryuji Temple to walk around the surrounding gardens. There was a small zen garden, but we mostly enjoyed the stroll up the hill through all of the flowers and the views of the treetops.

It really was the perfect way to end our trip to Kyoto. After this we hopped back on a shinkansen and went back to Tokyo. But I’m not finished blogging about Kyoto! I still need to share a couple of great shops and restaurants we visited! Soon! The weather has been so nice around here lately that it’s hard to be inside blogging when I could be outside enjoying the last days of summer!

 

 

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Owariya

Owariya Noodle Restaurant, Kyoto We stumbled upon Owariya while we were craft shopping in Kyoto. It was such a lucky find! Owariya has been around since 1465 when it opened as a confectionary shop in Kyoto. There are a few shops around town, but we went to the honten, the original shop. Downstairs, there’s a counter where they still sell their sweets and upstairs there are several simple dining rooms. Owariya tempuraWe started our meal with a beautiful tempura appetizer. Owariya noodlesI ordered the Seiro Regular, a simple cold buckwheat noodle dish. It came with a tray of noodles, broth, thinly sliced leeks, and wasabi. owariya noodles, 2I mixed the broth, scallions, and wasabi in the bowl and then dipped the noodles. It was simple and perfectly refreshing on a warm day. So delicious!  deluxe noodle dish, Owariya NoodleOwariya Noodles, delux dishNaoto ordered the Hourai Soba, a deluxe cold noodle dish. There was a stacking container of five levels of noodles, broth, and a tray of toppings: tempura shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, omelet, seaweed, sesame seeds, wasabi, daikon, and leeks. As he ate each tray of noodles, he added whichever toppings he wanted, so each level was like eating a slightly different dish. (The top picture shows our server explaining about each ingredient.) It was really fun to watch but it seemed like so much food, especially for Japan! And his meal came with a pot of tea made with the water they used to cook the buckwheat noodles–nothing goes to waste in the restaurant! buckwheat desserts, Japanese confectionary, Owariya sweetsAt the end of our meal, they brought out a tray of desserts. All of the desserts in Owariya are made with buckwheat flour. I wasn’t expecting to like them as much as I did. buckwheat cake, Japanese confectionary, Owariya sweetsThe first thing we tried was the soba rice cake. It was light and had a lightly sweet flavor. Inside was red bean paste. buckwheat snack, Japanese confectionary, Owariya sweetsThen we had Soba-Ita. They were about the size of a stick of gum with a nice, crunchy texture and a great toasty flavor. I liked these so much that we bought two boxes to bring home!

I know I say this about all of my meals in Japan, but this really was one of the best. I guess when you eat at a restaurant that’s been perfecting their soba for 550 years, you know it’s going to be good!

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Kyoto Part 2: Nijō Castle + Staying at the Sakura Inn

Nijo Castle, Kyoto JapanNijō Castle is the last site we saw on our first day in Kyoto. By the time we got there, my feet were killing me and I was tired and hungry, but when you only have three days in Kyoto, you power through. I remembered Nijō from my first trip to Japan, but I wanted to see it again. They don’t allow photographs of the inside of the castle, which is a shame because there are amazing murals and details in there. detail of Nijo castle When you go inside the castle, you are asked to take off your shoes. The first time I went it was winter and we were given little slippers to wear. This time, I was barefoot, which made walking on the old, wooden floors a little unnerving. (Splinters!) But the floors are the most interesting part of Nijō Castle. Known as “nightengale floors”, the floor boards chirp when you walk on them. You can hear a little sample of how they sound on this Wikipedia page. The nightengale floors were an old form of a security system because the noise alerted the shogun if someone was sneaking into the castle. It really noisy in the castle with all of the tourists walking around.
Nijo Castle EntranceLike most castles and shrines in Japan, the Nijō Castle is surrounded by amazing gardens. They have a chart on their website that notes the flowering trees you can view during the year. I’m really sure that there’s not a time in Japan when things aren’t beautiful. Sakura Inn Happy Hour, Kimberly and HisaeWhile we were in Kyoto we stayed at the Sakura Terrace. It was super close to Kyoto Station (maybe a ten minute walk) so we were able to catch a train or a bus quite easily. There is also a Mister Donut in Kyoto Station, so we were able to continue our Misdo mornings while we were away from Tokyo! The rooms at Sakura Terrace were simple and lovely, but the best part was the free (one drink) happy hour every night after 6pm. IMG_0479 IMG_3341Sakura Inn Happy HourWe enjoyed sitting on the terrace, chatting, writing postcards, and toasting to a great vacation among the hydragea every night during our stay. It was a perfect way to recover from walking all around the city all day and to gear up for dinner. Naoto enjoyed a daily dip in the Japanese baths, which is probably why he booked this hotel in the first place.

A few more Japan posts to go…are you still hanging in there?

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Inoda Coffee

Inoda Coffee and DessertInoda Coffee is another classic coffee shop in Japan. My sister-in-law, Hisae, took us there and then Naoto and I stopped in later for a quick cup of coffee and a snack after a long day of craft shopping. Inoda Coffee InteriorInoda has been around since the 1940s and when you visit, it feels like not much has changed since then. The shops feel very old-school and luxurious with comfy leather chairs, classic china, and impeccable service. The servers have omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) perfected with their polite, efficient service. There are no frappes, macchiatos, or mochas here. Though they do offer a latte and “coffee with ice cream”, most of the menu is devoted to different varieties of plain ol’ (but very delicious and strong!) coffee. Inoda Coffee, Kyoto, 3 cupsApparently, they will prepare your coffee with the perfect amount of cream and sugar. Back in the day the owner noticed that customers were lingering over their coffees, thinking or chatting with friends, and letting their coffee get cold before they had a chance to add the cream and sugar. Then the cream and sugar wouldn’t blend properly, making the coffee less enjoyable. So he decided that the staff should add the cream and sugar so the coffee could be enjoyed immediately without interrupting the customers’ thoughts and conversation. Inoda Coffee SignThere are several branches of Inoda all over Kyoto and we visited two of them, but not the “honten” (main branch). Next time!

If you want to learn more about Kyoto’s coffee culture, this episode of Core Kyoto is really good! They talk about Inoda and a few other local favorites. And while you’re on the NHK World website, this episode of Great Gear is super hokey, but it’s about the International Washoku (Japanese Cuisine) Show and some of the new food technology is really fun! (Both episodes are only available until September 2.)

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Kyoto, Part 1: Yasaka Shrine + Kiyomizu Temple

Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

Yes, I am still posting about our three month old trip to Japan…

In between the Ramen Museum and the baseball game, Naoto and I took a bullet train to Kyoto. We’ve both traveled to Kyoto before–me for work in 2008 and him for a vacation in 1988–so we had done a lot of the touristy must-sees before. But we decided to do them all again, because, well, you can’t go to Kyoto and just eat and shop at the craft stores. (More on those later.) Naoto at shrineI really love Kyoto. It’s older, smaller, and much quieter than Tokyo. It felt like a nice break from the crushes of people and cars and trains in Tokyo. But, it was also a little bit weird. I felt like I was in a town of fellow tourists. I know that there are millions of tourists in Tokyo, but they must be drowned out by the sheer number of Japanese people living there. Or we don’t do enough touristy things in Tokyo? Naoto walking up to Kiyomizu TempleOn our first day, we knocked out some major tourist attractions. We went to Gion, the “Geisha District” of Kyoto and saw the Yasaka Shrine. (See the top two pictures…not a lot to say because “you’ve seen one shrine, you’ve seen them all”.) The we started the long, uphill stroll to the Kiyomizu Temple, which offers amazing views of Kyoto. cucumbers on a stick, Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto Kiyomizu Temple, KyotoKiyomizu Temple viewOn the way up to the temple there are hundreds of little shops offering souvenirs and snacks (including cucumbers-on-a-stick!) and waving school children to keep you entertained. Oh, and tourists dressed in full kimono-wear are a common sighting all over Kyoto. For about $35 you can rent a kimono and have your hair and make-up done. (You couldn’t pay me $35 to walk around in a hot kimono and wooden flip flops.) views from Kiyomizu Temple views from Kiyomizu Temple kimberly and naoto, views from Kiyomizu TempleSelfie sticks were everywhere in Kyoto and several times we wished we had one. So many cut-off heads in our Kyoto pictures! Otowa waterfall at Kiyomizu TempleAt the end of the walk down from the Temple there is the Otowa waterfall. According to legend, if you make a wish and sip the water, your wish will come true. I did this when I visited in 2008 and my wish did come true. I sort of regret not waiting in line to make a new wish with Naoto. naoto eating kakigori, Kyoto, Kiyomizu Temple kimberly eating kakigori, Kyoto, Kiyomizu TempleOn the way back, we stopped at a little stand and shared a melon kakigori (shave ice–a must-eat when you are in Japan in the summer!). It was so refreshing on such a hot day! special Kyoto postmark at Kiyomizu TempleAs we were leaving the Temple, we happened upon a mobile post office!! (Now you know why I was so excited for the possibilities of a mobile post office here at home!) They were selling stamps and summer edition postcards and offering a special Kiyomizu Temple postmark! special Kyoto postmark at Kiyomizu TempleI had to write the postcards right then and there in order to get the fancy postmark, so I could only write a few since we were hot, tired, and hungry. But what wonderful serendipity to happen upon the Japan Post!

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